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Matchbox City: A 7-Year Old’s Engineering Feat Featuring an Epic and Trashy Discovery

In these ingenuous little episodes of my early life I’ve mentioned frequently my close childhood friend Gary DeBaise. He appears so regularly and as such a perfect complement to my actions that one might suspect he is just a literary device or maybe even an imaginary friend. He is neither. But if I were to create an imaginary friend, I’d create him in Gary’s image. And I would never admit I had any imaginary friends because as I’ve often said (to myself only): Keep your friends close, and your imaginary friends closer.

If only we could make the real world like this idealized world. Well, we kids did in 1968.

No one wants to know about your imaginary friends. And thankfully I have none now that they’ve all grown up and moved away. But Gary remains a real lifelong friend; as real as the bracing deluge of an Ice Bucket Challenge. Gary grew up not 3 houses down from me. Well actually that’s not true. It wasn’t not 3 houses down. It was exactly 3 houses down. Oh how the truth will set you free. And now I feel free enough to share the spritely tale of a 7-year-old’s civil engineering project for the ages – ages 7-11. The US Army Corps of Engineers never executed a project so consummately.  

The kids on my block didn’t bother with playdates. We just played, on whatever date it was: whiffle ball, touch football, swamp fox, build and burn a model car. We also rode bikes with banana seats, caught grasshoppers in “The Lot” and habituated our neighborhood mom and pop store (Louise Bros.) for a nickel popsicle. Now at the risk of making this sound too mawkishly idyllic – like we walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting – I must interject, our block was no walk in the park (although there was a nearby park we could walk in). And not to put too gritty a point on it; our neighborhood was also rife with family upheaval, drug use and even suicide. But overall it was a dependable bastion of stay-at-home-moms (mine didn’t even drive till after the “divorce”), work-a-day fathers and healthy, juvenile tropisms. Simply put, we kids liked to do kids’ stuff.

The names of our “gang members” were straight out of an Andy Hardy movie. There was Ricky, Checker, Pat, Pat-Pat (so doubled to differentiate him from the older, more established Pat), and the aforementioned Gary. We were like dogs, padding about, waiting for the next great idea. One day, apropos of nothing, Pat-Pat announced: “Yesterday I drank everything through my toothbrush, just by dipping it in and then sucking out the fluid.” What these days would be met with a derisive smirk and a cold stare was then hailed as a breakthrough in sophisticated drink delivery systems. “Aw man,” Ricky declared, “I’m gonna do that all day tomorrow.”

Now when I say “gang members”, I refer to the motley collection of youthful personalities who banded together for constructive purposes (usually) and not a misguided and dangerous affiliation of urban warriors who think they have turf to protect – turf they don’t even own. I was the youngest member of the crew and as such I was always aspirational – wondering when I’d get to stay up and watch the late 10 o’clock shows like Mission Impossible or Star Trek; let alone some cool guy named Johnny Carson whose show was on at the ungodly hour of 11:30 PM. Years later I would actually penetrate this inky abyss and witness the Tonight Show not only on TV, but in person.

But clearly, in 1968 there were many bridges to cross and childhood metrics to cross off. And until the reality of my parents’ divorce, and it’s soul-killing angst intruded, I was on track to breeze through all of them. From the moment I first detected the incipient cracks in my parents’ marriage I was both uneasy in my predicament and yet supremely confident of my ability to navigate it. Ambivalence; it’s what’s for breakfast. Welcome to earth young David. Not that I was a deep-thinking 7-year-old, this was just the most sophisticated reasoning a 7-year-old could muster. And, truth be told, it’s not too far from the supposed higher reasoning this 60-year-old warhorse can muster either. In the interim there has been tremendous personal growth on my part. For example I’m much taller now than I was when I was seven, and I now drive a car instead of a banana-seat bicycle. Girls have evolved from an infernal nuisance to an eternal necessity. Read the rest of this entry »

A Car Divided Against Itself Cannot Sell,

But a Car Appealing to our Hidden Prejudices Just Might.

 

These Are the Cars That Drive Men’s Souls

If you can’t halve your car both ways, why not have it one way. Automobile manufacturers understand your need to express with excess.

With the advent of social media, a clear-eyed discussion of the pressing issues of the day has been reduced to flame-throwing snarky comments at those you disagree with. These curdles of wisdom are also known as memes. Memes as in: Me, me, me, me, me, me, memes! . This scorched Earth policy leaves little room for conciliation and plenty of room for righteous indignation. The once deep reservoir of societal collegiality has been drained from the body politic leaving its citizens parched and petulant.

