The first car I drove was my parents’ (formerly my grandmother’s) ’89 Buick LeSabre Limited Edition. It was a beautiful, bronze boat and it was a pretty big deal. No one would ever accuse the Buick of being a fancy car, but it was the car I drove and it was perfect. I loved how it felt rocking over the speed bumps and treated it like it was my chariot. When it was finally totaled, it was probably worth no more than $1,000 but to me it was worth at least $8,000. I didn’t have a good grasp on the worth of the dollar back then, but $8,000 would have seemed like a ton of money.
Since my first car, I’ve ridden and driven many vehicles. I’ve made money and tasted fancy food and spent $14 for a cocktail. In a particularly low moment, I think I paid an extra $6 for one pancake at a restaurant. One mother-flipping pancake, just so I could have a bite of it. How embarrassing.
The city I live in, San Francisco, is fairly shiny in that you’re likely to have a curated experience in whatever shop or restaurant you enter. Things (not everything, but many things) look professional, perfect, and take themselves seriously. And if you’re a young professional like I was, then it kind of makes sense. You have all this money that you’re making and no kids and you’re just kind of living for yourself so why not blow it all on jeans for your dog and artisan caramels after investing.
And I don’t have a problem with that. I really don’t. Artisan caramels should exist because they provide artisans with meaningful employment and dogs deserve to wear comfortable, fashionable clothing made just for them. I just feel like in getting caught up in all this business of seeking out the nicest or the best things, we miss out on other equally interesting experiences.
There was a quote in this book I read once on how formality tends towards uniformity, and I think it’s true. So maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the everyday wonders and the backstage freaks. These places have the stories. They have the stench of humanity all over them and I love it because they’re imperfect just like I am.
Watery coffee from a Jewish Deli. Greasy menus with strange trivia from a Greek restaurant outside of Chicago. The dollar cinema in Cupertino. A giant blue hippo sculpture. Second rate museums. Church bathrooms. Ridiculously cheesy Baptist artwork. The unrefined. The unpolished. The cheap, functional and random. The amateur and homemade. The tacky. The ugly. The gaudy.
These are the things that make up the spectrum of life, and all of it is interesting and fairly wonderful in its own way. So here’s to you, golden chariot. May you forever boat over speed bumps in the sky.