My face is red, but I’m drivin’ green

They can be sleek, sexy, stylish, powerful, head-turning, awe-inspiring, even ego-stroking.

Oh cars, oh how I hate ’em.

Here’s the paradox. I love driving, especially long-distance. Crank up the tunes and watch the miles slide by. It’s just this business of owning a car that grinds my gears, so to speak.

No doubt the recent untimely death of the AC in my 10-year-old pickup darkly tinted my outlook. I know, these things happen when the odometer ticks past 100K. But did it have to be now, the hottest summer since the last glacier receded? No, it’s not a simple and (relatively) cheap coolant recharge. It’s the condenser, the icy heart of the damn thing. Speaking of an icy heart, that’s what the mechanic’s repair estimate left me with. Now, I engage what I call the “2-55” cabin cooling system when motoring: Open two windows and drive at 55, uh, where legally permitted, of course.

There are several advantages to this. One, my gas usage has fallen to somewhat below that of an in-need-of-a-tuneup city bus. And my son is now far less likely to take my keys for his up-island weekend Brazilian jujitsu classes. (I no longer ask, “Hey, what did you learn this week?” because he’d invariably show me.)

With the windows down you also feel the breeze. So what if you arrive for work with hair like Andrew Jackson (the dead president on a 20 note) after a jet ski ride? And then there are all those wonderful smells of summer, like, say, creek mud at low tide and that duck farm in Aquebogue.

If the heat becomes oppressive again, I’ll just have to suck it up until Labor Day and worry about next summer next summer. Regarding my appearance, I’m sure lots of folk thought Andrew Jackson a stud-muffin.

Don’t need a moonroof or heated seats or even one of those newfangled cassette players the kids are all het up over. Just want something that will start in the morning and get me where I want to go, maybe arriving without a beehive hairdo.

Just between us, there is one vehicle I lusted after. My son’s buddy Jeff pulled up in front of the house one day some years back in a genuine Humvee (high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle), not the gas-guzzling wannabe. We’re talking the real McCoy, camouflage paint and all. His dad got it just for the fun of it. It was the most beautiful piece of machinery I’d ever seen. He sat in the driver’s seat, I climbed in the passenger seat and when we extended our arms toward each other our fingers didn’t touch. Is it a diesel? Well, he said, it’ll burn anything, but they recommend against using jet fuel. Hey, where’s the spare? No need, there’s a steel core inside the tire so gunfire won’t stop it.

Now who wouldn’t want to drive something like that to the dry cleaners or supermarket? You know the carnage those carts can cause?

But, alas, Jeff’s dad did the unthinkable — he donated the vehicle to the Southold Fire Department. Their dive team now has a set of wheels that can get them anywhere.

I’m still in mourning. He had a hell of a lot of nerve putting public safety ahead of my self-aggrandizement.

Ah, but then there’s TJ, another of my son’s buddies, who drives this Chevy crossover something-or-other in which the AC works just fine. While they’re entranced by some Xbox game, I could grab his key, push it in a big block of wax and then … but, no. Their games don’t usually last for more than three or four weeks.

Wonder if Jeff still has a key to the Humvee. I mean, how often do they really need it?