Thursday, May 6, 2010

At the Van-In

No, its not a post-hardcore band from Austin, Texas.

French's 68 Mustang got me thinking about classic cars. And by classic I mean mid-late 70s. When you're a kid, those summers seemed to last forever, especially when you grow up where I did. There just wasn't a whole lot to do, besides hammer tennis balls and hockey pucks against the brick wall in the liquor store parking lot. Or play town-tag. We were granted a remarkable amount of autonomy as 7 yr olds back then, unlike today's generation, who need to be bundled in bubblewrap and perpetually behelmed if they wish to ride their bike up and down the driveway. What, you want to go upstreet, by yourself!? What are you talking about, you're only 13! As 7 yr olds, we were out popping wheelies down the mean streets on our kickass mini dirtbikes until the sun went down.

And every summer, other than the Highland Games, there was an event that we all looked forward to. The biggest, badassed, shitkicker show of the summer. The Van-In. A peculiar 70's showcase, it had a brief run in my hometown until the choking cloud that hovered over the fairgrounds forced the town fathers to wag their fingers in condemnation. Too much Wacky Tabacky, they snorted in unison. Too many Max Webster and Uriah Heep cover bands.

For us, though, it was a celebration. Our Carnaval de Romans. My buddy Charlo and I would stock up on Mr. Freezees and park ourselves on the steps of his Dad's Main Street restaurant. And the parade would begin. The cavalcade of cool. Van after van, all lovingly adorned with the very best that modern art had to offer. Sublime sunsets, Hang-Ten waves, King Kongs (you haven't seen it yet?), gleaming toothfuls of Andy Gibb, fire-breathing dragons, fantasy Farrahs, pissed off Chewbaccas, Kiss Armies. And those women. So artfully rendered. So satiatingly naked. When they would pull into the liquor store parking lot next to us to stock up for the weekend, we'd get to look in the back. Plush velvet linings, shag carpets, cabinets of curiosity (where they kept the booze and wacky tabacky, amongst other essential artifacts). We'd ignore the propagandic bumper stickers that cautioned -- "don't touch this van unless you are completely naked", or the wellworn "if this van's a rockin ..."

And there was more. Cruel looking Corvettes and Camaros. The ubiquitous yet eternally ethereal black Trans Ams, rising from the flames while the 8 track blared out. We Surrendered to the sweet sounds of Candy-O. We had spent all our Money on Mr. Freezees, but Time was on our side. We Breathed in the Sweet Leaf. It was More Than a Feeling. We Spread our Little Wings and flew away. For one weekend a year, you could Sheik Yerbouti.

But to the Catholic Scots and dour Presbyterian pastors, it was an Atrocity Exhibition. (OK, maybe I'm playing with the past a bit too much on that last one, but that's the nature of memory, right? -- fucking with your head). Maybe you can only Drive Down Main Street So Many Times.

And then it was gone, and the only sounds you heard emanate from the fairgrounds were the clannish drones of the Highlands. The Hebridean hymns and Ossianic octaves. But that's another story for another day. Stories. At least the ones I can talk about.

And it was back to killing time. Sadly, a lot of those town taggers are dead now. Some would still be sitting in the King George, had it not been recently condemned by the building inspector.

If only I had some of that World Enough and Time again.


  1. The hoods would be on main street - nice - a beautiful time indeed.

  2. Very good. I'm older than you, so my childhood was probably only slightly more innocent. For instance, I didn't see my first set of women's jugerrnauts till I was twelve!! My friend's dad was an inveterate Playboy magazine collector. We and his little brother laid out all these centerfolds on a gagarge floor when his old man and mom were out of town. What an experience!! And those were the days when the crown jewels were covered up!! (A qualifier: I did see National Geographic magazine native women's bossoms all the way back to when I was 7 years old. But for some reason, they don't seem to count for much in these kinds recollections. Maybe you had to be a child of the sixties)