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Dream driving in a '54 Chevy

In a slightly discomfiting dream last night, I was pressuring local automobile salvage yards to disclose in which row they had my 1954 Chevy. Although the Freudian interpretations of this dream aren't clear to me, perhaps they will be to some of you readers.

Freud, of course, interpreted dreams almost always in terms of frustration at discovering as a child that your mother loved your father more, or something like that. Exactly what all that has to do with a '54 Chevy escapes me. Perhaps it is nothing more than the fact that the car we are driving now is never as good as the car we used to have and wished we'd kept and look how much it would be worth now.

We conveniently choose to forget the rust in the rocker panels, the ignition system that refused to start when it rained outside, or the heater that froze your feet off. That points out one of the nice things about being human: we often emphasize the positive when we're viewing our back trail.

Maybe looking for my old car in that dream is a different kind of college post traumatic stress disorder. As any of you who have attended college for any length of time often share with me, we have dreams about not being able to find THAT class, that physics, or math, or English class, and if we don't, we're going to ... going to ... well, going to do what, isn't really clear, but we know it's bad. Whatever it is.

Not being able to find that '54 Chevy, which I drove to college, may be a transmutation of that old stress. I know that in the dream I was very persistent with those junk yard owners. I was sure they had it and, because it was suddenly so valuable, wouldn't tell me where it was.

In fact, since there was alternate sides-of-the-street parking in the college town back then, there were many occasions when I couldn't find my car back then, either. With having to change sides of the street, parking rights were fluid, which led to parking all over. To find it, I became quite expert at setting up grids, and eliminating whole blocks while searching.

It almost seems to me that I did not sell that car to a cousin when I went to Vietnam; that it is still parked on the opposite side of some street, in some town, in some parallel time dimension. The parallel me is probably looking for it there.

It was a nice Chevy. I had painted it metal flake grey myself, rebuilt the engine myself, added enough speed equipment and low back pressure mufflers (pair of 10-inch Thrushes, for those of you in the know), 3/4 grind cam, etc. It went fast, fast.

Oh sure, not fast like cars shortly after the 1950s went fast. It's hard to beat a '69 Camaro, 400-hp 350, but where's the fun in ordering something, compared to doing it yourself.

I picked up Paula in Cedar Rapids when she got off her nursing shift at midnight, and took off for Ottumwa, Iowa, which is about 125 miles to the south, through the hills of southern Iowa. I liked to run that at night, figuring the highway patrol would be a little less likely to care.

I turned south out in the country at a wooded intersection, and, knowing the road ahead was straight, opened that Chevy up. Of course I had messed with the gears enough that the speedometer hadn't read correctly in a long time, but at a guess, I was going around 110 mph. Tearing up those hills. Up. Down. Up. Down. They came fast.

I looked behind me, and saw some one else tearing up those hills. Up. Down. Up. Down. The chances of another nut case in a '54 Chevy like me being out weren't that good, so it meant a highway patrol.

The hills meant he couldn't get radar on me. But the Chevy began to overheat, and finally, I had to slow down, at which point he caught me and pulled me over.

He walked up to me and said: "You know that '58 Ford you passed back there?"

Oh, sure, I said, that slow poke?

"Uh, huh," he replied, "he was going 85. I'll get him in a minute. Would you step out of the car and open up the hood, please?" Open up the hood? Those twin Offenhauser carbs were leaking gas like a pipeline rupture, and the dual exhaust was belching big blue smoke rings, but out of the car? This wasn't on the driving test.

I opened up the hood. The Chevy was rocking back and forth. I didn't dare shut it off, knowing I wouldn't be able to get it started again, hot as it was.

"OK," he said to me, "I used to own one of these. How in heck did you get it to go this fast?"

So I told him. He was impressed.

"You know I couldn't get my radar on you, right?

Oh, too bad, I thought to myself, but I nodded, acted innocent.

"But I'm going to give you a warning." And with that, the '58 Ford came over the hill, and off he went.

I hope, in that parallel dimension, he can't catch me.