Your Mileage May Vary

Is there any time machine more reliable for Americans than a car manufactured in the years of their youth? I’m not even that much of a car nut, myself, but this weekend’s car show on the square in our town reminded me that a quick trip back to my formative years is only a muscle car grille away. The town’s annual car show is not one of those high end, multimillion-dollar auction deals full of people who phone in their bids from some remote private island and send their Handlers to pick up the two or three classics they’ve nabbed just for parts. This is where you go to watch little kids waddle around and have their tiny, mustard-coated hands pulled away from the chrome at just the last second by Daddy, who had turned around to talk with the next guy down the row about his customized low rider while Mom was off listening to the live music across the street with the lady who is showing her two vintage tractors at the meet.

The local preference, at least this year, seems to be slightly in favor of mid-century muscle cars, which suits me fine. I’m a mid-century model, too, as it happens, and while my gears are hardly a matter for general admiration, I’ve managed to keep my chassis from getting too badly dinged up so far, and my motor still revs a bit over anything from the great tail fins of the late-’50s models that dominated when I was a young whippersnapper to the sleek, hard-edged lines of the amped ‘Cuda or Cougar in whatever dangerous-looking color some daredevil chose in the early ’70s.

I never got to buy or drive one of those—the closest I ever came was the ’58 Mercury I was sorely tempted to buy for my first car because it did have a trunk big enough to tempt a mafia don (“room for the whole Family!”, if you know what I mean). But being a realist, I knew I had better invest my meager savings in a sturdy station wagon with a solid engine, so I could haul all of my tools for the few years I worked as a painter-slash-gofer at my uncle’s construction company between undergraduate and grad school days. It would’ve broken my heart to mess up that sweet Merc. As it turned out, the studly slant-six engine of my dorky looking station wagon took the sting out of the tradeoff pretty neatly, being able to handle anything I threw at it, and I did put some money into a sound system worthy of shouting along with ZZ Top, Van Halen, and Oingo Boingo tapes (depending on my mood) in the car, a fair consolation on the long drives to more remote job locations.

In any case, I was never the most spectacular driver, so practicality would, and will, always win for me. So it’s all the more entertaining on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, to wander around the parked prizes of other car owners’ loves and reminisce just a little about that brief period of my younger days when a car was more than just transportation to me.Digital illo: Your Mileage May Vary

Here I am. Now.

Honey Badger is not alone. Dead people don’t care, either. Even if they’re going to be reincarnated, they couldn’t possibly care less, I assume, about what anybody thought of them in life. The past is a lock.

What matters, if anything does, to the dead as much as to the living is what’s yet possible (if that includes reincarnation). The only way to get to the future, furthermore, is to be present in the present. All of the yesterdays that ever were can only be altered—at least without a time machine, which, of course, must be built in the present or future since there isn’t one yet, other than the hard to find Vernean one or the wonderful TARDIS of course—by improving the outcomes of those yesterdays in the present and future. Funny how that all works.

But what it tells me is that while I can (I very much hope) learn from the past, there’s no benefit in dwelling on it. And I don’t even think there’s much to be gained from living exclusively for the future. I’m not guaranteed one, after all. I could be caught unawares by a fatal disease, slip on a blot of mud and fall off a cliff, or be eaten by aliens tomorrow. And I can’t be sitting around knitting my brow and fretting over whether anyone will express admiration and gratitude for the wonderfulness of me after that happens.

I’d like to be way too busy until tomorrow, or whenever that cutoff time arrives, to expend any real energy conjuring up what grand eulogies I’ll get and what perfect art will be applied to my tomb, when I’ll be much too dead to care. Not to mention that whether I’m cremated [post-mortem, thankyouverymuch!] as I intend or it’s because there’s nothing left of me but my socks and hat after the aliens ingest me, there won’t be any need for a tomb. In any case, joy and contentment should be usurping all of the space that any such thoughts would aim to occupy. I prefer to think that I’m living out my eulogy, and lest it be of any interest to anyone but me, the most fitting one I can imagine would be that I was too busy living to sit around for a funerary portrait.

I know that I am loved. That is the best of all possible epitaphs I could possibly desire. And it’s a cheering enough thought to keep me occupied for as long as I get to be in the Here and Now. I guess my job is to pass it along to those in my immediate vicinity, my small orbit, so that they might be able to make the same claim.photo