Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I was with Charlie yesterday and my phone fell down behind a low table in his room. It's coffee table Jim built from salvaged doors a few years before he passed. Gorgeous. Heavy. Perfect toddler play table.

There was some blind groping and I recovered the phone, blew off the dust bunnies and found this accidental image.

Hiding under the back of the lower shelf was Charlie's Caddy!  It had been missing for a while and he was tickled to rediscover it.

I was beat when I got home and didn't trust myself to write anything much beyond a bit of dialogue that occurred to me on the drive so I started tinkering with this rather haunting image, adding text, mocking up a book cover. I'll spare you.

But studying the image, I had a stark revelation about the WIP. Every character - with notably few exceptions -  has a car that's associated with each of them in a way that is as incidental as saying "Ray was an old-school greaser." It should come as no surprise that this venal social climber in his late twenties covets and borrows his mother's vintage car, "...a 1955 Cadillac, black as the hole where his soul should be."

The female main character, Anna, has had a equally pristine '70 Chevelle that she rarely drives and when she does things happen. She needed something and I gave her a car who she later trades in on the main character in a most meaningful way.

That would be Jack - one of those special characters who drove whatever rolled only because he had to, a city boy transplanted to the burbs. He had no fucks to give, as is said nowadays, but would have been so appropriate to his character I have to restrain myself from writing those words. As it stands, he has a t-shirt that says, "Do I Look Like I Give a Fuck?" that he wears to church. I digress.

Anna's uncle Murph drives an ancient Ford pickup. Gordon drives a limo that's not his. Cholo, a lime-green Olds with obscene white walled tires. Gabriel, one of two battered work trucks - the ubiquitous white pickup or van. Anna's best friend, the vivacious Suze, has a newish TR7 - a convertible sportscar. Even the biggest bad guy drives a new four-door BMW. gunmetal.
I don't go to great lengths to describe the cars, they are just conveyances, but then, as now, people tended to drive cars that reflected something of their self-image, if they could afford it. There's a little more about Anna's Chevelle - it's as special as she is and manifests in a way just as unique.

I had also been thinking that maybe I need to kill one of the main good guys and couldn't come up with a compelling story related reason for doing so. Then I realized that I have already done it. Two of the star vehicles suffer unique and spectacular deaths.

I didn't think about these things when I was writing the story. I wonder what or even if readers might make of it? It was set at the peak of the mid 70's oil crisis when there were days there was no gas to buy at any price in a culture that was born and raised on highways and high octane? We were still deep in our  American love affair with the car. Do I trust that contemporary readers know these things or should I add a fact or two here and there for "color".

I once drove to the gas station before dawn to cue up for my meager 10-gallon limit wearing a fur coat over a nightgown. Sounds like something I should use.


  1. I LOVE the car as conveyance for personality/self image! Great idea... And based in reality when you really think about it. I also think it's a good idea to include the anecdote(s) for the 70's has crunch. Millennials are oblivious to...well...just about everything that isn't on Instagram or Twitter. ������ Besides, your fur and PJ's story is marvelous!

    1. You're right. I love to paint with words, so why not. Alas, there was no one interesting waiting in the line with me. You parked in line at the pump waiting for the joint to open. Sleep, bundled up because you couldn't afford to waste the gas running the heater. If you ran out of gas while you were in line and didn't have a gas can, you were screwed. There was a shortage of human kindness over this issue. That's when I started shopping for a Honda..they were NEVER at the damn gas stations!

  2. Yep..I grew up in an auto town and cars have always played a big part of my self identity as well as my value system. In the 70's I waited in a gas lline so long, I wet
    my pants.