Your first thought upon reading the title of this is probably that I’m going to talk about those sexy, swoopy, fantastic, expensive cars that most of us will never be able to have but nevertheless inhabit our daydreams and those ‘what if’ we games we play about winning the lottery. That’s great, but what’s on my mind right now is the cars that appear in our night dreams, the weird and often inexplicable visions our brains concoct while we sleep.
I’m writing this on the morning of November 1, the day after Halloween. I don’t know if the Halloween season or the full moon that combined with it this year had anything to do with it, but I had some weird dreams the last two nights and while that’s not so unusual in itself, the fact that I remembered them so well was, as was the fact that the same car appeared in both of them. Weirder still, it wasn’t even some oddball car that my brain created (as my dreams tend to be rather surreal more often than not), but rather a real-life car, presented in correct detail despite somewhat surreal situations. A car I used to own, in fact. A 1983 Honda Accord.
I’d bought the Honda used but in really nice shape considering that it had 91 thousand miles on it. I was in the army at the time, and six months earlier I’d bought a 1977 Monte Carlo right after getting back to the USA from an overseas assignment. The Monte was a big, long, obnoxious disco-mobile that was was available for very little money, and I grabbed it. Now I was looking ahead to my discharge in less than a year, and hoping to go to college after that. I knew that the big fuel-thirsty beast wouldn’t do well for a student on a budget, so I traded it in at a fly-by-night used car lot near the army base for the Honda.
It was a 2-door hatchback, a style of car I still love and wish still existed in today’s market. It had a 5-speed manual gearbox and was that shade of light metallic blue that most Hondas in the ’80s seemed to be, with blue velour upholstery inside. Not ‘fully loaded’ but still very snazzy as Hondas went in those days. It was in really great condition and ran like a new car, obviously very well-kept by whoever owned it before. If there was one thing about it that seemed a little spooky, it was a hole in the driver-side door. More of a slit really, a narrow penetration of the metal about an inch long, obviously made from the outside, with one end pointed and the other end flat. It looked like a knife-stab wound, and it was very low, no more than knee-high. Great, the car got stabbed by a midget. Not wanting moisture to get in and ruin anything, I sealed it with some silicone caulk covered by a piece of clear packing tape, a repair which held until the end of the car’s life.
That Honda would prove to be one of the best cars I ever owned, although the competition is getting pretty stiff with how just damn good cars have been getting in recent years. I kept it for eight years and about 155 thousand miles. It got me through college, several jobs before, during, and after college, and a move to another state and a couple more jobs there. It was a remakably good ‘truck’ too and hauled all manner of stuff such as a ’47 Ford flathead V8 block, a load of firewood piled up to the ceiling, my big ungainly bass-amp rig to lots of band gigs, and even a few friends who piled-in under the hatch one time. And then there was the 13-foot kayak I owned for a while: fold down the rear seat, fully recline the passenger seat, wrap a towel around the nose of the boat, then shove it into the open hatch until the nose rested between the dashboard and the windscreen, then tie the stern to the tow-loop under the rear bumper, with about four feet of the hull hanging out the open hatch. Or the gigantic radio-control airplane that I built: a one-third-scale replica of a Super Decathlon. This airplane’s fuselage was about 7 or 8 feet long, had a 22-inch propeller up front (spun by a 65cc engine, bigger than some scooters have), a 30-inch wide empennage (the ‘tail fins’) at the other end, and an 11-foot wingspan. Luckily the wings were detachable, and with the car’s rear seat folded down and the hatch open, the fuselage went in nose-first with the wings laid alongside it and several feet of the tail and empennage stuck out the open hatch. Must have been quite sight in traffic, especially since the airplane was bright yellow.
That Honda stood up to all my abuse, got a few dents along the way, effortlessly made countless road-trips, and could crawl out of anywhere as long as the drive-wheels were touching the ground. It even survived having a colony of fire ants move into the back seat once! And it did all this very reliably, having few major troubles at all, and very efficiently too. On top of that, it was also fun to drive. But nothing lasts forever. As it approached a quater-million miles, the wear and tear was starting to add up. The steering got a little misaligned one day when I hit some debris on the street, and not long after that the head-gasket started failing. With great sadness I knew that it was time to let the car go, knowing that the only place it could go was to the scrapyard, the crusher, the Great Beyond of recycled steel. I donated it to one of those charities that take old cars in any condition. It was probably a good thing that they picked it up while I wasn’t home. I’m sure I would have bawled my eyes out if I’d seen it being loaded and hauled away.
I loved that car. It was a true friend and faithful companion through thick and thin. Many cars I’ve known continue to live on in memories, but I’ve never dreamed about them- until these last two nights when the Honda showed up. The first night it had a larger role, and even met an identical Honda at a gas station. The second night it was more of a cameo, just a brief appearance that included the giant airplane sticking out the open hatch. I don’t buy the idea that dreams have meanings we can decipher, but that doesn’t mean that our brains have no creative process in making them. As I see it, dreams are ‘brain-jazz,’ improvisations on whatever themes happen to float through. I can’t even begin to wonder why, more than twenty years after the Honda’s departure, my brain chose these two nights to be haunted by it. But at least it was a good kind of haunting. I fondly miss most of the cars I’ve owned in the past, but I especially miss the Honda and I’m sure I’ll keep missing it until I draw my final breath and my consciousness dissolves into the void.
And still I wonder why I don’t have dreams about cars more often. Maybe I spend enough time thinking about them when I’m awake that there’s just no need. Maybe my dreams are usually too surreal for something as useful as a car to fit into them. Maybe my brain-jazz provides a break from them that helps me think about them better when I’m awake. I don’t know. What I do know is that after these two nights, part of me is eagerly curious to see what comes in future dreams. But since that curiosity comes from the same brain that produces the dreams, does that curiosity affect the result, much like observation affects things in the quantum-world? Now that I’ve waxed rhapsodic about being visited in my dreams by my beloved Honda, will the visitations cease? Will I instead dream of tearing through the Alps in my Lotus? Of going 100 MPH on Route 66 in a ’58 Corvette? Of being short enough to fit into a Countach? Of romantic encounters in the back of a beat-up station wagon? Of waiting forever in the lobby of the tire-shop? Probably none of the above. Daydreams are another matter entirely.
Sweet dreams, gentle reader.