Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cruising life’s back roads with The Car Whisperer

From Sunday's Times and News-Star

Matthew McConaughey unbuttons his shirt, cranks up his ride and cruises the highways and byways of our country, contemplating the ins and outs of the cosmos, checking for loose gravel and wayward steers, stopping at drive-thrus and Stuckey’s just long enough to hit the bathroom and grab more pork rinds.

He’s got our back. No days off when you’re Matthew Mac.

McConaughey is an Oscar winner, much deserved for “Dallas Buyers Club.” He is an East Texas homeboy. He is as likeable a guy as has ever sneaked up on us from left field.

But most of all he is something I never saw coming. He is the Thinking Man’s automobile owner.

He is Matthew McConaughey, The Car Whisperer.

As you know if you have a working television set, he is in a series of car commercials impossible to escape. I can appreciate that because if I am asked to do a car commercial, I am going to show up with my driver’s license and a full gas can. We all need a car.

The issue here is that while I know Matthew is trying to tell me something in these commercials, I am not a good enough mechanic or television viewer – or driver -- to figure out what it is.

I have been a Matthew fan since long ago when my son Casey told me to become one. If I was drowning and so was Matthew, and my son could save only one, we’re talking jump ball. Probably me. But maybe Matthew. Especially if he’s holding car keys.

I can respect that. While I don’t watch a lot of non-sports TV, “True Detective,” in which Matthew starred, is the best television I’ve seen since “Band of Brothers.” Respeck!

But while in “True Detective” I “got” McConaughey’s deep-thinking, out-in-the-hinterlands Rust Cohle, I am missing ground zero in these commercials by a country mile. Not psychic enough?

Actor Rob Lowe is also on commercials a lot, for television service. I know what he and Creepy Rob Lowe and Wildly Insecure Rob Lowe and Loser Rob Lowe are trying to tell me: ditch this one service and get this other service. They actually say that and it’s in written words too. Like taking a remote control from a baby.

But with Matthew, I’m not so sure. He’s deeper. He’s talking in mysterious, IQ-challenging code. And he’s talking low, and not Rob Lowe. But as much as I lean forward and get quiet and try to focus…lost. I cannot interpret.

Is he telling me to get this car? Surely he is. But what if he’s telling me, secretly, that I can go back in time if I get this car, that the LS version is a time machine. Does that cost extra?

Is he telling me he knows who shot Kennedy? That all the world’s a stage and we each must drive a leg, or walk? That once I get into the car I can never get out?

I know a couple of things. The Matthew Way is better than a car man hollering at me on TV. Don’t like a hollering man. And on the cover of GQ this month, Matthew is telling me in plain photographs how to “rock the tweed.” So maybe come car time, all he’s asking is for me to work a bit too, to bring something to the table. I can respect that.

When he’s in his ride and staring down the literal bull, he wants me to know that sometimes I’ll need a pickup, with a trailer hitch. Sometimes I’ll want a hamburger. Sometimes I’ll talk to myself. And sometimes, no matter what I do or what I drive, I won’t be able, on that particular day, to navigate around the bull before me – but I can still turn around and get to “The Butcher Shop” in Longview, if I really want to.

I can respect that, too.

But most of all, through the whispers and the mumbles and the finger twirls, I think he’s telling me what he told me in “Dazed and Confused,” what he’s been telling me all along: “Drive on, drive on, drive on.”