Let’s play favorites

Do you have a favorite car? One that, over the years, you’ve consciously or even subconsciously, used as the measuring stick by which all other cars are measured?

Mine had been my mom’s 1971 Super Beetle. I learned to drive with that car. It was a four-speed manual and a blast to drive.

1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle

I was a teenager and got my license in my junior year in high school. Many of my classmates, if they had their own cars, drove the muscle cars of the day, complete with jacked-up rear ends and big, wide rear tires, so they looked like funny cars (the race cars, not something to laugh at). 

They drove Pontiac GTOs or Firebirds of various vintage, Chevy Novas, Chevelles, Camaros, as well as 442s, Skylarks, Cudas, Chargers, Challengers, and so on. All tuned so those big V8s would growl and cough and rumble as they drove around John Marshall High School, squeezing tires, to show off for the girls like peacocks waving their colorful tail feathers.

They lived for cars and girls  (queue song).

And here I’d come with my mom’s Bug. There’s not much you can do to mod a Bug, especially when it’s your mom’s, but I had a friend help me install an 8-track stereo that I could just plug in, then take out when I was done. We used my home stereo’s set of book shelf speakers, which fit perfectly behind the backseat storage area of the car.

So I’d cruise around blasting tunes and to really get attention, I’d pop the clutch and lay down some rubber. I think it caught people’s attention because no one expected a Bug to squeal it’s tires. Sure, the back end would hop and I’m sure I wasn’t doing the transmission or clutch much good, but it would leave about a two or three foot long burnout.

(And if I my younger son, once he has his license, ever pops the clutch in my Fiat 500, he’s grounded for life.)

That Beetle was a fun little car to drive. It had decent excelleration and was quick enough and small enough that you could weave in and out of traffic without any problems.

And it has been my reference car ever since. Whenever I’d test drive another car, I’d mentally compare it to that one. In the end, none even came close. 

I mean, sure, I enjoyed my 1986 Dodge Datona Turbo Z. When the turbo finally kicked in and threw you back into your seat, it was a lot of fun. But otherwise, it was a heavy car, despite its small size and wasn’t very zippy in traffic because of its turbo lag. And shifting always felt clunky until it finally did go clunk.

1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z

The two Ford Escorts I had were what would be called basic transportation. One was the body style from the ’80s and the other was the sportier looking version from 1995. They were more utilitarian than fun.

And although our 1996 Pontiac Sunrise served us faithfully for nearly 15 years until it developed a hole in one of the cylinders, I wouldn’t necessarily call it fun to drive either. In fact, it seemed rather heavy, but we always felt safe in it during the winter.

So over 43 years, and at least 14 cars, the memory of that Beetle lived on… until three weeks ago when we bought the 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge.

Queue angelic choir singing “Ohhhhhh!”

Now I have a new favorite car.

Small is the new black.

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Dreamweaver

I usually don’t remember my dreams. I wish I did. I wish I was one of those writers who keep a pen and notepad by their bedside so when they wake up they can jot down every juicy detail and use it for fodder for their next story.

But my dreams are like an ephemeral mist that dissolves when exposed to warm rays of the sun.

But last night’s dream has lasted, or at least a part of it has and its odd enough that I thought I’d share.

I was assisting special agent Jethro Gibbs of NCIS (the TV show). I wasn’t an agent, but for some reason I was helping him. He had even given me his gun.

I had trailed the bad guys back to their lair and decided to apprehend them myself.

I quietly entered through the rear door. It was dark and hard to see, and I moved cautiously, holding my gun out before me as I entered the next room, like they do on cop shows on TV. From out of another room, one of the bad guys appeared, firing at me.

I returned fire and he fell. I kicked his gun away, then kneeled down to check him. He was dead.

From another doorway, the second baddy rushed me. I tried to fire, but the gun jammed. I looked at it and saw that it was stuffed with tiddly-winks.

What the heck? Somehow Gibbs had kept his gun in his pocket and also kept tiddly-winks in it, which got into the gun, jamming it.

