Week 7: Jaguar XK

The fun in buying this car was that a favorite Matchbox car as a child was a blue-gray Jaguar (a Matchbox by Lesney). That car stood apart because in my under-ten-year-old mind it was exotic.

Not exciting, like the outrageous fantasy-type Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning cars I raced, with their wild shapes and imagined super-hero type powers. No, this car was exotic, fashioned after a real car from a real place and lifestyle far away. I suspect that idea of the exotic might have grown out of The Children's International Film Festival (I think that was what it was called, anyway), which ran on TV, and which might have a car that looked something like my Matchbox.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town in Ohio at the time when the 60s were turning over the reigns to the 70s, my exposure to foreign culture was limited. I didn't know people from outside the U.S., and since this was pre-Internet, pre-cable television, my ideas of the outside world came from books I read occasionally set in another country and a the previously mentioned foreign moves for children which ran on Sundays on television. I don't remember if it was on one of the three VHF stations, 3, 5, or 8, or the two UHF stations, 43 or PBS station 25, we received.

I loved these movies, especially the ones from France and England. Often moody, these movies didn't guarantee a happy everything-works-out ending like most American movies, so they felt truer to me. The child characters might be a little tougher, a little braver, a little sadder, and a little more worldly, but they also seemed more independent than kids in domestic movies. They were different (and had cool accents!), and while I didn't always want to live these lives, I was fascinated by this differentness.

My blue-gray Matchbox was from these kind of other places.

I wasn't an artsy kid. I watched Speed Racer and Lost in Space. I played piggyback crashcars at recess. I liked Twinkies. I circled toys I wanted in the Sears Gift Book catalog. I hiked through the woods with my dog to the railroad tracks. But these foreign movies gave me a longing for the exotic, and kick-started my appreciation of foreign movies.

Additionally, they showed me how dramatic rain and fog could be. Those foreign movies loved the rain.

Now the Jaguar XK is nothing like the old-school Jaguar I had, but that's how memories get triggered.
Now I'll just need to find a Hot Wheels that I can somehow tie-in to Benny Hill.

Photo of Matchbox Jaguar XK by Dominic Buccilli.


Week 6: '73 Ford Falcon XB

I knew the Ford Falcon, yet this Hot Wheels model didn't look familiar. Hot looking car, though.

A little research revealed the Ford Falcon XB did not release in the U.S. but in Australia, and, more importantly, the '73 Ford Falcon XB, with a bit of modification, became the mean-looking "Interceptor" from the original 1979 post-apocalyptic adventure movie Mad Max .

If you don't know this movie (could that be possible??),  Mad Max featured a baby-faced Mel Gibson and lots of violence and punk rockeresque-looking bad guys. As a teen, there was nothing to dislike about this cult-classic-in-the-making of a movie. Well, as an adult, is there still anything to dislike? Full-out R-rated, though, and not one my kids will see for a long time, even on television.

Check out http://www.madmaxmovies.com/cars/ for Mad Max trivia and cool car pics
The first true R-rated movie I saw in raw form (most movies I saw as a kid were cooked down versions on TV) was another Mel movie, the Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles. I was 11, and my grandmother, who didn't look at ratings, took me to a matinee. That was the most I ever remember her laughing, crying as she leaned over and tried to cover my ears during the raunchy parts (she did a lot of attempted covering), which made her laugh even harder. The best.

Seeing that one at the theater earned me bragging rights at school, even if it took me a few years to understand all the jokes.

The first R-rated movie I chose on my own was 1975's French Connection II. An unlikely choice (I was 13), the movie was one of the only things playing at a small theater in Sarasota, Fla. in walking distance to the condo of my grandmother -- yup, the same one. My family was there on a vacation. I went to the movie myself, and I'm fairly certain nobody ever knew I saw that particular film.

I am extremely conservative in what I let my kids watch, even covering the baby's eyes if something nasty shows up. Comparing R movies of my youth with today's movies is tricky, however, as PGs and PG-13s, as well as movies that play on TV, now have quite a bit of .... Rness, so I don't base decisions on ratings, but content.

