I Want my Kid to Catch on Fire

Looking back on it, I owe a lot to the February, 1981 issue of Motor Trend.

Motor_Trend_Magazine-1981-February
I
 had just turned twelve. As a homeschooled sixth-grader I had perfected the art of doing as little as possible while still more-or-less keeping up with assignments. Literature and social sciences did nothing for me. Math? Let’s not get started on math.

I was wallowing.

Scratch that: I was sinking.

Then, I found that my mom had subscribed me (probably through Publisher’s Clearing House) to Motor Trend. One day the mail brought the issue in the picture above.

And my life would never be the same.

I read every article, every ad, and every letter to the editor. I memorized every specification of every car reviewed. I jotted down notes. I made a trip the the local library to dig into past issues. I started reading other car rags, giving them the same studious attention.

I was on fire.

Suddenly, it all made sense–all of the scholarly subjects. My vocabulary started growing because I wanted to understand the shadings of grown-up words. Articles on the United Auto Workers made me curious about unions and why they mattered. I wanted to know what a government-backed bailout was. Math suddenly seemed valuable. If I wanted to figure what gear ratio would be necessary to make a ’68 Camaro with a blown 427 top 200 MPH, I needed to know math. That. . . that. . . was what math was for!

But my inquiry didn’t stay isolated the world of cars. No! Soon, I started reading everything I could. Everything related back to the automotive world in some way.  Dante’s rings of hell obviously had inspired the design of the engine mounts on a Euro-market 1983 Ford Sierra. What other remote associations could I find? I needed to know more. I could sense my mind engaging like a set of straight-cut gears in a NASCAR Monte Carlo. It was all go go GO!

And in the background: Always the voice telling me that I really wanted a car so I could get away from my parents and never, ever look back.

But see, these were all good things. After years of blaise noodling over one topic or another, I had finally found something that lit me up like firecracker. It happened to come in the form of a magazine dedicated to reviews of the exciting new Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I’ve learned not to judge, and neither should you. The point is that it happened. Here we are. Motor Trend got me through high school and at least into college. I can’t fathom what a diagram showing the associations made from that one magazine might look like.

So now I have a kid who’s eight. He’s a lot like I was at his age: curious but unfocused; clever but not determined.

And I keep waiting for something to catch him on fire.

* * * * *

I suppose some could have foreseen that a 12-year-old gearhead would end up writing a book with a truck in the title. Pick up my debut novel Eye of the Diamond-T  HERE. It’s about a lot more than trucks, obviously.

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