OK, let me pause a moment here and explain the gun. It didn’t shoot regular bullets, instead you loaded these metal discs into it. It didn’t fire the discs, like one of those plastic toy guns that launch plastic discs horizontally from the barrel by a spring. No, these were metal discs, like slugs (those stamped metal discs that you have to pop off of a metal electrical outlet to run the wires through). Like slugs, these too were about the size of a quarter. You loaded them into the gun vertically so when the gun fired, the hammer struck the face of the slug, firing the bullet.

You can see how tiddly-winks could screw the whole thing up. The plastic disc would come between the hammer and the slug, preventing the gun from firing.

And all this made sense to me in the dream. It wasn’t anything unusual, this disc-firing gun. On the contrary, it seemed oh so normal.

So back to the dream. The baddy is attacking me, knocking me around, and all the while I’m struggling with this gun, cursing Gibbs, and trying to remove the tiddly-winks and reload it with the slug-bullets.

Again, in real life this would be impossible: to fix a jammed gun while under attack. But this was my dream, and this too seemed normal.

Finally, I was able to clear the jam and reload the gun. I leaped clear of the attack and fired several shots at the baddy. Several were body shots but I saw a hole appear in his forehead.

He should have gone down. Heck, with a head shit, he should have died instantly. Instead, this was dream-reality and he kept coming.

He picked up a large tube TV that had been sitting on one of those 1960s metal stands with the spindly legs where the TV sat on a lazy-susan spinning center. He raised it over his head, about to smash me with it, when finally his nervous system shut down and he crashed to the floor, dead.

Then my alarm went off. So I never did get to chastise Gibbs for giving me a gun jammed with his tiddly-winks. Which is probably for the best, he would have just Gibb slapped me anyway and said something terse like, “Next time, check your weapon beforehand.”

And DiNozzo would have called me a proby and compared my situation to some movie.

Or something like that, and it would have all made perfect sense.

-30-

Too much to dream last night

I had a weird dream last night, but what is weirder is that I remember it. Usually dreams just leave vague feelings and I can never tell you what the dream was about. This one I was left with vivid details, even if a lot of it makes no sense.

I was a few blocks from my mom’s house, where I spent my teen years. It was on the corner of Melvina and 56th Streets. They are both fairly wide at that location, so it makes for a huge intersection. In my dream the street was covered in a fine layer of ornamental gravel, small pebbles of that white quartz people use for landscaping.

A large flatbed trailer was parked nearby and this is about when the dream began. On the trailer was a large Blue Dodge Ram 2500 truck and it was backing off the bed.

Now the weird thing about the truck was underneath each wheel, held on by string, was a spool of tape, about the size that masking tape comes in. So the truck was actually riding on these little spools, each large tire perfectly balanced on the smaller spool so that as the tire spun, it spun the spool. Yeah, i know, but physics doesn’t play a big part in my dreams.

The truck backed off the bed and started to slowly drive around the intersection. Inside the cab, as it turns out, was an Internet friend of mine. We’ll call him Robeiae, to protect his identity.

He was in the passenger seat. In the back was a young blond girl, his daughter. In the dream she was around my youngest son’s age, so we’ll say 12 or 13.

Driving was an elderly gentleman who the daughter referred to as grandpa.

Turns out this was some sort of science project Robeiae’s daughter was doing to prove that you can drive a big ole truck on tape spools.

And it worked! They drove around the intersection several times. They were all pretty gleeful, well, until grandpa fell out of the truck and got tangled in some string and was dragged behind the truck for about 20 feet or so. Granted the truck was driving at idle, so he wasn’t harmed despite the gravel, but without a driver, the truck did begin to pick up speed until Robeiae jumped into the driver’s seat and put on the brakes.

And that’s when I woke up.

I did have another dream prior, but all I remember of that one was I was in a room with several people and there were three men from various law enforcement agencies there to recruit us. I only remember thinking: “Cool! I’ll get to play with a gun!”

Sometimes I think it’s better that I just don’t remember my dreams.

-30-