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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3208 - 3211

 3208.  “So what, I touched his car,” I had no recollection of having touched the car but apparently I had. 

 3209. For what came next Jason had to stop walking, turn to me and address me in a formal manor.  “Never, for any reason, ever touch a man’s customized car,” He said in a very serious tone.

 3210. At first I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but it dawned on me that I had broken a cardinal rule of the idiot car world, and this realization pushed me over the edge.

3211.  I said, “You know Jason, cars are completely idiotic, and customized cars are only created by people who have serious mental problems.”  But I didn’t stop there, but I started to give him a lecture about the stupidity of cars and their drivers. I said, “Look at Route Five, Jason, you know what that is?  It was a dirt path from here to Syracuse created for horses and oxen.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3204 - 3207

 3204. Jason was asking the boyfriend what the top speed of the car was, and the car maniac said some exaggerated number.  It was then that I said something.  I probably should have kept silent, but I couldn’t help myself.  I said, speaking only to the Princess, and not the idiots, “Imagine hitting a tree going a hundred miles an hour, wouldn’t that be something.” 

 3205. I didn’t intend my comment to be funny, but Sheila went into convulsions about it.  I could have left it at that but then I said, also only to her, “It would be like when you hit those big bugs and they make a mess of the windshield,” and Sheila proceeded to laugh so hard her eyes filled with tears. 

 3206. I’m not sure why, but the Princess’ boyfriend did not seem to like my remarks very much because he got in his car, slammed the door, and waved for his girlfriend to get in. Then he drove off, not forgetting to spin his tires.  A very evil thought was stirring in my head.

 3207. Walking home Jason seemed to be lost in thought but after a while he began to lecture me in a new and unexpected way.  He was saying, “You are really lucky Sheila’s boyfriend didn’t attack you.  I was sure you were going to get yourself killed back there.”  I assumed that Jason was referring to my comment about the bugs on the windshield, but I was mistaken. “You touched his car you know.”  Jason said

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3200 - 3203

 3200. But as I walked across the parking lot toward Jason, my only friend in the seventh grade, I discovered that he was not talking to the Princess at all but was talking to her boyfriend, an upper class-men who was the proud owner of a custom car. Nevertheless, I could not resist the temptation to get involved in their conversation as an opportunity to actually see what Sheila was like close up.

 3201. Jason was asking the boyfriend thousands of questions about the car.  He wanted to know especially about the increase in the horsepower each of the various engine improvements accounted for. I  didn’t have anything to say and once in a while ventured a glanced at Sheila who was wearing a black sweater with white edging.  This was the same sweater she wore almost every single day.

 3202. As the two idiots were exchanging their car information I  fell to thinking about the car, and the boyfriend. I  know it is cruel to say such things but it was a fact, he was a skinny, ugly little guy who has dropped out of high-school and I knew of him because he was bagging groceries at our neighborhood store. How he managed to become the boyfriend of the famous Sheila I could not understand. 

3203. He saved up every penny he earned and spent it on his car.   A car that over the past two years or so he  has rendered completely idiotic. Close up, rust was bubbling up under the primer over the patches of Bondo.  The interior beggared description.  It has been redone with wood grain contact paper, and shag carpet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3196 - 3199

 3196. We were in the seventh grade, but the high-school was in a large building nearby and so we could see our future in the distance as we contemplated the fact that we would also be there in a few years even though it seemed to be somehow impossible.

 3197. Among those high-school students was one girl who was so remarkably beautiful that even  the boys in the seventh grade knew her by name and we were fond of speculating about her, and wondering who her various boyfriends might be. Her name was Sheila, but she cast such a spell over us that we always referred to her as “The Princess.”

 3198. She was so attractive that even my brother who was two years older than I had never spoken to her even in  passing, and when it came to such things my brother was fearless.

3199. So it was with a staggering shock that one day I came out of school to see none other than Jason engrossed in conversation with the Princess, in the parking lot adjacent to the high-school.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3192 - 3195

3192.  I had been noticing for a time that all my friends were behaving strangely, but the party made my position in my class abundantly clear. My classmates were giving me an ultimatum unawares, reject Jason, or become an outcast in my class. 

3193. But I was unable to bring myself to reject Jason, and it was not only because I had sworn to be his friend, it was more complicated than that. First it seemed to be a matter of simple honor, but also, Jason and his grandmother seemed to represent a strange and dark quality of life I knew nothing about, and I was attracted to them like an innocent to vice. 

