This morning, I saw the first broken-down British sports car of spring. -James May, via Twitter, 03/01/2010
I’ve been seeing broken-down British sportcars every day since last August, but that’s not the point here. The point is that I’m tired of seeing them.
The cars in question are a pair of hollowed-out husks that were once MGs. Or maybe Austin-Healeys. Maybe one is a MG and one is an Austin-Healey–we’re talking about Spridgets, and they’re both so ruined that I doubt one could tell the difference close-up. I’ve only ever seen them from the window of the train.
I love a good “barn car” story, you know, ones where someone finds an old, rare Ferrari sitting unattended under a tarp in a garage or something. These are not barn cars, these are forgotten cars that have been parked outside, offered no protection from the elements and left to rot. Neither of them would be worth restoring–the one is completely rusted over–but at the very least they should be hauled off to a scrapyard and allowed to die in peace. Maybe not, maybe they’ll be combined into one car, parts rescued from the rusty shell to breathe new life into the more intact vehicle to form one running Spridget.
The daily presence of the rusted Spridgets has got me thinking about cars lately, and cars, in turn, tend me make me think about the rest of my life. This has resulted in a great big vortex of swirling thoughts that mainly consist of British cars, what it means to be British-American, and what to do about that particular sociocultural predicament. When it comes to things that go “vroom”, I am pretty much a seventeen year old boy. The rest of the time, I’m a twenty-six year old art historian (in training). These identities are difficult to combine, especially when you add in the British-American cultural nuances. It’s downright confusing.
It took a Frank Zappa quote for me to realize exactly what I’ve been doing since August, possibly spurred on by the appearance of the Spridgets: If you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it. It took my transfer to Cleveland State to realize that I’d spent a really long time listening to everyone else. I was in a bad way for quite some time–lots of medication, lots of therapy. I had a lot of shame/fear/guilt/anger problems and a real problem dealing with other people. I’ve finally managed to get the ghosts of my previous institution’s faculty and staff out of my brain, and with that (rather major) accomplishment came the realization that maybe–just maybe–everything would finally come out okay.
I am finally crafting (discovering?) an identity that I am not ashamed of. I’ve learned that there is no guilt in being an opportunist. That I don’t have to be fear being the “other” and that I don’t have to identify as 100% American (grandma would be proud). That it’s okay for girls to like cars, own cars, work on cars, drive cars at high speed. I’ve brought my inner nerd out into the open. I’ve discovered that there are other art history majors out there, a whole new world of slightly pretentious, snarkily good-natured friends and colleagues who don’t think my frenzied, peacock-like displays of affection for German Expressionism are all that strange. I started writing again and promised myself that I wouldn’t force myself to draw if I didn’t want to. Oddly enough, I don’t miss it.
I guess I should be grateful for the sad presence of the Spridgets, since they’ve somehow managed to change my life so much in the past eight months. I’ve become surprisingly proactive–like today, I’m trying to figure out the address and phone number for the lot they’re sitting in. When I do, I’m calling to ask if their owner has any restoration plans. I’ve got my second chance; I sincerely hope the Spridgets get theirs.