Back before we knew better, Back before science reared its smart but ugly head, Back before we made our truce with the air… Before we learned how to sweet-talk it, Romance it, insinuate ourselves between the molecules… We simply bashed our way through With sharp edges, shining metal and brute force. Work with the wind? You’re kidding, right? Screw that! Push it aside! Slice it to turbulent little bits! Overpower it! Clobber it! Show it who’s boss,
And celebrate the victory of might making right. We were Americans. We backstroked in cheap gasoline. We rapaciously huffed fully leaded exhaust. We devoured miles like grinders and fries. And we did it in style. We were road mobsters—even the least of us. You didn’t have to be a capo to have class. Our rides were flashy, but tasteful (For the most part, anyway). They made a statement. We drove sharply tailored suits. They were bold, yet subtle, Like that new young couple in the White House. They were snug in all the right places, Tapered in all the right places, Creased in all the right places. Always with a neat tie, A pressed pocket square and, Maybe, a boutonniere for the lapel. This was expected. Cost of admission. Customary. Part of doing business. Matter of pride.
The just-waxed paint reflected every single satellite in the sky, Every looping inch of neon in the electric insanity of the Strip, Every single towering rock in Monument Valley, Every night-lit church steeple in the Boston suburbs, Every Mantle night-game homer soaring out of The house that Ruth built, Every F-104 scrambling to intercept a bogey. The soft, black backseat leatherette Caught all the tiny droplets of spilled Pink lady or grasshopper. Ah, those girls. All heels, highball glasses and retreating hemlines. We made them such promises. They said they’d do anything For a chance to meet Frank, or Dean, or Sammy Or Jack. Anything. The radio was all Brubeck and Miles, Sinatra and Bennett. Rock ’n’ roll? Invented, but not perfected. Too hot when the times, and the adults, demanded cool. A-bombs were too big. Rockets were too real. The Soviets were too serious. Modern Americans needed cool, heady sips And long, aimless rides. And anyway, the only beat that was absolutely necessary Was the thrum of that huge engine.
What was it? A 425? 430? 462? 472? 500? No matter. It simply had to be Big as Rhode Island to pull all that steel around. The cam? A little aggressive. “Lumpy,” some guys would say. Made the twin pipes sing a Rich, smoky baritone with a natural vibrato. And… that song went On and on, Into the day, Into the night, Into the mountains, Into the desert, Into the city, Into the restless American heart Endlessly lub-dubbing soft, hot macadam and wet concrete, Growing ever more clotted with bridge abutments And Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppes And drive-in movies Showing features with actors pretending to be straight Plotting romantic conquests of actresses pretending not to know. Of course, it’s all Brigadoon now. Can’t live there anymore. You’d have to exhume it from Beneath all the malls And developments And food courts And tax-funded football pleasure domes. But you can damn well visit. Strap yourself in. Twist the key. Release the brake. Cue up “Come Fly With Me” on your audio device. Put the lever in “D.” Just… please... Whatever you do, Do not attempt this mystical majesty trip In some lozenge-shaped Mitzu-Nissa-Honna-Mazza-Baroo.