Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car. E.B. White
I was reminded of this by a recent article in the NY Times about an old colleague of mine, Rich Conaty, and his Nash Ambassador. I met Rich, as most people do, through his distinctive radio show on WFUV called The Big Broadcast. His knowledge of the music of the 20s and 30s—as well as the entire career of Bing Crosby—is staggering. Our paths then crossed when he wrote the radio section of a book I edited about Jack Benny.
But this weekend it was all about his car. He was in the Automobile section of the Times due to his classic 1950 Nash Ambassador Custom, the car he saw on Superman as a kid, and fell in love with. That’s the great thing about growing up—sometimes you get to have your heart’s desire.
A car can massage organs which no masseur can reach. It is the one remedy for the disorders of the great sympathetic nervous system.
I’ve only owned one car in my life, a 1973 Pontiac Lemans. It was a hand-me-down from my brother that I was thrilled to have at college when I moved off campus. My father gave me credit cards for 5 different gas stations, and always paid the gas bills. I loved driving the route from Massapequa to Rutgers—Southern State to the Belt Parkway, to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, through Staten Island to the Outerbridge Crossing to the Jersey Tpk-—because the Lemans was a MACHINE, heavy, solid, with a big, powerful engine.
“From 1973 to 1977, the LeMans and other GM intermediates were much larger in size than previous models due to evolutionary changes that resulted in larger cars year after year and federally-mandated 5 mph crash bumpers that added weight and length.”
Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated.
The BFF Eloise ALWAYS has a car. She’s had at least 20 vehicles, including all kinds of trucks and motorcycles over the years. One of the most special was the 1964 Chrysler Newport, V8 440 engine, Dune Beige. It had a pushbutton transmission, sometimes called a typewriter transmission. It suited her style beautifully. We had many adventures in that car, including driving it to Florida with a beloved dachshund named Cassandra.
The other car dear to my heart is some type of Mini that Cadfael rented for our trip through Tuscany. It was tiny, just perfect for going down stairs! on the isle of Elba and getting through all sorts of tight streets.
Being a mass transit girl, I have lost some of the sense of movement that driving-—or the finer art of motoring-—brings to life. Since I don’t drive much, I have perfected partnering with drivers as "the navigator." I am available for trips of all lengths. References upon request.
What I like, or one of the things I like, about motoring is the sense it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of the world uncovered for a moment.
Ok Chuck, sing us on out:
Riding along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel
I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile
My curiosity running wild
Crusin' and playin' the radio
With no particular place to go