Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 76 – TWO CATS
My driving is like gentle skating or swimming through the hills and valleys beneath Vermont’s friendly mountains. Past many well-kept dairy cows and a few goats and horses, alongside clear streams and rivers, and through Christmas card white clapboard villages with village greens containing bandstands, sometimes with young guitar players doing sixties protest or peace and love songs still in this summer of 1986, this time that makes me feel I am, for maybe the first time, coming alive, though doing it in what to others, not me, might be middle age. Here so far from the exotic and erotic and chancy places on other continents that I had thought gave me definition and therefore an identity far removed from where I had started out – which was across the border in the stark, sometimes green and warm, more often blue-black and cold White Mountains of New Hampshire.
I am traveling in my lighthearted Aqua Mustang that I recently bought on a whim – the first car I have owned rather than rented since my old Humber in 1969 in Singapore, which closely followed my old tank-like green Rover in Bangkok. And now, of all things, a Mustang.
A group of us had gone out to the 1964 World’s Fair where we laughed at the dowdy mid-America things on display there – like Disney’s mechanical Honest Abe and an exhibit glorifying America's capitalist telephone company. And this led into what we thought of the new Ford Mustang model, which we saw as having been designed to take advantage of people mired in no-risk middle class convention who sadly want to think of themselves as sports car drivers.
But 20 years later I am a Mustang owner and yes, it does feel safe, for the dangerous time travel which I plan. I am plunging subjectively and then literally into deep past places to find out, first, why I have been so attracted all my life to life-threatening matters, and, second, to why my peers in the seemingly Victorian-safe family I came from had sunk or were sinking into unexamined life stories of death and molestation.
As I drive I see certain changes in unchanging northern New England, such as that the more prosperous Vermont farms no longer have the old picturesque elongated wooden barrel-type silos but now have shiny dark blue silos made of what appears to be Plexiglas. And I am started to hear in my head the voice of my twin brother, who took over the last of the big old family houses across the border and is probably there right now with his intensely Anglo wife, this brother who had roamed on orders from the CIA and tricky Defense Department agencies in some of the very places where I, in opposition, had sometimes been underground and/or under death threat. He is telling me what I can see for myself – telling me that it is not real unless he is the one doing the telling.
And then I smile, as I am doing often when alone this summer, smile maybe to keep from weeping. I think of how after college when my brother and I were conclusively away from suburban Connecticut, my parents had begun raising two gray kittens, which they named, and treated as, Good Cat and Bad Cat. After Good Cat was run over they talked of how unfair and unfitting it was that Bad Cat was the one who survived.
Telling about the cats had early this year added to my popularity as I talked before one of those groups of people who like me were on the hunt for what had happened to them as children. The Good Cat-Bad Cat story got laughter that rose and fell, and rose again, and blended into applause in a big dark medical conference room on Seventh Avenue that felt like a place of worship.