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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?"


  1. I love this piece! Even though you are some 30 years younger than me, it resonates with my dad getting our 1949 Hudson. But let's get back to your dad's care first:
    Is that it? I Googled your name for it and that's what came up.

    And then when I Goggled my dad's car, here's what came up:
    That's my dad's car as in photo's by my younger brother Paul.

    In any event, I love your recollections here!

  2. Thanks Will! As I am 61, and look it, I'm envious of your supernaturally well-preserved 30-year seniority.

  3. Hehe! That misstatement I made last night just shows my did I turn 13 into 30? Egads!

  4. 74 or 91, you still don't look a day over either one. And it may have something to do with why you always beat me on those online mental acuity tests.

  5. when I first saw the aerolark I thought "Wow, that plane looks like a really beautiful swallow".

  6. It looks like a swallow to me too, Annie B. I can almost imagine a frenzy of chromium wings around puddles getting mud for their wonderful nests. As a gardener, I have come to an immeasurable respect of swallows.


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