“I Don’t Think I Was Speeding, Officer, Was I Weaving Or Something?”

March 7, 2012

Paloma shook her head at the commercial which promised three nights airing National Lampoon’s Vacation to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Clark Griswald’s trek to California.

She knew that I – having not seen it in glorious HD – would be unable to resist the sirens’ song.

She has often heard me echo the query of Imogene Coca’s deranged Aunt Edna – “Am I gonna eat? Or am I gonna starve to death?” and is good natured enough to have not brained me.

There was a time that I could have recited damned near every line of dialogue from Vacation as could most of my buddies. Chevy Chase had been one of our favorites in Caddyshack a few years earlier but, in that movie, he had been a memorable charcter in a large ensemble.

In Vacation, he was The Man, an outlaw on the road, skinny-dippin’ with Christie Brinkley, who had brightened our winter days for several years in the early ’80s in Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue.

(Clark Griswald could have been in the Olympics, man)

If lab animals were subjected to as many viewings of one movie as my buddies and I had watched Vacation, PETA would rightfully raise a ruckus.

It was not difficult to exhaust the possibilities for fun in our small town before the late news aired. At that point, there wasn’t much to do other than acts of vandalism involving produce and/or fireworks.

(it was a town of three thousand people in the middle of a lot of corn in the Midwest)

Often, a bunch of us would end up encamped in Kirk The Pyro’s den watching Vacation on late-night cable or VHS.

(his family had a spacious house and cable and VCR before most of us did)

We were beginning to get our driver’s licenses – Vacation had been in theaters the summer we took Driver’s Ed – and, like Chevy, we yearned for the open road and dipping skinnies with Christie Brinkley.

The farthest we usually got was Indianapolis or, more often, Cincinnati and there were no “pool waitress” supermodels frolicking in the coin fountain at the mall.

But we did make good use of numerous quotes – travel-related or not – from the movie and, at some point, usually when it was suggested that we call it a night and head home, someone would rally the troops with words of wisdom from Chevy.

(the more delicate amongst you might want to cover your eyes)

“I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamned smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of you’re assholes!”

Here are four songs from the soundtrack…

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from Words & Music: A Retrospective (1992)

I can’t hear Holiday Road and not want to cruise through a desert of the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

The Ramones – Blitzkreig Bop
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology (1999)

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.

The Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited
from Greatest Hits (1989)

During the first few years of the ’80s, when I was really listening to the radio for the first time, The Pointer Sisters were inescapable. A lot of those hits still charm me when I hear them on shuffle.

But sometimes, the manic I’m So Excited is just a bit too perky.

Vangelis – Titles
from Chariots Of Fire (1982)

As part of the last week of school in eighth grade, our class took a trip to a multi-plex in Cincinnati to see Chariots Of Fire. The movie might have just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but a slow-moving, British, period piece on distance running and religion surprisingly proved to be a buzzkill for us kids.

(I’ve meant to watch it again as an adult but…)

Vacation arrived just a year after Chariots Of Fire, so the spoof of Chariots Of Fire hadn’t yet become cliche.

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