The Mustangs in My Life

In High School in the 80’s, for one magical summer, I had a girlfriend who was the hottest girl at school. But this wasn’t all (nor enough), she was also the sweetest girl with a genuine heart of gold. She was my first love. She also had a 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang. It was maroon. We’d take drives around Grenada, MS… go to the lake, and life was good. This is when my love affair with the Mustang began.

In 1993 I bought a 1966 Mustang. It was Sunburst Yellow and had a 289 in it. I was a good F/A-18 electrician, but didn’t know anything about cars. I had to learn. I was always adjusting the timing, tinkering with the carburetor, or something. I had a stack of manuals and diagrams, tools and fluids. Due to a bad oil pump, the engine was destroyed while on the famous ‘Orange Crush’ north of Irvine as I was on my way to see the Chicago Bears play against the LosAngeles Rams. Never made it to the game. Dead engine. I ended up replacing it with a Boss 302. Summer of 94 I got out of the Marines and was now a civilian in SoCal and I was loving life. I’d drive my beloved car around the beaches and mountains and have a blast. I started to learn what it was to go out on dates, and was doing things that I never really did while in the Marines and traveling around all the time, living out of a seabag.

Due to a series of events, job loss, roommate leaving in the middle of the night, brakes going out, and more, I had to tuck my tail between my legs and return home to Arkansas. I did not like leaving my car back in Irvine. But my plan was to have a buddy put it in his brother’s shop while I was back getting my shit together in Arkansas. It was a supreme heartbreak when I received a letter from the City of Irvine stating that they had seized the vehicle (flat tires are apparently enough to seize the car) and would auction it off to the highest bidder. The respond-by date had already came and went by the time I got the letter. Therefore if there is a major apocalypse and Irvine falls into the ocean, I will be drinking a beer in Oregon, watching the t.v., and smiling my ass off. I hate Irvine.

Fast forward  twenty years. Those twenty years has seen me struggle in a variety of ways. I’ve been to war, been homeless, had battlefield stress, too many broken hearts to keep count, two close calls with suicide, moved to three states, four universities, two community colleges before I finally got my degree in Philosophy and Psychology, lots of different jobs, going hungry, fighting for my principles, making concessions, and more. So it was that I had a small little Range pick-up truck and put it in the shop for work. The loaner car was a 2013 Mustang. Driving it the weekend, I fell in love with that car. Over the past three years I’ve driven a lot of cars, mostly the economy types (Prius, Corollas, Taurus, etc…) and I never had fun driving any of them. Driving this mustang, it felt different. The seats, the feel on the road, everything. When I came back, I made a trade for the car I had driven over the weekend.  She’s mine… her name is Marilyn.

You can’t beat driving this car. It isn’t the fastest, though it’s got guts. It isn’t the most responsive, though it can hug a corner plenty well.  But it glides down the road, it purrs enough without trying to sound brash.  I enjoy the hell out of it. It is a convertible and the rules are ‘if it is 50 degree or above, and it isn’t raining, the top comes down’.  I’ve driven to the office, picked up a company car, drive 5 hours to give training, turn around and drive back, bone tired and weary, and as soon as I sit in my Mustang, it melts away. It’s all good.

Sometimes I do get impatient in traffic, but they are rare. Most of the time I must simply remind myself of where I am at, pay attention to the sensations I am having. It feels great. I love the drive. And if it is a sunny day and I’ve been cooped up all day, I may go out for a cup of coffee, taking the long route, just to drive. Yes, it is that fun.

As soon as I got it, I started getting jokes from some people. I was the 43 year-old who got a Mustang. I must be having a midlife crisis. On the contrary, I am gaining clarity every day. I am healthier now than I was ten years ago. I am in better shape emotionally, physically, spiritually than I was five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. I am not trying to hold on to any shifting identity, I am becoming more fully who I am.

Today I was talking with someone on my plans to apply for graduate school. This supervisor told me that “I believe you were born to have a PhD and do great things with it”. I’m not sure if I subscribe to such an idea as that. I only see the increase in knowledge and doorways to create, learn, explore. I cannot shake the feeling that I hold an egg, and inside it is a secret, a mystery, if only I’d tap it open. While telling this person of my plan to apply for grad school, I was asked how I was going to pay for it. Well, student loans, but also any small work I could find that is allowable. I said that I’d find my pets new and better homes, I’d move in a small, crappy studio, I’d sell my Mustang and ride a bike. I’d do what it takes to get through school. I’ve got shit to do.

This is the truth. I would sell my car. I love it dearly, driving at sunset in the mountains, on an early foggy morning, whipping down a winding road, but it is a tool among tools, for being in this world. It helps, but I am no dependent upon it. And if I do sell it, perhaps in another twenty years I’ll be 65 years old and will get the new 2035 Mustang.

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