Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sweet Dreams

I spent most of my childhood crawling deep into books. The deeper the better.

We moved frequently. Being the New Kid at school, in a class full of other kids who had grown up together, was a thing I expected to endure each September.

Eventually, I figured out I had no more control over whether or not we moved, than I had over whether the Russians bombed the shit out of me. (It was, after all, the sixties…) But one day I realized that I could always choose the things that occupied my mind.

I started light with Dick and Jane – and that wonderfully antiseptic world they lived in where Father always wore a suit and Mother even wore a frilly dress to fix supper. The kids all got along and Spot was a cool dog. Even Sally was mostly okay…vacuous as hell…but mostly okay.

Then I moved over to the Hardy Boys (and Nancy Drew when no one was watching since they were basically the same kind of story…although one was ostensibly for girls). After that I main-lined Doc Savage and Tarzan, Sam Spade and Miss Marple. I ate up AA Merit and Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson. My heroes weren’t actors or athletes. They were Heinlein and Asimov, King and Matheson. On my more shadowy days I read Edgar Allan Poe and the Dark Shadows series. I totally bought into all of it.

Why am I telling you this?

Because remembering my childhood is a little like photographing old cars. They awaken the same sense of longing I used to feel reading fiction. I have this powerful sense that nothing bad could possibly happen in these beauties.

In the world these cars came from Father would always have time to play catch and Mother would bake endless cookies and the house would look like a photographer from Good Housekeeping was expected at any moment. Sally could always be counted on to say something cute. And Spot would never EVER pee on the floor.

There’s something majestic about these regal vehicles, something utterly surreal. They carry in the very fabric of their metal, something wonderful. Simply sitting a car like that would be like breathing magic, right?

In my mind’s eye I can see the whole family cruising down the highway listening to the radio and singing along with Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. These cars were designed to go out on frosty Christmas Eves and return home with the perfect tree tied to the roof as the snow gently falls and everyone inside is smiling.

They are tough little time travellers because they are survivors, rolling gently into our world from a time when making something beautiful was more important than gas mileage, when designers put fins on their cars because they added elegance and, let’s face it, just looked really cool.

This car was magical to me. I could smell sweet dreams all over it. This image is about trying to infuse that sense of wonder and longing in a picture.