I sing the body mechanical
"America's love affair with the automobile" used to be the most noticeably overused cliche in the the American idiom and indeed, starting with the 20th century few things transformed private life and personal liberty like the automobile. Few things contributed so much to economic growth. From the end of WWII and through the 1960's everything was about cars. If you're one of the dwindling part of the population who remembers first hand, I don't have to explain. You'll remember the car culture and you'll remember how it made the USA run. Our youth was about the freedom cars brought. The status of our families was displayed in the driveway and our introduction to love had a lot to do with the freedom of the road and the secluded areas it led to. It's gone. It's strip malls and plastic signs and Japanese designs. It's people locked safely inside, staring at little screens.
What would have happened to Jack Kerouac, who would have heard of Ken Kesey if this had been a nation where people gleefully chose some soulless transportation appliance chosen for cheapness and that simply took you places safely and economically without your participation? Where do you find America, how do you get there but on the road? Why even have a road if we can live in a hive?
I can't understand the mania for taking away our cars, for looking forward eagerly to cars that differ from subway cars only in the passenger capacity -- that run on electronic rails? Safety and economy and the vision of a future without back roads, the crunch of gravel, the wind in your hair on summer nights, the smell of gumbo in road houses you pass as the V-twin rumbles between your knees or the V8 sings as you change down from 6 to 5 to pass that Toyota safetybox with blacked out windows and the "Star Safety System" and the airbags. I sing the body mechanical -- the music of the night and of freedom. The poetry of machines.
Soulless appliance, we don't know how it works and don't care -- a place to wait and text message and facebook and link to LinkedIn and watch American idol as the soulless matrix sucks the life out of you in perfect safety. What the hell has happened to us? Are we really heir to the termites, the moles -- timid troglodytes living in plastic tubes and breathing filtered air -- too timid to take control?
Pardon me, I'm making myself sick. It's a beautiful Saturday and in the garage, my new Harley gleams, a symphony in blue -- and route 714 waits, just over the bridge, leading west out to the big lake under miles of trees, arched over the asphalt like a cathedral knave and the air smells the way most of you have never smelled it. South along 441, along the levee, the live oaks and Spanish moss and fish camps and orchards and road houses and kids that still wave from front lawns as you ride by. America, I'm still here, and I still remember. Of thee I still sing.
(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)