Hot Rods & Houses

Well I know we're different and this might sound heavy but I'm thinkin' on a Ford and baby you're a Chevy...Can't you tell by the way I been bumpin' your bumper that I'm followin' close tryin' to be your lover? Ain't gonna hurt ya honey, that's what a bumper is for.

-Bottle Rockets

I love it when my friends do things where my expertise exceeds theirs and I get an opportunity to show off and play the wizened pro.

It happens so seldom that I relish it when I can (my conversational skills are pretty well limited to big dogs, big trucks, big old houses, and military history.)

Since my scope of interests are so narrow, I easily get my feelings hurt if someone proceeds in one of these areas without consulting me.

Like, if you wanted to buy a muscle car (or maybe, a farm implement), for example, I would be offended if you didn't invite me along for guidance.

I spent many of my formative years, reclining on a dolly underneath my Uncle's 442.

In fact, one of the very few fantasies I have in life is to get rich enough to buy and restore a 1967 Shelby GT 500 (the year they put a 428 cubic inch engine in a modified Mustang chassis...because bigger is better).

(I also need to be rich enough to have a garage with electricity, where I can store all my welding gear.)

I would wager that I am the only 36-year-old single woman in town who fell asleep with the TV on the other night and sat BOLT upright in bed at around 4 a.m...because I heard Carroll Shelby's voice on an infomercial. (And maybe there's a correlation.)

I'm not proud of this, but I sat there and watched the whole thing (though he was only on for a few minutes).

Turns out, he's endorsing this product called, I think, Zmax™.

While I'm saddened that the father of the muscle car is now doing infomercials, I still plan to rush right out and buy this stuff.

I might end up using it to shave my legs or something (I was too sleepy to really pay much attention to what the product is designed for, but if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.)

Hey, some chicks pay attention if, say, they hear Brad Pitt on late-night cable, but for me, it's Carroll Shelby.

Tubular crossmembers and twin-piston vented discs? Aluminum block and head engines. A set of sticky skins...Well, don't get me started.

And don't get me wrong, I would never watch racing as a sport. (In fact, I don't even think it is a sportlet the hate mail begin.) You couldn't get me to walk across the street to see them lap Woodland Park at 500 mph. As far as I'm concerned, that's just traffic.

It's the cars themselves I love. I don't trust anyone who hasn't had grease under their fingernails at some point in their lives.

Oh sure, right now I drive a seventeen foot long; six and a half foot tall, three ton behemoth, equipped with 230 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque - and I readily admit that its sheer size lends me a certain sense of security. But one day, I'll have enough money for a real midlife crisis, and it will involve a sports car.

Till then, I have to content myself with research and fantasies.

Gaining expertise and knowledge of old houses, on the other hand, was a far more painful, hands-on experience.

At first, I got ripped off a lot. I paid for every remodeling job an average of 3.8 times. Unscrupulous contractors were parachuting into my driveway (with their parole officers hot on their heels), before I finally wised up and started learning to do things for myself.

Now, I either know how to do it, or, at a minimum, I know the person who'll do it the best, for less.

I also know which things should ALWAYS be left to professionals. (If you wouldn't perform brain surgery on yourself, why would you attempt to sand your floors? Either one will cost you more in the long run. Sure, in both cases, you can probably rent the equipment, but that doesn't mean you should. You can also buy hair color in a bottle, but that doesn't make it a good idea.)

I have developed some skills, however.

Like the other night, when I stopped by my buddy Rockford's and was promptly given a room to paint.

I enjoyed this to no end, because I got to disparage him at every turn (and usually, it's the other way around): his brand of paint (if you buy cheap paint, it will take three coats and three times the work, and you'll just have to repeat it a year later); his lack of appropriate accoutrements - the tape was an inch too narrow, and he didn't know to buy the webbing that goes in the paint tray and gives your roller a nice even coat. He'd never heard of Uhu (the product that you must have to clean up paint drips...and it'll even work the NEXT DAY). Worst of all, he started to roller before I'd even cut in the windows and fireplace. If you can imagine.

This is a guy who performs death-defying work every day at his job (not every day, really, but at least a few times a month), and yet he had absolutely no sense about how to properly care for a paintbrush in between coats.

I openly questioned his masculinity.

He, in turn, questioned mine.

When I saw that he actually had plywood foundation touching the ground in one spot, I promptly proclaimed the place a "deathtrap" (while I twirled around the backyard, until I made myself sick, spinning my brushes dry).

Although I had a great time, cursing and hammering and unscrewing things, I doubt my efforts were appreciated. In fact, by the end of the evening, one of his buddies asked, "just what branch of the service were you in anyway?"

I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

This just goes to buttress my argument that the things I'm good at are not things that a guy wants in a girl.

They're more like the things you'd want in, say, a longshoreman.