Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Long May You Run

Although these changes have come, with your chrome heart shining, in the sun, long may you run . . .
-Neil Young "Long May You Run"

I consider myself quite the sentimental fool. All my life, I've been attached to inanimate objects.  My father loves to remind me of how I cried when they sold the family's old Ford Pinto.  I was four.  I'll be the first to admit that I hang on to things long past their usefulness simply because they hold good memories for me.  Unfortunately for me (and maybe even moreso for WH), this leads to packrat tendencies that make me live in fear of becoming a hoarder -- but that's another story for another day. 

I had a dream earlier this week about my first car, Flash.  Yes, my car had a name.  Not only did she have a name, but she had a personality. Flash was a 1983 Mustang GLX 5.0 red convertible -- told ya, personality -- a 16-year-old girl's dream car.  And I loved that car like it was a person.  In fact, one time after college, I was meeting a friend for lunch and it turned out that our waiter went to high school with me.  He said, "Oh, I think we went to high school together.  I recognized your car when you pulled up outside.  Awesome." Everybody loved that car.

Flash's Twin
Photo via Top Shelf Reps
The first time I saw her, she was sitting in the driveway next to a brown, hardtop boring-looking Mustang that was for sale.  It was love at first sight.  But it was the brown car that my parents and I had come to look at.  After talking to the owner, we learned that he was losing his license (too many speeding tickets) and that he might be persuaded to sell the red one.  I elbowed my father (spoiled!).  A little wrangling, including a phone call after we had come home to offer the seller even more money, and Flash was mine. 

Small problem -- Flash was a stick shift and I had only learned manual.  This resulted in my father very patiently trying to teach me to drive her . . . including one rather scary incident when I stalled out in the middle of a major intersection as the light changed.  I hated her that day, but we quickly made up and the real love affair began.  Flash made an impression on everyone who met her.  I often had people check her out and even offer to buy her, but she wasn't for sale. She was nearly ten when I got her, so she broke down often those first few years and we got to know the mechanic pretty well.  A car guy to the core, Gary loved Flash almost as much as I did.

Flash shuttled me back and forth to school in Ohio while I was in college, and even went on road trips to New York, New Haven, Virginia Beach, Rehoboth, Indianapolis, and even crossed the Mississippi to take a friend and me to St. Louis (also another fantastic story for another time). She was mostly reliable, but could also be tempermental, as most divas are.  One time, when I was trying to get home for Christmas and a snow storm hit, I decided that Flash and I could "outrun" the storm and get on the road in advance of it.  Yeah, not so much. Rear wheel drive and racing tires were no match for the snow, so I quickly ended up on the side of Interstate 70 just outside of town.  Facing certain death in freezing temperatures, I figured at least Flash and I were together. Fortunately a state trooper arrived and called a tow truck to take me back to the sorority house (one of many rides she took on the back of a tow truck, I might add).  The snow having hit pretty hard by this point, the driver was unable to see the road and ended up cutting across the quad rather than taking the road.  I pulled up to the sorority house with Flash on the back of the truck to cheers and photographs from my friends.  Long story even longer, I didn't make it home for another three days. 

When she finally sputtered her last sputter, she had nearly 250,000 miles on her.  She died on the way back from a trip to the beach.  And when we had her towed to Gary, I think he may have been almost as broken up about it as I was.  Rebuilding her engine would've cost thousands, so we all agreed it was time to let her go.  Initially we were just going to donate her, which for some reason caused me more grief than I could stand, but one of the mechanics who worked with Gary asked me what we were going to do with her, explaining that he had a 10-year old son with whom he'd like to rebuild her.  It was bittersweet, but I gave her to a good home.  Gary took her steering wheel off for me, which I still have somewhere (I told you, packrat). 

I know, it's probably silly for me to talk this way about a car.  But, you see, Flash was more than just a car to me.  She was all of those memories and more: she was the first way I had as a teenager to get away on my own when I had brooding to do; she was a connection to my friends cruising on a Friday night; she was a conversation piece with strangers; and for seven years, she was part of my identity.  Maybe it is silly, but that car was not only with me as I was growing up, but helped me to grow up. And while I don't know if she ever got a second life, I like to think of her with her chrome heart shining in the sun.  Long may you run, Flash, long may you run.


  1. Your car story is both poignant and entertaining. My car story is not cool like yours; there's no sentimental or emotional connection to any of my cars. However, I certainly appreciate that connection that comes from that first car. I gave my daughter my 2000 Ford Explorer with 230,000 miles. She told me that she would be naming the car. I hope it lasts forever.

  2. Empathy to you for losing your love. I sold mine 2 summers ago and am still saddened by what I see as a downgrade in memories for a slight uptick in passenger room and fuel economy. I miss my truck.

  3. I couldn't find your email address! I've given you an award and it will run tomorrow at!

    xo Susie