If all goes as expected, I will be a full-time student at Portland State University next quarter.
I will need to complete 45 credits, or about one year, to be awarded a degree. My plan is to enter the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. According to the PSU website, it is the nation’s oldest continuously operating program in urban studies.
Between Reed College and The Juilliard School, I have completed four years of college, but I have not yet achieved a certificate of completion. Going back to school and “finishing” seemed like as good a way as any to celebrate my upcoming birthday.
I am also applying to The Honors College. As a part of the application, here is a question I was asked to answer, and my response.
Q: Describe a topic, activity, idea or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. How did you come to develop this interest? What is the experience like when you are engaged with it? Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? What can we learn about you from this interest or passion?”
A: I have had a lifelong passion for motorized vehicles. My grandfather taught me how to drive the family tractor, a Ford 9N, at the age of 8. My first job was to drag a flatbed behind the tractor to level the ground under our walnut trees. That made the nuts easier to pick up once I shook them loose from their husks.
In 1965, the day I turned 15, I got my learner’s permit. On my 16th birthday, I was first in line at the local DMV. In my grandmother’s new Mustang, I passed the driving portion. I immediately went to a friend’s house and bought his decrepit British sports car, an Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite. I paid $30 for it, which, considering its disheveled condition, was too much.
But I was 16 and had my own sports car! I could wear a sporty British cap, and wave at other sports-car owners. I had entered the tribal world of Healeys, Jaguars, MGs and Triumphs.
Soon after, I drove the nearly unimaginable distance from my home in San Francisco to visit my girlfriend who lived in Santa Barbara, CA. Driving a tiny car with an even tinier engine 325 miles on Highway 101 was a grand adventure. It turned out to be the first of many.
Since then, I have pursued a career of learning about and reporting on how our society places values on collectible cars. I have written on this topic in my magazine, Sports Car Market, as a stringer for The New York Times and in a variety of other publications.
My adventures with sports cars have allowed me to race and rally in Italy, England, France and Argentina. Plus, I have used vintage sports cars (they are 50 years older now than they were when I turned 16) as an excuse to go on road trips with friends, and later, my two children, to obscure and interesting destinations all over the United States, Europe and South and Central America.
Old cars have become my keys to a Magic Kingdom of adventure and camaraderie.
We are now at a moment of epochal change as our society prepares to shift from internal combustion to electric cars. Just as I celebrate how old cars have enriched my life, I am prepared to learn from and be fascinated by the revolutionary change that awaits our relationship with the automobile in both the near and far future. There are new adventures coming.
Back to school
It will have been 44 years since I last attended college. However, 34 years of publishing SCM has been its own “school of hard knocks” and has certainly provided plenty of on-the-job training. I think I should award myself an honorary doctorate in Independent Publishing.
In these years, I have watched industry titans like Automobile, Car and Driver, Motor Trend and Road & Track struggle to reinvent themselves. The Kruse Auburn Auctions, once the center point of the collector-car world, have given way to millions of dollars of cars being sold online, with no physical contact between buyer and seller.
In the midst of this, like a Coast Guard cutter crossing the bar at the mouth of the Columbia River, SCM has motored on. We have never deviated from our course, providing authentic information to our no-nonsense readers. Our dedicated and irreverent team of writers — many of whom have been with us for more than two decades — continue to delight both me and our readers each month. They know as part of the SCM team they pull no punches and call things as they see them. You expect no less.
As a college student, I hope to explore the ways the changes in personal mobility are affecting how we plan our cities and adapt to a changing world.
When I told Executive Editor Jeff Sabatini of my plans, his immediate response was, “We need an intern here. As a college student, you would be perfect. We’ll start you out assisting with fact-checking auction reports. Your compensation will be an SCM membership and a cap.”
In future issues, blame any egregious errors on the new intern. I’m a quick study, but there is a lot to learn. Does Austin-Healey have a hyphen or not? ♦