 

Not to worry however because this corrosive dynamic will be obliterated when polemicists of all stripes depart this surly world and pass through that transcendent tunnel of purifying white light you hear about from people who’ve returned from NDEs (Near Death Experiences). These briefly deceased trailblazers will tell you they can’t describe the rapturous splendor awaiting you, but if they could convey anything it’s that we’re all one in God and all this fussing and fighting serves no one. This is not some “Kum-bi-ya” moment for the nearly dead, but rather a “How did I forget that?” moment for the recently returned. Of course this does no one any good if they realize the greater reality when they’re on the other side and can’t tangibly express it when they return to their bodies. At least it’s comforting to know that it is our destiny to have our prejudices, self-image and core values all scrubbed clean by the astringent lather of eternal truth.

 

If learning the truth requires a cessation of earthly distractions then so be it. I just wish it took something less dramatic for us to recall our truer natures. Perhaps if people could have these epiphanies without dying. Maybe, like the aforementioned near death experience. Yeah, that’s it! An NDE – a Near Death Experience. I mean a near death experience never killed anybody – that’s how it got its name in the first place. It’s only near death, and not the actual death itself. That’s the long and hopeful view anyway. But as long as we’re 7 billion fussy people on Earth with wrongs to be righted, it’s a different story.

 

A story car marketers haven’t turned a blind eye to. So in keeping with our thinly-educated citizenry happy to revel in the one-dimensional smugness of what they’ve just cut & pasted on social media, automobile manufacturers have begun to target market their models not only to practical considerations, but also to political considerations. And in catering to these political views the new models have become decidedly tendentious as manufacturers accentuate the vehicular divide. These models may need a realignment soon because currently these politicars are made to crab either too far left or too far right. Some parents like to start their children out early in these biased models; similarly to how they might use corrective shoes to get their children to walk straight – except in this case it’s to steer them left or right.

 

For example, the new Ford Polarity proves that a car divided against itself can drive. It comes in 2 niche-marketed models: The all-new Ford Snowflake – very big in California. And its sister stablemate the brawny new Ford Extremist – makes a Hummer look like a Mini Cooper. These 2 new models promise to satisfy the left and the right while simultaneously irritating both.

 

The Ford Snowflake features a selectable horn option that blows very, very softly and says, “Pardon me, but could you please be more considerate. I mean both specifically in this traffic situation and generally in society?” It’s an apologetic mouthful, but what else would you expect from a Snowflake? Standard bumper stickers read:

  1. I Brake For Immigrants
  2. I Don’t See Color
  3. I Tolerate Everybody But Those Ignoramuses.

 

Sold way over on the right side of the sales floor is the Ford Extremist. Its horn whistles Dixie when blown and its bumper stickers read:

  1. If Catapults are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Catapults
  2. This Truck Ain’t Got No Cup Holders, But It Does Have Beer Holders
  3. I Like Things Just The Way I Imagine Them To Be.

 

With Ford segmenting the market politically, other manufacturers are following suit. Other politicars in various stages of production include:

 

  1. The 2018 Kate Upton – Finally a model we can all agree on
  2. Pontiac Partisan – You’ll never cross the center divide again in this model
  3. Ford Compromise – The only car whose best performance is in neutral
  4. Ford Zion – Runs on chutzpah and unleaded chutzpah. All gauges are read right to left and instead of a sunroof it comes with a little yarmulke on top. And yes, you can only buy it wholesale.
  5. Lexus Libtard – For the well-educated male and limousine liberal who bristles at the inequities of life and donates generously to food banks and women’s shelters alike; all the while he’s pressing his 28 year-old single mom secretary for sex. This vehicle is also badged under the Hyundai Hypocrisy and is nicknamed the Charlie Rose
  6. Hummer RWNJ – Runs on gumption and unexamined motives. A self-driving version was scrapped because it continually pulled to the right. Its hood ornament doubles as a bullhorn and its BOSE sound system is actually an echo chamber so the driver’s beliefs are continuously reinforced while motoring. When the GPS “Home” button is pressed the RWNJ routes you directly to NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.
  7. Deep State Dodge – Similar to their Stealth, only much stealthier
  8. Toyota Tyrant – Runs on threats and intimidation. Hybrid version uses both narcissism and sociopathy as alternative fuels.
  9. Tesla Bipartisan – What else would you expect from the Muskinator but transcendence, integration and a higher calling – all in a zero carbon footprint vehicle. This is a car with that visionary thing that looks beyond petty squabbles and intractable anxieties. Also comes in a Prozac version.

 

It is with abundant glee and unbridled something-er-other I celebrate the inanity and sweetness of life as suggested in this apocryphal marketing expose. If I focus on just the mean-spiritedness of life, it would drive me crazy and writing this satirical piece is how I like to be driven.