3194. But the idea of the day of my party arriving and having nobody come was such a distressing prospect that I began to look around for some way out of the dilemma. How was I going to explain the change in my status in my class to my parents? Parents may or may not be interested in your grades, but when it comes to the question of ones social ranking in the class, what could be more important to the mother and father?

3195. Then, about a week before my birthday a bizarre situation arose that seemed to offer a way out my crisis.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3188 - 3191

3188. So I adhere to my first assumption, that the management in Detroit in the fifties chose to be inspired by the ideas of teenage boys who were obsessed with cars to the extent that all they did was dream about them, or attempt to adjust the looks of them if they got the chance.

 3189. Earlier I had mentioned that Jason was fast becoming my only friend, but I did not elaborate. I became aware of this change as my birthday approached and I began inviting my classmates to my annual birthday party.

 3190.  The annual party was an inevitable affair and so I did not think very much about it until I began to notice that after asking this or that classmate if they were coming their answer was not the, “Yes” I expected but rather the question, “Is Jason going to be there.”

3191. Soon it became obvious that I had to make a choice, either my birthday party was going to be the same as it always was minus Jason, or my party was going to have Jason as my only guest.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3184 - 3187

 3184. Perhaps no such conversation ever took place, but if not I can think of no explanation for the cars that began appearing on the streets back then. Detroit seemed to have set its sights on pleasing Jason, and was not interested in anyone else's opinions.

 3185. And I suppose there was logic in their approach. Why not aim your designs at those people who are obsessed with your product and live and breath the things you create. Perhaps people like Jason, even if they were destined to never even buy a car, represented the unconscious desires of the car buying public. 

 3186. It is true that the magazines Jason was reading featured cars that looked utterly different from the cars Detroit was manufacturing. The custom car look of the fifties always featured certain characteristics. The chrome bumper was always removed and the body work finished off as if no bumper ever existed. The door handles were always removed and either hidden of placed flush with the body.

3187. Last, and most important, the entire car was lowered closer to the ground. But one must observe that over the years all of these design changes that first appeared on the custom cars of the fifties have been incorporated into modern car design. For this reason, you can therefore thank Jason and people like him for the fact that your car has no bumper on either the front or the back, and if you get too close to a curb you will do half a thousand dollars worth of damage to your car.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3180 - 3183

 3180. Even now, so many years later, I wonder just what it was that afflicted Detroit, and its designers so many years ago. The forms of the automobile had evolved in such a logical fashion from the beginning up until the 1940s. But in the forties one began to see the advent of the aerodynamic look so that  space inside the vehicle no longer conformed to the needs of the driver or the passengers.

 3181. But still, although cars began to look a little like rocket ships, the design concepts seemed to arise from the minds of the designers themselves, and not from somewhere else. But, you ask, where but in the minds of the designers could one look for the inspiration for car designs?

3182. To answer this question you have to image the upper management of a car company meeting with the designers. The designers all have drawings of their concept cars to present for the coming year. All of the drawings they have worked so hard to create have been rejected. The management is asking them to come up with something unexpected and unheard of.

3183. The management makes this request, “We want you to come up with drawings of cars that look like what our customers want a car to look like. We are not interested in what you designers think cars should look like. And when you do these drawings, keep in mind that we do not want to see what the most sophisticated and aware buyers want cars to look like, we are more interested in the design that will appeal to the most ordinary, even the most stupid of our future clients.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3176 - 3179

 3176. It was not that I had no interest in cars, it was just that my interest was of a different sort than Jason’s. It just so happened that my association with Jason was taking place in 1957, which was an important and pivotal time in the evolution of the American automobile, and it was impossible not to notice it. 

 3177. At that time the new models came out in September. September was the beginning of the school year, and at the same time signified the advent of new car styles. This introduction of the new models was a subject of intense interest for boys in the seventh grade. All the dealerships were lined up in a row on Main Street. As the new models arrived we would go to those dealerships without fail, and examine the new models with a critical eye.

 3178. It was obvious that something radical was happening even as far back in 1953, but it was impossible to tell what it was or where it was going. Colors became more pastel, and more often two colors were used. The chrome on the sides of the cars that in the past had always been a straight line from front to back, began to lose its way and wander off in peculiar directions.

 3179. By 1955 freakish shapes began to appear like the first signs of a serious disease. Bumps appeared that would later metamorphose into fins, and extra shapes on the chrome bumpers which would multiply and enlarge. By 1957 the disintegration of style was completed leaving us wondering if the changes we witnessed were planned, or had come about by accident.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3172 - 3175

 3172. Jason loved the cars that had big engines and were fast and powerful, but the poor soul who was condemned in this life, to drive a stripped down six cylinder Rambler American, for them he had nothing but contempt.

