“On this earth there are, in truth, so many new experiences that I desire but rarely to live over any part of my past life, not even the happiest moments of the finest hours I have known.”—Edwin Way Teale
Edwin Way Teale was a naturalist who wrote a series of books on the American seasons. While I’m not interested in the scientific names of flora or fauna and am a dilettante to most things natural, I own Teale’s entire series, simply for his musical prose and admirable attitudes toward living. I reflect on the statement above whenever I ruminate on my youth. In truth, I’ve evolved rather than changed in any appreciable way, so although my 19-year-old self was a few percent more self-righteous and intractable for no reason, his interests and demeanor were much the same. He was also inclined to pull over when he saw a car for sale on the side of the road. The jury’s out on whether he wrote about himself in the third person.
One day in 1996, my dad and I were out on an errand. He was driving my sister’s ’89 Probe for some reason, and I was a passenger on a mild October evening, one that reminded me of those old commercials for Andy Griffith gospel albums, where Sheriff Taylor’s golden voice shone through those wispy clouds before the sky went dark. Parked in the shadows on the north side of the busiest road in town was a battleship gray 1960 Lincoln. I don’t remember if it was a Premiere or not, but I’m certain I startled Dad into pulling off the road to look.
A hand-written sign in the windshield told me that I could have it for a thousand dollars. It sat on four flat tires. The air cleaner was on the seat. It smelled like the basement of my hundred-year-old house during those seasons where neither the furnace nor the air conditioning are running, but it didn’t matter because the owner might as well have been asking for 40 gold sovereigns in exchange for their monolithic Lincoln. Dad and I looked it over for probably 10 minutes, and I certainly would have fallen silent in extreme focus, just as I still do when I’m contemplating bad decisions.
Oddly, I’ve never gotten over that Lincoln, although I have no real desire to actually own one these days. One dreamlike image is still clear in my mind: I’m driving the Lincoln on a fall evening, I-75 South, the far right lane, windows up because there’s a chill in the air. I’m not speeding, not in any hurry. The sun is going down. Andy Griffith clouds. At the time I first saw the Lincoln, I was exploring the Beatles’ later catalog, and my favorite song from Abbey Road was “Sun King.” That quiet opening guitar is playing on the radio.
It wasn’t until later on that I realized that “Sun King” was an homage to a song that is perhaps even greater, “Albatross” by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Unlike Fleetwood Mac’s lineup, my taste in cars has not appreciably changed over the last 25 years. I’ve added some new models to the list, but I would like now the things I liked then. On the other hand, even at 19, I had no misgivings about the Lincoln – it was a neglected version of a car that many love to hate. If I hadn’t seen it on the side of the road, I wouldn’t have entertained actual ownership at all.
Which doesn’t matter. I’ve bought too many old cars to regret the ones I missed out on (OK, maybe not the ’65 Catalina or the FIVE early Rivieras that have sent me home empty handed). With that being said, if I come across the same 1960 Lincoln with a thousand dollar price tag on it, there is a 100-percent chance it’s coming home with me. I may not want to go back, and I may not have anywhere to put the largest unibody car ever made, but one must learn from the late, great Mr. Teale. There are so many new experiences, even when the dreams are familiar.
Thanks to AGuyinVancouver for the pictures on the Cohort.