Clapton, Camaros and (finally) getting the car-show thing
Getting under the hood of car mania requires memory. And maybe a good guitar riff.
I proposed pumpkin scones for our Saturday afternoon date. I had one earlier in the week from a charming French bakery I didn’t know existed, tucked behind the medical center in my new city of Springfield, Illinois. I wanted my husband to see the bakery.
Also, I wanted another scone.
The crisp morning had become a humid afternoon. We lingered in the bakery, munching scones, drinking too-hot coffee, watching the staff box pastries. Unsure what to do next, we decided to walk the block. Turning a corner and found a car show.
My husband loves cars, and we were full of scones, so we kept walking.
Snaking through the downtown was a long line of glossy paint jobs, open hoods, shiny chrome, and vigilant owners in lawn chairs enforcing DO-NOT-TOUCH signs with their I’m-not-kidding scowls.
There was music coming from a giant bus that looked like a boombox and a live band whose name I don’t remember, but it ended with “the Bad Grandpas”. Lots of guitar anthems, lots of car themes, lots of Lynard Skynard's “Free Bird”.
There was food, all fried and sugar-coated, all of which looked good, but none of which I could stomach as I was full of French pastries.
There was an Abraham Lincoln impersonator because this Springfield is Lincoln’s city, and I have never seen a city so dedicated to its patron.
Most striking was the crowds – all colors, genders, and ages – all nuts about cars.
Despite being raised in the Motor City, I don’t get the car-show thing, but I love many people who do. My dad spent his career at Ford, my brother is a mechanic, my nephew is a mechanic, my son has a project car in the garage, and my husband has worked for automotive suppliers for over two decades.
Car mania is familiar to me and seeing it outside of the Mitten made me a little homesick.
My husband and I drifted apart. While he was fascinated with the cars – Look! It’s the Camero IROC-Z28 I had in college! – I was fascinated with the crowd. These familiar strangers wandered what was basically a glorified parking lot, taking pictures of cars they didn’t own, trading stories about cars long gone, smoking tobacco, cracking jokes, and sipping beers.
At one point, the Bad Grandpa band broke into Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. An older couple sitting in lawn chairs caught my eye as they silently clasped each other’s forearms. The couple standing next to them embraced. Scanning the street, I saw other separated couples drift back together, reaching for the other’s hand.
I thought of my husband’s old Camero, the one we drove to Canada during a muggy August to watch elaborate plays in the cheap seats because my boyfriend knew I loved Shakespeare. We waited hours on the Blue Water Bridge, heat on, windows down, praying the engine wouldn’t overheat, laughing and blushing because being in love and driving together was a special thrill.
I wondered how many of these couples had a similar car story.
My husband reappeared and took my hand. A sudden urge to see that old Camero came over me. I leaned in to be heard over the music.
Where was that IROC-Z28 again?
And just like that, I got the car-show thing.
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I remember that car! We were pulled over on our way back from seeing Smashing Pumpkins in Detroit. We got the whole "Do you have any guns or drugs in the car?" from the officer as his partner shined his maglite in the passenger window. Good times!
Oh gosh! This one is great!!!