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Friday, February 25, 2011

My Love Bug

On the fucking amazing police drama "SouthLAnd" (only two more episodes left this season! TNT! Tuesdays at 10EST!) Cooper, the hard-headed, square-jawed FTO (Field Training Officer) kicks ass and takes names during his shift in the ubiquitous black-and-white Crown Vic. At day's end, he kicks back and opens up the throttle on a black Dodge Challenger.

As Mrs. Apron and I were on our way back from this weekend's ski trip, a black Dodge Challenger with pro-police bumper and window stickers passed us by at a high rate of speed. As it came up on my rearview, I noticed that it bore the Thin Blue Line license plate, favored by the po-po for their civilian vehicles.

"Now, we're assuming that's being driven by a cop," my wife said to me, out of the blue.

"Mm-hmm. Most definitely."

"Do you think he watches SouthLAnd, and do you think that, if he does, the fact that uber-cop John Cooper drives that car influenced his car-buying decision in some small way?"

"No, not at all," I replied, "I think it dictated it in a huge, Hemi-powered way."

We're so susceptible, some of us, when it comes to mass media and cars that it's not even funny. Look at my sister. An ardent football lover, she takes her automotive cues from what the big, bad sumbitches on the field drive away from practice in: huge, black SUVs. Is it any accident that her last car was a huge, black Chevy Tahoe? With a $1,000 auxiliary deer guard? I think not.

Is it any accident that my first car was a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle?

No. That purchase was fated since 1984, when my aunt, visiting from Israel, babysat us and decided to pop "The Love Bug" into the Betamax player. She might as well have surgically implanted the VW logo into the very center of my heart and branded the number 53 onto my forehead.

I'm glad she didn't really do that, though. High school was awkward enough for me.

The Oscars are coming up this weekend. I won't be watching (I admit that I'll be quietly rooting in my heart of hearts for "The King's Speech") but I thought it would be a fun time to recognize and celebrate the film that changed my life forever. The film that spawned the longest-lasting obsession of my life (sorry, Mrs. A, you're a relative newcomer to the scene when compared to Herbie-- and you know it, too), the film that is more responsible for who I am than Gilbert & Sullivan combined (as they usually are), Monty Python, or any of my other fetishes/hobbies/interests.

What?! "The Love Bug" in the same breath as "The King's Speech"? Don't forget, Herbie didn't just rake in good mile-per-gallon ratings. He grossed the highest of any film in 1969.

When planning the film, the Disney folk didn't know they were going to rock and roll with a Pearl White 1963 sunroof edition Volkswagen Beetle. They set up a "casting call" and lined up a dozen vehicles, which were summarily inspected by officials involved in the planning of the film. How did they settle on the Beetle? It was the only car that grown men approached, and pet.

Wouldn't you just eat it up, if German engineering wasn't so bad for your teeth?

The car is undeniably adorable. The film, if you give it a chance, is charming, deftly acted by the, *ahem* human participants-- a first-rate cast of humanoid actors including Dean Jones, Michelle Lee, Buddy Hackett, and the fantastically dastardly David Tomlinson. The script is taut and clever. The racing sequences are convincing-- and why not? After all, they did substitute the 1963 Beetle's stock 40bhp engine with one liberated from a Porsche.

Zoom Zoom.

I don't know that there are too many people out there who can legitimately say they don't know who they'd be if they hadn't seen a certain film when they were four. I don't know who I'd be. I don't know what I'd pine for on ebaymotors. I don't know what I'd dream about gracing my driveway once I'm retired. I don't know what chrome and paint mystery I'd be lusting after if my heart hadn't been set so firmly aflame way back when. I don't know what movie I'd show to potential mates to judge their reaction to me-- to see if they'd accept loving a man who is in love with a child's film, and who has been so badly bitten by the Bug that it may very well one day consume him, and his bank account.

Mrs. Apron clearly passed the test.

"One day," she said, "you will have it, and I will help you get there. I just want you to learn how to fix it yourself first."

I thought about that for a little while.

"Fair enough," I said.

And, for one special occasion, she bought me the immense tome, "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot."

And, at once, I knew instantly that the love of a boy and the love of a man had intersected and would live forever in perfect, air-cooled harmony.

1 comment:

  1. My first love, among other things, was named Herbie. My dad had a field day....


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