Crash Rash

Learning From the Demolition Derby

Somewhat like Cuba, chronically poor upstate regions maintain limping, sizable stocks of the old-time Detroit monsters that make good derby cars. (Circa-1970 two-door dreadnoughts of The Dukes of Hazzard ilk, not to mention station wagons and any Cadillac, are choice.) But history is catching up, and this year I witnessed the innovation of special heats for four- cylinder Toyotas, Datsuns, and so on from the fuel-shortage era.

Screaming like mosquitoes with head colds, the little cars collided at fierce velocities and bounced off, lacking the heft to wreak much palpable ruin. Then some small, mysterious, high-strung thing would snap in them, and one after another they were sculpture.

The traditions and monuments of the world's older cultures dwarf the scale of merely personal feelings in the present. In these United States, on the contrary, our current feelings often exceed our viable national symbols, which tend to be crap. Give us anything at all to love gratuitously, and our spirits will cover it with spirit to spare.

So it is with the demolition derby, which you probably must be an American to comprehend. Other folks would likely see destruction and waste where we recognize transcendence: poverty exalted, decay blessed, death trumped by instant and indelible memories.

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