To many in the older set, it has become almost fashionable to ridicule the young “greasers” of hot rodding. The old farts snicker at the cuff jeans, roll their eyes at the pompadours, and complain about their cars. They taste disgust and spit it out with vigor in between sips of their own self righteousness. They are, after all, older and more experienced… And everyone should know what they know and if they don’t, they damn well better show the respect deserved to those that actually do.
“We didn’t dress like that back in my day. Who are they copying?”
“Our cars didn’t look like that. We actually took pride in them!”
“That kid will never understand…”
Meanwhile, these old farts bask in their perceived fountain of youth. They take pride in the fact that they are still out in the garage… still hot rodding… still “getting it.” After all these years, they still have it.
Or do they?
I had a great conversation this weekend with a hero of ours. He’s 89 years old and one of the forefathers of hot rodding. I first met him when I was 19 years old and had more grease in my hair than in the my rear axle. Since, I’ve “grown up” and become more respectable. I think the last time we met up, I was wearing cowboy boots and a polo. I always have the feeling he is measuring me up… checking my maturity against my age and experience.
I finally broke down and asked him, “What in the hell did you think of me 16 years ago?”
“I loved you, because you lacked inhibition. You dressed like a hot rodder from the 50’s… sort of… You wore what you were on your sleeve. That was a big part of hot rodding when I grew up. We were dumb kids just like you.”
Of course, I’ve never seen our hero in anything other than khakis, a tucked in button down, and white old man “walking” shoes. For the life of me, I can’t see him as anything other than a legend. I can’t see him as some dumb shit kid in cuffed jeans. I can’t see him with grease in his hair.
“As you get older, you lose the energy it takes to wear everything on your sleeve. I’m too busy worrying about my colon to go shopping for a pair a jeans. Plus, I’m an old man. I would look ridiculous with grease in my hair.”
“Some old guys get resentful that they aren’t a young man anymore. Naturally, they take this out on the kids. Other’s get wishful. I guess I’m the latter. I just appreciate that there are young guys around that share the same lack of sensibility that I did as a kid. It makes me think that this world of ours is gonna be just fine when I’m gone.”
The conversation pretty much ended there. Our hero had to go take a leak. But he closed with a quote that I’m gonna keep in my wallet, “Pure Hot Rodding is not ageless. It’s a kid’s game. Once we get older, all we can do is try emulate how we were (and what we were doing) when we were younger. It’s still one of the best joys in life, but it will never be like it was when we were kids. Kids, and all of their perceived stupidity and genius, are hot rodding.”
I don’t ever want to grow up fellas…