Saturday, July 2, 2011

Morituri te salutamus

We who about to die salute you.

What an interesting thought that is. We know we are going to die, and yet we are proud. Proud of our heritage, proud of our people, and proud to sacrifice all that we are so that others may live. Its a very nice sentiment, but a bit of an over statement for this post. What we are facing is the end of an era, the closing of a chapter, the turning of a page. 

In this new era of a slow economy, high fuel prices, and relearning how to live within our means we also serve as  witness to the slow death of the performance automobile, the muscle car, and all they stood for. In an age of "clean-deisel" and hybrid technology the fuel guzzling V8's of the past will only be a show piece for "custom" cars and private enthusiasts. Ford has even announced they will be dropping the V-8 as an option for the Mustang except for "higher end applications". 

This is by no means a call to arms, a last rebel cry into the darkness on a rainy night to inspire and rally the forces of ... something .... against ... something else .... 

Nostalgia is nothing more than foggy memories of the past with all the bad parts stripped away. We like to remember the good times, they help when we are forced to relive the bad times. We like to look back and say "Yes! We did that!" 

What we don't say, especially in front of the younger generations, those that grew up on these stories, is what it was really like. How we spent rent money foolishly, or had to use the money for the electric bill as bail money. We tell them that it was hard, but we leave the hardest parts out. We neglect the bad and cherish the good because we have too, because we are human. We are trained from birth that we should not dwell on the past. Yet we are compelled too.

The image above is a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback. It has been updated, repainted and reinvented many times since it was born some forty four years ago. Adjectives used to describe this car include iconic, beautiful, fast, sexy and many more. Even to those who have never owned one, simply seeing such a car instills an nostalgic emotional response, that longing for the good times of yesteryear. Even those that are far to young to have even been conceived look upon this car, and others like it, with a sense of wonder and excitement. They have heard the stories, talked to those who've lived the legends, or at least claimed they have. They know that this car is special and it should be preserved. If not by them, by someone, anyone. Just so long as the legends and stories don't fade away. Sadly some do.

This is a 1972 Ford Maverick. If it had been safety orange it would be a dead ringer for my first car. I remember that car well, nostalgically. I remember pulling it from a field with a SAAB and drilling out broken bolts that had rusted away to make it run again. Most importantly I remember the friends and the shared experience of getting that heap running. That is what we are really looking for when nostalgia hits. Those are the memories we seek most. We don't think of the betrayals, the lost loves or the arguments. We remember the good times that we shared. The time spent with good friends, cheep cars, bad food and fast women. We remember the brawls. The ones we won mostly, and that one we lost that hurt so much. You know the one I mean. 

Adjectives used to describe the Maverick include "eh..", bucket, cheap, junk and "really" (usually accompanied with a look of confusion). You can buy these cars for anywhere from $50 to $200 that run, sort of. A good one will set you back the better part of a grand and the truly great ones go for as much as six thousand. Thats it. Just $6000.00 and you can have your very own top of the line Maverick, even with custom paint. A good restoration could easily run as high as $60,000.00, ten times the maximum financial worth of the car. The fact is these cars are not as desirable to the average person as the Mustang's, the Cobra's and the Camero's of world. 

The death of the Maverick has been a long time coming, and still continues. There are those that try valiantly to keep the remaining few operational, even desirable. They are losing. 

What makes one car more desirable than another? It can't be numbers, there are fewer Maverick's than Mustang's. It can't be cost, Maverick's are cheaper, by far, than any Mustang. So what then are we looking for when we place desire upon on a object like a car. We are looking for nostalgia. Even if the car is new, like the BMW One Series, the latest Porche or even the newest Charger. If we are too young to think about the memories of yesteryear, we are still old enough to have heard the stories and it is now a new generations time in the sun. It is their time to make memories of their own, and mistakes of their own. 

To an American a car still represents freedom. If we are not free to make bad decisions then are we really free? Life is about bad choices, it is the drama that makes the memories, it is the engine of our lives. 

For the last few years my wife and I have been debating on starting a "project car". Something that we can both get behind and build for fun, and to create a little nostalgia for ourselves. The problem of course is car selection, there are many of the greats to choose from. And that is the problem I now face. 

I live on an island in the pacific ocean. Car selection on the island is sparse at best. This means that more often than not I will have to buy a car from the mainland and ship it here, then ship it back when my time on the island is done. That adds around $3k to the equation. Some say we should wait until we get off the island. Then again, we have waited already. For a deployment to end, for a move to a new duty station to be completed, for my son to finish school. We always have a reason to wait, and so we do. What we need is a reason to stop waiting, I am still looking for that reason. 

Is waiting the smart choice? Probably. Is it the right choice? I have no idea but I suspect not. 

What I have decided is that despite the grumbling, the logic, or even common sense, I want to build a Maverick. The car I had back then probably had a lot less potential than I remember, and probably was worth less than I paid for it. (It was free for removing it). All that really doesn't matter though. It really doesn't. 

All people everywhere make choices everyday. To buy or not to buy an iPod. To buy or not to buy a fuel efficient car. Most of these decision are the balance of logic and emotion that we have settled on as our "comfort zone". That middle ground that allows for inspiration to grow without hurting us financially. That is what is meant by the "safe bet". Its the deal that has more good than bad, and it is a decision we can live with. 

Sometime though, you have to get out of your comfort zone and just do it for yourself. Because you can, and because you want to. Not because you need to, or because it is the "right thing" to do. I have been down many roads in my life. Some of those roads are better left forgotten. Some are worth revisiting. None are worth the future. Once again I seek a balance I can live with. Once again I find myself in this place, seeking truth in the fog of nostalgia. Once again, I must wait. 

I know what I want. I even know how to get it. I am waiting for clarity on "should I" get what I want. It is fast approaching the time of "put up or shut up". Men often reach this point, and we usually will react in a predictable manner. We will "usually" react the same way each time we get to that place. One way or another, all men get there many times in their lives. This time though, I am not sure I can predict what I will choose. 

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