A lack of nudity, visual violence or swearing doesn't mean safe -- implications of horrible behavior is worse in my mind than a flash of someone's naughty bits, and I even am cautious of kid's programming filled with snarky sarcasm.

Because of this, however, my kids might not be as desensitized to movies as some. My fifth grader, Racer A, begged me to watch the original Jaws. For the life of me I don't know why he became fixated on that movie, or even how he heard of it, but he asked me for at least a month. Finally, I gave in, and we easily found a copy at the library.

Scared him senseless. Regardless of how many times over the past month I had told him it would be scary, after it was over, he was angry with me for allowing him to watch it. Umm...what??

In fairness to him, it didn't take long for him to realize, and laugh, at the absurdity of that blame. But still...

It is a scary one.

Now, with Halloween approaching, I have to walk that line between allowing him to watch a good scary movie (at his insistence, again) and keeping him away, as long as I can, anyway, from the really twisted stuff. I'll probably go monsters. A monster movie, while scary, is about a non-human menace, as opposed to a monster-like person behaving horribly.

Kind of like Mel Gibson today.

Picture of Ford Falcon XB by Andy Bindernagel.

Hot Wheels is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc.


Week 5: Volkswagen Golf V GTI

This past Saturday was my wedding anniversary, and my wife and I celebrated by going to a wedding.

No sarcasm --I looked forward to this wedding -- two exceptionally matched people each solid enough with their own selves to let the other person be who he/she is. I had none of the oh boy, I'm not so sure about this hope it works out guilty trepidation I've had at past weddings, and, if you've been to more than a few, you have also had, even if you've never admitted you did.

Going to a wedding, with its significance of a new beginning, is a reflection on time passing when done on one's own anniversary, after the cardboard pine tree of romance dangling  from life's rearview mirror has lost some of its odor-blocking power. Let's be honest - life can be stinky at times, and we all like fresh scents. Inevitably you are brought back to the beginning of the union of you and your spouse and you begin reflecting on how those vows are holding up.

In fact, sitting in the wedding hall, I had a type of Scrooge moment, being visited by ghosts of Anniversaries past and present and sensing that spooky ghost of the future all pumped up and ready to jack me up with its bony hand, pointing out my flaws and where they would get me. Go away, bony, finger-pointing ghost. You are all about decay, but fresh is fun, and you, my friend, are not fresh.

Which brings me to the this week's Matchbox selection - a Volkswagen Golf. I searched for the most unexciting Matchbox or Hot Wheels car I could find, not an easy thing to do. This commuter ride was the best I could score (truth be told, I really like this car both as a Matchbox and as a real car, and I don't find it boring, but compared to a Ferrari or Lamborghini....).

To make it more domestic I came up with placing the car on a cutting board for the picture. The photographer, Andy, added the subtle touch of the greasy spatula. He's an artist.

The point here is that to a kid, and also to a certain dad/husband who buys himself a Matchbox or Hot Wheels car each week, there is no bad car. Every individual car is exciting, even garbage trucks or family sedans. As a metaphor for marriage, the Matchbox idea here doesn't work, but as a reminder for marriage, it does.

How? Make every moment fresh -- think about yourself as a kid with a new Matchbox or Hot Wheels -- all thrills, all play. Must every car be a sports car? No way. They all become part of your collection, and every one has its own charm.

Because with marriage, you are collecting moments for the long-haul, and not every one is going to be a Chevelle SS, but they are all cherished parts of the collection, and some might even be worth something some day. They are all good.

Maybe the symbol of a Matchbox doesn't work for you, so find one that does, but I encourage you to all try to remember the freshness and kid-like joy of a new toy when building your collection of moments with you spouses, children and friends.

For me, I'm going to think about this little green Matchbox as my own personal reminder of keeping it fresh.

Happy Anniversary, Rochelle, and congratulations Erin and Pat.

And be glad I didn't attempt one of my usual word plays with Match and Box, because I'm sure that wouldn't have ended well.

Matchbox Volkswagen Golf  V GTI is number 28 of 100 of the 2010 collection and is 4 of 6 of the Metro Rides offerings.

