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Slack Tide

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a green Subaru?

Posted: April 16, 2011 - 5:38pm

It’s no secret: guys think a lot about their vehicles. Even guys like me, who take our morning joe with Splenda and fat-free French vanilla Coffeemate. When it comes to manliness, what we’ve got under the hood says a lot about… ahem, what we’ve got under the hood.

I drive a Subaru. And it used to be a sore spot, especially when we lived in the Mat-Su Valley, Palin country (at the time, she was mayor of Wasilla) froggering our tiny imported crossover SUV around an endless stream of dinosauric American-made trucks.

Especially at places like the gravel pit or Spenard Builders Supply, invariably, after watching me struggle to bungee lumber to my ski rack or shovel loose rock straight into the hatchback, some Ford/Chevy dude would amble over.

“What kinda’ rig you runnin’?” he’d ask, and then, answering his own question, “Subaru — my wife drives one of those.”

Clearly, I found this deflating. And I’m no stranger to having my masculinity questioned because of the “rig” I’m “runnin’.”

Throughout high school and college, I drove a Volvo… that I shared with my sister… who painted daisies and peace signs on the dashboard… and “accidentally” got an Indigo Girls tape stuck in the crappy Swedish cassette deck so the only music you could listen to was Swamp Ophelia (when Rites of Passage is clearly the stronger studio effort).

Man, that car was an estro-mobile. No wonder I got pulled over so often — with my hair still long and red, police probably mistook me for a college girl willing to flirt her way out of a ticket. No wonder I frequently wound up in handcuffs. I’d be disappointed, too, if that ginger hottie turned out to be me.

Worse still, the Volvo was rear-wheel drive, with a puny rheumatic engine and factory tires. This made it a death machine, too, especially in a landscape as hilly and icy as Ithaca, N.Y., which, like Juneau, features streets that become staircases that become streets that become staircases again. Suffice to say I was doing Double McTwist 360s all over town, back when Shaun White was wearing Buzz Lightyear training pants.

I hated that Volvo more than techno.

My Subaru, on the other hand, I love. Utilitarian, sturdy, compact but powerful, sort of like Dustin Hoffman in his prime. This makes sense: Meryl Streep is a noted Subaru driver.

Of course, there’s more to Subaru ownership than not being quite hip enough to drive a Prius (for instance, you use disposable diapers, albeit the Seventh Generation brand; you won’t eat McDonald’s, but Wendy’s is your first stop at the airport).

I guess what I’m trying to say about my Subaru is that I own it and I own it, so to speak, and in the process I derive certain self-respect. Let’s call it Subaru Pride.

Yes, I drive a Subaru. And yes, there are two car seats in the back, and princess stickers on the window, and a baby doll hanging out the door. This would embarrass some men. To me, it’s all just an indicator of my virility. Even/especially the glitter-encrusted paper crown I’m sometimes forced to wear.

Granted, Juneau’s an extremely Subaru-tolerant place. Per capita, we’ve got to rank right up there with Boulder, Colo. and Burlington, Vt. I don’t think anyone can compete with Berkeley, Calif. That place is Subariffic.

Anyway, no matter where you live, here are five great reasons to feel Subaru Pride:

• With studs — see, more masculine already — a Subaru can handle the gnarliest winter conditions. And if it gets stuck, it’s only a matter of time before someone drives by in a super-duty truck, looking to try out the winch he got for Christmas.

• Subarus are like the XtraTufs of station wagons, much like Bill Withers is the John Denver of funk.

• A Subaru is not a minivan. In fact, specifically because it seats only five, a Subaru offers the perfect excuse to bail on outings with the in-laws.

• Somehow, podcasts of NPR sound better when listened to inside a Subaru. and Yerba mate tea tastes better.

• Last but not least, a Subaru is forever. Well, not forever, but six years ago, I put a downpayment on one instead of an engagement ring. It still runs like new, even closing in on 100,000 miles, a good 70,000 of which we somehow accrued living in a city where the road ends less than 40 miles out of town.

In my time behind its wheel, more than anything else, my Subaru has taught me this: ultimately, it’s not the kind of rig you’re running. It’s how you run it.

I’d like to close with a song of great social and political import. Goes like this:

“Green Subaru”

(to the tune of “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin)

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a green Subaru?

My friends all drive Outbacks that smell like the zoo

Wore clogs my whole lifetime, instead of real shoes

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a green Subaru.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me some fair trade coffee?

Shade-grown and organic, certified carbon-free,

And join my non-profit, I’ll make you V.P.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me some fair trade coffee.

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a yoga retreat?

At an ashram in Thailand would make it complete

I promise to compost and stop eating meat

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a yoga retreat.

Everybody…

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a green Subaru?

My friends all drive Outbacks that smell like the zoo

Wore clogs my whole lifetime, instead of real shoes

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a green Subaru.

• “Slack Tide” runs every other Sunday in Neighbors. Check out more of Geoff Kirsch’s work at www.geoffkirsch.com.

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