You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.
The Eagles, "Hotel California"
When I moved South years ago I was just starting my junior year in High School. My dad put his finger on a map and I found myself in Panama City, Florida. I tell people that if you can find a Funk & Wagnall's encyclopedia from 1975, my photo is in it under the listing for "culture shock". Coming as I did from a town of 300 people in the North Woods. My new High School in Florida had 3000 people in it. At least there is a military facility in Panama City so I was not the only person with a "northern" accent.
I came to love a lot of things about the South after moving. Southern girls. Bar-b-que. Bourbon [eventually]. Much later, summer humidity. Southern rock bands like Skynyrd, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and The Allman Brothers. And Pontiac Trans-Ams.
The Trans-Am was THE car that all the top guys drove in my High School. All five of them. Gloss black. Gold Firebird hood treatment. Shaker hood scoop. Gold and black honeycomb wheels. 6.6 litre engine that would HOWL. Special exhaust package. Dual T-Tops. And the best thing....the gold tinted, brushed chrome dash. In which was deployed the best Eight Track tape system in the auto industry. You see youngsters, once upon a time they put music on magnetic TAPE. And they put the tape into hard plastic cases [as big as half a dozen Ipods] that you would plug into the TAPE PLAYER in your car. All the top guys had one. All five of them. Let me tell you, when you shoved that Eagles "Hotel California" tape in the dash and turned it WAY up, "Life In the Fast Lane" had a whole new meaning. You felt like Stevie Nicks was going to walk right up and get in that car at the next stop light. See, there used to be another band called Fleetwood Mac. And the lead singer was this amazing woman named Stevie Nicks...oh never mind. If I have to explain it...boys in High School in 1976 don't need any explanation of Stevie Nicks' power over us. For the rest of you...
Stevie Nicks, from her web site The Nicks Fix.
At least all this would happen in my imagination. I didn't own a Trans-Am and I never had the chance to ride in one until years later. When a pal let me drive his. He bought it on Ebay. Along with the "Hotel California" eight track tape. But the magic was still there. The sound system still worked. The 6.6 still howled. The sunlight still glinted off that gold dashboard.
Yesterday I read that Pontiac will be no more. Actually, for me, Pontiac has been gone a long time. Ever since they quit making the version of the Trans-Am I fell in love with in the mid-seventies. Now I spend my time in swankier surroundings than hanging out in a parking lot looking at other guys' cars. But every so often, late at night, in some hotel or another, I check out the 1975-77 Trans-Ams for sale on Ebay. And the dream remains...
Somewhere out there is a 1976 Trans-Am with my name on it. And I'm seventeen. And Stevie is waiting for me on that street corner...