No Fixed Abode: The First Settlers
Across the vast and majestic gulf of time and space, the jimmies rustled not-so-softly when I published last week’s column on the reasons people choose crossovers. I was accused of persecuting everybody from innocent children to Fox Wolfie Galen. The author of the guest editorial to which my column was a reply claimed that no-platform me right off a site that I personally dragged from the abyss just two and a half years ago (with all of your help, of course). But seriously — I edited multiple news items for this site from a hospital bed a couple of hours after they cut out my spleen and this guy thinks I’m going to quit just to spare his delicate feelings.
Not that there wasn’t some intelligent, reasonable, principled opposition among the B&B to what I had to say, of course. Some of it resonated with me long after I put my laptop down for the day and picked up my bottle of Ketel One for the evening. I started to think about why people settle: for jobs, for spouses, for vacations — but most of all, why they settle for certain cars. Why have so many of us made the pansy-assed decision to buy something like a crossover? And why do so many of us feel the need to defend that decision to the Internet death?
A few hours later, as I unsteadily unbuttoned the blouse of a woman who was a toddler back when I started driving my father’s 733i, I asked myself: What if I took that easy contempt that I feel for crossover-driving single men and pointed that high-powered perception on myself, so to speak? When did I settle, and why did I do it?
The story really starts with my aforementioned father. Dad left college and volunteered for Vietnam out of some combination of boredom and malice, hung over there for a while, got some medals, caught a plane out of Saigon, and jumped back behind the wheel of his droptop Camaro RS 327. Not exactly a Ferrari Daytona, but the old man wasn’t really a car guy. A couple years later, he got married and had a son, who was me.
I’d like to tell you that Dad and I rolled around in that Camaro the way my son and I roll around in my 911, but the truth is that Mom pitched a fit about his “unsafe convertible” and made him trade it in for a brand-new orange Volvo sedan, which was extremely safe because it never ran long or well enough to acquire highway velocity.
Why’d he do it? Why’d he agree to get rid of his car? Why did we need to get a big, expensive Volvo just to cart me around? I was the size of a roast turkey. Dad wasn’t afraid of the Viet Cong or the NVA so I doubt he was afraid of my Mom. Rather, I suspect he thought he was doing the right thing by trading in his bitchin’ Camaro on a proper family mobile. Never mind that we lived in New York and barely drove anywhere. Never mind that he could have bought anything from a hardtop Camaro to a BMW 2002 to satisfy my crazy mom. He got the Volvo. It was part of settling down. And settling down always involves a bit of settling for, dontcha know.
Fast-forward thirty-some years. I’m married with no children, I have three Porsches and two Volkswagen Phaetons. But what I really want is:
- A Suzuki Hayabusa;
- A Ferrari 430, preferably in some sort of Scuderia trim.
I could have afforded both of those items, in the traditional white-trash sense of being able to make the monthly payments. I went to look at both of them. I thought about colors and specifications and equipment. Yet the years went on and I continued to not have a Hayabusa or a Ferrari.
My reasons for these non-purchases were nominally opposed but substantially identical. The Hayabusa, I told myself, was too unapologetically “zef” for a 34-year-old entrepreneur and semi-respectable suburbanite. The Ferrari, on the other hand, would have been aiming too high. I would have felt embarrassed to own a brand-new Ferrari while not having all the other things that you’re supposed to have in order to own a brand-new Ferrari: eight-figure net worth, private jet, corner office. I thought people would call me “fake rich” and other various sobriquets trotted out by the Internet any time somebody has the nerve to borrow money from a bank for a car that makes them truly happy. (Little did I know that the Internet would eventually evolve to the point that some incel nebbish could buy a used Ferrari and have an actual fanbase for having done so.) The wise and self-aware thing to do would have been to immediately buy both vehicles and subsequently extend a sincere middle finger to society as a whole. But I did no such thing.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I spent much of the “noughties” settling and giving in and giving up. I don’t want to oversell that aspect of my life: I still did a lot of club racing and binge drinking and Brioni shopping and stripper-banging. But I passively accepted a lot of things I didn’t like about my life, from the state of my marriage to my orthopedic surgeon’s refusal to give me a LARS ligament for my right knee so I could keep riding half-pipes on my BMX bike, because I thought that I was supposed to settle down and just accept what I didn’t like. I thought that was part of growing up.
It took a few bona fide tragedies, including a particularly unpleasant six-month period when three of my fellow racers died at events in which I was participating, to authentically revamp my approach to life. I stopped worrying about what was happening with my homeowners association, which lowered my blood pressure. I stopped worrying about whether I was “good enough” for various women and started just sleeping with them. I canceled my plans to buy some enormous 8,000-square-foot McMonstrosity because I stopped caring about what other people thought about my house. I stopped thinking about making money all the time, and as if by magic I stopped making real money. That part I kinda miss, to be honest.
