Magic Carpet Rides


Cracking Foxy

Watching the great titans of American industry stumble and thrash about like great wounded beasts awaiting a coup de grace made me a bit sad these past months. I refer, of course, to the great automotive companies, so long the signature symbol of U.S. manufacture, so much the envy of the world for so long.

Now Chrysler’s gone begging for buyers, General Motors has gone into Chapter 11 and is about to pare away Pontiac and Oldsmobile, and Ford is stubbornly refusing to be bailed out but shutting down factories worldwide.

Nothing lasts forever. The companies will likely survive in leaner form, but their glory days are over. There’s been a change in attitude. I should have noticed it myself; the long romance with the car is pretty much over. I should have realized that when kids stopped talking about cars.

My adolescence, as was my contemporaries’, was occupied with two things: the pursuit of girls, and the acquiring of wheels. And it was a given, no matter how much of a dweeb you may have been on foot, if you had a car, you could get a girl.

A car wasn’t a machine; it was a magic carpet that carried you off on adventures, sights and sounds so much different and more fun than your home neighborhood. It didn’t matter where the road led, wherever it led, it was always to someplace else. And if you grew up in a working class city neighborhood like I did, getting someplace else also became a preoccupation.

And there were wonderful somplaces else the car could take you. Independent amusement parks, country drives, off-road picnic areas, secluded swimming (skinny-dipping) spots.

The mid teens were an anxious time for all the obvious reasons, an eruption of hormones and a nearly uncontrollable urge to rut. Still our urges were held in check—barely—by various societal safety nets. These included ones parents, the church, and the village at large that cast scornful and distrustful eyes on all teenagers.

It seemed like there was always someone spying on us from their three-decker porches and windows. Not many places to hide, much less make time. So we bided our time until we turned 16, which was when you could acquire a driver’s license in my home state. That accomplished, it was a full-time job to acquire the use of a car. Actually owning a car, even a jalopy, was usually out of most kids’ reach, so it became a constant effort to scoop the keys to the family car, or cars belonging to extended kin.

I had two choices, one longed for and one less than preferred. My dad’s car was out of reach; it was too much to add me to the insurance.

My married sister owned a 1965 Ford Galaxy, which I could wangle once in a while as a payoff for interminable babysitting. I hated that car. It had deep bucket seats and a console as wide as a refrigerator, not at all conducive to making out. And although it was a land boat in dimensions, its back seat was cramped and uncomfortable. Still, it was more than adequate as a transport to someplace else.

It got you away from the prying eyes and constant surveillance of the neighbors, and took you to beaches, amusement parks, and generally places where you could be alone with a girl or a mixed party of friends. But working off some hormone-fueled anxiety in the Galaxy was futile; unless you were willing to sacrifice some banged up elbows and bruised knees

My other option, and the one less frequently available was my brother’s 1968 Chevy Impala Fastback, midnight blue with a black faux leather interior and a roomy bench seat front and back. It was a car that was designed for heavy necking, which often led to heavy petting, that could lead to losing one’s virginity … over and over again, if need be.

You could go parking in the Fastback; even bring along another couple in the comfy back seat for mutual inspiration. There was plenty of room to slip out of inconvenient items of clothing, and launch intimate explorations of a young thing’s body. Not to brag, but I became very good at unclasping bras with one hand; so nimble was I in fact, that I could make it look like an accident.

“Sorry, about that.”

“Um … okay … since you didn’t mean to do it.

“Ain’t you gonna fix it?”

“You’re gonna still respect me, aren’t you?”

“Respect you …?”

Heck, let me feel your breast and I’ll build a shrine to you; let me kiss your breast and I’ll marry you. A teenage boy has no sense of perspective in such circumstances; sure he loves the girl he’s one perilous step away from knocking up, he’ll even tell her so, announce it out loud so everyone in the parking lot can hear. Which is about the time some cop would come by and rap a flashlight on your window, assess the dishevelment of you and your date and tell you to “Scram!” before he called both your moms and dads.

Then there were drive-ins; that’s drive-in theaters to those of you beyond a certain age. There are about as many of those left as Viking ships. Again, just a place to make out; who cares if the movie was a dud? Even better with another couple in the back seat and a ladies room at the concession stand for the girls to go to compare notes and do whatever it is that girls do when they go to the ladies room together.

“What do you suppose is taking them so long?”

Now I think the lovers’ lane has gone the way of the dinosaur, at least near the city and the suburbs. Now it seems kids make out in their own homes, in the family rec room, privacy assured until both of the working parents come home, and you don’t usually have to worry about a cop wrapping on your window.

Today kids go on about getting a new iphone or video game. A car has fallen down the list as an object of desire. What’s romantic about playing a video game, or am I missing something? Jurassic fossil that I am.

The Golden Age of motoring: one of the most romantic if not outright torrid eras in American history. It went by so fast we didn’t notice it had gone … until it was gone.


Robert Buckley
July 2009

“Cracking Foxy” © 2009 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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