Monday, June 27, 2005

I have a feeling this is only going to get worse.

$60 bucks a barrel. I thought that since we annexed Iraq, we'd get a break on this.

The whole car thing is such a complicated issue for me. On one hand, the car culture is based on a wasteful, unsustainable, craven industry that exploits nations, falsely inflates oil prices and ships jobs overseas while placing our own country at the mercy of oil-producing countries. Not to mention the pollution and laziness that it creates. I know all of this, and yet . . .

I love cars. I can't seem to stop loving them. I can't get myself away from the intensely fond memories of being at my Grandfather's car dealership, playing around his antique car collection, hearing the well-engineered click of a Cadillac door closing and marvelling at the complete silence inside. I can't NOT feel happy when I'm driving my own car with the top down, remembering how we zipped through the Minnesota corn fields (the old farm, the one my ancestors established when they came over from Germany) in my grandfather's Lincoln Continental. White with red vinyl interior. I've been drunk, pierced and loved up . . . but the feeling of punching the accelerator on a highway and feeling the g-forces take over is still one of my favorite highs.

There is part of me that knows that Americans need to give up the car culture. Exurbs are bad for everyone, commuting is a horrible thing (although I'll be doing that in the near future every day) and the oil-based economy is going to collapse faster than a bad facelift when peak oil passes us by. But a big part of me will miss it. If we see the end of cars in my lifetime, I think I will be in mourning for at least a little while. Since their inception, cars have promised a kind of freedom. When you first get your drivers' license, there's a brilliant moment where you realize that you can go anywhere you want. You have to work within the constraints of gas money and time, but you can go anywhere from coast to coast if you want to. It's a great moment, and for some of us, that notion, the idea that at any moment, you can pick a highway and just burn rubber out of town . . . it never really goes away.


  1. i have yet to read kunstler's 'long emergency' - and his site, clusterfuck nation, is a great blog on end-of-oil related issues - but my cursory reading of the situation is that it's gonna be our kids - well, not OURS, but you catch my drift - our kids that will grow up seeing the end of the car culture, at least as we know it.
    that said, i have a surprisingly great deal of optimism concerning that next gen's options - they'll have no choice but to be smarter. that, and i feel as though a nice fat slice of the current 18-30 crowd has a better sense of things, and less room to fuck up, than the boomers and the so-fucking-called "greatest generation."

  2. The east coast is a steambath, the Dow Jones is tanking, oil has crossed the $60 barrier, and Don Rumsfeld says the Iraq insurgency could run for twelve years.

    Taking these things in reverse order -- why twelve years? Why not forever? Actually, twelve years might as well be forever. What Rummy seems to be saying to the US public is: better be prepared to keep Fort Apache going indefinitely. The part he left out was. . . "if you want to keep making that eighty-mile round trip commute from Cherokee County to Peachtree Street."

    Even that simple equation assumes a lot. For instance, that Mr. Suburban Atlanta Commuter will still have that job in the office tower on Peachtree. Or that he can continue to make a monthly payment of $3200 on a 4000-square-foot house in Hickory Flat. Or that the Fox TV News fans will maintain their enthusiasm for a war of attrition lacking in cineplex quality battles, while their property taxes are being jacked out of sight to cover the rising cost of maintaining senior parking privileges in the centralized school districts.

    The public indeed may be losing its appetite for the Iraq project, but not for Nascar racing, fried chicken buckets, car trips to Six Flags, and round-the-clock air conditioning. What shock of recognition will flash across the TV screens when the connection is finally made that keeping all these things going is why we're in Iraq? War is the answer. Sooner or later even the folks making those jitney trips to East Hampton are going to get it.

  3. Sigh. Considering my Denver-Lomo commute will average about 80 miles round trip, I am disturbed.

    There's gotta be a better way . . . although, I am doing the opposite of the suburban commute. I'll be heading to a suburb every day to work and coming home to an urban center. Which makes it all kind of weird and mishmashed- I'll be going AWAY from the chicken buckets and televised NASCAR races every night while the rest of the traffic will be driving toward them.

  4. Wrote something that got eaten about car culture, and growing up with a dad who was a GM designer and an old-school, Laguna Seca car freak.

    It was normal to look outside in the evening and see some strange beast in the driveway like a '50s Citroen DS -- adopted from a used-car lot like a lost kitten.

    I'm in reverie now, and my dad thinks my Saab obsession is quaint (he now drives a Geo Metro, so that fight takes place on a couple of levels), but basically, yeah, I agree.

  5. Owning and driving a car isn't in itself evil or bad .. using it for every little errand when you don't need to, or when you have a viable alternative, probably is though.

    At least that is what I tell myself, to let myself of the hook of my own car fetishes.

  6. I'm in reverie now, and my dad thinks my Saab obsession is quaint (he now drives a Geo Metro, so that fight takes place on a couple of levels), but basically, yeah, I agree.

    What's funny is that my grandfather was a big-time GM exec for a while and always drove a Cadillac or a bigass Lincoln, but he sold Saabs and Volvos at the dealership. They made a lot of sense in Minnesota and he admired the engineering. So I'd like to think he'd be proud of me . . .

  7. If your grandfather was Tom Donney, I'm gonna be stunned....