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Monday, October 5, 2009

Fearless Fifty-Three

There's a very sweet song in the musical "Wicked," a show I really like in spite of not being a twelve-year-old girl, and it's not a popular song either, like "Defying Gravity" or, well, "Popular." It's a one-minute ballad that the Wizard sings called "I am a Sentimental Man." Though I come off a bit bold and brash, I am a sentimental man, and if there's a number in the world I get all soft and squishy about, it's the number "53." Here's the reason why:

My heart belongs to that car, and that number. Ever since I can remember, and I can remember pretty far back, 53 has been my favorite number. It hasn't been especially lucky, and maybe it would be if I ever played the lottery, but it's always been my favorite. Don't ask me how, but I hit 53 followers this weekend, and so I thought, in honor of this historic event, I'd spend a little time talking about my favorite number, my favorite car, and my favorite Disney live-action movie.

By the way, my favorite animated Disney movie is "Robin Hood," and if you've ever heard me lustily belting out "A Pox on the Phony King of England," well, you know not to expect too much from me. Mentally, at least.

My obsession with Herbie (the Love Bug) started many, many years ago, when I was around three years old. My father's sister was visiting from Israel and my parents took the extraordinarily rare opportunity to have an evening to themselves, leaving Rena in charge of the kids. My sisters were off doing whatever sisters did in the heady days of 1983-- probably decorating their bedroom walls with puff paint or whatever-- and Rena plopped me on the living room floor and slipped a film into the Betamax. From the opening title sequence featuring a good old-fashioned dirt-track demolition race, underscored with a sprightly, jaunty soundtrack, I was hooked. And, when the delicate, ovoid, off-white beauty, emblazoned with its patriotic stripes, red, white and royal blue, just off-set of center and its bold number square on the hood, engine cover and doors, I was in love.

"One day," I announced to my Mommy & Daddy, "I'm going to have a car, just like that."

And I've owned a Bahama Blue 1966 Volkswagen Beetle DeLuxe Sedan, and a white, 2001 New Beetle, which I painstakingly turned into Herbie with a custom vinyl graphics kit, ordered from California. One day, I know I'll put the two experiences together and create a precisely, pristinely accurate Herbie the Love Bug replica, and I hope to never part with it, as I regrettably and regretfully did with my other two friends.

I sometimes think about who I'd be if Rena had chosen a different movie to pacify me that night, so long ago. So much of my life is so intrinsically wrapped up in Herbiedom. When I get bored in front of the computer screen, I don't turn to porn (well, sometimes I do) but I turn to ebaymotors, where I stare longingly at vintage Beetles for sale, seeing each one of them as a blank canvas for my Herbie fetish. $3,200 barn find in Boise. $12,000 black plate original in Sacramento. $575 project car in Detroit. $2,700 daily driver in Englewood. They're all calling to me like a siren. Come save me. Paint me. Love me.

I'd take them all if I only could. I'm like a fucking cat lady. Left to my own devices, we'd have Beetles in the garage, on the street, on the lawn, in the basement. I'd be hoarding them in the attic. When I see one on the side of the road, its floorboards rusted and its front bumper hanging down in a palsied frown, I look at it like a child that has been slapped in the face by its mother and left outside the Pathmark. I want to sweep in like BPS (Beetle Protective Services) and take these cars away from those who would let the milkweed grow around them and swallow them whole. But I can't support the habit.

My aunt Rena killed herself six years ago, and I can't see a Beetle or watch "The Love Bug" without thinking about her, at least in passing. That time when I was three or so was probably the longest amount of time I'd ever spent with her. She moved from Israel to Australia to New York City as she moved in and out of sanity. An aunt who hears voices in her head and does battle with demons in the night wouldn't have been much good to me, even if she was around regularly, but I'll always be grateful to her for the German wheels she set in motion that babysitting night so long ago.

And so I'll close this little entry by thanking my 53 followers. And I'll thank Aunt Rena, too, for giving me my favorite number.


  1. the only version of Robin Hood worth watching.

    fab post as always

  2. OK spooky - 53 followers.....I'd sign up but that would be just bad Mojo for you

  3. BlackLOG,

    No worries! You can follow me tomorrow. I'll be here with open cyberarms.

  4. I remember seeing and loving Herbie as a child, but now I could only tell you what it's about from a random joke in an episode of Father Ted. While I think my own desire for a Herbie of my own waned, I clearly held some deep seated love when I lusted hard after a green and chrome beetle I used to see for sale when I was at university.

    I have so much respect for the way you combine the whimsical with the serious and thought-provoking, in this instance with the background on your aunt.

    And I wonder who you would be today if she'd had you watch Evil Dead.

  5. Jay--

    Thanks so much for the lovely compliment.

    And, the real question is: who would I be today if Rena had me watch an episode of "Father Ted?" Maybe I'd be on Craggy Island wearing a cleric's collar and a shabby sweatervest shouting, "DRINK! ARSE! GIRLS!"

  6. I always imagined you wearing a shabby apron shouting "DRINK! ARSE! GIRLS!"

  7. Great segue from Wicked to Herbie... really... :P

    I also love that little tune. You're not the only one! It's great, as far as little, tuneful, meaningful musical songs go!

    I saw the original cast of Wicked...

    (Schwarz 4 Life!!! Well, Sondheim first of course but... then Schwarz.)

    Conjured up a beautiful mental image of your lawn covered in Beetles... cheers. You nerd.


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