Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You Can Take That Hemi and Shove It Up Your Ass

I'm in Champaign this week until the morning after Christmas, when I hitch a ride with my sister and her family down to suburban St. Louis to see our dad and more family.

I went Christmas shopping this morning in Champaign, which brought back weird memories of my first experiences here in the summer of ’93. I moved here from Casper and in comparison Champaign really did seem like a big city. Tooling north on Prospect in my mom’s Saab reminded me of driving to the Champaign Wal*Mart (I’d transferred from the Casper store) for my job on the nightshift, a year before I applied to Illinois. One of those first nights I was driving north on Prospect in a gold 1979 Ford Granada, a granny mobile inherited, sort of, from my then-recently departed great aunt. There was a big ol’ V8 in that sucker; the only V8 I’ve ever owned. Too bad it was surrounded by a gold 1979 Ford Granada.

Anyway, there I was in the fall of 1993, cruising north on Prospect with the dial radio tuned to the local college station, when I heard that killer opening to “Cannonball” for the first time. It would have been a great moment in my life if it weren’t for the working-the-nightshift-at-Wal*Mart part.

So today I braved Wal*Mart (I forgot to pack some toiletries), Borders, and even a mall in a quest for gifts, with limited success. Now, I have a very low tolerance for shopping malls. They make me itch. They also play Christmas music this time of year.

A note here about Christmas music. I can barely – just barely – tolerate the traditional carols. With the singular exception of Bing Crosby's and David Bowie's version of "Little Drummer Boy", traditional carols sung by pop stars make me want to strangle kittens, or the pop stars. And I absolutely positively cannot stand crappy, forced Christmasy rhymes you hear over the loudspeaker at, say, Wal*Mart. No, my idea of Christmas music is The Beatles. You see, I went through a huge Beatles phase beginning in about 9th grade and peaking my junior year in high school, and I remember struggling to learn Beatles songs on my first guitar one Christmas. The Beatles phase slowly yielded to an R.E.M. infatuation, which was replaced by a Jimi Hendrix obsession that still manifests itself on mix CD’s and carry case rotations to this day.

So during the Christmas shopping trip this morning, I had Jimi blaring on the Saab’s system. I’d never driven a Saab before and I was really impressed. I’m used to driving my truck, which has the turning radius and acceleration of an aircraft carrier. In comparison, the Saab just plain zipped; you could tell it would really haul ass if you asked it to. Not that I did. But you could.

Because hypothetically, if a redneck driving a large Dodge pickup (the kind with a hemi) pulled up next to you at Green Street right at the part where it narrows from four lanes into two, and hypothetically if that redneck revved his engine and lurched forward (redneck for, “I’m going to cut you off once that light turns green and I have to merge into your lane”), and hypothetically you really don’t like being cut off by guys driving hemi’s, then you might want a turbocharged Saab at your command. Hypothetically, you’d be able to accelerate at something approaching Mach and leave the hemi safely in the rearview mirror. Hypothetically.

So that’s that. Illinois and Missouri play in the Braggin’ Rights game tomorrow night in St. Louis, and will be televised… if you’re not doing anything (West Wing is a rerun, I already checked) you should watch.

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