Thursday, July 7, 2011

Face the Promise

I find myself alone with what passes for thoughts at odd hours almost always in my car, which doddering curmudgeon that I am, is funny because life and times for my generation goes full circle. When I was coming of age, the driver's license and the open road (and all they promised, if not always delivered) was a rite of passage. And here I am, very much as I started, a long way from home on a dark highway, lost but making great time.

It was the era of Springsteen's chromed invaders-GTOs, Malibu SSs, Olds 442s, Buick Wildcats, Mustangs, 'Cudas and Chargers at the top of the list. Gas lines the size of garden hoses and all of us, the dweebs included (present!) knew the cubic displacement and the brake horsepower. MPG at a time when gasoline was thirty-five cents a gallon was a nonsense concept and was never explored.

We traveled in packs but were often alone. Our music was transitioning from AM radio to FM and we struggled to move from converters to tape decks, almost always eight track, with FM receivers. I remember taking the back seat out of a car to make room for ludicrously sized speakers that were very important to me but I can't remember why. Because, I suspect; just because.

Driving a car was only slightly more important than having one of your own. I can tell you as a parent myself, two times over, I've checked the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution (and the Bill of Rights) and there's nothing in any of them about teenage vehicular operators. But we grimly pursued the quest for an auto as if it were fire, and our offspring churn and burn in the same way for the same thing.

Growing up in the sixties, we were the pioneers who 'experimented' with pot and sex, sometimes at the same time and sometimes not so much. We were all psychedelic capitalists who believed dope got you through times of no money better than money got you through times of no dope. Forty years later we invented the Real Estate Collapse and Stock Market Meltdown (all caps for a reason) and were absolutely stunned when it happened (now I know why we called it dope).

I watched older neighborhood boys sent off by my parents' generation thousands of miles away to places I couldn't say for causes I accepted as good and true because my government told me it was so. A lifetime later, it's my generation sending our children to other wars that are eerily familiar and I know just how good we've gotten at lying-but I don't know who we're fooling.

And now, in the not quite dawn's before early light, traveling from the box where I keep my stuff (thanks, George C) to where I give my time to total strangers for endless hours, I remember the sign on Barbara G's desk, "I am now starving to death on the salary I once dreamed of making" and try to recall what I traded away to get what I have.

I don't calculate the cost or the worth of those transactions, since those may be numbers that are too unhappy at any hour, but especially in the early ones. I think I prefer to drive in the dawning and the gloaming--when you don't know (or care) where you're going, any road will get you there. Those with whom I travel always seem as lost as I and the roads lead everywhere and nowhere. Keep the windows rolled up, crank the climate control and turn the tunes up. It remains what it has always been from the start until now, a dark ride.
-bill kenny

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