 3173. Our science teacher drove a little Nash Rambler, the model with no chrome and those bland inserts where the radio was supposed to be. You would have thought that Miss Pease’s ownership of that car  was a personal affront and a direct insult to Jason’s feelings. On the other hand our gym coach had a Buick Special convertible, it was black, and he kept it always waxed. 

 3174. When Jason saw Mr. Roach’s car tears would practically come into his eyes, as if he wanted to get down on his knees and worship the car, kiss and hug it if he could.  All that was necessary was for that car to come into sight, and Jason would start telling me various details about it. Because of this I considered Jason, who was fast becoming my only friend in the world; to be a complete idiot. 

3175. It was impossible not to be struck by an obvious important fact; Jason’s Grandmother did not have a car. From the look of things I suspected that she had never owned a car, and perhaps did not even have a license. Listening to Jason go on about cars I could not shake the uneasy suspicion that Jason, like his Grandmother was probably destined to never own a car also.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3168 - 3171

 3168. Jason was not dumb, he wasn’t a complete imbecile. He knew a lot of things I  knew nothing about. He was a walking dictionary of automobile facts. He was a traveling encyclopedia of trivia about cars. But he was not in any way interested in anything else. Jason lived and breathed , dreamed and talked about cars, and the entire time of our friendship we never talked about anything else.

 3169. But that is not accurate, Jason talked, and I  listened to him. It was a one-sided conversation, and a lopsided friendship. We walked together to school in the morning, home for lunch, back to school after lunch and then home again in the evening and all the time Jason talked about cars. Even on Saturday when we would go downtown, or walk the railroad tracks, he would keep up his monologue about cars. 

 3170. It was not a passive interest that Jason had, but a passionate involvement.  He loved certain cars and hated others with a fury.  His most profound admiration however was reserved for a certain object called a customized car. He has a stack of magazines in his bedroom devoted to hot rods, and customized cars.

 3171. These cars had their own special language , they were chopped and channeled, they were frenched.  They had special carburetors, and differentials, with coded names and numbers. Jason’s endless lecture about cars, which could go on for hours, was fueled by the passing traffic. He could identify cars, and their engine types, simply by their sounds.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3164 - 3167

 3164. Jason’s may have been living with his grandmother, but she was probably about the same age as my mother. She was not attractive, and was rather over weight, but there was something provocative and reckless about her manor that filled me with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity

3165. The very next morning serious troubles began for me.  Everything that had happened up to that point set the stage for what followed, and I  can see now that nothing I  could have done would have altered in any way what was to come.  It was like a boulder that starts rolling down a hill, and though it might move slowly at first, there is no stopping it and the destruction it will cause along the way. 

3166. I  still imagined I  would find a way to avoid the  consequences of being Jason’s only friend.  My plan was to go slowly with the friendship. I  intended to start by returning to my roundabout route to school so as to avoid him but that didn’t work because Jason was waiting for me at the corner of my street in the morning, impatient, to start being friends. 

3167. I hoped there was some other Jason underneath the mad man who was always talking back and misbehaving in school.  I  had seen movies where some evil person is trusted by somebody and then their character is transformed. I  soon found out that things like that happen only in movies but  in life stupid people aparently are stupid and as time goes on the get worse.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jason and his Grandmother, parts 3160 - 3163

 3160. This created a perplexing question. I  had already made up my mind that when I  grew up none of my time was going to be devoted to household tasks.  perhaps once a year I  would sweep up, and do some laundry. The rest of the time I  would do something else, I  had no idea what. But I  was frightened by Jason’s house, especially the food caked on to the side o f the refrigerator, and all over the stove. 

 3161.  I  could see that one had two choices; either live like a pig in a pig sty, like the Jason, or else spend my life vacuuming and cleaning up.

 3162. My visit to the Sweet residence had serious repercussions for me, but the question of whether or not I  was going to spend my life washing up was not the big problem. No, there was a huge difficulty that I  have yet to mention. There was something about Mrs. Sweet herself, which I  was compelled to think about from that day on, practically without  a letup, and that was something about Mrs. Sweet’s figure.

3163. My Mother and my Aunts also had the same sort of aspects to their figures and so did the dental hygienist who cleaned my teeth once a year.  So did the principal’s secretary at my school, the principal’s secretary whom we had nicknamed Mrs. Torpedoes.  It was an apt nickname, and if ever a person deserved to be called Mrs. Torpedoes, it was she.