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May 2013 Dr. Vern - Editorial

Posted in Features on May 1, 2013
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Contributors: Jp ArchivesDr. Vern
Photographers: Jp Archives

You never forget your first time, do you? Years later, the euphoria still lingers. (Editor’s note: I sure remember my first time. I was young, it was late at night, I was all alone...) (Author’s note: I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about buying your first Jeep.) (Editor’s note: Oops, that was embarrassing.) (Author’s note: Can I get back to my story now?) (Editor’s note: Sorry, that was awkward.) It’s strange how memories seem to work. I can barely remember important things like my wife’s birthday, but my long-term memory banks are chock full of useless info, such as my locker combination from junior high. But one thing I’ll never forget is the excitement of buying that first Jeep.

Sounds, scents, and other details all form memories. A pleasant aroma, for example might remind you of Mom’s cooking. Memories aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, though. I’d be fine if never reminded of certain dark times in our nation’s history, such as 1973 and the Watergate scandal. Same goes for 1990, when ALF went off the air. But 1976 is a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s when a favorite song was released, but unfortunately it’s also when Michael McDonald joined (and eventually ruined) the Doobie Brothers. Long-time Jp readers know to stay tuned when I wander off-course, but I’m usually able to stitch it all back together by the last paragraph, so please bear with me.

Now back to my first Jeep from years ago. It was titled as a ’53 Willys wagon, but the seller was upfront that only the title, frame, and a few miscellaneous parts were original. The original body had long succumbed to the ravages of time, but a newer, rust-free body had been grafted to the older frame. From the first test drive, I was hooked. All that remained was the terrifying freeway drive home.

I may not be the world’s bravest man, but I’m getting better. One instance still haunts me from long ago. Wife 1.0 asked if her new outfit made her bottom look fat. I panicked and tried feigning my own death, which got me out of answering but still landed me in hot water. Now that I think about it, the perfect time to revisit and finally answer the question would have been years later when hauled into divorce court. Why then? Well, the poor court recorder is legally obligated to transcribe everything for the public record. If you’re going to get cleaned out in court anyway, you may as well get your money’s worth.

I know, I know, I’ve got to steer myself back onto subject. Bravery with a side of Jeeps, wasn’t it? Taking an obsolete piece of early American history and piloting it onto a modern highway is another one of those occasions calling for unbridled courage. Imagine how nervous I was that first time, gripping that oversized steering wheel while those ancient bald tires locked sabers with the ruts on the freeway.

To add to my fears, this old Jeep wasn’t exactly street legal at the time. Mechanically it may have barely passed muster, but not per the paperwork standards established by our friends at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Having cleaned out my meager bank account to cover the purchase price, I drove home on expired plates and skipped the mandatory trip permit. Last I checked, you don’t actually get thrown in jail for stuff like that unless you specifically request it, but it was quite nerve-wracking to think of the hefty fine and impound fee waiting for me if caught.

Here’s a helpful hint, whether robbing banks or simply driving with expired plates. It’s easy to blend into the crowd when behind the wheel of an econobox sedan at prevailing speed on the freeway. Let’s just say you’re a bit more noticeable with a rare and distinctive vehicle that’s holding up traffic. I turned on the radio to help relax and attempted to scrounge a shred of enjoyment from my new, but blatantly illegal, attention-getter.

That was the first time I heard what was to become a favorite song. It would be cool to tell you the song was by some obscure but well-respected group, and I’d have powerful bragging rights to have been a fan way back when. I would be better than everybody else and wouldn’t even have to buy a Prius. But alas, it was just a B-side called “For Someone Special” by the Doobie Brothers. They were near the peak of their fame at the time, long before the inevitable slide towards the state fair/casino circuit as experienced by most bands that have been around a while.

The song was different because the bass player wrote it and sang lead vocals. Singers and lead guitarists get all the glory, while lowly bass players are often the butt of jokes. Poor guys, they’re sort of the magazine editors of their profession, but the song is hauntingly beautiful nonetheless. The ever-present “Music From When You Were Happy” stations won’t touch the song because it was never a hit, so it’s only heard once in a blue moon on other stations. On those rare occasions when I hear it, I’m once again that skinny kid nervously scanning the rear view mirror for flashing lights, and I can’t help but smile. With any luck, years from now you’ll remember something from one of my columns and will crack that same smile, too.

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