THE BLOG

Drive, She Said: Auto Adolescence

10/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Oct 21, 2013

They-Live-by-Night-6

 "Come on dad, give me the car tonight"

Excerpt from my piece at Garage Magazine. I'd run the whole story, but I'd like people to still buy magazines. Also, there's other great stories inside.

"Come on dad, give me the car tonight..."

Some of my most vivid teenage memories are wrapped in chrome and steel. My first accident in my VW baby blue Bug found me breaking the windshield with my face. I recall stumbling out of the wreckage dazed, suffering a then-unknown concussion, staggering silently through the scene, curiously observing the unscathed Lincoln Town Car and its calm octogenarian driver. I finally said, quite seriously, "I need a bigger car." Like Scarlett O'Hara, my mind proclaimed: "As God as my witness, one day I will own a vintage Ford Torino." And when I grew up, I honored that desire.


But I also remember my obsession with smaller speedsters - chiefly spying an older neighbor's collection of beautiful Z cars, another car I now own (a 1978 280 - I don't have children). Somehow I found the courage (or stupidity) to shoulder-tap the man for alcohol and not surprisingly he declined. But I didn't solely want booze, not really, I wanted a lift. Those cars! That guy had to know those classic Z's lured like sirens to us impressionable teens - multi-colored 240s, 260s and 280s - Peisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepeia beckoning us to jump in, hot wire and gun it.

And then there was my first real boyfriend. I was 16, he was older. We both loved vintage cars. We shouldn't have dated, but it was exciting and serious. Our relationship became many a night, sneaking out of my bedroom window and jumping into his black '75 Camaro. One time he knocked on my window, face covered in blood and said, darkly, stupidly, "My car just got in a fight with a tree. The tree won." He found himself in trouble, bought a truck, and we broke up before ever fully consummating the relationship. He, in his early twenties, felt like a creep. He was worried my mom would find out. I started to wonder if he was in love with my mother. I hated him for dumping me but now, of course, I get it. Every once in a while a black Camaro, any year, will transport me to those dark, dreamy nights. The images flicker in my head like a movie, furthering my understanding of why cinema and cars and maybe even sex co-mingle in my mind.

Cars are an important machine in teenage life and cinema. Speeding, parking, screwing, show-boating and perhaps, most importantly, escaping. Escaping from school, from parents from whatever teen demon you are literally, driving away from, cars are potent adolescent film fodder. From the fleeing young lovers of They Live By Night (Farley Granger is 23 but has busted out of prison where he spent his teen years) to the tragic chicken run of Rebel without a Cause to all that sexy American muscle of Dazed and Confused, cars can work like central characters in teen movies, propelling action and aiding in major life decisions. Like Natalie Wood's drunken, sexually tortured parking lot looseness in Splendor in the Grass or Badlands' Charlie Starkweather-inspired Kit taking 14-year-old Caril Fugate (named Holly and 15 in Terrence Malick's masterpiece) and heading out on a killing spree via automobile, the car isn't just a chunk of steel, a thing to get from one place to another, it's often a powerful, seductive force; tapping right into that hormone addled and excited part of the teenage brain. No wonder those kids in Over the Edge were so frustrated - they were in junior high, and riding bikes. At the end of the movie, they trap their parents in the school and light their sedans and station wagons on fire. And we understand.

There's more to this story. But please purchase the latest issue of Jesse James' beautiful, different Garage Magazine to read this -- my current piece and layout for my column, "Drive, She Said." Revery turns to movies, with my mind driving straight towards teens and their cars in the aforementioned pictures like Rebel Without a Cause, Splendor in the Grass, American Graffiti but most importantly, and personally to me, Badlands.

Pick up Garage Magazine at your local newstands and various stores including Barnes and Noble and 7 Eleven. Thanks to Amy Norris for putting together my layout -- all lovely night shots. And thanks to my great photographer, Krissie Gregory for the pictures. Look at more of Krissie's photographs of our Garage shoot here.

garage_covercrop.jpg picture by BrandoBardot

Read more Kim Morgan at Sunset Gun.