Temporarily adrift in a sea of newsroom disillusion, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is setting the WayBack Machine to 1983...
When I turned sixteen, I bought a car just one year younger than my then-pimpled self. It was a vehicle I knew well, for the 1968 AMC Rebel had sat under my Granny's carport for as long as I could remember. Faded red with a white top, the boxy sedan had two impossibly long doors and gray and black checkered bench seats that folded a-l-l the way back. Though it wasn't the gleaming new RX-7 I fantasized about, I gladly depleted my bank account of five hundred tobacco dollars for this also-ran from another era.
My first order of business was to being Granny's old jalopy into the totally awesome 80's. Buying a cheap cassette converter for the car's antiquated 8-track, I cranked up the Oingo-Boingo and rounded up a half dozen juvenile delinquents to help me break in my less than new wheels, Boy, did we. Always happy to chauffer anyone the least bit interested in skipping class, I toured the backroads of Wayne County during all hours of the regulation school day. As a result, my once-promising grades plummetted, just as my status among the smoking-area crowd skyrocketed. I may have been steering a horseless carriage overdue for the pasture, but at least I'd finally arrived. From spontaneous road trips to the beach to stuffed-trunk drive-in shenanigans to outright mailbox abuse, me and my backseat full of derelicts lived just as fast at that old sedan would take us.
But like the thrills of adolescence itself, the fun wasn't meant to last. Less than a year into my motorized freedom, a series of bad decisions conspired to rob me of my flying carpet. I'll spare you all the dated details, but let's just say rotten grades, forged report cards and an ill-timed Billy Idol hair-bleach job led me to storm out of the house one Friday afternoon, jump in The Rebel and not look back. That night, I ended up at a slammin' yard party, where I celibrated my emancipation with indulgences I will not detail here. When I awoke around noon the next day, it felt as if the good times had rolled right through my skull and I sought refuge in my less than pimped-out ride.
But the damndest thing happened as I rubbed my aching forehead and scanned the field of cars for my faded chariot. I couldn't find it! No matter how I squinted, I didn't see my Granny's old car. By the time I'd searched the ad-hoc parking lot and come up empty, the hair mousse wasn't the only thing making by bleached-out spikes stand on end. "Where's The Rebel?", I squeaked to a groggy accomplice. "It was right HERE," I said, pointing to an empty patch of grass. "Hell, the keys were even in it..."
Thirty hours later, I found it - parked askew on the shoulder of a country road, not five miles from my parent's home, a place I'd officially run away from two nigts before. Knowing the self-imposed exile had to end, I loked the car over and breathed a huge sigh of relief when Isaw the keys still dangling in the ignition. More grateful for its return than mad at its disappearance, I climbed behind the wheel and told the friend who'd been driving me around that I was going...gulp, home. Two miles down the road, as I searched my brain for an alibi to appease my surely furious parents, a clanking metallic sound rousted me from my windshield coma. Backfiring loudly, The Rebel paused and sputtered, a sickening clicking sound eclipsing the motor's hum. Suddenlyt the engine fell silent and the power steering locked up. I managed to steer it onto the shoulder as it rolled to a final stop. I'm no mechanic, but the acrid smell pouring from beneath the hood told even me that The Rebel was dead. Turning away in grief and disbelief, I began the long walk home.
My Granny's old car never recovered, a victim of too much neglect and not enough oil. Though I still don't think my parents believe me when I tell them it was stolen, they made a phone call to a local salvage yard, whose swarthy tow truck driver dragged it to the spot where it still sits today. I've gone to pay my respects a time or two since then, usually peeking through the salvage yard fence and joking to my younger brother about what we may find if we could only pop the trunk. The last time I saw it, tall grass had almost eclipsed my very first ride. That's probably as it should be, but as I approach the Big 4-0 and begin to entertain the idea of a mid-life crisis car, I can't help but think of The Rebel and what might have been.