Friday, August 27, 2010

The pose

When I was in high school, we had an assignment in our art class in which we had to draw a fashion clothing design in pen and ink. Most of the people in the class went with the typical woman in a fancy dress or debonair dude in a tuxedo.

I drew the guy to the left in the racing suit and helmet. You can date him at about 1990, because of the open-faced helmet, Heartbeat of America sponsorship, and the pair of Nike Air Cross Trainers that had an uncanny resemblance to those worn by the artist.

Is it a good picture? No, it is not. I don't even think someone's legs could bend in exactly that manner. But it is the way his legs are crossed that bring us to the point (however pointless) of this article.

It has been mentioned to me recently that most of the pictures in which I've "posed" with a car feature a very similar crossed ankle position. And sure enough, as I went through some old pictures, that has proven to be a fairly consistent truth, as you will see below.

The earliest such picture, as it turns out, is the one taken with my first car, the '74 Buick Century to the left. That car was a whole $820 from Don Stein Buick in 1987. It was a former rental car, so the shiny Buick Road Wheels and some of the other kitsch was added later. My dad wanted me to start off right, so we took it straight to the muffler shop to throw on dual exhaust and loud mufflers. There was an old man that would walk past our house, and if he walked behind my Buick in the driveway while I was warming it up, he would plug his ears and glare at me. That should have motivated me to stay clear of the old fart, but there was something in my young teenage brain that was so offended by his hatred for the sweet burble of the Buick that I made it a point to time my driveway duties to the moment he walked by. It was eventually beat to death in a hail storm, and I literally cried. I miss that old beater dearly--more than any other car I've owned.

Look at that magnificent head of hair! If I ever had a chance of looking halfway decent standing next to a car, this picture was it. I'm all dressed up and ready to go to my senior prom in this '68 Camaro convertible. Truth be told, I wanted to drive my dad's new Lumina company car in the background. The Camaro had air conditioning, but it was hard to keep the engine running when it was on, and it had a tendency to overheat. Putting the top down was out of the question given my date's bodacious bouffant, so I just had to stumble my way through the commute portion of the date. Dad was afraid I'd wreck the Lumina, then he'd lose his job and all would be lost. By the way, that's my mom's Vette parked behind. Well, it was a Che-vette, but it still counts. She loved those little hunks of junk. She'd probably still be driving one if they all hadn't rusted away.

This '98 Monte Carlo plays a part in the first time I met my wife. I was the Marketing Director for Lakeside and I-70 Speedways, and my dad used his Chevrolet connections to help me put together the official pace car program for the tracks. Having new cars at my disposal was a pretty awesome perk, especially for a 24-year-old dork such as myself. It also made up for not getting to drive that Lumina to the prom. Anyway, before the season starts we'd always display the pace cars in the race car show at the Snake Saturday Parade in North Kansas City. Unbeknownst to me, my future wife had been recruited as a track official for the 1998 season, snared by track personnel based on feigned interest during a NASCAR bowling league. She was also in the market for a new Monte Carlo. She came to the Snake Saturday Parade, and I let her sit in this car. And then presto, we were married. Four years later. This picture was taken in the grandstands near turn four of the now closed I-70 Speedway.

This was the Camaro Z28 pace car that we used during the 1999 season at the two tracks. I went over to Superior Chevrolet and picked it up brand new. It was loaded with options, including chrome wheels, factory ground effects, and a six-speed transmission with a shifter ball that felt like a baseball. I used to give kids rides around the track before the races if they won the Little Caesar's Pizza Kids Club drawing that week. One night we had the Mustang Club out at Lakeside as an added little attraction, and I gave some kid a ride while those guys were making a few laps before the races started. Those guys would stop on the start-finish line on their way around, and attempt a burnout down the front stretch. They weren't exactly on their A-game that night, because the burnouts were pretty weak. Meanwhile, the wrecker and fire crew guys were goading me on to let loose with the Camaro. I asked the kid riding with me if his mom was there, or just his dad. He said it was just his dad. For some reason, I thought that made a difference. Then I asked him if he wanted to go for it when we came back around. Naturally, he did. So I stopped on the start-finish line, kicked off the traction control (to this day I'm glad I had the presence of mind to do that), and dumped the clutch. It was perfect. Tires spinning and screeching all the way to the turn where I finally had to let up. The crowd went nuts. Take that, Mustang.

I guess that blue Camaro left an impression, because I eventually thought I needed one of my own. Eventually, I got one. And for me, it was the ultimate Camaro. It was a 2001 SS that I bought in 2001, making it the only car I've ever owned that was built in the same decade as I owned it, let alone the same year. I usually kept this Sunset Orange six-speed in the garage and drove a cruddy old '93 Caprice everywhere. Nearly every day I'd get stopped at this light leaving work, and an Audi TT would line up next to me on the double-lane highway entrance ramp. Then when the light changed, he'd blast off down the ramp, leaving me wallowing in his tiny little cloud of dust. I used to think, "if I had my Camaro, he wouldn't be able to do that." It was just like the movie Better off Dead. Well, one day, the Caprice was in the shop, so I drove big orange to work. And sure enough, Audi TT guy showed up in the other lane. Now, I certainly don't condone street racing, but let's just say, a 2001 Audi TT is no match for a 2001 Camaro SS. I want my two dollars.

This was taken the day I sold the Camaro. The reason I sold it is sitting on the fender. With my wife heading back to work, and the dark cloud of daycare payments looming, owning a fairly expensive (at least to me) sports car that never got driven was out of the question. I won best in class at the Midwest Camaro Fest two years in-a-row with that car--it was about as perfect as anything could be. A kid and his dad flew in to Kansas City from St. Clair Shores, Mich., gave me more money than I bought it for, and drove it home. And that was pretty much the end of my sports car collection for awhile, as you will see from the next entry.

This is my '63 Chevy C-10 short bed pickup on the day I brought it home. It's still a beater, but it is a much cleaner beater now. My in-laws lived in the one stoplight town of Harvard, Neb., a few years ago, and this truck was always parked across the street. I grew sort of an attachment to it when we'd go to visit, because, well, staring at it was pretty much all there was to do in Harvard. I even went over and asked if it was for sale one day, but the lady that lived in the house was literally angry that I would even darken her door. Eventually, these people sold their house and moved into a maintenance-free place in a different town. I got the last laugh, though. I got a call one day while I was home in Kansas City. It was my mother-in-law. "They're selling your truck in the estate sale right now. What do you want to bid?" About a minute later, that baby was all mine.

Remember the little baby that was perched on the front fender of my orange Camaro earlier? Well, he just took this Batmanesque picture of me by my '96 Impala SS tonight. Like I said, other than that Camaro, I've never owned a car that was built in the current decade. This was also one of my dad's GM company cars when it was new. Actually, he planned on buying a green '95 Impala he had been driving, but then he learned about the console-mounted gear shift that was to come out on the '96s and held off. This one was going to be green, too, but I convinced him to get a black one. Black is the only color for an Impala SS, I reasoned. Darth Vader certainly wouldn't choose a green one. Of course, at the time, I didn't know I was going to wind up with it. I bought it from my dad a few years ago now, and wish every time I wash it that it was a green one. Hell, now that I look at this picture in the glaring setting sun, I see that I'm going to have to wax the darned thing again. And by the way, this is the only picture on here that I consciously crossed my ankles in.

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