March 10, 2009

General Motors, To You We Bid Adieu

As much as it's become a pariah in recent decades because of its infamous failure to adapt, which is to say, to understand that the introduction of the Toyota Corolla and Datsun way back in the 1970s into the American market represented the wave of the future - still, someone my age can't help but be nostalgic about General Motors.  GM built the cars that symbolized American affluence at the height of its dominance, in the 1950s and 1960s.  Who can forget those eyebrow fins on the 1959 Chevy Impala?  The inverted Nike Whoosh on the side of the 1955 Oldsmobile (nothing new under the sun, including Phil Knight's ideas).  Those bullet holes along the fenders of the late Fifties Buicks. The most ostentatious and ridiculous gewgaw of them all, those tail lights on the Cadillac hung like two alien eyes atop a vertical fin.

And the engines: massively overpowered, yet very inefficient.  300 horsepower capable of propelling the tank-like mass of a Buick Century maybe 120 miles per hour.  No safety features, either. No seatbelts, steel dashboards (to dash your brains out on), hood ornaments to impale pedestrians with.  Death traps, as the yearly statistics on traffic fatalities demonstrated.  Well, that's what America was like - big, muscular, powerful, and we left the wounded behind on the highways to fend for themselves.

'Tis said you can now buy a house in Detroit for a buck.  Full retail price is maybe 18 grand, but you can take one off the hands of a bank, relieving it of the tax burden and "maintenance," for much less.  Just put the sucker in your name, please.  We'll pay you a buck if you'll accept this deed.  Then the city of Detroit can foreclose a tax lien on a squatter, put the house up for auction, receive a buck against the accrued back taxes, and start the whole rigmarole over again.  Such data points surely spell the end of GM.  The workers are all leaving.  Well, car sales are down 50% anyway, and not just for General Motors.  No company can survive that kind of contraction for long.

The Congressional Clown Troupe will hold more hearings on GM, no doubt.  We can put these proceedings in the same category as their occasional meddling in major league baseball.  The steroid hearings are held periodically so these dweebs can finally sit in the same room with their boyhood idols, albeit abusing the privilege by browbeating the players, all to no good purpose other than the vindication of their own nostalgia.  Back when baseball was pure and unsullied! Other than the drinking, whoring and Black Sox scandal, sure -- as the driven snow.  But the aging solons also remember the General Motors of their youths, and they need to appear in public to blame the current executives for the passing of an age.  It can't really be gone!  What about that turquoise and cream '57 Chevy with three on a tree?  With the slick bench seats and AM radio?  All gone, just like GM.  GM's golden age didn't really last that long.  It's odd when the parentheses of your own years surround an entire epoch, but so it was with General Motors.

Kind of sad.  See the USA in your Chevrolet.  How do you like your Buick?  I think it's wonderful.