Magazine article The New Yorker

Just Drive

Magazine article The New Yorker

Just Drive

Article excerpt

My greatest failure in life has been my inability to drive a car safely between two locations. My greatest dream: a car that will drive me.

I have always loved cars. When my family moved to Queens, New York, from Russia, my father bought a used red Chevrolet Malibu Classic, whose bulbous rear we immediately decorated with an orange reflective Playboy-bunny decal. The year was 1980. I was only eight, but I instinctively understood that my father, behind the wheel of the Classic, with the mysterious glowing hare at its rear, signalled the height of masculinity. (My mother, on the other hand, petitioned to have the sex rabbit removed, without success.) One lucky day, I found myself in the possession of a dollar and ten cents, with which I bought a toy car from a local druggist, a green Chevrolet Impala. My father and I used some leftover paint to turn the green Impala the same red as our Malibu Classic. I shared my pillow with the toy car for many months, its new-paint smell a reminder that, parked beneath an elm, just two blocks away from our garden apartment, a real American car, complete with license and registration, awaited father and son. America was a large country, but a road atlas from the local Exxon station seemed to indicate that if one got inside a red Malibu Classic in New York one could conceivably exit the Classic in San Francisco.

Many of the problems I've faced during the past forty years have revolved around coordination and spatial skills. I don't know how close I should be to objects either moving or stationary. Get too close, and I might hurt them. Stay too far, and I will never know their love. Another thing I don't understand is the difference between left and right, which, when I was a little boy, frustrated my father no end. Using a felt-tip pen, he drew on one hand the Russian letter "[PE]," which stood for pravo, or "right." On my other hand, he drew the legend "[Lambda][GHE]," which stood for levoe govno, or "left shit." (Perhaps he was also evoking his political philosophy.) I would march around, swinging my arms, saying to myself, in Russian, "Left shit, right; left shit, right." Today, I would respectfully submit that my father's pedagogical method was a failure. …

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