Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Not a Nose Ring and Tattoo

When I was four my father test drove a Corvette. Mom sat in the passenger seat holding my one year old sister. I sat on the floor by mom’s feet. I think the car was orange or maybe brown. It was 1973. Dad looked down at me with a goofy grin and asked what I thought. Please, please can we get it was my answer. Gary, don’t you dare was mom’s.
Dad bought a GTO instead. I remember when we drove it from California to Florida. I had the flu.
Roughly 10 years later a 1974 Vega station wagon appeared in our driveway, collateral from a contractor who owed Dad some money. Someone had shoved a V8 under the Vega’s hood, put big tires and traction bars on the back and painted it metallic black. It did not have power steering or power brakes. My parents would let me drive it around the 1/3 mile loop that led from King Road to our driveway. There was a wide spot in the road where, with my brother and sister in the car, I would do doughnuts. My brother would ride in the back of the station wagon and roll from side to side as we slid around. Once when we started the car the down turned dual exhausts caught the dry grass on fire.
The contractor came up with the money and the Vega went home.
A year or so later a fellow offered to trade his Ferrari for one of Dad’s lots. We had moved from Florida back to California and Dad had purchased about 40 acres with the intent of building a few houses and selling a few lots. It was through this property the 1/3 mile loop ran. The Ferrari was a red 308 GT4. We took it for a drive. I got to sit in the back seat.
Dad did not make the trade. He made a good financial decision but I think he made the wrong decision. Why wrong? He chose the safe path, but missed an experience he would not forget. Is he richer or happier now for taking that safe path? I don’t know.
The Ferrari is a physical prop in a sociological experiment with my life.
I am making an on purpose decision to step off the safe path. Buying the Ferrari is simply one manifestation my rejection of safety, complacency and apathy. I am rebelling against routine, fate, planning for next year based on last year, boundaries, obligatory dinner parties, Christmas cards with pictures of families, social positions, acceptable behavior, and my relationship with money. I am rebelling against the mindless, trudging existence that accompanies a comfortable middle class life. I am rebelling against the expectation and example I have been setting for my children. Get up, go to work, say nice things to people, where sensible clothes. I don’t mind getting older, I like sensible clothes. I cannot accept complacency and I am no longer willing to accept boundaries on what I can and cannot do.

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