Of Muscle Cars and Lone Stars

So it’s probably not news to anyone by now, but we’re moving back to Texas. Maybe at some point I’ll take the time to tell the story that precipitated this move at this time, but not tonight. For now it’s sufficient to say that we’re sure that we’re doing the right thing. We’re not running from anything, which is nice. We’ve had days here when we’ve wanted to run from certain things, but we didn’t. We’re glad. Our time in Pennsylvania has been no accident. No mistake. It was a season of purpose populated by wonderful people and a fair number of knuckleheads. But now it’s time to go.

This all unfolded pretty quickly, and it wasn’t really possible for me to feel much excitement at first. It’s not that I was unhappy, I was just overwhelmed by the weight of the decisions and the craziness that accompanied the decisions. Once the decision was made to move, the first thing I began to feel was relief. I’m telling the truth when I say we’re not running from anything here, but there are some circumstances in our lives here that we’ll be relieved from when we move. Nothing terribly tragic or oppressive, but the kind of stuff that weighs you down after a while. Even where there’s the sadness of departure, there’s also relief. I feel relieved. But then relief began to become something else.

I think the “something else” really started to sink in Saturday night when I was out running the Pennsylvania Turnpike in our bad a$$ 1986 Chevy Camaro Berlinetta. You didn’t know I had a muscle car, did you? It was Amy’s Dad’s car (a midlife crisis buy or something), and she inherited it before I was in the picture. It has traveled over 200,000 miles, but runs remarkably well for a car of its age and experience. There’s a 350 V8 (the Z-28 engine) under the hood. I’m not really a car guy; I just know that means it can still out-growl a lot of weaker sports cars nearly twenty years its junior. I know you’re dying to see this sweet ride, so here it is:


Sorry, that’s the best I can do for now. It’s there; it’s just buried by the blizzard of January ’02—the one we drove across PA in after flying back from the Armstrongs’ wedding. Anyway, it was a reliable second car for us when we needed such a beast, but it’s seen very little of the road for the last few years. Since we live on the campus where I work, we’ve had almost no need for a second car. I’ve flirted with selling it a few times, but never actually pulled the trigger. More on why in a minute.

Now that we’re moving across the country (again), it doesn’t make much sense to keep it. It’s not reliable enough to drive to Texas, and it would cost almost as much to haul it as it’s worth. Obviously I need to have it running to sell it, but the battery tends to die when it sits dormant for months at a time. I’ve been through this routine more times than I can count: get serious about selling the car, try to start the car, jumpstart the car, drive the car to charge the battery, end up not selling the car or driving it enough to keep the battery charged. The driving part is a little more challenging because the car is (a) not insured and (2) not registered or inspected. I shudder to think what would happen if I tried to get it inspected.

Anyway, driving it on public roads requires a little strategery. Fortunately the PA Turnpike ends (or begins, depending how you look at it) about a mile from our home. The Turnpike is just a big, open road that you have to pay to drive on. It works well for my purposes because there’s less traffic and fewer officers of the law (which is what Amy’s Dad, Tom, was). When I have to do my Camaro routine, I usually jump it right before dark (more strategery), then hit the Turnpike.

Secretly I think I’ve avoided selling it because I enjoy these little exercises in frustration followed by adolescent gratification. I usually spend an hour or so sitting low in a sports car, driving too fast (just to make sure I’m as illegal as possible), and listening to music too loud. Recently the stereo wiring has begun to fail, resulting in the right speakers cutting in and out. When I went for my drive Saturday, I took my portable cd player, headphones, and The Normals. A little much? Maybe, but music is mandatory on these trips.

Saturday night was a classic, beautiful PA June evening, so I shed the Camaro’s t-tops to enhance the vibe. And I drove. And thought. And as I drove and thought, I began to feel the excitement of moving home. Texas is home, at least as much as a place on this lump of dirt can be home for us. It’s where my people are. It’s what I know. I’m only now beginning to feel just how disconnected and isolated we’ve been from so many important people for the past 3+ years. The idea of being close to so many of them—so many of you—makes me realize how much I’ve missed you. And it makes me excited.

Let us run free let us breathe wild
Let us not let Your beauty pass us by
We can’t wait to move on
Drop these ragged bones and step into our lives
Where every moment of every day
Is summer and autumn and winter and spring
Lovers and loners and vagrants and kings
We’re finally home

But I’ll miss Tom’s car.

5 thoughts on “Of Muscle Cars and Lone Stars

  1. I’m glad yall are moving home. I don’t know if I’ll get to see you anymore than I normally do, but I just like knowing that more of the family will be in Texas. Now we need to start working on Todd and Rachel.

  2. Since I’ve never lived out of the great state of Texas, I can’t relate to the “coming home” thing in that way. Establishing “home” is the concern for now. Lubbock isn’t and never will be home for me. I continue to think of my grandmother’s home as home. Evenso, I don’t really think the physical plot satisfies the need for a place. Mostly, it’s the feeling of home where the relationship comes into play (what would we do without metaphysics?). Home at one time was as important as when Dorothy clicked her heels and recited the famous “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I’ve actually done that a few times hoping for some Never-never Land reaction, but that didn’t transpire. Now I long for HOME. In this instance, I will be running from something, but I’ll also be running TO something. As I’ve traveled down my yellow brick road, the interactions between what I’ve come to understand and to know as Tin Man, Scare Crow, and Cowardly Lion intrigue me, maybe forces me to understand better this temporary encasement I call home. Coming home to self seems as important as coming home to family. How champion your home and family have such strong kinship. As you close your eyes, tighten your fists, and begin to click the red shimmering heels for the third time, I’ll chime in with the multitude, “Welcome home!”

  3. The doors are all pulled open wide…awaiting your arrival, oh beloved Texas-bound sons and daughter! Come quickly, with or without the muscle car, and we shall together secure for you a “new adventure” to satisfy your “Norvell nature” on moonlit nights!

  4. The good news is that Thad can start being himself again…

    (Did you think you were out of the woods on that one? Oh, and I realize that this will probably bring on a full-scale attack from your arsenal of Photoshop skills. I just couldn’t let that one slip by unused.)

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