There’s nothing wrong with the car except that it’s on fire.
auto racing announcer Murray Walker
I got a calendar for Christmas full of stupid comments people that weren’t me have made. That one reminded me of a story.
This is what I travelled with as a synthesizer “Prophet” in 1983 (maybe ’84) except for young Nana Ballet. And a couple of cases that were out on loan. Airlines weren’t busting us for excess luggage back then so film and video crews and musicians could take a butt load of stuff. Fortunately time marched on, gear got smaller and smarter for all of us and modelled versions of what’s in all of those cases will run on an iPad Air. Also know that the “portable” MIDI equipped Commodore SX-64 had the distinction of being the first full color “portable” computer with a whopping five inch 16 color display. “Portable” was BS. Carrying it for any length of time would dislocate your shoulder.
I flew into the Midland International Air and Space Port, with these cases and a few more. I was afraid they would make me a little ostentatious, until I checked out the new, quarter million dollar Rolls Royce sitting in the airport lobby. 1983 dollars. Six hundred and twenty grand today. Ouch. Oil and money have been friends since the dinosaurs died. Long haired guys with flight cases were insignificant.
I loaded up, took the long walk to National, always the furthest rental car counter before the end of the world, to pick up keys for my not six hundred grand Cutlass, and grab a one page map. (Remember those?) Nobody wants to be lost in the Permian Basin.
The rental car gal was a true West Texas kinda girl. Tanned and a little leathery and bottle blonde, curious about the cases. I said “Electronic Music” and she made a face before she told me where “everybody” went dancin’ and drinkin’, if I was interested. Because most people were interested in that, you know, where to have a good time line dancin’ and drinkin’. I wasn’t interested, but thanked her anyway. I needed some of those drinkin’ and dancin’ fools at a synthesiszer clinic to cut down on what I feared was going to be a tumbleweeds and dust evening, with a few pocket protector guys thrown in for good measure. She handed me the keys, said “Honey, even if you can get all that stuff in a Cutlass, I’m not sure it’ll haul it. Good Luck.” She gave me the keys and a professional, not invitational, down home Texas gal wink.
The damn car caught fire before I was out of sight of the terminal. I mean right down the divided road on the way out. I stopped, pulled all the cases out and stacked them in the median about ten yards away. So they’d be safe in the event the Cutlass decided to go big BANG. I mean there was one of two existing prototypes in that pile of cases. Nobody was coming or going at the Space Port, so I hiked back to the counter. The rental girl didn’t even look up.
“Somethin’ wrong with your car, honey?”
“Yeah. It’s on fire.”
“So is fire a real problem?” Like people complained about her cars all the time looking for a discount or a free upgrade on a flimsy excuse. A dirty ashtray or gum on the brake pedal, sticky hair products on the headrest. She finished what she was doing, looked up and I pointed out the window to where the Cutlass was belching flames from both sides of the hood. “Well if that don’t beat the bugs out of a Motel 6 bedspread. Thought I’d heard every whiny ass complaint there was. Honest to God car’s on fire is a first.” All hell broke loose on the radios for a minute before she handed me the keys to a new Lincoln.
“I’ll take care of the contract, honey. You hurry back out there and load up your electric music things before the fire trucks have the whole damn road blocked off. You won’t be going nowhere for a while if that happens.” She grabbed another radio and added a little twinkle to the professional wink when she hip bumped the employee door open. “Told ya one of these new Cutlasses wouldn’t haul all that crap.”
The early Eighties were a terrible time for American made rental cars, except for Budget’s $29 deals on Lincolns. Trust me. Air and Space Port is the actual name of the Midland Airport.