Friday, February 27, 2009


I love cars. I don’t know much about how they actually work, but I still love the freedom they give.

Walking to work every day is a kick and nothing beats a walk on a beach or under green trees, but I still love driving. Getting from place to place, being able to go almost wherever you want, it's just exhilarating.

The actual act of driving is a source of constant amusement, and I have been caught more than once making Star Wars noises when driving around the motorway junctions that keep any sizable city ticking. I still love going for mad exploration drives around Auckland, finding new suburbs with their own unique charms.

As a teenager, I was down to get my license as soon as possible. Here is New Zealand, the staggered method of gaining your license means it takes more than a year to get a full licence, although a staggeringly useful Defensive Driving course helped bring that period down.

Growing up in a small town of 3000, where the nearest other population centre held a massive 30,000, the drivers license was indispensable, it was needed to go to parties, to go to movies, and, of course, to get new comic books.

Recently, I sat down and tried to work out roughly how much distance I would have driven in the last 15 years purely to get comic books, but got a little scared and nauseous when the figure starting running into the tens of thousands of kilometres.

With no comic store for literally hundreds of kilometres, and that first rush of cash that comes with a first job (and no responsibility), it meant nothing to drive those roads on a semi-regular basis. It was all about the comic books, and while there would invariably be a movie or two in there, it was a failed mission if I didn't come back with some geek-tastic comic.

Even when I lived in cities that sold a decent selection, there are entire afternoons lost to second-hand store missions, looking for elusive back issues. The sheer freedom of it all may stem from a deep frustration I felt as a kid and we would drive past interesting-looking bookshops in the family car. No eight-year-old kid should get the say on where and when a car should stop, and I still ache for missed opportunities to look in shops that haven't existed in two decades.

But the car gives that freedom, and so much more.

One of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen is the back seat of a car entirely covered in comics and Starlog magazines, even if I disposed of most of those publications long ago. Suddenly, I could take off whenever I wanted, and while it was always good to catch up with mates in other cities, I did a piss-poor job of hiding the fact that comics were my main priority.

I still get that kick out of store hopping around a city. Second hand bookstores remain the prized targets, because there could be anything lurking within, even if its comic selection is usually confined to a few old Donald Duck comics and one Archie digest.

But I do get a genuine thrill out of finding good comics in unexpected places. As I get more and more comics on my mental checklist, it’s a little rarer to stumble across something I crave more than oxygen, but it still happens. I still find some of the last few Virgin Doctor Who books I need, or that issue of Hellblazer that I’ve been meaning to buy for 15 years.

And it’s the car that makes it possible. It’s shelter in a storm, goes really fast and gets me where I need to be in a timely fashion.

I wish I knew how to fix one, but I’ve always known car people who can do that shit with me. Car enthusiasts are a funny and simple lot, but they are marvellous company. And they get incredibly excited about their passion, so they’re always good value in a conversation.

Lately and locally, the eternal war between teenagers and the older generation has focused on the car boys, hoons that delight in burnouts and acceleration, making noise in the dark of the city and country. Some of them had a go at a police officer a couple of weeks ago and now every young person with a decent car and a heavy foot is public enemy number one.

I love the goofy little bastards and despair at their treatment by police and the general public. Suddenly, people who live in the middle of a fucking city are demanding silence in the night and the worst thing in the world appears to be the sound of a big engine gunning it down Moorehouse Ave.

I think it sounds cool.

But then again, I grew up on a diet of Knight Rider and The Italian Job and The Dukes of Hazzard and Mad Max 2 and a hundred other pieces of car porn. I still get a thrill in doing a high speed skid on gravel roads and blasting past a bunch of cars stopped at the lights when a free lane opens up.

Because then I can go anywhere. I can get those comics that I always dreamed of as a kid, all those back issues and collections that I thought I’d never get to read. All those movies that I read about in The Dark side and Fangoria, but thought would never see. I can go see the latest blockbuster on the opening day, at my own convenience.

The world can’t sustain the status quo of the automobile as oil runs out and environmental concerns become more important. But there will always be a car, in some way or another, to get around. And to get all this cool shit.  

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