Hi. Welcome to our Premiere Edition of "In Our Own Words," the Ezine from BBBooks. We publish and distribute books, list "Calls for Submissions" Readings, Open Mics and Writing Classes here on our web site.
We are a grass roots organization, not a corporate entity, so we don't dance to the dollar sign. You can expect to find thought- provoking, creative, alternative writing, information and politics right here. We offer the "People Before Profits Poetry Prize" each year and offer all kinds of other stuff for writers, poets, students, educators, spiritual types, feminists, humanists, and activists. We're people who follow their conscience, but like to have fun too!
The writers in this edition of "In Our Own Words" range in age from their 20s to their 80s. Much of the writing came from a creative writing class held in Oakland, California and from writers across the country who respond to our poetry contests.
is simple: Writers respond to life; they chronicle our times
and remind us what it is like to be human.
Clara Mae Jewel
Growing up in an affluent town, I was used to kids getting brand new cars for their sixteenth birthdays. Shiny new Mercedes convertibles and Volkswagen Cabriolets would appear in our high school parking lot on a regular basis. These kids would cruise into the parking lot, with their radios blaring, and casually greet their friends, as if driving to school was no big deal. Then they would grab their books and leisurely walk up the hill to the classrooms, nonchalantly jangling their keys, and already planning on where they would drive to lunch that day. If you were one of the kids walking up the hill from the parking lot, you were someone. If you had a car, you had status. You were cool. You had the freedom to go anywhere, to do anything, and you had lots of friends to drive around. You were popular.
I, on the other hand, was not. I wore weird clothes and had a weird haircut and liked weird stuff. Worst of all, I had to carpool with Andy Schwartz, who was a bigger geek than I was. Andy's mother, Marilyn, was an enormous woman who despite moving to California years before had never lost her "Long-Gisland" accent. She would drop us off gasp-right in front of school. And, to make matters worse, she would screech; "Now you kids be here at two-twenty and no latah, yeh hear me? I'm not your chauffah! Now Andrew, you have a good day! Yeh muttha loves yeh!" and she'd give him a big kiss. Andy didn't mind at all, but I was mortified. The cool kids would stroll by and smirk. I had enough problems without Marilyn Schwartz making me even more of a social pariah than I already was.
As my sixteenth birthday approached, I started to dream about having my own car. Being that my father worked for General Motors and my sisters had gotten new cars, I was sure I was a shoo-in for my own wheels. I had to be loyal to General Motors, so I figured a brand new Camaro convertible or something would be okay. If I had to get a new car. What I really wanted was a pink '56 T-Bird (even though that was Ford) or a cherry red '57 Chevy with lots of chrome and fins. I pictured myself cruising into the parking lot, blasting really cool music, wearing a scarf and sunglasses. I would be the epitome of glamour. I too would nonchalantly stroll up the hill, jangling my keys, and smirking at Andy Schwartz and the other nerds who were getting dropped off in front of school. I would be cool.
Well, my sweet sixteen came and went, and all I got was a hairdryer. My father had lost one of his kidneys a few months before, and retired early. My '57 Chevy fantasy was shut down. He wasn't all that keen on buying me a car, anyway. I nearly rear-ended someone in the Burger King parking lot and got a just passing score on my driver's test. I wasn't exactly a model citizen either, because he figured if I couldn't be responsible enough to feed my fish, how would I be responsible enough to feed a car gas and oil? I wasn't too bothered, though, because my best friend had a car and we went everywhere together, including to and from school. So bye bye, Mrs. Schwartz.
But then my best friend moved away. I was miserable. I was housebound. I started to feed my fish. (That fish lived to be 12 years old, so I wasn't that irresponsible). I started to drop hints.
Then I started to whine. Since my father was home all the time now, we drove each other crazy. One day he finally announced that he would get me a car, so that I could get a job and prove my responsibility. (I think I was just driving him nuts). My convertible dreams were back on track.
One day after school ("Bye Mrs. Schwartz, thank you for the ride!"), I came home on found my sister's old car parked in the driveway. I wondered why she drove that car over when she had just bought a new BMW (much to my dad's chagrin "GM fed you, housed you, educated you, and you repay us by buying a German car? I fought the Germans!" etc. etc.). She had said she was dumping the old clunker and I couldn't blame her. It was pretty ugly. Maybe she didn't want to hurt my dad's feeling when she came over. I could understand that. After all, when I got my new car, it was going to be a General Motors car. I was loyal to my dad. He worked hard all his life and I was going to show my appreciation by driving a GM. That's why I wasn't going to get the T-Bird. I was going to pick out something my dad had helped build. I was a good daughter.
I walked in the house, looking for my sister, but she wasn't there. My dad was all smiles. "Surprise!" He said. I was confused. What surprise? Where? Then he handed me a set of keys. The keys to my "new" car in the driveway.
I couldn't believe it. That? That was my new car? Oh NO! It was, in impolite terms, a piece of shit. It was a 1977 Pontiac Safari Astre station wagon with fake wooden paneling. The inside used to be white leather, now dingy gray, with black carpet. It didn't have a tapedeck, just a radio with bad reception, because there was no antenna. I remembered being in it when I was little, and crying about something so it must have bad memories. And even since then, my sister's dog had peed in it and it still smelled. It was as uncool as uncool could get. Forget the scarf and sunglasses, I would cruise into the parking lot with a bag over my head.
That was my new car? Oh NO! It was, in impolite terms,
a piece of shit.
* * * *
As I was thinking all of this, my dad was giving me the big lecture about taking good care of it and make sure to check the oil and wear a seatbelt and I had to get a job to pay for gas and I was not allowed to drive it into San Francisco and I still had a 12:30 curfew and blahblahblah
And then he said, "Let's go for a ride."
I hated driving with my dad.
(I still do). Even though he learned to drive in like 1930 or
something and used both feet for an automatic (a no-no, according
to my Driver's Ed teacher), he would yell at me for everything.
Of course he was looking out for me, but when I was seventeen,
all I could think
I drove straight to my new best friend's house. (I had a lot of best friends and I was soon to have more, due to the fact that I was finally mobile). It was my first official time of driving alone, if you didn't count the time Lesa Carlston got too drunk at a dance and I had to drive her car, very slowly, back to her house. And suddenly, it didn't matter what the car looked like. It was MINE. I now had the freedom to go anywhere (within reason) and do anything (within reason) that I wanted to. I turned up the crummy radio and sang and laughed. I was in love. It was the best feeling in the entire world, that feeling of adult freedom that only a seventeen- year- old could have.
When I got to her house, with
the windows rolled down and the horn honking, she squealed, got
in, and we took off. We drove around downtown, showing off, waving
at people we knew and didn't know. We were high on our newfound
fortune. We were the upper eschalon.
I loved that car. Even though it rattled violently when it went over fifty-mph and one time I tried to "race" a Winnebago up a hill and lost
* * * *
Over the next few months, my car was transformed. My friends and I stuck old bathtub flowers and stickers all over it. Anyone who rode in it had to sign the visors, and so there were dozens of messages and phone numbers scrawled all over the interior. (My dad was actually pretty cool about that until he noticed somebody had written "Who Farted" across the ceiling). Someone had given me a large, green, inflatable rabbit as a mascot. I named him Senor Bun Bun, and he rode everywhere with me. (He came in very handy when someone I didn't like asked for a ride, I could say, "Sorry, the car's full", due to Senor Bun Bun taking up space. Senor Bun Bun came to an untimely death when a disgruntled passenger pricked him with the back of an earring. But for a while he was a part of the lovely décor). Not to mention all the books, candy wrappers, contraband cigarette butts, and soda cans littering the floor. And, of course, the dents and scratches I acquired along the way. (Once I was backing out of the Shell station and knocked the sign over, caving in the bumper. Ooops). I lost two hubcaps. (I was trying to parallel park in San Francisco with seven screaming kids in the car and they just popped right off! Not my fault, I swear)! Plus I lost three gas caps.
I loved that car. Even though it rattled violently