Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When Nerds And Greasers Grow Up

When my Minneapolis high school class graduated about 100 lifetimes ago, a kid everyone called "Froggy" used the gift money given to him by relatives to buy and restore a Model T Ford. This didn't surprise anyone: Froggy was sort of a cleaned-up greaser anyway – he ended up in technology, which is simply an updated, more lucrative, version of being a greaser – so while many of us shook our head at his odd hobby, we weren't totally surprised.

Turns out that he not only kept and maintained the car over the years, he is joining 50 other Model T owners this summer to drive from New York to Seattle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first cross-country Model T endurance race sponsored by Robert Guggenheim, then an obscenely wealthy industrialist and now of art museum fame. Yes, the roads are better today but the route will be identical. The group will avoid the interstate except in parts of North Dakota and Montana where the original highways have disappeared entirely.

It'll take roughly six week to cross the country – every four days they stop for rest and repairs – which is how Froggy will spend his summer vacation.

I think the first two or three days will be a lot of fun.

Then, as the group wakes up in, oh, maybe Montclair NJ on the fourth morning – about 40 miles from the starting point in Times Square – it'll dawn on everyone that they have another five-plus weeks of this hot, sweaty, bone-shaking ride and wonder what seemed so appealing about the drive when they signed up.

For those who’ve been reading me for a while, you’ll recall that my high school – now defunct but at the time run by the University of Minnesota – attracted many overly bright nerds and characters. Our class included a lot of weird, sometimes deeply disturbed, children of academics, the guy who went on to found the Utne Reader, a son of Minneapolis' mayor who became a blues musician backing up Bob Dylan for many years, and one of FDR's grandsons whose ambition in life was to own a small town gas station.

Add this information to what I’ve written about being raised by my specific set of parents and sister, and you can see why I ended up as batty as I am. Totally starkers, as the Brits say. Mad as a tick.

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