May 26, 2015

Life Through the Windshield

I can't believe it had been nearly two years since I last visited the Automobile Driving Museum for Ridealong Sunday. I mean, it's one of my favorite things to do in LA.

I guess that just shows what a funk I've been in, depriving myself of things that bring me joy. Or being unable to find joy in the things I once loved.

But, as I left the Automobile Driving Museum today with a huge smile, I told the woman at the front desk, "This place makes me so happy."

It had been so long since my last visit, the docents didn't recognize me. But that's OK, I know the drill.

For a pay-what-you-can donation (suggested at $10), you get museum admission and the chance to ride along your choice of three classic cars that have been brought out for the day.

Every Sunday, the museum selects three different cars from week to week. You can ride in as few or as many as you like. But I don't know why anyone wouldn't ride in all three.

Like a scene out of Sunset Boulevard, I started by channeling the ghost of Gloria Swanson in the backseat of a 1936 Lincoln Town Car, outfitted with foot rests, window shades, cigarette lighter and ashtray, and various secret compartments – plus lots of leg room.

The front seat is reserved exclusively for the chauffeur, who sits behind the wheel in the open air, exposed to the elements, so everyone can see how fancy you are. Even though it's a powerful machine with 12 cylinders, you'd never drive this car yourself: this car is meant for its passengers.

Next up was the 1952 Kaiser Manhattan, a sweet ride with a V-6 engine...

...a leather-covered dashboard...

...and a radio that seems to foreshadow the advent of rock and roll, though it predated Elvis' breakout by three years.

"This car must be fun to drive," I said as we tooled around in a 1928 Buick, but my docent said it was actually kind of a chore.

Since the gears of the unsynchronized manual transmission function independently from one another (allowing only first, second, and third gear moving forward)... have to double clutch, and the gears audibly grind. But that seems fun to me.

During my childhood, I viewed life primarily through the television screen, and occasionally my bedroom or kitchen window. While I lived in New York City and London, I spent a lot of time underground, popping up at various locations, not really understanding where they were in relation to each other, or what there was to see in between. I often opted for the bus, so at least I could see where I was going.

Now that I've been in California for four years, I'm enjoying viewing life through the lens of the windshield, its greenish blue tint giving everything a cool, relaxed hue. It is the widescreen frame of my life on the road, now that I finally get to drive – or at least ride in the front seat, after so many years relegated to the back of my father's Dodge Omni or an unclean, poorly navigated taxicab. Even while getting into the chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car, I tried to sit in the front, but they insisted I take my position in the back, where Queen Elizabeth would sit.

But I would not make a very good Queen, and I am not a very good passenger. I want to take the wheel. I want to see where we're going, not just wake up when we get there.

And I don't like relying on somebody else to deliver me. I'll drive myself, thankyouverymuch.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Take a Ride With Me
Photo Essay: Automobile Driving Museum's Ridealong Sunday
Baby, You Can Drive My Car

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