Eventually I came to realize which restrictions and rules in my life were real and which were self-imposed bullshit. Examples: I need to work a job to pay my bills. But I don’t need a corporate career. I don’t want to be a corporate-career person. I need to look after my son. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t skip his birthday party to go to an awesome party in the desert with Millennial van girls. It does, however, mean that I’ll probably take him to Disney World out of guilt. When I ran TTAC, I knew that we needed to make numbers to stay alive. But I didn’t do slideshows or a bunch of Top 10 lists or Buzzfeed-style garbage, because I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.
I need to own a sensible car for me and my son. But it doesn’t have to have four doors, and it doesn’t have to be raised a foot off the fucking ground for no reason and it doesn’t have to look like a suppository for constipation relief. My car doesn’t need to be capable of carrying furniture. I buy furniture twice a year. I’ll have it delivered. My car doesn’t need to be capable of carrying six people. If I ever have a situation where I need to take six people somewhere, I’ll rent that car. My car does not need to shift itself or steer itself or apply its own brakes. I can do that myself. My car does not need to shield me from the world with a tank-turret beltline or tinted windows or some faux-imposing bluff-faced visage.
In last week’s column, I said that no authentic man has ever longed for a crossover. And some of you, predictably, tried to come up with exceptions, with which I will now summarily dispense. In particular, I want to discuss the Forester XT, because it came up more often than any other example. Sure, the Forester XT is great. You know what’s better? A Subaru STi. Why would you buy a Forester XT if you could have an STi? Let’s hear your explanation for that. Nah, forget it. I’ve already heard the excuse for getting an XT over an STi:
The Forester XT is, basically, the STi for men who are afraid of their wives. If you’re afraid of your wife, that’s your business, but don’t get all butthurt when I refuse to be the same way.
What about the AMG crossovers and whatnot? The same thing applies: it’s the henpecked variant of the C63 or SL-whatever. The Porsche Cayenne or Macan? Unless you’re towing your Club Racing 911 to Watkins Glen with the thing, I’m going to sit on my motorcycle and laugh at you in traffic. Do I like the Mazda CX-5? Absolutely. Would I rather have a proper Mazda sedan or hatchback? Of course.
I’m going to misquote Jules from Pulp Fiction here: They could make a CR-V that broke the sound barrier in second gear and laps the Nurburging in seven minutes flat, but I wouldn’t know, because I wouldn’t drive the filthy motha’ucka. Nobody’s going to make me own a crossover. Even though I have a child, and a girlfriend, and a house in the suburbs, and a job where they don’t let me wear a tank top to the office. If that makes me a caveman, or a reactionary, or a racist, or whatever other bad words you learned at Hugbox University, so be it.
But here’s the insight: Nobody can make you drive a crossover, either. They’re compromised vehicles, and you don’t need to compromise. Go get the car you want. Even if you can easily imagine a scenario that could possibly take place where you might theoretically use a crossover one day a year. It’s okay. It will work out. You’ll find a way to not need a gutless 4000-pound wimp-wagon that gets 20 mpg despite being unable to make it up a hill in fourth gear.
In fact, humanity got all the way to the moon without having so much as a single front-wheel drive, car-based crossover. The Berlin Wall fell without a Hyundai Santa Fe tugging fecklessly at the thing with a Class II dealer-installed tow hitch. Steve McQueen is on record as having never even seen a crossover. Jimmy Page wears sunglasses all the time now because he doesn’t want to look at your Kia Sorento.
Listen to me. I’m serious. I know you think that you need to settle. Because you have a respectable job now and you don’t think your career will advance if you show up to work on a Hayabusa. Because you’re marrying a lovely woman who spent the years from 2003 to 2007 waking up every weekend morning face-down in the rec room of the Sigma Chi house and who is now taking out all her aggression on you just because you’re so pathetically grateful not to be alone that you don’t bite back. Because you have “fur babies” and two names on a lease. Because you’ve posed for a series of emasculating engagement pictures where you look lovingly at her and she faces the camera triumphantly like Peter Capstick holding the bloody head of an impala.
You might think you have to settle. But you don’t. You could walk out on everything right now and it would be okay. Everybody would survive. Unless you have an actual human child who depends on you, there’s nothing to stop you from swinging a leg over your Hayabusa and high-tailing it to the frontier, wherever that might be for you. Very few things are as permanent, as imposing, as limiting as they might seem.
I’m not telling you all of this to be a dick. I’m not trying to belittle your carefully-constructed life, your entry-level job and your hopeful self-image, your craft beer and your precious weekend mini-parties. Think of me as … ah, fuck it, Coleridge wrote it better:
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’
He holds him with his skinny hand,
‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
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As a guy who "settled" for the exact reasons described above (wife, kid, career related societal judgments) on his last car, I approve Dr. Baruth's message.
At least in this article Jack posted a picture of an Olds Toronado and not an LTD II which is a rehashed Torino Elite. The Toronado is a way cooler car. There are other ways that I can be a man without obsessing over what type of vehicle I drive. I can always get out the straight edge razor and shave like a real man and use a leather strop to sharpen my razor.