Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Flight Of The Aerolark
In the early 1950s, my uncle drove up in a new car. New Car, wheeee! It was an Aerolark sedan, made by Willys of Jeep fame, sold to people who wanted the sturdy dependability of a service vehicle in their family cars. I scampered out to see it.
Uncle had the hood up so we could see its works. There was no light alloy anywhere. Valves were in the block, and the block was all heavy slabs of cast steel secured by big black bolts. Six pistons and twelve tappets made no more noise than a soft spring rain. Carburetor drew with satisfied, throaty sighs. It was an engine built for the ages and I was entranced.
But what most fascinated me was visible only after the great gray curve of the hood banged shut. It had an ornament on its snout, a sculpture in chromed steel of a streamlined dreamship, an avicular aerodyne that seemed to speed thru space despite being bolted down. I was lifted and held up where I could look down on it. And there it was, the essential Aerolark, the soul, and beneath, reflected in the shiny hood, a sky of scudding clouds.
Yesterday I got out my sketchbook and returned to that moment. I drew and remembered. The '50s were a very forward-looking time but there were setbacks. For example, sometimes I was given a dime, and I liked dimes. I liked Mercury's winged head. It represented fleetness and futurity, but one saw fewer and fewer of them. New dimes had Roosevelt on them and I supposed it was prudent and accurate to leave wings off him but I was disappointed. There were many disappointments.
Then I began to grow. After my tail dropped off, I commenced to think, and realized much of thinking is the creation and identification of reliable analogies. One encounters symbols sacred and profane, pedestrian and sublime. One fashions them into patterns and, from patterns, derives axioms. One strives for algorithms of enduring stability. One strives for method, synthesis that embraces the outer nebulae and the human heart. We strive for a design that will always choose the future that best includes us.
So I share here an image that has soared across my sky in dreams and hopes, a shape composed of negative drag and anti gravity that speeds, despite its antiquity, into a bright future. It has its own vitality, its own life, roaring and streaking over all stages of labor, love and living. One looks up and sees the Aerolark caroming into the future, raises one's hat-brim, wipes the sweat from one's eyes and says, almost reverently, "Geez! What the hell was that?"