There is an experience unlike any other when sitting in the driver’s seat of a brand new car or even a new car, one that regardless to who may have owned or drove it before, the car is new to the driver sitting behind the wheel. Once the keys exchange hands, next are the fantasies that spark the ideas for a new sense of adventure. Whether the thought is small or youthfully huge, a new car brings on anew sense of freedom, which plant the seeds that sprout into the desire to drive somewhere across country.
Once behind the wheel, especially for the first time, this creates a freedom that causes the soul to seek out the experience of a new destination. In whatever condition and whichever style, a new car brings with it a fresh breath that gives our soul the right to dream.
As a man, I believe one feels most like a man when standing proudly next to his car. However, of any car remembered, no car is remembered or regarded the same as the first car. This feeling above any is the feeling of youth at the verge of exploration, giving with it, an idea and the dream of long road trips to destinations unknown.
Somewhere along the experience in my final teenage years—after the driving lessons and the test for my learner’s permit, I prepared for the road test, which is no more than a practical, final exam that allows an official deemed credible by the state the power and authority to give the nod of approval, and with the stroke of a pen, the official smiles at the driver and grants this freedom with the words, “You passed!”
Everything is new and the possibilities seem endless. I could go anywhere and drive anyplace. After passing my road test, the unreachable parts of the world were now added to the long lists of possible stops to drive to. This is an important part of young adulthood and a crucial part of living down here on Project Earth.
To have the freedom of travel, the freedom of destination, to head from point A to point B, to fill up the tank with gas, drive off and head wherever the desires took me was a new chapter. It seemed to me that my life had truly just begun. If I wanted to go someplace, all I had to do is open the driver’s side door, get in, turn the key and then go. Of course, this does not consider the cost of driving. This feeling does not consider roadside assistance, insurance, repairs, oil-changes, and so on.
Not every car is a dream car. I held on my dreams to drive off in different cars. I envisioned myself in the driver’s seat of classics, like say, an old midnight-blue Camaro, with tires that chew up blacktop and screech when I took off.
I saw me in something fast and sleek. I wanted a car that made a statement. I wanted something cool, something sexy. I wanted a car with style—something that gave an edge to my personality. I wanted to hold a set of keys in my hand; a set that when people saw it they wondered, “My God, I wonder what kind of car he drives.”
I felt I deserved a car that when I drove passed, people smiled and looked upon me with envy. I would have enjoyed driving off in an American classic with American Muscle.
I remember what was popular in my day. Monte Carlo was a nice car. Grand Nationals were nice too. There was something cool about a conversion van with a built in bed and captain’s chairs that swivel. I always liked the El Caminos, and the old Malibu was nice as well. Then of course, there was the Chevy Nova. You had the Dodge Charger and the Challenger. Plymouth made the Roadrunner with a Hemi engine. Then there were the mustangs, the common 5.0, but I liked the classic Mustangs like the 69 Fastback or the Cobra 426. I always liked the Pontiac, GTO. The old Chavelle was nice and there was an old restored Buick for sale at gas station I used to pass when I was a kid on East Meadow Avenue.
Another popular car were the fast sporty cars like the Corvettes. I remember a friend of mine had one. He often joked about the body of his Corvette. He said, Hell, if I get into an accident in this thing, I’m done. But if I’m gonna die . . . might as well die in class and wrap my ass in fiberglass. Corvettes were never my thing. I had a few friends that drove Thunderbirds, and one friend from Queens that drove around in a black LSC with black, tinted windows with a white gangster decal on the rear window. My brother drove around in a Dodge Shelby. And that was a nice car. I liked that car—only; I never learned how to drive stick so that car went to wherever cars go.
My brother was older than me. He had me by six years and in those six year, I watched my brother go through a few different cars. He and his friends called the first few junkers a “Shit box.”
His first car was a Duster. The car was brown, and not an aesthetically pleasing brown. No, this car was shit brown with patches of rust over the wheel wells. After running this car into the crown, my brother drove around in a Mazda hatchback. No, this car was not pretty either. It was prettier than the duster; however, this car lacked the manly balls to be called a car. Sure, this car would be fine if it were driven by a girl. Even the light blue coloring would be good if say, it was driven by a pretty redhead with crystal blue eyes. But this car was not driven by a pretty redhead, or blonde, or any girl. This car was driven by my brother. It was hatchback, and not a cool one. Eventually, my brother landed a nice car. He cared for the nicer cars a bit more than the old junkers.
By the time I reached the age, I figured maybe I would have something better than an old brown Duster. I wanted to drive a car that made me feel alive. I wanted to look cool and either speed or creep through the streets. I wanted to be revered. I wanted to be envied. Instead, my first car was none of these flashy things. My first car was a maroon colored mini-van with gray fabric seats. Of all things considered, my first car was not sleek, nor was it fast. It was not a statement that made others smile or become envious. No, I had a mini-van, which, in the history of all vehicles is perhaps the least sexy of any vehicles ever produced in my generation.
Yet still, whether I was revered, envied, or not—I managed to have some of the best times in my young life while driving around in that mini-van. I had the benefit of rear fold-down seats that made the back into an uncomfortable bed. Fortunately, I had blankets tucked away in the backseat for just such an occasion. I had some great mornings in that car of mine—and by great mornings, I mean the unforgettable ones, the kind that end long summer nights at the beach with the back door lifted open, giving view to the south shore beaches somewhere in the Hampton’s and laying with a random girl whose name is never even knew.
Although the mini-van was not the style I wished for, this was the style that took me on long road trips to places away from my usual surroundings. I saw good things and bad in this car. Admittedly, I was not to kind to the mini-van. I was in more accidents than I could count. I replaced nearly every panel of that car in repair shops. My insurance was through the roof, the horn broke, one of the electric windows refused to function after a while, and well, eventually the mini-van was gone.
My next car after the mini-van was equally unremarkable. It was an old blue Sky-hawk, gray cloth interior with a few cigarette holes burned into the cushion of the driver’s seat. The car mostly unmemorable—and it was even more so when a woman blindsided me, hitting me in the driver’s side after I merged onto the Meadowbrook Parkway, sending me into the guardrail during a snowstorm and totaling the car.
I’m grown now. I drive better and fortunately, the price of my car insurance has come down since those days. I’ve had new cars since then. I’ve had good times and bad in all of the cars I’ve driven throughout my life. Somewhere though—somewhere is that feeling I had when I first got behind the wheel of my car for the very first time. I often think if money were no object, what kind of car I would buy. I’m not sure, but I remember this . . .
I remember a road trip I took in a hi-top green Chevy van. The interior was green cloth. There was interior mood-lighting, a television that never really worked, a stereo system that was not good, but not too terrible. The bench seat in the back folded down into a bed and the two seats behind the driver’s and passenger seat were not swiveling, but they were good enough. The engine was loud and the van was not the prettiest; however, I remember this road trip. I remember the song which came on as soon as the trip started. The name of the band was Modern English and the name of the song is “I Melt With You.”
If money were no object and I were able to design a car to my liking, then I would design something like that old green van. I would design a car that could face the open road—one that could bring on the beautiful feeling of young love—one that creates memory and freedom, and of course, if I could design a car to my liking, I would be sure to design one with an excellent stereo system. This way, when I turned the key and went for my fist drive, I could put on some music—maybe I would hear the song, “I Melt With You,” again.
It amazes me how it took years for me to realize it’s not the car, it’s the one who drives it that makes the memories. If I could design anything, I would design a car that makes me realize this on a daily basis. This way I could plan a road trip and invite a few friends and head down the open road . . .