Nostalgia can be as deadly as a Shell No-Pest strip.
If you immediately had a brand name flashback reading that sentence, you know what I mean.
Nostalgia is the mind's narcotic to avoid living in the moment. And I have been OD-ing on the drug during this visit to Oregon.
For some reason, most of my conversations with friends up here have centered around how good things once were. Relationships. Food. Jobs. Completely ignoring Solomon's advise that such questions are foolish.
I have been reading P.J. O' Rourke's latest book (Driving Like Crazy) this past week. It is a compilation of re-written articles on driving in America. (One day I need to think through this notion of getting paid to publish old articles.) More specifically, it is about guys and their cars -- the true American romance.
The read is slow. Not because the writing is dense. P.J. writes sentences as fluffy as a souffle -- an analogy he would undoubtedly detest as being effete.
The read is slow because I keep flashing back to the automotive loves of my life -- some fervent, some as cold as a Hitchcock blond.
For instance: my first car: a 1967 red Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible -- a gift from my parents, christened by a friend as looking like "a whorehouse on wheels." (One of those tales I never told my mother, but I guess I just did.)
And then there was a series of nice, but practical, cars suited for a young attorney: Datsun 200SX, Pontiac, Ford Taurus, Oldsmobile Aurora.
Of course, there was the inevitable yup-mobile: a 1988 red BMW convertible. An olio of mid-life crisis and automotive resurrectiuon -- the Cutlass reborn as samurai.
But that is not the car that glides through my memory evoking the types of sighs every guy hopes to produce from the statuesque blond in her cheerleader sweater, a class ahead of you in high school and light years ahead of you in class, who ruffled your hair and called you cute when you wanted her to treat you as if you were vaguely James dean dangerous.
That car was a 1973 blue Datsun 240Z. Spartan as an MG. As reliable as a mother's love.
I flew to Oregon from California, where I was stationed at the time, with an acquaintance I had met recently. Robin had never been to Oregon, and I wanted company for the drive back.
My father knew the Datsun dealer and had struck a good bargain for me before I arrived. The paperwork was waiting when we walked in. All I had to do was hand over the cash and drive my new beauty away.
And it was a beauty. Sports cars in the 1970s fell into two categories. Continental lovelies that only an Italian count could afford. Or English runabouts that would seldom run.
The 240Z was something different. Long. Low. Inexpensive. Looking like the love child of a Jaguar XKE and a Corvette. With the understated sex appeal of a geisha.
Rather than zooming down I-5, I decided to show Robin a bit of Oregon. To me that meant, a Rube Goldberg drive up the Columbia Gorge, over Mt Hood, down to Crater Lake, and up the windy mountain roads to Powers.
What could have been a one-day trip back to California turned into a week road trip. By the end of the week I knew the car had a tendency to slip on turns over 50 MPH (a lesson I would re-learn while skidding sideways across an English roundabout a few years later), it could easily hit 120 MPH even with a passenger, and its gas gauge was not entirely accurate.
I also learned that you cannot share that type of adventure with an acquaintance without the relationship growing into friendship.
When I left California for Greece, I drove the car across America in just over two days -- with Robin as my co-pilot. That is a tale worthy of recounting -- but not today.
I remember that 240Z fondly. I smile at the memory of the trips. But they are now both gone. One, I suspect, to a junk yard. The other to the back recesses of my mind.
What remains is the friendship. We see one another infrequently: he lives in South Dakota.
But we enjoy recounting that trip. Whenever the narcotic of nostalgia has its way with us.