Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Middle Ages

“Hey, what do you say we spend a whole bunch of money on two Bruce Springsteen tickets?” I asked my wife as she was brushing her teeth.  “He’s coming to Philly and tickets go on sale this weekend.

Springsteen? – I didn’t think you were a such a big fan.” She said as she rinsed off her toothbrush.

“Look at all the things you’re learning about me!” I said.

“What’s going on with you?” Sardonic. 

“What do you mean?” I replied

“Are you going through that whole middle aged, second childhood thing?” my wife asked. “You should stop.”

Stop?  ...Well, it’s not that easy.  Further, “second childhood” implies (generously) that I made it out of my first.  She has noticed other subtle changes in my behavior as well.  She's concerned.  She should be ~ I know I am.  Oh sure, I’ll get around it and it really hasn’t been bothering me too much but, let’s face it, I am a middle aged man.  The renowned psychologist, Erik Erikson, spelled it out in his 8 (+1) Stages of Psychosocial Development.  I would be at Stage Seven, or the, “Generativity verses Stagnation” stage that begins in the early forties and lasts to the mid-sixties.  This is historically the start of the “Mid-Life Crisis” where, to paraphrase Erikson, a man measures his accomplishments when compared to his failures.  He asks if he is satisfied or not with his lot in life.  Successful completion of this stage provides caring for the next generation and a willingness to assist them in transitioning to the future.  Unsuccessful navigation of this stage can lead to feelings of stagnation and spiral into self-loathing and feelings of being a complete and utter failure. 

My wife first became concerned when I started considering (lusting after) certain vehicles ~ classic muscle cars, to be more precise; topless convertible cars, cars with large engines that were born in the late sixties; just like me.  I put such desires away years ago to focus on the pressing issues of family, school, and career but recently the objects of my desire have drifted back to a big ole’, thirsty, V8 vehicles with a vintages similar to mine, circa (give or take) 1968ish.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anything and I am thankful and count my blessings on a daily basis but that displaced passion has seeped back into my conscience mind. 

“You don’t like cars.” She said.

“Look at all the things you’re learning about me.” I said.  I do.  I always have.  I am not a ‘race car’ fan, street racing or otherwise and NASCAR has never held any allure for me.  What I like about some of the classic cars that I’ve been looking up on the net is the fact that they are escape vehicles.  These days ‘escape’ has a seductive edge to it.  Some would take such a vehicle to shows or to display in competitions.  Not me; I would drive it.  I need an escape vehicle.  In such a vehicle one is not so much concerned about what is in the rear view mirror – the roads chosen or the roads not taken; no, one is more concerned with where it will go NOW and discovering just what is down the highway.  Perhaps Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” was right and a sports car really is a time machine that can erase the past, set things as they should be, and rewrite the future?

Perhaps in a sense this is true and I believe that this is the major reason why people of a certain age seek out such chariots.  We know that the road ahead is uncertain, sections of it are missing & it is purely, “Travel at Your Own Risk”, but that’s really nothing new.  It has always been that way; however, it is only now – at this age that we can truly appreciate that Sweet Ride that is only made sweeter by the unknown length of the highway. 

“You’ve had your Jeep.  You’ve had your Fiero.” My wife said.

Both true and, I might add, I miss the Jeep horribly.  The Fiero was a LOT of problems but when it was running it was fun to drive for a pseudo-sports car but it pales in any & every type of comparison to a big block 442 or 455.  In this vein, Gentle Reader, please allow me to share my short list of Sweet Rides & Time Machines with you.

1968 Pontiac GTO

1966 Ford Galaxie


1968 Pontiac Firebird

1968 Chevy Impala

1968 Chevy Camaro RS/SS

1968 Oldsmobile 442

1968 Chevy Chevelle SS 

Each of these vehicles has at least 350 horsepower and is a convertible.  Now I ask you, how else would you want to explore the lost highways, canyons, and wide-open spaces of America?  Riding in a convertible from sea to shining sea has a nice ring to it.  Route 66, the PCH, and Highway A1A practically BEG for topless, horsepower laden exploration.  Who am I to deny such a request?  Each of these are, for the most part, larger vehicles for the simple fact that I have a family of five and it’s nice to have room to spread out and enjoy the ride.

I could look at this through the “Stagnation” side of things and quote the English poet, Edward Young, when he said, “Like our shadows, our wishes lengthen as our sun declines” – quite the well-adjusted and happy guy.  Or I could “Generativity” side of Erikson and quote the anthropologist, Ashley Montagu when he said, “The idea is to die young as late as possible.”  Or perhaps the author John Mortimer when he said, “There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.”

Mr. Mortimer, you’ve got shotgun, Doc Montagu - is it OK to call you, "Monty"?  You too, Young.  Hop in the back; the Pacific Coast Highway is calling and we have miles to go before we sleep.


Anonymous said...

hey george,
The pale yellew firebird convo? Deana owned one just like that when we first met.

E. Chicken said...

Sweet! Do you know what happened to it eventually? I love the design of the older Camaros ~ there is something visceral about them.

Anonymous said...

it is still in thr area her dad sees it at shows every now and then.