Photo of my Matchbox courtesy of Andy Bindernagel. Cutting board, greasy spatula and knife courtesy of Kerry.


Week 4: '64 Austin Mini Cooper S

If I see a Mini Cooper while walking, I pause.

I experience MiniPause.

American muscle cars from the 50s, 60s and early 70s take my breath away, so it might seem a Mini Cooper's boxy, constant simplicity would not hold an appeal, but oh it does. I love looking at these cars.

I concede it could be their size, causing the same neurons in my brain to fire that are ignited when some people see a baby version of of adult clothing, like a tiny pair of baby Chuck Taylor hightop shoes or a toddler denim jacket...and by some people, I guess I also include myself. (But I DON'T ever say 'Ohh, how cute!!' What? I don't!)

Nonetheless, I don't think the baby mini-version factor is why I love staring at Minis. No, I write it off as something I call CarWonder, that factor that causes a person to actually lose track of time and enjoy a car's looks outside of the limitations of responsibility and real life.

And it doesn't just happen to adults.

A few days ago I took Racer A ( the 3 going on 4 son) on an errand,  parked at the errand place, unbuckled A from his carseat, and grabbed some papers. In the two seconds it took to get the papers, A  had taken off, and I turned to see his little blond mop of hair slowly drifting down the space between the two rows of parked cars.

The panic a parent gets in these situations is a simultaneous rush of terror-guilt-frustration-more guilt-more terror and horror (Since I've already coined MiniPause and CarWonder, I won't give this gut-twister of a feeling a name, but it needs no name, and if you have kids, you've experienced it).

 I yelled, but he continued wandering, in a trance, and did not appear to hear me.

The parking lot was quiet, I scanned for immediate danger, and began to run.

The reason I didn't run right when I saw him was because running after a toddler or preschooler, I have found, often triggers an instinctual run and giggle response, and I would not risk that reaction until:
  1. I was sure I could catch him and/or
  2. I was sure there were no immediate dangers, such as an approaching steamroller or a Tour de France tribute bicycle race that would squash him if I missed achieving 1. There wasn't. The parking lot was freakishly still.
But he didn't run, or giggle. He only continued walking in that sleepwalk way he was doing and stopped behind a car, apparently the target of his wandering.

 Now in reality, this car was only two cars away, but my retelling of this event is not done for dramatic effect. That 12 or so feet felt like the length of a football field, and I experienced an entire football field length of emotion getting to him.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing at the back of a car and standing so close his finger was only a half inch from the brand emblem on the trunk. If he heard me panting, he did not acknowledge it.

 After admonishing and lecturing him for wandering off, I saw he was almost unable to hear me. The look was in his glazed eyes -- CarWonder.

"That is a BMW," I said.
"I like that car, Daddy."
"Me too," I replied.

The car Racer A had stopped behind was a four-door new model BMW 5 Series Sedan (Black Sapphire color), and it was pretty.

Now as adults, our feelings on cars are often filtered through our individual life experiences and beliefs, and along the way our perception of a particular car gathers emotions like a toddler's lollipop gathers lint, based on personal views on success, status, our own place in the world, our history, and more. I suspect the BMW brand might do that even more than other cars in this country.

But to a three-year-old, concepts of status, cost, and image don't exist yet, or at least not much. Racer A wasn't looking at a car he was supposed to like. We just smitten by something he did like. He was under the spell of CarWonder.

Which brings me back to my little 99 cent Mini Cooper Matchbox, which is actually part of the 2009 collection but which I found in the back of a rack of Matchbox cars at a drug store.

Mini Coopers spark that pure CarWonder in me in the same way that Sapphire Black BMW sparked it in A. No status, no judgment, no feelings of superiority or inferiority, just enjoyment.

Only pure, refreshing what a fun, cool car.

And if you don't get flattened getting there, what a wonderful feeling.

(With thoughts of my friend JT, whose favorite car in the world is a dark green Mini Cooper)

The pictured car is part of Mattel's 2009 Matchbox collection in it's Heritage Classics series, number 2 of 11. And I'm really sorry about that "MiniPause" joke.