A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The General Lee

Dinner party tonight with Philippe and his wife, Normita. Philippe is the Belgian friend for whom I collect Hot Wheels cars. When I arrived with a suitcaseful a few days ago, he wanted to thank me by taking me and Normita out to a nice restaurant. Somehow instead I ended up cooking them an American dinner at the home of a mutual friend.

In the kitchen, I struggled a bit with the electric cooktop, unfamiliar pots and pans, and the somewhat but not quite equivalent ingredients from the Super GB on rue Neuve. Meanwhile in the living room the conversation had turned to--what else?--Hot Wheels cars.

Philippe was excited because the ebay auction of John Schneider's "General Lee" was ending any minute. Schneider is the actor who played Bo Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard. His "General Lee," a seriously souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger, was not one of the cars used in the original television series, but in a later Dukes of Hazzard movie.

We logged onto ebay and sure enough, there it was. The auction ended with a bid for $10 million. Philippe was excited, not so much about the actual car, but about his little Hotwheels reproduction of it.

The auction sale will probably fall through, but Philippe doesn't care. All the brouhaha surrounding the car can only increase the value of his midget version.

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Blogger Christopher said...

Sadly, I see in the obituaries of the weekend Wall Street Journal today that the man who invented the miniature die-cast toy car has passed away.

Jack Odell got started in the business by creating a miniature steamroller for his daughter, who wanted a toy that could fit in a matchbox. At the time, he was co-owner of a struggling tool-and-die company, called Lesney Products.

Lesney captured public attention because it started making these Matchbox Cars, as it thereafter called them, around the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and produced a miniature version of the horse-drawn golden coach that figured in the ceremony.

In a 1962 interview, Mr. Odell was not reticent about the wealth his invention had brought. In an interview that year, he said: "Oh yes, I'm a millionaire -- in pounds sterling, you know."

It wasn't until the 1970s that Mattel entered the competitive picture, with its Hot Wheels. Mr. Odell retired from Lesney about the time that rivalry was heating up. His timing was as excellent in getting out of the business as it had been getting in.

So farewell, Mr. Odell. You made your pounds sterling honestly, making children happy and creating a booming collectibles market for the entertainment of adults in the process. May the road to heaven rise up to meet you, and may your soul be driven along it in a die-cast golden coach.

8:59 AM  

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