All the sweet young things. Cars, that is.

I know, I promised to re-organize preceding posts (those immediately below) into something resembling coherence. And I will. But it’s Monday afternoon and sunshine pours in through the windows and Rachmaninoff pours in through the speakers. A few moments of reminiscence first.

One of our most over-used and under-examined cultural tropes is “first girl friend,” as in, “You never forget your…” Maybe, for early-developing Lotharios who always knew how to speak to and act around girls, it made sense. But not for those of us — a group containing many from my generation — who struggled mightily and often in vain to communicate with the opposite gender.

We still do struggle. It even took us a while to say “the opposite sex” rather than “the opposite gender.”

The challenge, you see, was not to remember the first “girl friend,” the challenge was to figure out exactly what “girl friend” meant. Was it

+ The first girl you sat next to on purpose at lunch time
+ The first girl you found enough courage to call on the phone
+ The first girl you asked for a date
+ The first girl who accepted your blithering invitation
+ The first girl who went out with you a second time
+…and so on, into our declining years.

Clearly, in an era when first-graders are texting and twittering, when puberty hits at ever younger ages (bras for nine- and ten-year olds), when “friends with benefits” show up in junior high, in such an era the options listed above must seem incredibly naive. Yet there they are, real life as it was lived in Ye Olden Tymes.

So. “First girl friend” is not precisely meaningless, but it is so complex, so varied in analysis, so muddled in the memory, that — for that large group alluded to above — there is no way to attach the label to a single and particular person.

But “first car.” Ha! Now we’re into familiar, comfortable territory. What brought all this about was news that Saab may be about to go under. Saab Automobile — the company began by building jet fighters — now is

just another crisis-ridden car company in an industry full of them.

…the Swedish government has responded to Saab’s desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

Saab. My very own first car, bought shortly after I got out of the Army with money I’d saved while in the service, was a Saab. It was not, mind you, what you see on today’s streets with the Saab emblem. That is a creaky, derivative, thoroughly uninteresting vehicle, indistinguishable from half a dozen other SUV-ish rattletraps cluttering the highways. I’m talking about the original Saab 93 of the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr first car, a 1959 Saab 93
Mr first car, a 1959 Saab 93

It had a two-cycle three-cylinder engine, front wheel drive, seat belts, and front doors hinged at the back, so that they opened in reverse. (Note the position of the door handle.) It wasn’t the best vehicle I’ve ever owned; that was probably the 1991 Volvo 240 sedan, or the 1983 Toyota pick-up. But the Saab was memorable. Different. I really think that if the company had continued its quirky ways, instead of leaping onto the gas-guzzling wagon, it would be looking pretty good right now.

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