Early on in my residence here in the lovely D, I described the daily freeway traffic as a Ben-Hur chariot race. I don’t often fall in love with my own clever turns of phrase, but I stand by that one. And if you haven’t seen “Ben-Hur,” my God, check out the totally awesome FOUR-MINUTE trailer on YouTube. You get a big chunk of the chariot race around the 2:30 mark. That’s the morning commute here. Really. They issue you one of those whips at your first real-estate closing.

I guess lots of places are like this, but Detroit (and Chicago, to name another) combines those elements of speed, aggressiveness and close quarters you find in older cities, the ones that had big footprints before the freeways were built. The new roads required that neighborhoods either be demolished or sliced in two, which wasn’t easy or cheap then or now, and so tended to occupy the bare minimum of space. The entrance/exit ramps on the oldest parts of the Lodge, Ford and Davidson expressways here are short, and join freeways that frequently clip along at 75 miles per hour, even in the right lane. You want to know why Detroit automakers have had such a hard time giving up horsepower and bulk? Because every day their executives commute to work on these crazy-ass roads, and goddamn, you need a car that goes from zero to white-knuckle in about three seconds. Where’s my whip? Get over, jerkoff! Let me in!

So last night I was heading home from my class at Wayne State, which I always take at a gallop, because by the time I get home I have less than 30 minutes to pay the sitter, take her home, brew coffee and tuck Kate into bed before I start news-farmin’ at 9. I was moving along with the flow of traffic on I-94 when I glanced down and saw: 80 mph. Jeez, but you are a local now, aren’t you? I changed lanes (without signaling, because no one does) and dropped down to 70. As I said, 80 was flow-of-traffic speed, but even with seat belts and air bags, that’s a stupid pace to set on an urban freeway. I am someone’s mother and someone’s wife, and they would not be better off without me. Plus, we live in a two-story house. Not wheelchair-accessible.

The other night I caught most of “Drive,” the new Fox show about, as the promos reminded us about a million times, “an illegal cross-country road race.” Apparently it’s not only illegal, it’s a blind course that the participants, who have all been coerced in some way, navigate via cryptic text messages. It makes little sense, but the story is still building and in between befuddlement, there’s lots of enjoyable, hot car-on-car action.

Then I noticed something: All the cars were American-made. This may well be a sponsorship/product-placement issue, but it worked, dramatically speaking. One woman drove a Taurus, the new mom drove a minivan of indeterminate American lineage, the young men tended to be outfitted with classic, pre-OPEC muscle cars. The Taurus and the minivan were visual jokes among the Firebirds and Challengers, but it was a GM executive’s dream, all this American iron speeding down the Georgia blacktop, jockeying for position. I tried to imagine the action with Camrys and Accords, Tundras and Pathfinders, and it didn’t work. Whatever else Detroit gave the world, it gave it some pretty cool cars, and could again, I believe.

I pay more attention to car commercials than I used to; after all, the value of my house now rides on the fortunes of the auto industry. The other day one for the Dodge Avenger came on, and it featured…cupholders. Evidently the Avenger has heated and cooled cupholders. The Caliber has illuminated ones, for all those times you’ve struggled to find your coffee in the dark, I guess.

I’m not optimistic. Maybe they could get their mojo back selling chariots.


Roger Ebert, still swingin’.

How amusing: You can buy a “House” T-shirt emblazoned with one of the good doctor’s favorite sayings: “Everybody Lies.” Including, you’ll see if you click through, the show’s producers, who would like us to believe female doctors spend their days making rounds in plunging necklines and towering heels. Oh, and pearls. I wish I’d saved the first note I got from Dr. Frank, back when we were arranging to meet for our first lunch. From memory: “I will try to find a tie without too much bloody sputum on it.”

To work I go. Keep your whip hand nimble.

Posted at 10:32 am in Television |

22 responses to “Drive.”

  1. LA mary said on April 25, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Plunging necklines, towering heels and open toes, yet. I don’t know about Dr. House’s hospital, but here shoes must be closed in the front. No sandals, no open toes. Also, doctors specialize more here. On that show, the MDs do everything. Surgery, mammograms, lab work. There don’t seem to be any surgical nurses or lab techs. That must run up the bill considerably.

