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Fourth Gear: The Suburban Mess

Friday, August 29th, 1997

04:00 hours:  They stirred little in those wee hours of the morning.  Truly, it was a green-mellow morning. They slept soundly in their tiny Cape Cod houses, each coated with tiny Cape Cod shingles.  They stirred little--at times, yes, lifting their heads, then laying them down again; stretched out one minute and going fetal the next.  Do not ask if they dreamt of maroon panels and gray helmets, for who would presume to know such a thing, to guess at the longings of the human heart?  A dream is a fuzzy kind of thing: wisps of cirrus clouds rising o'er the western hills, the multi-colored maze of thick cantaloupe skin, a pattern of vector-prototypes conceived in perhaps a single instant by so many billions, trillions of synapses firing simultaneously, and only later extrapolated into a series of chronological events by a parallel processing mind that insists on emulating a unified, serial consciousness purely for greater ease of self-reference.  Never forget that our lives are no different--over instantaneously but examined in reverse through an illusory temporal telescope.  And still, we stir little, for every inch of that cantaloupic maze resonates with a mellow-green tone, uplifting and honest.  Through each midnight toss and turn, that music flows--sometimes in song of memory, sometimes only as blood-force potential.  To listen to these songs, in the mp3 format, click the icons on the right.  Let yourself be.  And what better way to let yourself be yourself than with neutral toned tank tops and corduroys from The Gap.  The Gap: Fall into the Gap. 
AC sessions: songs by jonas, jeremy and ryan  click
silliness by jeremy, joshua and ryan sixfoot6 mp3
ryan's soviet parody of eminem single (4mb)  about 4 megs. right click and save.
many more details on this music stuff click

13:00 hours:  Jeremy and Ryan wake at a reasonable hour and eventually walk over to Joshua's house, where the tuckered out Omni has spent the night.  After a few calls, the three friends determine that both Daniel and Jonas are otherwise occupied.  We will have to go it alone, at least for the time being.  But there are no worries, for it is not the quantity of Omnicians that matters, but rather the quality of each individual's mental devotion to auto-science.  With this in mind, Joshua descends into his basement to grab a blowtorch.

 Test #8: Heat Endurance

13:10 hours:  Without question, the tests of the previous day proved that the Omni can handle rough terrain.  Given the right driver, our little hatchback has no trouble maneuvering through mud, shopping carts, hard biscuits, and tightly-packed groups of trees.  But what if these trees are on fire?  What capability does the Omni have as a emergency rescue vehicle?  Remember in Iron Eagles, when that Jeep drove through the wall of fire, and the Jeep was fine, but that guy's hair was on fire?  Remember that?  It was after Chappie died, I think, when what's-his-name finally rescues his father....  Well, anyways, could our car do that?  We don't exactly have a wall of fire, but we are curious to see how the maroon paint will survive 1500 degree temperatures.  We select an oh-so-shiny looking area above the front left wheel, spark up the blowtorch, and hold it two inches from the Omni's skin.  


Immediately, the texture of the paint begins to change slightly, and wisps of smoke rise up from the flame.  After a few seconds, the paint begins to bubble.  After ten seconds, it burns away completely, creating mind-numbing toxic fumes.  The boys are forced to put down the blowtorch and step away from the vehicle.  Gasping for breath, Jeremy wraps things up with a simple statement.  "Well," he says, "we certainly exposed the Omni's innards".  The Omni's Innards.  Skynyrd's Innyrds.  Lynyrd Skynyrd.  We prod at the white-hot metal with a key, but to our surprise, we can barely scratch it.  The steel remains resilient.  There is some talk of using the blowtorch to write "Omni Power!" on the car's hood, but we decide to hold off, not wanting the noxious gas to bring further casualties.

What we learned:  Even when heated to nuclear temperatures with a hot blue flame, the body of the Omni maintains a SOT Structural Integrity Rating that far exceeds industry expectations.  Such stimulus does, however, effect the structural integrity of our lungs and brain cells.

What this means:  That guy in Iron Eagles probably didn't get paid enough for letting men set his hair on fire.  And maybe the 1981 Dodge Omni is really resistant to fire, kind of the way a military Jeep, or even a Hummer, doesn't melt in fire.  And if they ran out of Jeeps, you could, like, send a mess-load of Omni's out to the front lines, and they would have wicked big guns that were hidden, and the German's would be all "Hey,  look, look at those little cars.  They cant really get us, we can just, like, not even use our weapons, and just set that wall of trees on fire and they will burn up!  So Achtung baby, and heil Khrushchev!" or whatever, and so they eat the flower and spit fire at the trench of trees.  But what they dont know is that Chappie is in the back of one of the cars, and he jumps out and yells "Omni Power" and the cars have Nitro and they fly off the jump through the fire without exploding, and Chappie's hair is on fire but its really a wig.  And at the end of the movie he would sit on top of the coolest Omni, one that is kinda like a transformer, up on two wheels, riding through the cornfields in England.  And he bites into this big knockwurst, which looks regular, but since it is an artsy movie we know that it represents how he conquered the fire-spitters and saved the good citizens of Germanland.

13:20 hours:  Recovering from the fumes and determined to conduct further Omn-inqueries, we pile into the Omni.  Josh takes driver's seat, Ryan takes shotgun, and Jeremy chills in back.  We are relieved to learn that the car starts properly despite yesterday's abuse.  We maneuver out of the neighborhood and head towards Wal-Mart in North Plymouth to drop off yesterday's film.  It's a little gray outside, but our hearts shine brightly.

