When I was in my early twenties, I carried an aluminum baseball bat in the back of my car. It was initially gear for summer seasons of Chilihead softball: I worked at Chili's for a few years -- and, like many corporate chain restaurants, Chili's really wishes it were a high school. Because just as at high school, everyone who worked there was just trying to fuck everyone else. We also went on group field trips where we secretly drank booze, gave fellow staff members and regulars nicknames (some of which were mean and only used in private conversations behind the dish pit when we were talking about said person, like the guy we called "Chicken Tacos"); we even had our own softball league. And, like the varsity players of Chili's High, corporate called its restaurant employees "Chiliheads."
After I was fired from Chili's for reasons not fit for print, I kept the bat in the back of my 1973 yellow Volkswagen Super Beetle, Nancy, for eight long years -- never brandishing it once, though I had planned on using it as a weapon if I was ever attacked...by a baseball? But like Chili's, Nancy and the bat moved on and out of my life. Fast-forward to the present, where I now drive a Subaru. Like everyone else in Colorado.
When I picked up some acquaintances at the airport last month, one of them remarked, "Wow. You keep eight-pound hand weights in your car? That's very Colorado of you." I didn't think the foam-wrapped barbells were anything odd to have in my car, let alone anything that typified me as "very Colorado." Doesn't everyone like to be prepared? I never know when a friend is going call and ask if I want to join him for a Wash Park workout. Honestly, I thought that what was "Colorado" of me wasn't the weights, or the two yoga mats (I gotta have a back-up mat in case a friend forgets hers) in the trunk, but the automobile itself.
I never thought I would be one of these people, but here I am, driving my 1996 Subaru Outback every day. Through snow and ice, over parking-lot curbs and onto my friend Mark's lawn (because it looks like hell, anyway, and there's no childhood fantasy realized quite like driving across someone's lawn). I drive my baby like she was stolen. Actually, I shouldn't joke about stolen Subarus -- my sister's was stolen once, only to be found in Elizabeth, Colorado, months later, inhabited by meth heads. They had picked off all the plastic around the door locks and window controls, rendering it too creepy to drive.
Named Wooderson after the character I most resemble, personality-wise, in Dazed and Confused, my Subaru is my own special beast. After owning a sharp little woman like my Volkswagen bug, I couldn't imagine myself in a Subaru; I mean, there isn't a less attractive car out there. But wait: Between Nancy and Wooderson, there was Rick. While my mom was having a bout of mom weirdness, she accidentally bought a 1989 Dodge Colt from her friend at work for $1,000. It was the ugliest car on earth, and she gave it to me; I named him Rick. Although he died shortly after he became mine, for one hot summer, Rick's dehydrated and sunburned styrofoam seats provided more than enough cushion for my own sunburned butt.
What Rick must have looked like in his prime.
But to say a Subaru is ugly is unfair, since these cars were seemingly born out of utilitarian necessity. They look best wearing bike and ski racks, or wounds from extreme driving through forests and up off-road trails. (Or in my case, missing bumpers from a teenager's rear-ending while I sat at a stoplight waiting to get the hell out of Boulder after Demetri Martin romanced me.)
Subarus are also often covered in bumper stickers, usually referring to physical feats accomplished by the owner. ("New York London Paris Tokyo MOAB" is a sticker that comes to mind. Every once in a while, you might catch a retro "No Pain No Jane" sticker, if you're lucky.) But this is all because Subarus weren't made for driving, they were made for l-i-v-i-n'! These vehicles are designed to haul anything and everything -- camping gear, snowboards, Greyhounds, chairs found in alley dumpsters -- but unlike their pick-up-truck counterparts, they're conveniently designed not to help with your girlfriend's BFF's couch move. Subarus are truly made for transport.
Seriously, any year of an Outback model can hold at least five adults, three Labrador retrievers (or an unlimited number of chihuahuas) and several large purses. I say that because I carry a large purse, and you know what? Sometimes there isn't enough room in a car for it. But that's never a problem in my Subaru. Yes, in Wooderson, I can pack two people, two ancient Peavy amps, two guitars, a full PA, a suitcase full of our band's merchandise or miscellaneous dude body parts and my Mary-Kate-sized purse. Wooderson handles it all.
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I know I'm not the only one who feels this way about their not-so-pretty-but-always-reliable Subaru; if you live in Colorado, walk out of your office/apartment/cave right now and count how many you see on the block. I guarantee there is at least one Subaru within a fifty-foot radius. And it probably belongs to someone you know. Who am I kidding? It's probably yours.