Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

Meet my dad: he was an incredibly humble man, a talented writer, & a VW enthusiast. This is one of my favorite pictures of him; it was taken about 2 weeks before he passed away, one year ago today, after his brave/brief/intense battle with pancreatic cancer. I love this picture so much because I can see the happiness on my dad's face as his dying wish is fulfilled: to sit in a Volkswagen one last time. My dad was one of VW's biggest fans...as far back as I can remember our mode of transportation with dad was a bug, baja bug, camper, or bus. As you can see, I was pretty much destined for a bit of hippy-ness. I got a lot from this man: my looks, my sense of humor, similar loves for music,travel & long drives, alleyway scavenging, camping, history, a bargain, yard sales, corn dogs, "mayonnaise whip" (chilled yellow cake mix he tried to keep Alan and I out of by saying it was made of mayo), Dairy Queen, old books, and a passion for writing. My dad would never admit it, but he kicked major butt in the writing department and I know I'm not alone when I say one of the things I miss most about him are his funny, comforting, Garrison Keillor-esque stories. Man, I wish he had written a blog! Because today is Dia de los Muertos, I wanted to remember and celebrate my dad not only by enjoying corn dogs and mayonnaise whip for dinner, but by sharing a favorite song of his & a piece he wrote for me about why he was SO in love with VWs, "A VW can make a friend, restore a friendship, bring lovers together, heal marriages, calm stormy waters and fussy children. What child is not still fascinated by the mere shape of a bug, how can 2 people remain angry within the confines of a bug, so close together, surrounded by the aroma of wet horsehair..." DRB

Missing you today and every day dad. xo B

"VW's were, as you may know, my vehicle of choice for many years. While I might have slipped in a few Chevys, occasional Ford, even a Rambler or 2, plus the occasional Fiat...fix it again Tony they called them....still, the garage saw many more VW's than any other make.

My first one wasn't really mine, but my mothers. A gold colored 62 as I recall, she had bought it used to save gas money driving to and from work in her 67 Chrysler, a mellow yellow behemoth with all power and luxury and did I mention power. The VW made it to and from her work about 3 days before she decided power and luxury were worth the cost of the gas and the VW was relelegated to parked status. My license was finally approved by parental decision, in other words I got my grades up to the standard required by the folks, and I was allowed to drive said VW to and from my first job, to and from school and around town with a girl or 2. Actually I think it was only a girl, I don't recall but one ever riding in that car. Now she's a grandmother to many and pushing towards her 6th decade just like me. But anyway...back to cars, vws.....

That bug served me for a short time, then it was decided either I purchase it from mom or buy my own car and seeing as how I'd driven and ridden in VW's most of my life, I chose something else.

Have you ever had a stuffed animal, or a object of some sort that secretly, quietly, only inside yourself...sometimes you thought it was alive, could understand you? There is something about a VW, at least one you've adopted, or I should say has adopted you, something that in the dark quiet of night, alone in the garage, or driving on a dark stretch of road, when all things mechanical are humming, you've touched the very heart of the beast, sometimes it is as if they are just not alive, but able to relate to you, to appreciate your care not just because you do of course but because they know it's more than simply keeping them running for your sake. It's the investment into the life they have, thinking of them as needing caressing, talking to, little adjustments and sometimes the thrill of new parts or repainted touched up marks of the years.

There were VW's like that in my life. Not my prettiest ones, no. Instead they were the ones who needed me, had some issues as we'd call it now, couldn't take care of my needs until theirs were met and resolved, needed me to walk them through them.

The camper you were conceived in was like that. It had been neglected and worse, rejected. The owner we got it from had just parked it, tired of messing with it, not knowing that the heart was sick, needing major surgery. Life had been good for it at one time and from the old peace symbols and rainbows stickers on the ice box door, I'd say it had been through the turbulent 60's and 70's too. Origionally a rather simple shade of green, the outside was faded yellow, dented. Inside was brush painted a off white up front with the original 1963 birch paneling covering all the camper parts, roof, doors in back.

