In the autumn of 1967 when I studied Philosophy at Gledon Hall in Toronto, I was introduced to Rosalee Matalon, the daughter of a well-to-do family in Kingston, Jamaica. I believe her family owned Appleton Estate Rum. She was a quiet but stunningly beautiful young lady, tall and sylphlike. I had been asked to connect with her because she was a friend of Alexander Dougall, a former boarding school chum of mine from St. Andrew’s College in Aurora.
On the day I met Rosalee, we were transported off-campus by another Jamaican, a married woman who arrived early afternoon at the women’s residence (Hilliard Residence) in a black Cadillac automobile. I had the distinct feeling that the married woman was an escort for Rosalee upon her first “date” with me though I may have confused that recollection. Whatever the circumstances, we three got into the Cadillac and headed out for a drive. Our destination initially was an ice cream parlour but we abandoned that idea in preference for just driving around (which was patently more in line with what the married woman wanted to do in any event). As we drove, we talked. I believe the married woman lived with her husband in the Forest Hill area of Toronto, north of Upper Canada College, somewhere west of Avenue Road. The married woman was delightfully gregarious and her openness contrasted with the unassuming nature of Rosalee who virtually evaporated throughout the remainder of our outing (and I don’t think I ever saw her again afterwards). The married woman did at least leave me with a lasting impression. She clearly did not know the neighbourhood surrounding Glendon College (which was located in North Toronto at Bayview and Lawrence). One of my newest acquaintances at Glendon Hall was Tommy Schultz whose family lived on nearby Park Lane Circle. I had visited Tommy there a number of times so I directed the married woman (whose name I cannot recall) to drive in that area.
As the married woman settled into the tranquillity of driving in this upscale sprawling subdivision of reserved mansions she casually remarked in her thick West Indian accent, “You know, Bill, the only thing I like better than drivin’ me Cadillac is lying in bed on a rainy day with a man with a hairy chest!” The approbation has stuck with me for years. I found the comment hugely entertaining.
Anyway, all this is to say, while I won’t obviously repeat the recommendation word-for-word, I too like “drivin’ me Cadillac”.
Today for example was a perfect day to do so. We had been out on our bicycles early this morning along our usual rural route of about 17 kilometres. Afterwards at the apartment I had bread and almond butter followed by a large bowl of granola. Then I jumped into the shower and put on my usual uninspired apparel – white shorts with tan web belt, stripped blue and white Polo, white socks and Top Siders. Finally I fastened to my wrist a bit of sterling silver bling. I have lately taken to washing my jewellery with Ivory concentrated dishwashing liquid (classic scent) which, besides containing biodegradable surfactants and no phosphate, is a remarkable cleanser and provides an unusually pleasant slickness to the metal surface. Ivory is far more manageable than Twinkle Silver Polish or W. J. Taggerty’s Silver Wash and pointedly leaves no visible residue.
It is well-known that my rambling automobile drives are predominantly a private affair. It does of course help that most people don’t exactly clamour to go for an aimless car ride in a sedan. Being alone I have the privilege to put down the windows and enjoy the air, a pleasure which today was exceptional because the atmosphere was dry and temperate. Although I had plugged in a USB with some of my favourite songs, I abandoned listening to it because the wind was just too much competition. Besides when things are going smoothly on the open highway I find myself humming to myself anyway, normally the placid theme song from Federico Fellini’s Amarcord by Nino Rota:
Giovanni “Nino” Rota (3 December 1911 – 10 April 1979) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor and academic who is best known for his film scores, notably for the films of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. He also composed the music for two of Franco Zeffirelli’s Shakespeare films, and for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, receiving the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Godfather Part II (1974).
During his long career Rota was an extraordinarily prolific composer, especially of music for the cinema. He wrote more than 150 scores for Italian and international productions from the 1930s until his death in 1979—an average of three scores each year over a 46-year period, and in his most productive period from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s he wrote as many as ten scores every year, and sometimes more, with a remarkable thirteen film scores to his credit in 1954. Alongside this great body of film work, he composed ten operas, five ballets and dozens of other orchestral, choral and chamber works, the best known being his string concerto. He also composed the music for many theatre productions by Visconti, Zeffirelli and Eduardo De Filippo as well as maintaining a long teaching career at the Liceo Musicale in Bari, Italy, where he was the director for almost 30 years.
This blissful music transports me along the highway, sailing past the wavering corn and wheat fields, rising to the azure sky with the imminent sense that the Ocean is on the other side of the hill. Driving a Cadillac sedan is obviously not the sort of experience where you expect to “feel the road”. In fact the experience is by contrast quite disconnected from the road, the sensation one might instead expect of lolling on a sofa. The seats of the Cadillac are brown leather which is comfortable enough, but there is the added benefit of a 22-way seat adjustment and massage feature. I especially relish the stable road-hugging character of the drive and the distinctive rumble of the engine. The Cadillac is slightly lower to the road than the comparative Lincoln sedans and the difference is noticeable. The drive is also straight and tight, comfortable without being a “boulevard ride”.
It is no secret that on just about any day one can encounter the demonstration of certain road psychology. Younger male drivers tend to be particularly anxious to prove that their smaller, sportier models can out-run a lumbering Cadillac sedan. Of course I make no attempt to defeat them in their purpose. indeed with only 304 horsepower at my disposal to push along a 2-ton car, it is not going to be an exercise in either speed or efficiency. Besides it is undignified to drive a Cadillac sedan as though it were a sports car, too BMW. The Cadillac XTS is specifically geared to the old fogey clientele and its specifications meet the target admirably.
We’re poised to take the Cadillac on a long haul to the East Coast in a few days. Our destination is St. Andrews-by-the-Sea in New Brunswick. What I recall from my law school days in Halifax, Nova Scotia is that the TransCanada highway in that part of the world is superb, a forceful reminder that there is more to Canada than Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. I will have extended periods just to gloat upon the mechanical perfection, the smoothness of the ride and the unparalleled sound system, not to mention the prolonged triumph of having achieved my youthful goal of doing so in a dark blue Cadillac. The trip represents another milestone. My late father was from New Brunswick. Many times he too drove from Ontario to New Brunswick and I know that he derived the same pleasure as I from doing so. While I always felt disappointed that my father and I hadn’t more to do with one another, I recognize that he was equally happy driving his car. In a small and perhaps somewhat peculiar way this upcoming trip to New Brunswick will be a trip together for my father and me. I can imagine him sitting quietly in the car, gingerly holding the steering wheel, listening attentively to the sounds of the engine and the road, assessing the mechanical efficiency. And being thoroughly satisfied.