Saturday, July 30, 2005


I was cruising down 35 in my mom's SUV, sipping a Jamba Juice and absentmindedly flipping through my iPod playlist when I realized why I haven't been writing well since I moved back to Dallas. Holy shit! I've turned into a yuppie! An SUV-driving, smoothie-chugging, iPod-sporting yuppie! All I need for the transformation to be complete is a pair of freaking topsiders! I'm becoming my mother.

Have no fear, though: It is only a matter of weeks before I trade in the SUV for grimy-but-great-for-people-watching public transportation, before I can't charge my iPod because I'm trying to save on the electric bill, before I can't afford Jamba Juice, even if I vow to make it last for three days. I can't wait!

And now, in honor of my impending graduation from yuppiehood, a story about why there will always be a little Highland Park in me:

The highlight of my 12-year-old life was picking out the color of my dad’s new company car. “This’ll be your first car,” he told me, “so you’d better like what you choose.”

I sat with the glossy Buick LeSabre catalog in my lap, mentally ticking off each color swatch’s pros and cons, trying to distinguish minute differences between colors like Desert Fire and Maroon Sunset.* I was so stoked about choosing a color that the red flag never went up. Never once did my 12-year-old self stop to think: Hello! LeSabre!

I ended up going with Regal Champagne, a sickly metallic-y sand color that I came to associate with public golf courses and retirement villas. The Band-Aid colored interior (and there was a lot of it – if you didn’t know, the interior of a LeSabre can fit about two of those stainless steel sub-zero refrigerators you see at Best Buy or on the Food Network) looked dirty from day one, and the exterior always appeared to have a light coating of sawdust stuck to it.

I thought my future wheels were cool for about three days.

Three years rolled by. An accumulation of golf tees, wadded-up gas receipts, half-discarded rolls of peppermint Life Savers and dozens of sticky nickels and pennies wedged themselves into the LeSabre’s myriad crevices. With the advent of mobile communication, we had discontinued service on the car phone, initially a source of much oohing and ahhing, and it was relegated to nothing more than a black plastic nuisance with which the front seat passenger was forced to share knee room. The trunk was big enough (or would have been, if it hadn’t been crammed full of loose sheets of paper, golf cleats, leaves – leaves!!) to fit two of the zippy little coupes my older classmates were jangling keys to.

And that freaking Regal Champagne.

The day I got my drivers’ permit was the day I began my campaign against the LeSabre. “It’s just too big.” (True.) “I feel like I’m trying to steer a boat!” (True.) “I can’t get a feel for how much car I’m really dealing with.” (True, but also kind of a setup for the next stage of the campaign.)

My complaints fell on deaf ears… or, rather, on ears that could hear, but that were attached to people who could only respond with “Well, you picked it out.” All I picked out was the color! And I was 12! I highly doubted – and highly doubt to this day – that if my 12-year-old self had said, however diplomatically, “You know, Father, I do believe this LeSabre is a mite too large for my tastes,” anything would have changed.

So I did what I had to do.

About a month before my sixteenth birthday, I told my dad I wanted to drive the LeSabre out to the golf course (that should have tipped him off right there.) Getting the behemoth out of our driveway and onto the street required some skillful reverse-action maneuvering, including some strategic sliding between two six-foot-tall brick pillars that supported our security gate. I’d done the move a couple of times before, and was getting adept at calculating the angle of the LeSabre to ensure there were a few inches of breathing room on each side. But – oops – I must not have been concentrating this time.

If you haven’t heard it before, the prolonged crunch of fiberglass grinding heartily against brick is pretty darn satisfying. I was straining my ears so I could actually hear the Regal Champagne paint being stripped, granule for granule, from the car’s shell, and I think I succeeded. I had to keep my smirk of delight to myself, though, as we got out to examine the damage.

All said, it wasn’t that terrible: a football-sized dent behind the drivers’ side back door. It was a quick fix – a dent-popping and a spot repainting – and just enough for the folks to reconsider putting me behind the wheel of a car of the LeSabre’s magnitude.

“It’s just too big.” (Still true.) “She can’t handle that much car.” (Proven fact.) “It’s like trying to steer a boat!” (Shut it, you made your point.)

On my sixteenth birthday, we picked up my two-door convertible in Magenta Gray Pearl.** I guess a part of me does belong here in Highland Park. Yikes.

* The difference? One red was metallic, the other matte.
** This sounds like it should be pink, but it’s not, thank God. The name of the post’s not “They should have named me Barbie.” It’s gunmetal gray. You know, sleek, sophisticated, a little tough.