Standing tall above the murky depths of New York Harbor is a universal symbol of hope and freedom that is recognized the world round, the likes only known by Coca-Cola and a pair of golden arches. We lovingly call her ‘Lady Liberty’- our Statue of Liberty. Etched on a plaque at her feet are the words of an otherwise totally obscure poem ‘New Colossus’ that have been respoken, at least in portion, countless thousands of times since it was unveiled in the late 1800’s. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”; the words even going on to single out the “wretched refuse” as being at the top of the want-list of desirables. While these simple words have grown to hold immeasurable importance in the history of our great country, I must admit that I have knowingly, and possibly even willingly, been given to a gross misinterpretation of them.
While the origin of this uplifting sonnet is referring solely to those individuals who might journey to our country in search of freedom, opportunity and the idea that your own pursuit of happiness is only limited by yourself. I have taken those words and twisted them, if only in my mind, to mean something so much different. I’ll call it my “Craigslist Mantra”. If you’re not familiar with Craigslist, then you are not likely on anything that resembles the internet and you’re reading this blog would be purely coincidental, and if so, Welcome Aboard!
My affliction began about 2 years ago while searching the internet classifieds for a used car for my newly licensed son – a diamond in the rough, if you will (the car that I was in search of, not my son). I knew he would need something reliable, somewhat ‘sporty’ but not likely to exhaust my untold fortunes when it was time to pay for car insurance. We looked at many, drove several and ended up finding a real gem. While my son was just glad to have the whole thing behind him, I rather savored the experience. Soon I was justifying the need for a “backup” car as a means of supporting my addiction, for those times when my lifted Jeep was recovering from some off-road calamity or the weather was less-than-conducive to open air driving.
I innocently established a few guidelines to help direct and focus my search. First, it needed to be bought for $1000, or less (a criteria that quickly relegates your search into something that resembles a salvage yard scavenger hunt). Secondly, per my better half, it should not be an obvious project going into the purchase; in other words, it needed to be self-contained and not stored in crates and boxes in more than one location. Third, it should have both a roof and doors (this is something that needs no mention with normal people, a group from which I am excluded). Lastly, and not necessarily a requirement, it needed to be a Jeep.
Enter the tired, huddled masses! My search began as a daily ritualistic process of searching Craigslist in a geographic area centered around my home that progressively expands outward as my own level of desperation increases. Sure, there are some really horrid piles of scrap out there that could be had for a grand, but I was bound and determined to do better. Suddenly the quest for the holy grail of Jeeps was as much a part of my daily routine as 30 ounces of hot high-test coffee and checking emails. The more I looked, the more I slowly and surely surrendered to the fact that such a Jeep may not actually exist and, as I came to terms with this fact, my resolve to find such a Jeep deepened. There is a well-known proposition in regards to making such a universally negative assumption. To say something doesn’t exist simply because you haven’t seen it is near-sighted. You should never make such a statement until you have literally looked everywhere and I had not so much as looked outside my state. How undedicated to the cause could I be?
When evaluating poor, huddled masses, it’s vital that you don’t only look skin deep, as a wiser older person may have once told you. Sure, that’s where the beauty lies but we’re looking for something with more substance than beauty. Then, suddenly on a hot sunny Sunday afternoon…there it was! I could tell by the way my wife gazed at me while we were test-driving it, that this was the one! She hadn’t looked at me with such obvious distrust since I told her that my engine swap shouldn’t take more than a weekend, two tops. The newfound fruits of my search were not easy on the eyes. There were many layers of dirt, mold and mildew or patina (whichever you prefer), a headliner that had been sacrificed to the car gods in a ritualistic slaying years earlier and a case of death wobble the likes I had only ever read about; one that the seller was leery to disclose to me for fear of nixing the deal. Nine hundred and sixty clams later and I was tooling home at the pace of 45.5 miles an hour, a tick off from the speed at which all manners of hell breaks loose in the decrepit ZJ’s front steering. But underneath that crusty exterior was a highly-optioned luxury SUV that had come on hard times and just needed somebody to believe in it once again; someone to give it one more chance at having purpose. Sure, it had some miles on it and it was far from perfect but aren’t we all?
Funny thing is, my search for the thousand dollar heap is all over but yet I still search, almost daily, for another. Just like the Statue of Liberty didn’t take a pry bar to the plaque the first time an immigrant found their way to our golden shores. No…there’s always room for one more. Just ask my wife. OlllllllO