We put time and love into that bus. The engine was rebuilt, parts painted and cleaned up shiny. Inside the seats and cushions were covered in oh so popular at the time Herculon plaid not unlike the pictures of the sofa with you Alan and I sitting on it, on facebook. Your mom herself revarnished the wood inside, it had the patina of age and wisdom, a golden honey color. When we put it together, inside the drivers door panel we wrote the date and our names and try as I might, I've not been able to find anyone in the VW world who recalls taking that door panel off a bus anytime anywhere.

The outside ended up primered, not really pretty but efficient and straight. We took great delight in stocking the little cabinets with cookware, food stuff and warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags. Of course the final touch was a cassette deck up front with John Denver of course singing us over the mountain passes, helping us to find our way to Starwood in Aspen. Actually that bus never made it to Aspen, its trips were up towards SteamBoat Springs, all around Leadville and southpark(yes there is a real southpark)and numerous jaunts up into the foothills for picnics.

I suppose we kept it for about 2 years or so. I honestly don't recall even selling it, maybe a bad memory blocked out or something. Some cars I was happy to see drive away, others I hated to lose. That was in the latter catagory, this bus. Sometimes driving down the road it seemed as if the Rockies were smiling upon it, upon us. It had to have been a happy VW, for that and for the reason that your life started in it.

The last time I figured them up, I'd had about 45 VW's of various sorts, mostly bugs and some busses, a couple of Ghias but only to part them out for they weren't popular at the time, 2 convertible bugs, one squareback and no fastbacks. The only VW I ever disliked, couldn't stand, was my last bus, the one you and Alan rode in back from Kingman, a beige 70 model. Constant trouble.

You have to adapt to a VW, they will not adapt to you for it is not in their nature to be so flexible. They are what they are, you cannot hide their shape, they will only go so fast unless you have unlimited funds and like to see them on the back of wreckers. And they have a persona that some people do not fit into at all. Mr. Muir of "Complete guide for the complete Idiot" book fame, said that when you drive a VW bus you learn to enjoy the scenery for life is going to pass much slower. True. He also talked of starting out with a distressed VW, something that needed some work, and fixing it as you drove along on your trip to Taos or wherever. True too. I have pulled engines in parking lots, changed oil by the side of the road while straddling a drainage ditch for clearance to work under a VW. And I have been certain to carry extra parts for just like children, just like pets, just like mates with issues, VW's need attention and they will demand it of you if you don't give it to them. In return for that attention they will wrap you in double layers of steel designed by engineers who could make you have to roll a window down a notch just to get the doors to close, they were that tight. They have wonderful "horse hair" padding in the seats which gives them a wonderful aroma on rainy days, on hot days, on damp cool days, only a VW has that scent.

A VW can make a friend, restore a friendship, bring lovers together, heal marriages, calm stormy waters and fussy children. What child is not still fascinated by the mere shape of a bug, how can 2 people remain angry within the confines of a bug, so close together, surrounded by the aroma of wet horsehair, the vibration of the engine risng up through their butts and beginning a mantra like chant of mechanical noise and whirrling, chugging, slight roaring sound that will bring their harmonies back into alignment surer than any marriage counselor could do.

Sometimes I think, I long, for another VW, for the companionship it brings. The car, not others who love them, just the car itself, being your friend, your confidant, your companion on lonely trips or during rough times.

It takes a weird personality to look at mechanical bits and pieces as friends, companions. As I reread this, this several days after writing it, I cannot help but wonder if maybe this machine takes the place of friendships and betrayal, if these manmade conglomerations with all their engine oil and gear lube and rubber parts and air in tires and gasoline giving life, if these are replacements for even the most intimates of life, of family. Is there a comfort within that metal shell, protection from a world of failure, sadness, disappointments, yet it also holds sweet memories and soft songs, their melodies bring back tenderness lost." Dennis Butcher

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Bonnie, this is so beautiful. I wish I had the chance to get to know your dad, he seems like an amazing person. I know my folks sure loved him, and sometimes my parents and your mom have "Dink" reminiscing times. Thank you for posting this. Love you!