Monday, August 25, 2008

Cruising On 28.9 Cents Per Gallon

Hey, I guess I really dated myself, didn't I? But then if you're reading this blog you probably know me (why else would you be reading it) and thus already know how ancient I am. And maybe you remember the same thing about the way gas prices used to be.

I had assumed that the day I turned 16 was the day my dad would take me to the DMV to take the test for my driver's license. I assumed incorrectly. My dad looked at me like I was crazy and laughed derisively.

Instead I had to wait an eternity, like two months, before I was able to do so. At least I passed. Despite fears of having to parallel park, those fears went unrealized.

Then I assumed with my newly acquired license I could take the car and go driving around. Haha, wrong again. And again my dad looked at me like I was crazy. But also again after an eternity of about another two months, maybe less, he allowed me to take his behemoth 1969 Ford LTD with a 429 cubic inch engine out on limited journeys around the immediate neighborhood. That was better than nothing so I jumped at the chance.

And what I never told him, but he probably knows, is that I, uh, didn't exactly stay within the confines of our Crenshaw area boundaries. On those Saturday or Sunday afternoons when I told my dad I was going to Rick Fukamaki's house, a mere eight blocks away, I instead went cruising to points west and north, like up to Hollywood, for example.

One of my favorite streets was San Vicente Boulevard because it was very wide with not too many signals, and it cut through the city diagonally. I'd be the little guy behind the wheel of this mammoth gold sedan with bench seats front and back, being like what Felix Cavaliere sang about on his Young Rascals' hit, "Groovin'" - just taking it all in with the AM radio playing the top 40 and feeling so free. I'd suffer the anxiety of the next day being Monday and heading back to school when I got home but for those moments behind the wheel, it felt sooo good.

I hear these days from friends/parents who say their kids aren't interested in driving and I can't comprehend such a lack of interest. How can you not want to drive? All of a sudden you are mobile; you're free; you aren't dependent on rides and other neighborhoods are not so distant. I was especially enamored of the freedom aspect.

The songs on the radio back then? Whenever I hear these, they take me back to the view from behind the windshield: Never Can Say Goodbye (Jackson Five); Just My Imagination (The Temptations); One Toke Over the Line (Brewer and Shipley); Woodstock (Matthews Southern Comfort); Stay Awhile (The Bells); and Heavy Makes You Happy (Staple Singers), Another Day (Paul McCartney), among others.

Like I said, I'm sure my dad knew I wasn't just driving over to Rick's house. In fact one time he asked me where I was and I said at Rick's, to which he then asked why then are there so many miles on the odometer from the last time he checked? And I had no answer for that one.

I figure that battleship must have gotten about 10 miles to the gallon. Good thing gas was so cheap back in those days!

As time went on the restrictions loosened on my using the car and it became part of the rotation among my buddies when we needed transportation. I have to say that my dad was very cool to allow an irresponsible kid to drive his car around like that and trust me with it. I never did anything crazy but then back in those days, I'm thinking maybe I just didn't realize what I was doing was crazy.

These days with gas prices being what they are in an ever-increasingly crowded urban environment, driving for the most part has become an unwelcome chore. I'm so happy on the days when I work from home so I don't have to put up with the morning and afternoon commutes. And for those of you familiar with driving in the San Gabriel Valley, you know what extra hazards are on the road with possibly the most clueless drivers in the nation going to and from their destinations.

But.. for those rare times when I can get behind the wheel and don't have a deadline or fixed destination, that old feeling emerges and once again it is sooo nice to be cruising. I love it.

More to come, cruising down memory lane..

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