When I first heard the General Lee was going up for auction, I felt a wave of nostalgia. Memories from my youth came rushing back: jumping through the car window, playing with my Matchbox cars, opening my Dukes of Hazzard lunch box at school and finding a warm, smelly mayonnaise and bologna sandwich, a bag of carrots, and a thermos filled with tepid liquid crap.
I was eight years old. The year: 1980. Some of the memories were good. Honest.
I remember playing football in the street on Friday nights with the neighborhood kids. All of us running up and down the asphalt, hurling insults and engaging in heated arguments like "I was NOT out of bounds," and "Yeah-huh, I can too kick your butt." Arguments that made Roe Vs. Wade look silly in comparison. These were the monumental debates of my childhood. Anything that happened outside of my tiny suburban world was meaningless.
The twilight of evening set in and the streetlights lit prematurely with the sound of burning filament. The air grew colder, the play got rougher and we waited anxiously for eight o'clock to roll around. Throwing the football, making tackles, skinning our knees on the dark asphalt -- waiting -- until suddenly...
One of the moms would open a screen door, step out onto the porch and yell:
We scattered, a bunch of dirt-covered boys scrambling to our houses like they were made of chocolate, barely remembering to pick up the football or say goodnight. We simply bolted to our respective homes without a second glance, crashed through the front door, switched on the TV and sat so close to the screen that our eyes bled.
8PM on CBS. It was on! The Incredible Hulk followed by the Dukes of Hazzard at nine o’clock. Sweetness. Nothing could distract us from our television for the next two hours.
The Hulk filled the screen with that awesome intro, his eyes all screwed up, his shirt ripped to shreds -- a mammoth Lou Ferrigno drenched in buckets of green emerald Glidden roaring at the camera. We were pumped and ready to see some good ol' fashioned Hulk smashin'.
But then, despite the coolness of the intro, we were forced to watch lame Bill Bixby hog up all the screen time. We just sat there, hoping he would disappear and give way to the big green dude. Who cared about Bill Bixby's problems anyway? Bring on the Hulk. And we knew the routine by Season Two:
a) Homeless Bill Bixby comes to town
b) befriends a chick and/or kid
c) chick and/or kid gets in trouble with bad guys
d) homeless Bill Bixby gets captured by bad guys while trying to save them.
e) bad guys make homeless Bill Bixby mad
f) green guy comes, saves the day, but manages to scare the chick and/or kid
g) homeless Bill Bixby leaves town.
These were the days before TiVo, and we had no choice but to endure the boring setup. It took way too long for the Hulk to open a fresh can of jolly green whoop ass, usually at a warehouse or dockyard and never earlier than 8:55pm.
Once the Hulk ended and nine o'clock rolled around, the main event started: Dukes of Hazzard.
There wasn't a little boy alive that didn't love 'dem Dukes. And you'd watch the entire episode, relishing every minute, wishing you owned that awesome car. The finest automobile ever made. The General Lee.
I used to pray that my dad would buy the General Lee and take me to school in it. I would run out of the house, jump through the window with my Dukes lunch box and head to school in style. Instead, I rode there each day in the back of a yellow Pinto. Sigh. You had to have a REALLY good imagination to mistake a Pinto for the General Lee. Believe me, I tried. The best I could manage was to mistake it for one of the cars in Cooter's garage.
The Dukes of Hazzard ruled. Week after week, the bumbling police failed to capture the Duke boys despite their best efforts. I never even noticed the plot (was there a plot?), I just wanted to see more driving over ramps, more slow-mo shots of cars getting demolished, more scenes with Boss Hogg getting red in the face and yelling "Dem Dukes!"
And though I never actually heard the Hazzard P.D. read someone their rights when making an arrest, I bet they sounded something like this:
Hazzard County Miranda Rights (as read by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane)
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to start your car, drive over my foot and get away while I jump up and down on one leg and make funny faces. You have the right to steal my gun and shoot the dirt near my shoes causing me to do a silly dance. You have the right to escape from your cell the moment we lock you into it, provided you can somehow outwit the narcoleptic guard sitting in a chair next to your cell with the keyring loosely attached to his belt."
Friday night was King.
Fast forward to 2008.
We're all grown up. Now our only television nostalgia comes from DVD box-sets and Nick at Night reruns. We no longer play football in the street; we play it on the Playstation.
We spend our Friday nights with our wives drinking booze and watching whatever our TiVo recorded. And when the Dukes of Hazzard comes on television, the wives just cluck their tongues, shake their heads and say annoying things like:
a) "This show is stupid."
b) "Can't we watch something else?"
c) "Get off me. I have a headache."
So who could blame me for feeling a tad bit wistful when I heard that I could recapture some of that lost childhood magic? Recently, the General Lee went on the auction block. THE General Lee was up on eBay.
And somebody out there opened up his wallet and went for it, bidding ten million dollars. Ten million dollars for a slice of America. Some of you might call that "Excessive" and "Irresponsible", especially for a car that barely runs, has busted door handles and a flag painted on top representing slavery and secession. If so, then you just don't get it. It's the General Lee, baby. The General LEE.
By the way, if you just shook your head and yelled, "Wait a damn minute! The Confederate Flag represents freedom and independence," then I suggest that you take the General Lee out for a leisurely drive through downtown Oakland or Harlem. Just make sure you blare the horn-- you know, the one that plays "Oh I wish I was living in the land of cotton!" and trumpet that Dixieland theme with pride. If you're lucky, you'll make it out of the city with the frame still intact. Of course, by the time the "locals" get done with you, you'll have that horn shoved so far down your throat that you'll be whistlin' dixie through your colon.
In the end, the bid turned out to be a hoax. Shocking. The good news is that the car may go back up for auction again in the near future. Make sure you're ready for it. I know I am. That car will be perched atop cement blocks on my front lawn in no time. And I'll squeeze my fat ass through the window every morning, honk the horn and play "Just the good ol' boys" on my iPod Mini.
Now, if someone would just auction off Daisy Duke's Daisy Dukes...