Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Wish I Had a V-8

So put me on a highway and show me a sign, and take it to the limit, one more time.
--The Eagles

 It’s Independence Day! Bring forth the hotdogs, corn on the cob and sparklers! Except that the dogs are filled with pink slime. The corn is genetically modified and is causing rare cancers. And sparklers and all other fireworks are banned in this and five surrounding counties due to fire danger. The only thing going spectacularly up in smoke appears to be the American dream.

There are some things, however, that America has just done well, and that’s all there is to it! I know it’s popular these days to put American industry down, often with good reason. But on this 4th of July, I want to remember the good times and the good things. And one of the first things that comes to mind is the V-8 engine.

I love to drive fast. Put me behind the wheel of a good automobile and I will turn any country road into the Indy 500. When I was a junior in high school, my folks owned a 1960 powder blue ragtop Thunderbird. I can still remember the day I focused on the speedometer and realized it topped out at 120 mph. Nothing could stop me: I went straight down to Keystone, where Highway 108 has one of its few long, straight stretches, and put that car to the test. That big old V-8 didn’t even strain, as I pegged it. Give it wings and it could fly!

My senior year, I talked my folks into buying the new 1965 Ford Mustang, and into upgrading to the biggest engine it was possible to drop into it, with a four on the floor. It was metal fleck khaki green with a black vinyl top and it was hot! My favorite pastime was to take in down to the Red Hills, where the road, instead of having bridges over a stream, made U-shaped dips into the streambed. I would floor the Mustang and jump it across these drainages, which were four in number. Then turn around, and do it again. No fear of flying, in that buggy! (I can tell this, now that my folks, God bless them, have gone to their well-deserved and car maintenance-free rest.)

Alas, the V-8 engine seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. Gas prices and green-thinking have doomed it. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get behind the wheel of a truly powerful car, again.

Other good products that have served me well are the typewriter and typewriter ribbon. I’ve demolished four complete typewriters in my writing life, before switching to the computer. I kind of miss the clickity-clack rhythm of typing, punctuated by the return throw of the carriage. I don’t, however, miss trying to do footnotes on the typewriter. Remember the cheat sheets that we had to roll in behind the top sheet, with a line drawn near the bottom to remind us to insert footnotes? Remember carbon paper? How about changing typewriter ribbons and the carbon that got on your fingers and everything you touched? Dem wuz da days!

David and I are going to make a hot soaking tub out of an old cast iron and enamel claw-foot tub with a propane heater underneath. We’ll have it out in the garden, where we can relax in full, scandalous view of the birds and flowers. But this plan may go awry for one reason: we were wondering, last night over dinner, if they still manufacture rubber drain plugs to fit our tub?  Or have they gone the way of the typewriter ribbon and the two-party telephone line?

Tomorrow we’ll drive down to some big box store to find out, lamenting the loss of Mundorf’s Hardware, where you could find every single hardware need supplied. We’ll be in my Toyota Camry, which, in spite of its 4-cylinder engine, is still a pretty snappy little car. I’ll lead-foot it down and back up the mountain, hoping that someone tries to tailgate me, so I’ll have a good reason to mount a road race. It will be fun but . . . gee, I wish I had a V-8!

Happy 4th of July! May freedom and independence be yours, your whole life long, and may the red, white and blue (hopefully made in the USA, not China) wave over a land of excellence in all things, forever.

No comments: