August 19, 2014
I don’t drive motorized cars. What I do drive is a soapbox derby car, that was made by a child that lives on my block. It resembles the car driven by Fred Flintstone in the animated TV series “The Flintstones.” I live very close to Farewell Drive in Silverlake, and what I do is get in the car, and little William pushes my car down the hill. Only a few times have I hit a parked car to stop myself from going into the traffic on Glendale Boulevard. What I do is I pretend to write a note from myself, and I put it on the car’s window wiper. It usually reads "Sorry," signed little William. I don’t want to give little William a bad example. The fact that we do this when it is nighttime, gives me an extra thrill. Because there is always the danger that a ‘real’ car will come upon and hit me. I wouldn’t say that I am brave, but more suicidal as I get older. A sensible person would wear a helmet, but I refuse to wear one, because I actually like the feeling of the air hitting my face. I never timed myself, so I haven’t the foggiest idea how fast the soapbox derby car goes down the hill, but it feels magnificent.
To give myself a dashing look while driving the ‘car, ’ I usually find jewelry from the Coco Chanel collection. For years, I have consistently had an obsession about her life. What interested me is her relationship with the Nazis during the occupation. She was highly right wing, and basically a racist. Oddly enough she wasn’t that fond of the homosexual. She was quoted by her friend Paul Morand when she stated “"Homosexuals? … I have seen young women ruined by these awful queers: drugs, divorce, scandal. They will use any means to destroy a competitor and to wreak vengeance on a woman. The queers want to be women—, but they are lousy women. They are charming!"
That type of political philosophy goes well with her career at the time. I personally don’t follow those traits, but for some idiosyncratic reason I do think of her when I’m racing down the hill. A lot of times it is the skill or vision of the Creator, but often it is just plain ‘very’ dumb luck that one gets in a position to do what they want to do. Also the fact that she was a drug addict till the day she died has some appeal to me as well.
I never asked why, but it seems little William comes out to play only in the nighttime. I never met his parents, or even know if he a pair of adults that look over him. When I take my walks during the night, I can see him on his driveway working on his soapbox derby car. It looked pretty impressive, and I loved the fact that he added the number “12” to the side of his car. “12” is an interesting number off-hand. For instance a dozen means 12 of something as a sales unit and there is “12” zodiac signs in astrology, and there are 12 basic hues in the color wheel. Also there are 12 people who are designated to sit on a jury for felony trials. On top of that, I also collect 12” albums. I thought Little William was very clever using that number, and when I asked him why “12?” He said that he just turned “12” the other day.
Over a short period of time I asked if he could make me a car that fits my size. He said yes, and within a week or so, he finished the project. I felt a tinge of embarrassment in my relationship with little William, because there were no other adults (besides yours truly) around us, and I didn’t want to be seen as exploiting the dear child. For his work, I gave him a vintage 45 rpm single by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas called “Little Children.” It was a song that haunted me as a child, because I have the impression that the singer, clearly an adult, was giving me sweets to keep a secret. A secret for a child is a scary and precious promise. So I think giving Little William this record was in a sense, my way of communicating with him that this car he built for me should be a secret among the two of us.
We meet up on an occasional basis, but as soon as I started to work on my book regarding Coco Chanel, I started to focus on not only my relations, but also how friendship or even “casual relationships” can cause such damage outside of that partnership. My little car represents freedom that I had, but now as it sits on my driveway, it is more of a museum piece.