Car Shows and Father’s Days

No touching Impalas unless your [sic] in the nude!!It was Father’s Day today, and so I spend part of it with my father. And we spent it as we usually do, over at the Father’s Day car show that they have here in Santa Rosa. My father — like many men of his generation — is very interested in cars. He has restored a 1950 Buick. It’s the car with a grill that looks like it is going to eat you. Personally, I’m not that fond of it. I’m not that fond of any cars. They are just noisy, smelling things that create no sense of romance in me.

My disinterest is not a generational thing. I know a lot of people my age who have much the same feelings about more modern technologies like computers and phones. I also don’t care about these things. It’s not that I feel above people who are into these things. I have my own fascinations, as regular readers of this website will know. For example, if there were a puppet exhibit every year, I’d definitely go. Or a conference on Don Quixote, I’d look forward to it every year. But let’s face it: these car folks are not “my people.” I mean, good God, they spend tens of thousands of dollars restoring old cars!

What I noticed about myself as we walked along is that I’m attracted to colors. “Oh, there’s a pretty car!” And all that means is that it’s red or orange or some shades of green. And I kind of like little boxy cars from the 1950s and 1960s. But mostly, I look at the convertibles and think, “What a death trap! Why isn’t there a roll bar on that?!” My father’s 1950 Buick had to have seat belts added because they didn’t come with the car. Of course, even if you don’t die in a collision, you might die from the CO emitted by the inefficient combustion.

But at one point, I came upon this late 1950s Chevrolet Impala that sums up car shows to me. In the back seat was a sign instructing people, “No Touching.” I understand. People spend a lot of money on these things. Then again, it isn’t like they are Modigliani paintings. They are old devices that have been cleaned up good. What’s the point of having them if you can’t, you know, use them. But the other aspect is the coarse — and implicitly sexist — joke: only nude people in that car!

The kicker is that it has a grammar error, “No touching Impalas unless your [sic] in the nude!!” Again, I’m not placing myself above these people. They are just different. They care about cars and I care about at least getting the grammar right on a professionally printed sign. It’s a clash of cultures. Clearly, I think mine is superior or I wouldn’t have it. But I know that isn’t an objective truth. And regardless, what’s most important is to spend a little time with dad, even though he would surely see me as some kind of space alien if he weren’t so used to me by now.

5 thoughts on “Car Shows and Father’s Days

  1. Spending time with people one sees as space aliens is hugely important. I knew anti-gay prejudice was going to lose when rednecks in Portland, 15 years ago, kept mentioning how funny they thought the movie “In & Out” was, the silly thing with Kevin Kline. The movie is shallow but it makes the Kline character seem funny and not frightening. (It was written by Paul Rudnick, who also gave us the classic bit in “Addams Family Values” where the kids at a summer camp ruin Thanksgiving by siding with natives.)

    It’s been well-documented that people in urban areas are more liberal than those in rural regions, not because city folk have any kind of magic intelligence, but because people in denser-populated regions are exposed to more different types and hence less vulnerable to “blame the odd ones for our troubles” demagoguery.

    So keep exposing people to your weird self. Liberals aren’t elitist TED Talks jerks, the way we’ve been presented. We’re mostly poor and mostly not remotely snobbish. It helps to counter those Rush/Fox caricatures.

    I owned one car in my life. It was a bright orange 15-year-old VW beetle, and I loved it. It broke constantly, and eventually caught fire & burned up because the wiring was such a mess. I could get inside and close the door, though, and the rest of my world was shut away. I think that’s part of car culture’s appeal. It’s your own little castle. The more dangerously unstable our incomes and social connections become, the more we prize phony versions of independence. I think one could easily compare 50s car-show enthusiasts to people who buy Apple Watches.

    • I’ve lived in my car twice: once when I was fairly wealthy and once — for a lot longer — while dead broke. It was really nice to have a car in those cases. I also had a crank radio and listened to NPR all the time.

      I think the urban thing is kind of like in Borat. The basis of the character’s antisemitism is that he knows nothing of Jews. Studies are very clear that people in low crime areas are far more punitive than people in high crime areas. It is easy to be smug about your moral superiority when you are never cold or hungry.

      • I’ve slept in cars on long trips, and nights I wanted to escape my family. (I’ve slept on hospital floors on nights I hoped surgeons could save my family; guess which was more pleasant.) If cars weren’t noisy, polluting, dangerous to pedestrians (and dangerous to car drivers), I think I’d adore living in a car. You can’t live in a horse, and mobile homes just end up trapping people in even shittier versions of slumlord apartments.

        • Yeah, but it’s different if you are your own slumlord! I don’t know. I think if I had one of those micro-RVs, I could be happy as long as I had my internet and a star to guide me by. For one thing, I’d get the hell out of California when the weather is like this!

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