Sunday, August 21, 2016

Now and Zen

Cue Todd Rundgren's "We Gotta Get You a Woman" to set the scene (which, incidentally, the DJ did play).

Now imagine a field full of vintage Volkswagens, mostly Beetles, but rounded out by dune buggies, campers, Rabbits and, amazingly enough, the front of two Cabriolets welded together so there were two separate front seats/dashboards/steering wheels/hoods, each facing the opposite direction.

Crazy, man.

As you might guess, I didn't find this land of the mellow anywhere near home, but somewhere out in Henrico County that took  me deep into the land of endless planned communities, mega churches that gleamed with newness and high schools on steroids: Twin Hickory Park.

But I'll come clean here: I'd have driven in any direction for Bugstock 2: Deja Vu.

My youth was completely in bed with the German car makers, meaning I went in hopes of seeing Bugs of my past. And did I ever.

There was an eye shadow blue '70 Karmann Ghia, impossibly shiny and pristine, that reminded me of my first boyfriend's father's car. His Dad was a writer, a glamorous profession in my eyes, but he was also a populist, so it only seemed right that he drove a sporty car of the people, albeit a more sedate mustard yellow.

A VW Bus with louvered windows, a Humphrey/Muskie bumper sticker (1968, kids, look it up) and another that read, "!Just go around!" brought back that week after my car died and before I bought another, during which a friend loaned me his Bus. I loved the high perch, but always felt like I was going to topple on curves.

It was weird sticking my head into a mint green 1966 Beetle, only to get a noseful of new leather (pleather?) instead of the requisite vaguely moldy smell that every VW I ever owned (there were four) and every VW I ever rode in (too many to count) wafted from deep in its leaky recesses.

While Jefferson Airplane played, I admired a bright red '70 Beetle, the same color as my boyfriend's Bug, the car I learned to drive on. Or, more accurately, the car I learned to pop the clutch on coasting downhill.

Whatever works.

The Bug owners at Bugstock 2 were into it, with lots of vintage luggage (my favorite was three matched red leather suitcases atop a roof rack), lunch baskets - both wicker and red plaid - and thermoses (think Coleman, Vagabond and, yes, Thermos brand) inside and on top.

Tied for most surprising to me were a '68 VW Woody with a back window that looked like a ship's window (VW made Woodys? Where was I?) and a tan'57 Beetle sedan with a metal tube-like "thermador car cooler" attached to the passenger window. A fellow Bug fan informed me it was a primitive air conditioning device.

Most disjointed was seeing a 2016 Jetta, so far removed from my five-speed '84 Jetta as to be completely unrecognizable. One of the rarer cars was a '67 red convertible Cabriolet because VW had only made that particular model that year.

And, then, cue singing angels, like Venus rising from a clam shell, there she was. My car.

Well, not my car exactly, but a '66 blue Beetle identical to the one I'd bought for $600 (financed through my local Citizens Bank of Maryland), driven with abandon, with the same windshield where I'd discovered anonymous poetry and mash notes and then mourned when it was cruelly stolen from my apartment parking lot.

Except the one today was way shinier and better kept-up than mine had ever been.

I couldn't help but communicate my excitement to the owner, who completely understood because his first car had also been a blue '66 Bug, hence the purchase. When I commented about some of the new car smell VWs I'd been disappointed by, he chuckled and said, "If you're into moldy car smells, stick your nose in there."

Into? Well, not into, just...deep breath, ahhhh, yes, that's the ticket.

I told him that part of the reason for the damp smell in my VW had been the green metal window box full of plants I grew in the well behind the back seats, using the back window like a greenhouse. Pretty groovy, eh?

Let's just say he was impressed. "You don't look like you were from the Flower Child era," he said. We bought our Bugs a year apart, it turns out. I could drive this car blindfolded, I assured him. Know all the parts.

Kindred souls about the car that shaped us both, we just kept walking around it and discussing all the memories. Really, I was trying to walk away, but it was hard. Finally, I pulled out my digital camera and asked him to take a picture of me in front of my youth.

"Oh, wow, one of these!" he exclaimed as if I'd just pulled out a Brownie camera. He couldn't make it work, so instead he offered to use his phone. Feeling nervy, I asked if I could sit in the driver's seat for the photo.

Just as he's setting up the shot, a woman walks by and says, "That's going to be a great picture. It looks like a magazine cover the way her shirt matches her lipstick in that blue car!" My only regret was that my new cut-offs (the first I've worn since that era) were inside the car.

He took a couple while I got reacquainted with the angle of my arm and hand on the gearshift and the all too familiar dash board.

Sliding out with the muscle memory of youth, I thought it was finally time to introduce myself given his kindness, offer up my email so he could send me the pictures and thank him profusely for making my day.

His face lit up. "My wife had something else going on today, so I'm going to show her this and say, look what happens when you're not here," he joked. I hope she laughs and I hope he sends me the photos.

My parting shot was reminding him that my stolen blue Bug could have had a crazy life before ending up being restored and sold to him three years ago and wouldn't that be seriously poetic?

Kind of like time traveling to the '70s, going to a park in your cut-offs and rediscovering a relic of your youth.

You have no idea how much I can dig it.


  1. Karen,

    Thanks for adding beauty to my Bug,

  2. Thanks for letting me hit on your car, Don!

  3. That is so cool that you got to grow up during the era when the Beetle was first making an appearance. What a classic car. It is one of my favorites and one of my dream cars, the 1970's version that is. I really enjoyed reading this, I hope someday to get to try one out!