    366 chars

  2. John said on April 25, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Dr. Cuddy and her yaboos! Extra reasons to watch House!

    “Ben-Hur” and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (via reference) in the same column! Two of my favorite movies. Do yourself a favor and find a copy of the 1925 version of “Ben-Hur” and enjoy a spectacular film. And if you decide to watch the DVD verision of “Beyond…”, then make sure to re-watch it twice, listening to each of the two commentary tracks.

    416 chars

  3. brian stouder said on April 25, 2007 at 11:05 am

    If I wasn’t on posting probation, I’d be expressing exuberant agreement with Nance’s take on cool cars (past and future) from Detroit; and maybe a digression on the Americanization of Japanese cars (true enough, American cars have become more worldly [read: Japanese, with some Euro nods] – but I think the Japanese cars have come much further toward classic Detroit lines)

    373 chars

  4. MichaelG said on April 25, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I was attending the University of Illinois in Champaign back in the dim past when Roger Ebert was the editor of the Daily Illini. My favorite memory of Roger is from a party that was raided by the police. They used to look for underage drinkers in those days. Roger was over 21 at the time but didn’t want to be seen on the same premises as a raid — half-hearted though it might have been. Last I saw of Roger that night was the sight of his not inconsiderable rear end disappearing out a window.

    505 chars

  5. Danny said on April 25, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Off-topic, but a frequent topic that is near and dear to many hearts at NNC: The decline of the newspaper business.

    Above is a link to an excellent article by Lou Dobbs detailing the complicity with governement and obsfucation of issues by big media on the current illegal immigration debate. Some of you were recently lamenting the cuts that are coming at the LA Times and other papers around the country and chalking it up to souless money-grubbing and the like. Nancy, in the past, has said that one of the reasons that she sees for the decline is the lack of interesting stories and writing. On both counts, there is some truth.

    But another big factor in newspaper decline, besides the “internets,” is that they too often take flat-out dishonest idealogical stances and say “screw the truth.” The LA Times does this with the illegal immigration issue and they did it back in the recall election with a despicable eleventh-hour smear campaign designed to take down Swarzenegger. The left AND the right can say want about “Arhnold,” but it is inarguable that he is a huge improvement over Gray Davis.

    Anyway, the two examples above are of realtively conservative oxes being gored, but I’m really not trying to write some right-wing screed. Granted, the newspapers carry a lot of water for liberals, but there are other right-leaning examples where they seem to purposefully get it wrong too.

    I guess that’s why the internet rocks. Breaking news, quick digestion and immediate feeback from the proletariat.

    1585 chars

  6. LA mary said on April 25, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    “The LA Times does this with the illegal immigration issue and they did it back in the recall election with a despicable eleventh-hour smear campaign designed to take down Swarzenegger.”

    That is entirely your opinion.Arnold Schwarenegger has a history with women that would make Bill Clinton blush. If you like his politics better than you liked Gray Davis’s, fine, but he’s a pig with women.

    395 chars

  7. nancy said on April 25, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    True dat. I’ve heard he’s fond of quick “plo-jobs,” and is quite the ass-grabber.

    81 chars

  8. MaryO said on April 25, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I was just going to say that my drive on Washington’s beltway will never be the same. Ben-Hur indeed.

    101 chars

  9. MaryO said on April 25, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Re Ahnuld: Andy Borowitz had the knock-down funniest take on his California victory shortly after the recall election with a column about a mysterious fondler who was attacking women in Sacramento in the dark, and then saying, “I’ll be back.” I do it no justice nearly four years after the fact but it was one of Borowitz’ better efforts.

    338 chars

  10. Danny said on April 25, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Maybe so, but the LA Times story to which I refer was questionably sourced (as it fell apart upon further examination after all was said and done) and it was extremely suspect in timing.

    Pure and simple. They did a hit piece to prop up Gray Davis, not to protect women from Arnold.

    285 chars

  11. LA mary said on April 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    No, they did it to let people know they were voting for a pig if they voted for Arnold. I would not vote for someone who used the threat of firing make up and wardrobe employees if they didn’t provide oral sex. I would not vote for someone who was paying off publications to not print stories about his abuse of women. Knowing these things didn’t change my opinion of Gray Davis, they reinforced what I had heard from women unlucky enough to work on his movies before he went into politics. A few I know can’t believe no one has exposed him for what he is.

