Like a film strip of memories, daylight takes on a strobe-like quality when it’s filtered through a rainforest of trees at high speeds.
I don’t know why, but being a passenger in a 1973 Karmann Ghia convertible made me feel very classy and European. Hair scarfed and bespectacled, I imagined that this is what Audrey Hepburn would wear if she were in my place, and if Roman Holiday had been set in North Vancouver, instead of… Rome.
William adored that car, which he affectionately nicknamed “Soba”, because the buckwheat exterior reminded him of buckwheat Japanese noodles. It soon became a favourite sight in our high school parking lot; a real classic among a gleaming herd of shiny Beamers and high-end Japanese imports. He’d often ask his friends to take a drive with him to Quarry Rock at the end of Indian River Road, just to hang out and light a few spliffs. I don’t recall many of us saying no.
Invariably, he’d blast Led Zeppelin in Soba’s CD player, and gas pedaled, braked, and swerved a little to the rhythm of the music. This was perfectly fine for “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, but would get a bit hairy with “Your Time Is Gonna Come”.
When I listen to Led Zeppelin today, I can’t help but wonder why it so strongly appeals to so many young men aiming to prove themselves. It’s aggressive, sexually charged music, with a tragic bluesy undertone that makes me imagine a young man struggling to understand why his hormones are fucking so much with his head.
Take these lines from Dazed and Confused:
Been Dazed and Confused for so long it’s not true.
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you.
Lots of people talk and few of them know,
soul of a woman was created below.
You hurt and abuse tellin’ all of your lies.
Run around sweet baby, Lord how they hypnotize.
Sweet little baby, I don’t know where you’ve been.
Gonna love you baby, here I come again.
Sometimes, William would push Soba so aggressively, that I’d feel compelled to take my eyes off the road. Instead, I’d look at the passing forest, fascinated by the green blur of the near trees while the lighter trees behind them would travel more slowly. Sometimes, I would watch him as he drove. He had a kind, yet rather chunky face for a Swede. When he smiled, which was often, his cheeks would rise like rosy golf balls under his light sapphire eyes, contrasting sharply against his jet black wavy hair. My friend, the boy next door.
There was a turn out about 20 minutes down the road where he’d park the car. We’d walk down a narrow stone path through the bushes and trees for a few minutes more and arrive at the a massive outcrop of granite. More times than not, the rock would be empty.
He’d lay out a blanket from his backpack and we’d sit there overlooking the quiet, natural harbour below and talk, about music, philosophy, Volkswagens, the environment, and more often than not, his problems with girls. Sometimes he’d get frustrated, and ask me why girls would do the shitty things they did. I’d do my best to present a balanced response.
A few months later, no doubt doing over 60 kph in a school-zone under the influence of a skunk-weed Led Zeppelin cocktail, William smashed Soba into the tail end of a Jeep driven by a girl from our grade. Thankfully, everyone walked away unscathed. The Jeep suffered a few buckwheat blemishes on its rear bumper; poor Soba was written off.
After high school, William went on to marry a girl he met while studying abroad and became a university professor specialising in evolutionary biology. I haven’t the faintest clue what he drives today, but if I had to guess, it bet it would be station wagon or a minivan.
I’m guessing he’s happy, and feels a little bit less dazed and confused.