“We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind—mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.”
― J.G. Ballard, Crash
But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget – no matter how much he cries, or how much he begs, never, never feed him after midnight.
I am of the age that I remember, vaguely, a time when an American Motors Company Gremlin (undoubtedly one of the worst cars of all time) was pretty cool. Those of you lucky enough to not know what a Gremlin is – it is a vehicle, one of the first American Subcompacts (competing against the Pinto and the Vega… yeah) made by a terrible car company, AMC. They took a bad car, the AMC Hornet, and “improved” it by chopping the back end off, leaving an almost-vertical hatchback. CBS rates it as the sixth ugliest car ever made.
But I remember the 1970’s well and I remember that I thought the Gremlin was really cool. What the hell? A lot of kids drove Gremlins when I was in college, even some of my friend’s moms drove them. I never met a male over 20 that owned one, though there must have been some, somewhere. They sold for about eighteen hundred dollars each at the time (a cherry Gremlin today might cost you almost 30 grand).
My favorite memory was a summer from college, a hot, steamy Saturday night, visiting a friend in a small Kansas town. There were four of us, packed into a Gremlin, driving up and down the rough brick-encrusted main street, up and down, listening to a quadraphonic eight track playing music at a ridiculous volume in that tiny tin space. This was the pinnacle of coolness in 1974.
It has all been downhill since then.
A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status — all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).
—-J. G. Ballard
I saw something very strange on the drive in to work today. To see something, anything, different along the route I drive every morning, have for well over three thousand times now, is strange in and of itself… to see something strange is double strange.
First, I remember moving to Texas. Like anyplace that is of itself, Texas has a few things to get used to – two driving things, for example.
First, people park facing the wrong way on residential streets all the time. Anywhere else – this will get you towed immediately… in Texas, it makes no difference – half the cars are on the left hand side.
Second, people run lights. I remember moving here, hitting a yellow and going, thinking to myself, “Wow, that was close, probably should have stopped.” Then I would look in my mirror and a half dozen cars would be running through after me.
The other side is when that light turns green, don’t jump out right away, wait for everyone to come to a stop.
At any rate, I was on my way to work (had some equipment to haul and was driving instead of riding my bike) and waiting at a long, busy red light… you know the one, the one at Grove and Centennial , with the McDonald’s and the Chilly Mart across from me. The light turned red as I arrived, so I was the first one in the ever-growing line, waiting for the light to change.
The cross light went from red to yellow to green and I looked up to make sure the traffic was stopped. A small black car was approaching on my left with a huge dumptruck behind. I assumed both would run through, so I waited. To my surprise, the small car braked hard and stopped at the light – I think there was a little brake squeal.
The truck behind didn’t expect him to stop, and plowed right into the rear of the car. It had one of those huge steel bumpers, set high, and completely smashed in the trunk of the car. There was that POP-Bang-Crunch of metal rending in a crash. The impact pushed the little car through the intersection like a pebble from a slingshot. As it passed in front of me, I thought, “Good, it is past the intersection, I can drive through, I won’t be late for work.”
Then came the strange part.
The car never stopped. It just kept on driving. Because I was first in line I could see around the bend to the right for quite a distance, maybe half a mile, and the car didn’t slow down – it simply sped away. I guess the high bumper on the truck smashed in the trunk without damaging the wheels or anything important, as far as moving goes.
The car disappeared around the curve and I turned back to see the truck – it didn’t have a scratch. That huge slab of rusty steel bumper looked indestructible. There was a surprisingly small amount of debris in the intersection… my light was green… I couldn’t think of any reason not to… so I drove through and went to work.
So why did the car drive away like that? The accident was 100% the fault of the truck and it was a commercial vehicle – basically, insurance would buy the guy a new car.
I can only think of a few possibilities.
One, the car was stolen… but I don’t think that would happen at that hour of the morning.
The most probable reason was the driver had warrants and didn’t want to deal with the cops.
Or maybe the driver was a complete idiot and didn’t realize the rear of his car was smashed in like that (doesn’t make sense, I know).
All in all, a pretty strange thing to watch on a morning commute.
Hey, little girlie in the blue jeans so tight
Drivin’ alone through the Wisconsin night
You’re my last love baby you’re my last chance
Don’t let ’em take me to the Cadillac Ranch
—-Bruce Springsteen, Cadillac Ranch
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
I’ve been a fan of Madison King for a while now and was glad that Frank Campagna chose her for one of the murals in Deep Ellum.
“I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero
“Any startling piece of work has a subversive element in it, a delicious element often. Subversion is only disagreeable when it manifests in political or social activity.”
When I was a little kid – I used to put together plastic models of airplanes. I really enjoyed it – and I couldn’t imagine buying any kits other than aircraft. Then I met some guy, my age, that bought these weird little Ed Roth car kits – Rat Fink and that sort of stuff. At first it seemed uselessly weird to me, but the more I paid attention to the style and attitude, the more I liked it (though I was not then and never would be – a car person).
Now, I realize that it was my first exposure to subversive ideas – the first, but not the last.