“American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ homage to Cali teens and young adults during the 1950s cruising scenes, is a classic that every generation can connect with.   Whether you were a teenager during the horse and buggy years, or a young man with an eight-cylinder, 2012 Pony car, “American Graffiti” has moments that seem very familiar to most of us.  Cruising in your ride, making out in your car, street racing, break-ups and make-ups with your girl or boy, going to dances, going to a cheeseburger joint, getting your car stolen, and making decisions on what to do with the rest of your life after high school.

For men, this movie has a greater fascination for us, because it’s a movie that prominently shows cars and all the glory they bring.  Cars allow us to pick women up during a date, and take them wherever they want to go — gone is the embarrassment of having to pick up your date on foot and waiting for a bus.  Cars give us confidence: we believe the power, speed, and beauty of these machines are infused with our bodies as we get behind the wheel.  Cars give us the first taste of raw freedom and control.  It is an awesome thing.

“American Graffiti” treats us to a young, George Lucas, back when he knew how to write and direct.  We are also treated to very young stars such as Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, and Mackenzie Phillips.  And of course, there’s the music that keeps the nostalgia going for the rest of the movie.

My most memorable, movie moment of  “American Graffiti” is the scene when Charles Martin Smith is handed the keys and safekeeping of Ron Howard’s car.  The joy on Martin’s face is something every driver knows, as at some point, we were given the keys to our first ride.   The whole world fades away, and for a brief moment the only thing in life worth living for is to drive that car.

And for many of us, the love of cars goes on for the rest of our lives.  One very, very late and cold Friday night I decided to take a drive from Queens, NYC, to Suffolk County, Long Island, using the back roads.  The trip took several hours, and for the most part I was the only one on the road.  My senses were heightened from not having to waste any thoughts on traffic or careless drivers.  I took in every sight and sound of my vehicle and the streets.  I enjoyed every bit of it like it was my last night in this world.  I felt free.

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