I fall in love every 8 or 9 years—with a car. My latest love is a Renegade, cute and tight of butt, with a flashy grin.
I have lengthy conversations with myself—and several thousand people, dead or alive—at different points in time within my car. It knows my secrets and my foibles.
It knows my dreams. And it is my partner on an adventure through life.
Every car I have owned has helped define what matters to me, and my auto progression mirrors my personal evolution into an artist. My first cars were practical little economy models—a yellow Toyota Corolla when I was single and then later a candy red 1991 Mazda Protege when I was a working single Mom. It was just compact enough for me to talk to my son in the car seat in the back, and it got great gas mileage for the 52-mile daily commute to my communications job. I was too tired back then to do much writing, and art and music stayed in the closet, so I didn’t need much room other than that.
With a new relationship and plans for a bigger family, I wanted a car that hauled lots of things. My next car, a 1998 Subaru Outback, (the awesome two-tone dark blue and gray that you still see driving around) seemed earthy and cool at the same time. It was the car that I went from a staff job to freelance writing, hauling around my mac in the backseat like it was a laptop, with my kid and his friends. It was the car my guy and I took on ski and summer vacations and just riding around Connecticut. It was the first car that took us to the Adirondacks, and later took me there on my own when he was no longer in the picture. It was the car I drove to Montreal for a freelance job (reporting on a medical conference), crossing back over the border one day after the world economy collapsed. It was the car I took to the Habitat houses that our affiliate built (I worked for them) and took to my classes at NYU film school, when I got a certificate in directing.
For years that car had carried me and my son and my dreams. I moved everything could find in that car, took it on dirt roads and highways, through rain and especially snow. That car made me if not fearless, at least a hell of a lot braver. It taught me to go after everything I wanted.
After that, I became more and more adventurous, and my aging Outback was beginning to feel the strain. It was hard to leave the old car behind, because I had experienced so much life from behind the wheel. My son had grown up in that car, and I handed over the keys to a dealer with a real feeling of sadness before I drove away in my new gold 2007 Outback with heated leather seats and a moon roof. I had fallen in love on the internet that time, and drove to Quincy MA from Fairfield CT for the trade.
It wasn’t long before we were devoted companions. In 2008 I finished film school and was working on the locations crew of a film in CT (a Tim Allen movie nobody ever saw). My first day involved driving to Westchester Airport at 4AM to put large signs on the highway to direct the crew to the set. That car did a lot of movie work, scouting locations and hauling supplies for the crews at all hours. It saw every town in the state of Connecticut.
It also took me to the Adirondacks every summer, where I explored art communities and shows—all the events I began to blog about for Examiner.com and later, right here on Arts Enclave. If I went somewhere, it was in the Gold Outback, the music blasting while I sang along.
The Gold Outback was the car that I became a painter in—mostly pastels, but some oils and a little watercolor. In 2015, we followed the trail of the two escaped killers from Clinton correctional prison in Dannemora, NY for a book I’m working on.
Every day with that car I became closer to the person I am today. It took me decades to evolve to this place, where every day I write, practice music, and explore art of all kinds.
The people who make up my world now are writers and artists and musicians, and I plan to spend more time with them. I’m ready to strip down my universe to just the artistic essentials—my laptop, my guitar, my camera, and my art supplies. I’m more mobile than I ever was before, and I wanted a smaller car that made me smile.
I have a novel out with 14 editors, and a pretty cool agent who stands behind me. I’m working on the next novel and the book about the Dannemora escape. I’m hoping that pretty soon I’ll be zipping around to give readings in my bright red Renegade . We’re gonna see a lot of new places together.
“I don’t think about Art when I’m working. I try to think about Life.”
—Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
I’m not alone in my attachment to my car. Most of my artist friends drive SUVs or hatchbacks—for transporting canvasses. But my writer friends Jelane and Eileen have relationships with their vehicles that go way beyond simple companionship. Read about their adventures across the country in Travels in Abbey.
What’s on your keychain? Share your vehicle story in the comments!
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