Raised by Gas, Pavement, and Fast & Furious

Raised by Gas, Pavement, and Fast & Furious

Instead of weekend football games and house parties, we were found polluting parking lots and dimly-lit streets with car exhaust.

Every high school had, more or less, its cliques; regardless of what they were, we all usually somewhat fell into them. Gently nestled somewhere within this chaotic mass of high school drama and teen angst was our group, not exactly known for anything like popularity, sports, parties, and the like.

Except cars.

Talking cars, buying cars, breaking cars, fixing cars but most, notoriously, (at least in our own minds) racing cars. For a while, the latter didn't really come about in our conversations, at least not from our own experiences. But soon enough, this changed. One by one, we started to turn 16 years old, getting our license as quickly as possible, generally on the same day we turned. Cars came soon enough after that, most of us had our own within a couple months, if not weeks, of getting that little piece of legal plastic. On that day, we resolved to drive defensively, keep our cars solely up-to-maintenance, and never, ever, break the rules of the road.

I'm just f**king with you, we were street-racers.

We've seen entire multi-store parking lots filled to the brim with modified cars in the early hours of the morning, only to end in street racing and be followed shortly by red-and-blue flashing lights.

Hurtling down city streets at nearly triple the marked speed limit, in a 2,900 pound piece of metal not even capable of receiving an acceptable crash rating from the IIHS, is not exactly an activity that tends to draw a large amount of eager volunteers to jump aboard. But, after years of being car enthusiasts, this is what we had, perhaps unknowingly, conditioned ourselves to find appealing. Everyone attributes a different set of characteristics to cars, ones by which they judge and are judged, to many a car is simply a means of transportation, measured against other cars by its price tag, luxury and practicality. For us, the comfort or miles-per-gallon of one car compared to another was meaningless, how we could make a car unique, be that in performance or appearance, that's what we valued in cars.

As I have repeatedly mentioned, but not elaborated tremendously on, street racing and cars were synonymous within our group. I've barreled down highways so fast that the slightest degree of change in steering brought with it the chance of collision. I've seen enough police stops to be able to recognize their head-and-taillights from miles away. I've heard engines backfire out exhaust pipes loud enough to temporarily deafen me. In our group, racing was a right of passage for all cars, anything that came with it was just part of the ordeal.

Let me not mislead you, there is more danger to street racing than simply dealing with the police, as would be expected. This is not the safest way to use a car; quite the understatement. For us, the risk was understood, which took longer for some of us to understand than others (myself included,) but not actualized into inhibition. Of course, there were times we had called the night off because of this, opting instead to gather in a basement and play Forza Motorsport until we couldn't differentiate between the television screen and the wall it was resting on. But at the same time, sometimes the most enjoyable things to do may have unfavorable outcomes, calling into question exactly how much you want to continue doing what you do. For now, that amount of ambition remains unchanged for us.

So why? I can't expect anyone to understand, or validate, the appeal to street racing, no more than I can be expected to see the appeal in English cheese rolling. I'll completely agree with anyone who says what we do is futile, dangerous and just generally a statistically unwise activity; to which I have no refutation. Truly, there are alternatives to using the streets as a raceway, I am no denier of that. Of course, I could say the entire reason we do not use these is because of the cost and simply the impracticality of applying a daily-driver vehicle to the track, but I cannot negate that there is simply a different allure to racing on a highway road, with the pitch-black night sky overhead and surrounding sense of freedom ever-present, than there is on a track. Maybe some of us are simply predisposed to eventually find ourselves tearing down the road in a mass of fuel and metal, taking only the slightest touch to start us on our ways; maybe a Fast and Furious movie or two.

Cover Image Credit: Brandon Klages

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.


This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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