    556 chars

  12. Danny said on April 25, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Honestly, Mary, I cannot see how you can say that with such conviction while you continue to ignore the timing of the story and the way it fell apart at the slightest examination. You know of what I speak and you must know that they sat on the story for two reasons. One, the source was not reliable and two, they didn’t want Swarzenegger to have time to respond.

    The things you ascert about Swarzenegger may be true, but then that leaves us with the fact that LA Times reporters must have known about it for a long, long time and decided to hold it for maximum damage. Hit piece! They were not “informing” the public.

    And probably most of the liberals that hold your opinion also voted for Clinton twice and said screw Kathleen Wiley, Anita Broderick and anybody else who might have been sexually assualted by him. I remember how NOW was mysteriously duplicitous …er… silent through all of that crapolla. Which is why Tammy Bruce disassocaited herself with that bunch of political whores.

    1006 chars

  13. LA mary said on April 25, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    My opinion is that Schwarzenegger makes Clinton look like a choirboy, and that conservatives tried to impeach Clinton because he lied about sex. The LA Times was pointing that out. If their sources didn’t come forward before that, they couldn’t have printed the story. They were also very wary of being sued. The tabloids had hinted at stories about Schwarzenegger several times, and he used his connection with Joe Weider, an old body building pal, and Weider Publishing, to shoot down those stories.
    I’m not talking about NOW or Tammy Bruce or any of those folks. I’m talking about your opinion of what the Times printed. It wasn’t pro Gray Davis, it was anti-Schwarzenegger. You might recall there were other candidates in that mess. If printing the truth about him before the election is a hatchet job, when should they have printed it? I wish it had come out sooner. Other publications had articles about him earlier but the Times didn’t.

    946 chars

  14. MichaelG said on April 25, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I don’t remember specifics of accusations, dates or publishers but there were numerous accounts of Arnold’s tendencies to behave boorishly and worse with a wide variety of women. They started appearing as soon as Schwarzenegger entered the race. As I recall, they were mostly ignored and generally downplayed. Describing the Times’ story as a “despicable eleventh-hour smear campaign designed to take down Swarzenegger” is way over the top. Hyperventilation doesn’t get any of us anywhere.

    505 chars

  15. 4dbirds said on April 25, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Clenis, clenis, clenis…….

    29 chars

  16. Danny said on April 25, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Listen, maybe that did sound like hyperventilation, but it seems that my original point is now getting lost in all of this Schwarzenegger wrangling. Which was: Basically, a lot of people are cancelling their newspaper subscriptions because the news business only pretends to engage in dispassionate and objective journalism and people see through it.

    That Dobbs piece is good.

    380 chars

  17. LA mary said on April 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I think a lot of people have stopped reading the newspaper because they get their news elsewhere. TV, Radio, Internet or not at all. I read the paper online, I confess. I get the Sunday papers, but not weekdays.

    211 chars

  18. ashley said on April 26, 2007 at 12:26 am

    FWIW, I’d give a testicle for a Daytona.

    154 chars

  19. ashley said on April 26, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Oh, and I cancelled my newspaper scrip yesterday. What was a dumpy local paper turned into a beautiful bastion of journalism post federal flood reverted to being a rag. Feh.

    247 chars

  20. Dorothy said on April 26, 2007 at 7:45 am

    I have buckets of overflowing admiration for Roger Ebert.

    57 chars

  21. brian stouder said on April 26, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Ashley – Speed channel occasionally runs (and reruns, and reruns!) the Barrett-Jackson auto auction (from Scottsdale, AZ?) – and when a Daytona with the proper provenance rolls onto the block, the price ends up over a million dollars. (I guess there was only ever a few hundred of them built by the factory)

    But more generally, those Mopars seem to get top dollar nowadays….I suppose rarity is in their favor. When I was a kiddo, those things were around, but Chevy versus Ford was where all action (and sales, presumeably) was.

    For me – a 1972 Cutlass would be the dream pick. (but honestly, right now I’m smitten by the Coopers)

    640 chars

  22. Retro said on August 28, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Who doesn’t love classic cars? Seems everybody does and hollywood has jumped on the bandwagon too. You see them in just about every movie and TV show now.

    154 chars