I feel like I might have misrepresented myself a bit in the last article. Both Mr. Regular and myself loved the New York International Auto Show. It was sensory overload taken to its logical conclusion: a hyperventilating, aggressive enthusiasm about cars you've never gotten to touch before.
The sights, the sounds, the lights, the well-ventilated showrooms and spacious media center where I could have sat and gotten some writing done if I wasn't terrified that the entire show would disappear if I stopped for five minutes, as if it were some kind of illusion that required constant immersion to maintain. There was a fearsome, daunting symmetry to the Auto Show. Everything was where it belonged.
Well, except for Mr. Regular and myself, as we both felt a penetrating sense of unworthiness.
"Jesus, guys, it's just a car show. Anybody could buy a ticket."I know, I know. But it's still hard not to feel the widening chasm between what's earned and what's deserved. We make silly YouTube videos, and we're still kind of stunned that anybody actually likes them, since we're just two guys from Pennsylvania doing a bunch of shit we find funny, irrespective of whether or not anyone else finds it funny – or particularly didactic. Of course, we still spend a great deal of time taking our fans into consideration, listening to suggestions and requests, along with the criticisms, and mulling over the strangeness that we even have such a thing as fans. I'm sure we'll get over this at some point, but as of the New York International Auto Show, we were still coming to terms with the sudden flush that we were there. That these silly YouTube videos got us press passes. So forgive me if some of my early impressions were caked with a kind of skittish enthusiasm and overeager desire to jot down every thought and whim.
I don't really have much more to say that Mr. Regular doesn't cover in the video up top, or that I didn't cover in the last article. But I do feel it incumbent upon myself to make note of a few more oddities from the Auto Show:
-The new Toyota RAV4 is a LifeTime Fitness Triathlon-themed model. It's essentially the official car of both Weekend Warriors and dedicated gym rats who never miss leg day. (And God bless'em, because they're all in far better shape than I'll ever be) It's a car co-designed by The Motorsports Technical Center in Torrance, CA, and it appears to have been put on this Earth to be a sort of Batmobile for triathletes of all shades: there's a 5-gallon fresh water tank for hot showers, a washer and spin dryer, and more pockets than a pool hall, all for the storage of your many fitness-related excesses. You can also get a shiatsu massage from the front seat while reviewing your race stats from the integrated iPad, because all of these things are presumably far more interesting than actually driving the vehicle. It's a lot like one of those Super Wal-Marts, where if you were to get locked inside, you'd presumably have everything you'd need to form a makeshift shanty town inside (a bank, a Subway, a hair and nail salon, a portrait studio for tacky Easter photos, and an inexhaustible supply of sheets and comforters for when you make the display beds in 7A unspeakable).
It's the kind of vehicle that sounds amazing, in theory. And maybe it's remarkable, in practice. But aren't there any other automotive advancements to be made before we start tailoring vehicles to the needs of the triathlete? The new RAV4 is sponsored less by LifeTime Fitness than by First World Problems. It's the automotive version of listening to a college sophomore rant about wage gap and the evils of corporate capitalism. To me, it's all just a tiresome melange of suburban gratification, stylized for consumption by a middle class that no longer exists. (Which probably makes me the college sophomore then.)
-If I can be a complete whore for a minute, I found myself deeply enamored with the 2015 Dodge Challenger. A supercharged 6.2-liter V8 and a possible 500hp, as if designed solely to bring clouds into existence. It struck me as the polar opposite of the new RAV4. The RAV4 is that guy at the dinner party who refuses to forgive the host for barging into his house and nutting all over his first editions. Yet, while he's well within his rights to hold a grudge, he still comes to the party anyway out of some misshapen idea that this somehow makes him the better man, when a better man would have just ditched such a person from his life in the first place. I suppose what I'm saying is that the RAV4 seems stuffy and self-important, while the Challenger comes across as two tons of Don't Give A Fuck approaching sentience.
-The Blipshift party was kind of terrific, save for the occasional oddity. Trash disappeared despite no apparent trash cans in existence. And while some of the music was good, it was louder than the belligerence of a parent who blames the teacher for her lousy kid's lousier grades. (I mean, really, nobody was listening to the music at all, which I suppose was a shame, because BOWIE). If I'm going to be in a place where I can't hear what anyone is saying, I'd rather it be because of the cars than the music, so Mr. Regular and myself went outside to give Raphael Orlove's Baja Bug a go.
Immediately, we were gridlocked in the visual representation of an Upton Sinclair novel: the threatening, mysterious inner city, awash in the complexities of an industrial age, where average schmucks like us would never find a foothold because we'd either be mistaken for tourists, criminals, or both, because nobody can be that guileless and naive unless they're up to something.
Now, I'd long been of the belief that body and mechanical mods were made to your average, stock VW Bug in order to pube it up, and make it manly enough to handle off-road environments. So why throw this thing into the urban jungle? I didn't really get it at the time. Never mind that the Bug itself was held together with duct tape, Big League Chew, and a Facebook prayer circle.
But, naturally, that's what made it beautiful. Because character is beautiful. And increasingly rare.
I feel as though a lot of the character has been lost in current automobiles. It just feels like many vehicles today are reduced to generic versions of the demographics they're meant to represent. We used to speak for cars, not the other way around. Yet here we are in an age where the cars, and car companies, are telling us what we want, irrespective of whether or not it was something we were even asking for. Give me bench seats, control knobs, and other things that seem simple, redundant, or needlessly basic. I'll take the artless over the on-board computer or integrated iPads any day. Hell, give me automatic transmission if the alternative is the futuristic possibility of autonomous cars.
Getting rumbled into a fine paste on the streets of Manhattan, I found a kind of glorious simplicity in his Bug. And peace in the knowledge that the more things change, the more things stay the same.