New Orleans: Everyone should have a favorite television show. Truth to tell, most everyone does in fact have one – even people who swear they never watch TV or only watch it sporadically (like me).
Mine these days is on MTV. I stumbled onto it one Saturday evening a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea how regularly it runs or if it has a schedule or what. Flipping channels I have found it three or four times and have seen several different episodes. I wish I knew more details, so I could hook you up, but unfortunately all I know is that I love this show and absolutely can NOT turn it off when I stumble on it.
Here’s what I do know. It’s called “Pimp My Ride.” It’s got to be a southern California special, and sure enough it is LA, all the way because they indeed still do care about their cars in California.
I don’t know the name of the host, but he is smooth as silk and cool to the core. He’s a good spirited, good timing, African-American dude with dreads and good natured attitude to go around.
The whole premise of the show is mindlessly simple and hopelessly engaging. At the very beginning of the show they find some youngster’s car that is beaten to junk. One guy claimed he was a DJ from time to time. One young 20’s woman was trying to get her job and life on track. Whatever?
They are driving junk! These are not just used cars; these are cars that have been used hard. They have bumpers held on by wire. They have mirrors missing or dangling by a thread. They have panels in different colors. They have Volkswagen beetles from the old school. They have station wagons that have gift from grandmother written in huge, invisible letters all over the hoods. These are low-riders. These are starter cars that spend time stopping.
These are cars I have driven for 30 years or more of my very long driving career! In New Orleans in my day you could get a learners’ permit at 14, so you can put in quite a number of decades of “wild in the streets” by the time you get to my age.
And, here’s what happens. Our guy finds them in some kind of mysterious and unexplained way. He goes out to where they live. The owner walks him around the vehicle and they prove the obvious – that this car sucks! Somehow defying all odds the host drives the clunkers away to something called West Coast where the miracles are made.
West Coast is where there is magic. West Coast is guys with tattoos and wild hair and life on the streets at high speed written all over them. They sometimes sit around a table and talk about how they are going to make Joe or Jane happy by doing this or that. We watch and minutes later they have indeed pimped the ride. These cars are transformed. The owners are mesmerized. Their friends stand on the street and applaud in the neighborhood. The joy is palpable. It doesn’t cost the youngsters a dime.
Watching Pimp My Ride you see the obvious problems with this being “great” TV. I can tell it’s not going to rival HBO for awards. I can tell this show may be some kind of infomercial for West Coast Cars or whatever the name is that MTV picked up on a lark.
But, I love this show. It reminds me of watching Bearsforth Tipton – was that his name – when they would door knock strangers and suddenly make them millionaires. It brings back the legends of high school when you would hear of people who got keys under the Christmas tree for new cars or for their graduation. You never ever knew anyone that happened to, but like Santa Claus and the good fairy, you really wanted to believe that it was possible that lightning could strike, and if not you, then somebody, somewhere, might end up with a miracle in their lives.
I think that’s part of the thrill of watching Pimp My Ride. Regular young folks who are scrapping by and trying to find themselves and their special place in the world, who all of sudden end up driving rainbow colored, better than new VW bugs or station wagons with turntables in the back and speakers that could blow the dunes off the beach.
A life that was be simpler. A time with wonder, rather than worry. Thinking back to a time where death and war, poverty or injustices were the first thoughts of every day. Dreaming of a time where with luck and pluck you could have a ride on the road that said “this is who I am!” and wheels on the street that fit our image of ourselves somehow, suddenly sprung to life.
Hey, MTV, pimp MY ride!