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GOING THE DISTANCE
"DECLINE OF THE MOTOR CULTURE"
Photo by Don Wong
CENTRAL PARK 1943:
Mom with Pop's '38 Buick.
EXCERPT FROM AN ARTICLE BY DALE MCFEATTERS, 1/13/12 NEW YORK POST:
"Here's an alarming development that strikes at the heart of American values: Young Americans are less and less interested in driving and cars....If this isn't treasonous, it's the next closest thing. Cars define this society and have for over a century. One reason we won World War II was that so many young American men knew how to drive before they entered the military....Cars aren't so much disdained as ignored by a generation that stays indoors, connects with each other through societal media....It's well within modern memory that young car buyers, realizing that GTOs, Camaros and Mustangs were financially out of reach, had only one criterion for their first car: It had to run....Maybe we are turning into Europe."
I am my father's son.
I'm realizing more and more, how much of my father I carry in me. I carry his values, both politically and morally. My father was a very moral, if not a religious man. Pop was a right-leaning Republican.
I carry his interests. My father loved his cars and loved driving. His cars, defined him to a great degree. Hittin' the streets, highways and byways of this great country, seemed to Pop, what he was supposed to do. This was an indication of how important the motor culture was to Pop, and to men of his generation. I carry on this tradition, because my father taught it to me, not only in didactic lesson, but also by example. To Pop, and to me by generational extension, motor-driven wheels are important elements of life. Cars and motorcycles are indispensable facets of the American experience.
It is an experience that is masculine in nature, that is paradoxically enjoyed by both genders. Motor Culture is inherently masculine, because the template was developed in earlier generations like my father's, a time when within the nuclear family, Dad did the operating of, and caring for motor vehicles most of the time.
The proof of the universal appeal to both genders, lie in the hardcore female motorcycle riders and car drivers, my sisters included (more on them later), seen today. Look at Danica Patrick and Janet Guthrie. One of the most inspirational autobiographies I've ever read, is Janet's Guthrie's "A Life At Full Throttle." Put this on your must-readng list.
There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind, that my commitment to motorcycles, is contiguous with my commitment to cars. Without my interest in cars and driving, my interest in motorcycles and riding would not exist. Cars and motorcycles are two sides of the same American coin.
I owe this to my father. For the short period I had Pop in my life (he died when I was in my early 20s), Pop impressed me, and pressed into me, this template of how an American, male or female, should think and feel about motor culture. Pop's cars were his only real interest outside of working, and Pop had a tremendous work ethic. He worked 12 hours a day voluntarily, relishing the emotion of productivity , and the satisfaction of supporting his family by dint of his two bare hands and unfettered mind. Pride in performance was important to him. This pride in performance overlapped into pride in driving technique. Pop abhorred sloppy technique.
As important as his work was to him, Pop's love of his cars and the motoring culture, brought another brand of intense satisfaction. Dig it: Driving his cars, like his pristine, Black Beauty 1938 Buick, gave him the same feeling, as I get when I ride Mabel, my Harley 74, and Mary, my 1972 Corvette Stingray. He got as much satisfaction from standing and looking at his cars, as a biker does when he just stands back and appreciates his '58 panhead. I saw what my father was all about, and I followed his hearty example. I'm who I am, because of who my father was, and I'm grateful for it. He poured the mold, and I poured myself in and conformation took place, dictated by nature, just as it has since time immemorial.
Father to son, can't get more natural than that, man.
I've had a sense of what McFeatters wrote about, just by observation of our society, and of how the younger generations just don't have the intense interest in cars like I used to at their age.
What McFeatters wrote about cars, naturally tranfers automatically to motorcycles. There has been a decline in Motor Culture in general, that covers both cars and motorcycles. The prevalence of the excitement of vehicular movement, once so universally felt among Americans, seems to be diluted now to a dull throb.
That's what missing in most of the younger generation, this inner explosion of euphoria at the prospect of gettin' behind the handlebars or steering wheel. Hey man, this younger generation is the Amtrak Generation. The Amtrak Generation is more likely to get excited by the release of a new iPhone, than the cresting crescendo of a Chevy V-8 at full song, or the lumpy, majestic idle of a Harley motor. The thought of playing with an iPad is more enticing than a motoring experience at 80 miles per hour.
I happen to feel as McFeatters does, that this decline is a decline in inherently American values, reflective of a type of feminization of society.
We've become a nation of mama's boys.
Whereas men once took the examples of their fathers, more and more sons have become maternalized due to many factors. I believe that the largest factor, is the decline of the traditional nuclear family. The growth of the divorce rate in modern society, the decline of traditional values with a proportionate wholesale acceptance of homosexuality as an "alternative " type of "normal lifestyle, " contributed greatly to this phenomenon. Gay special interest groups' insistence that "marriage" must be redefined to be more inclusive, have hastened the feminizing of American males. This the political blackmailing of Webster's Dictionary, an extortion by poll numbers, enforced by a powerful lobby.
With the blurring of sexual identity lines, many young American men have become mama's boys, adopting by example, the values of their mothers. Many of today's young American males are softer, kinder and gentler 2.0 Versions, more inclined to be interested in home economics than downshifting technique.
In traditional American society, fathers had the primary role of caring for and caring about the family's motor vehicles. That's just the way it was. Loving cars and the driving experience, was the quintessential American Masculine Experience. Loving motorcycles and the riding experience, was and is a predominatly masculine preoccupation. I can thank Pop for my love of bikes, because that is in my universe, a direct extension of my love of cars and the Motor Culture at large.
I would like to point out, that my two sisters, Dottie and Nancy, are two of the most skilled drivers I've ever known, as good as me, for good reason: We had the same competent teacher, my father.
They too, can atribute their driving skill and love of motoring culture, to Pop. My sister Nancy, has driven more hot cars than I've could ever hope to. This voluminous list includes AC Cobras, Ferraris and other high-powered cars, many in race trim. In this, my sisters are lucky to have been brought up in a traditional nuclear family, with a father who had an intense interest in his cars.
My father was a great and innovative driver, and he passed on his techniques to my sisters and me. Pop advocated left-foot braking when driving cars with automatics, decades before NASCAR drivers and Formula One drivers adopted the technique for racing. Contrary to what 99% of all other non-professional drivers learned, I learned to brake using my left foot. Pop's theory was that one's reaction time in braking would be quicker if one didn't have to lift the right foot off the gas pedal to react, and he was right.
He taught us brake pedal modulation and control, long before anti-locking braking technology took the task over. All of my motorcycle-control techniques, are direct extension of what I learned in a car.
Every father wishes that his children go through their lives, with his values and interests. To carry something of "Dad" in them, whether they be sons or daughters. With respect to this, my father would've be proud of me. Hey Pop, when I'm behind the wheel of my righteous Vette tearing down the road, or piloting my stroker Harley down the same roads you drove on, I think of you. Because I am you. I'm honored to be a worthy son. Beyond that, I'm gratified that I can carry on this Great American Tradition, as passed on from generation to generation, from father to son. Later.