Thursday, February 01, 2007

Car Culture

One thing that stands out to me about family anecdotes on our dad's side is how often stories from their teenage & college years have to do with cars, especially the old or halfway broken-down cars that were worked on, rehabilitated, had their mufflers blown off, were ultimately sold for 50 bucks to pay a phone bill . . . We just don't have the same relationship with cars in our generation, huh? In large part, I guess, since cars are more complex & computerized and can't just be banged into workable shape as easily any more. But also this seems remote for personality reasons: I don't feel like I could work on a car any more than I could up and fly a helicopter.

Would I trade an automotive proclivity for the trademark hobby of our generational family cohort, the musical interest? No, not in a million years.

Still, all the car anecdotes make me feel like I'm missing something, not fully engaging with part of life, not using my hands enough. The feeling will pass because it's ridiculous: I'm perfectly happy not to own a car, much less to tinker with one.


Anonymous Dad said...

I think I told you guys that I learned about cars because I was dating a gal in the North Hills the summer after I graduated from high school & my father said I couldn't use the car if I didn't change the flywheel. After he repeated himself a couple of times over the next week I knew he was serious. He went out to the library & came back with about a half dozen books on car repair. That was pretty much what was needed, plus occasional "help line" type advice from my sister's girlfriend's boyfriend, who knew things like the clutch plate had to be centered on the flywheel if the transmission was going to slide through it. The absence of electronics did make it easy to work on & learn about.
Of course, since I didn't have any money I had to keep repairing the same cars. By the time I sold them-never to pay the phone bill, but arguably by the time I sold the truck to buy new shoes for you guys-I got to know the '62 Falcon & '54 Chevy truck about as well as anybody could have.
What's neat to me is that when people get interested in a topic they learn all about it, whether its about cars, flying helicopters, playing a clarinet or appreciating complex music done well. And when we look in from the outside, since we're not aware of all of the little steps they took to get there, all we see is the yawning gap between our skills and theirs.
I'd trade my knowledge of cars for your knowledge of music in a heartbeat.

2/03/2007 1:46 PM  

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