Posted by: johnhourihan | February 17, 2012

Baby boomer boys don’t do hybrid well

The last red Pontiac of my youth

There was something that tied our souls to that 1968  fire-red, V-8, drop-top, Pontiac Catalina.
Me and God and Reno — God had to have been there, or I would never have made it out of my 300-horsepower youth alive.
And that is why when I hear that our world is about to go completely hybrid, even though I know we have to do it, I have to laugh.
I know that in order for that to actually happen, a lot of people are going to have to die.
Let me tell you about the summer of our red Pontiac.
Reno thought he was Mighty Joe Young some nights. He liked the movie.
He would put on a gorilla mask and bother people eating midnight meals at local diners, until someone would call me (half the time it was the police) and I would go down, sing “Beautiful Dreamer” and drag him off to the car. Sometimes he’d sit on the trunk while I drove him home and wave at the cars behind us.
That’s true.
Do you think I could make it up?
Other nights he spent rolling around town, case of beer next to him in the seat, and tossing the empties at the open windows of other cars.
And other nights he was just bonafide insane.
This was no big deal, since most American men are at least a little insane. Reno was just a little more so than usual.
I had recently been released from the Army — young and single, afraid of little, looking for fun, and Reno was my friend.
So when I told him he could stay over at my house one night, and he showed up at the house with his high school picture and his little league trophies, parked them on the mantle and parked the Catalina in the driveway, my mother let him stay.
She was sort of paying me back for hanging around with him at all.
“You can have the room at the top of the stairs,” she said.
It was my room.
We spent an entire summer waking up in the morning, pouring our hung-over bodies into his Pontiac and flying to Cape Cod at a “bucktwenty on the speedo-meter.”
On the Cape we drank in the car, ate in the car, slept in the car, cruised the beaches, and made friends all within the great expanse of white naugahyde seats.
And we drove foot to the floor, wind in your face, adrenaline pumping on the turns, from bridge to beaches and back.
Neither of us worked, and trying to feed the carburetor of a damn near 300 horsepower mill, powering a two-ton tin behemoth of roar and shine was near impossible, but we managed, because we loved that car.
It was a way to lure women. It was the freedom of the morning. It was the power of total mobility. It was how we arrived and the how we would get away.
It was our last red convertible before growing up.
It was hard-welded to our souls.
Before food or any other sustenance, came “fill the tank and check the oil.”
Before clothes came “Let’s wash and wax it.”
Those of us who grew up between the fifties and the seventies are tied to our gasoline slurping power shifting Detroit thorough-breds the way cowboys were tied to their horses.
After the adventures of youth, it is what we rode off into the sunset.
They are, in fact and fantasy, our boyhood, our manhood, our livelihood.
They are our self-esteem and our protection. They are a place to sleep with the ability to move in a hurry.
They are sex appeal and macho bluster. We were tied to the metal and plastic, body and soul.
So if you think the American landscape is about to be turned over to high-whining, battery laden, hybrid namby-pamby pastel colored frozen yogurt on wheels, think again.
It ain’t going to happen.
In order for American men to trade in their manhood for the new unisex–mobile, someone is going  to have to die.
And that someone is pretty much everyone my age.
Don’t worry, we’re all retiring now so it can’t be too long.




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