Driving Me Backwards

Riding New York subways for so long, I long to drive cars again. I love the part in Raising Arizona when John Goodman’s convict character, behind the wheel and having just kidnapped Nathan Jr., turns to his little brother and says, “I loooove to drive,” to which his brother says, “You sure said something there, partner.” In fact, I say it just about every time I get into a car, and I’m sure my passengers hate it.

Here’s video evidence—of the scene from Raising Arizona, not my impression of it. This clip is right after the part I’m talking about, but fans of the movie (which I’m guessing includes every one of you) know the entire scene.

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I have wondered if, like LCD Soundsystem’s song recorded specifically for Nike’s iPod running program, somebody might release music designed specifically for driving. Because driving can’t really be done to the music from a Volkswagen commercial—real driving is a little more like a Nissan commercial, but with the acoustics of a Lexus commercial. Driving is, apparently, a lot like working at an advertising firm. If there were to be a perfect song that feels like driving—at least long, wide, open highway driving—it’s anything by Swervedriver.

» Listen to Swervedriver’s “Never Lose That Feeling” at Milk Milk Lemonade

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One evening I was driving alone on an empty highway, on my way home to visit my father. It was dark, I was doing about 50, there weren’t many streetlights, and as soon as I saw the parked car’s taillights we crashed headfirst. The front of my car, a 1987 Toyota Camry, crushed into itself, the steering column seemed to bend, and the engine sputtered to stay alive. Thankfully, the other car was empty and I was unhurt. I was able to drive to a pay phone and call my dad, who came out to find me and drive me back to the scene of the accident, where we found two guys in trucker caps, one of them carrying a gas can, and both of whom had very stunned looks on their faces. My car, surprisingly, wasn’t totaled in the wreck. (Their early ‘70s Charger came out with only minor scratching on the rear bumper.) The car finally died when, five years later, the hood latch—still a little shaky from its head-on collision—finally gave way while speeding down the highway, flung upwards and back, breaking my windshield onto my lap.

» Listen to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” at Pretentious Prattle

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The summer after the Camry emerged from the body shop, practically as good as new, my father and I took it on a road trip from Texas to California. On the way we stopped at the Grand Canyon. To get to the Canyon from Interstate 10, you took a small road north from Flagstaff, about 45 minutes. After the blare of I-10, it was a peaceful calm, a break from only trying to get from here to there, and felt like a side-trip in every sense. That little road cuts through patches of birch, slowly dipping across a plain dotted with little wooden houses, before rising to meet the lip of the Canyon. On that trip my dad and I often mentioned how good the car had performed, about how “it’s always been a good car.” And now my wife laughs at me when I look at used but newish Camrys online and say, “You know, these are really, really great cars.”

» Listen to The Red House Painters’ “Cabezon” at Motel de Moka


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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