13:28 hours:  Somewhere on Court Street, the 4-speed transmission produces a series of painful, chunky grinding noises.  Joshua casually remarks "I think third gear is just fucked".  With some yanking, he does manage to get her back into third, but it's not pretty.  We continue on.  Henceforth, each driver takes care to avoid this gear completely.  This forces us to rev up high in second and shift pretty low into fourth.  Whenever this is done, the Omni shakes and sputters for several seconds.  This becomes somewhat disconcerting.  At Wal-Mart, we drop off all the film we shot yesterday, and leave as quickly as possible to avoid spending any more time within the walls of Wal-Mart than is completely necessary.  In the parking lot, Joshua has a cool idea, and we improvise a simple test on the premises.

Test #9: Turning Radius

13:52 hours:  Joshua hops into the Omni, cruises over to an empty portion of the excessively large parking lot, and cranks the wheel all the way to the left.  He maintains reasonable parking lot velocity, and the Omni locks into a surprisingly tight loop around Ryan, whose task it is to measure the distance across this circle.  Conveniently, the distance appears to be exactly the diagonal length across two Wal-Mart parking spaces.  Forgetting about the Official Omnician's Yardstick in the hatchback's trunk, Ryan sets out to take a measurement using only his size 11 Doc Martens, which are each about 12 inches long.  Josh stops the car completely and looks on as his friend measures the diagonal, heel to toe, heel to toe.  As Ryan approaches the north-east corner of the parking spot, he takes his 25th step, and completes his task.  It is at this point that Joshua suddenly develops a sense of humor and guns it, narrowly missing Ryan's right foot and causing him to jump up and fall backwards onto the ass-fault (see figure 9a).

Important Scientific Diagram

Please note that in the above figure, the red dotted line represents the Omni's trajectory, Point A represents the spot where Ryan is nearly crippled, and Point B represents the spot where the distracted Joshua, squinting and laughing at Ryan's misfortune, decides he will swing the steering wheel to the right, causing the Omni to shoot off tangentially, directly toward an oncoming Ford Winstar.  Luckily, Jeremy yells "yo, look out!", Joshua hits the brakes, and the Winstar swerves out of the way.  Reflecting further on the test, Ryan swears at Joshua, and threatens to make him spend more time in Wal-Mart.  We cut our losses, breathe a heart-felt sigh of asbestos, and get the hell out of North Plymouth.

What we learned:  The 1981 Dodge Omni has a turning radius of 12 and one half size 11 Doc Martens boots, which in our experience represents a precise 12.5 feet.  Not half bad.

What this means:  

small Omni circles
look out my falling brother
smiley-faced white trash


14:10 hours:  We drive and drive and drive and turn right and drive and stop at the home of Omnician Jonas to see if he is ready to join today's fun.  His mother informs us that Jonas has accompanied his father to the Independence Mall in Kingston to "buy a lamp".  This is an unexpected turn of events.  But we trust Jonas and his tastes in interior decor products.  He insists on buying Lamp-Man brand lamps.  Lamp-Man Lamps: Lamp-Man lights up your life, so you never need a wife!

14:15 hours:  The three of us are wicked hungry, so we stop off at Al's Pizza, by the Town Wharf in downtown Plymouth.  We order some pizza, which is what you do in a pizza place.  Joshua used to work here back in the day, until he quit to go to Woodstock '95.  And what Jeremy doesn't know yet is that in less than one year he himself will be working behind the counter, unsatisfactorily assembling subs, getting yelled at, and wearing that silly visor.  Yes, he too is destined to quit.  But, innocent to these future events, Jeremy amuses himself by peeling off the Omni's interior while we wait for our lunch.  Click here to see what a cute face he has.  (Not!)  Hey, nice haircut, buddy! (Tee-Hee!)  Hey Jeremy, walk much?  Whassa-matter, Josh, got no shoulders? (drinky-drinky.)

15:10 hours:  Our bellies are full.  Ryan drives through town, taking care to avoid third gear.  Life seems simple.  The car does not sound so good, though.

15:11 hours:  We consider taking the Omni to Almeda's Junkyard to see if it will pass a Massachusetts auto inspection in its current condition.  Josh starts talking about how Todd took it in the year before.  "Dude, the Omni wasn't even close to passing last year.  That sticker was basically a gift."  The sticker currently on the windshield expires this month.  It's pretty well known that Almeda's, on route 3A in Plymouth, will pass just about any car you can drive in there.  But we spent most of our money on pizza and chronic and can't come up with fifteen bucks, so we skip it.

15:15 hours:  We drive back to Jonas's house.  On the way, Ryan pledges to his friends that "the Omni will be completely destroyed within the next three hours."  Jonas jumps in, despite some degree of back pain, psyched to rejoin the fun and the auto-science.  Jeremy continues shredding the back seat.  Joshua makes a strong recommendation to Jonas that he not, at any time, allow his hands to touch the still crumbling ceiling, "or else".  We start making plans for our little car's final fate.  The following suggestions are made:

  • cut off the entire roof somehow and tool around town, possibly yelling racial slurs  
  • drive over to sand dunes at nearby cranberry bogs and try to flip it over
  • drive it off of a cliff, but we cant think of any good cliffs.  After all, this is New England coast, not Iowa.  
  • drown it in gasoline and set it on fire
  • try to break it down into as many pieces as possible
  • ghost ride it into a lake
  • park it downtown, drain the oil, put it in neutral, and seize the engine
  • run time trials using a series of ramps until it stops working
  • try to sell it to people on the street
  • take off the doors and drive it around like its a Jeep
  • leave it on a used Dodge car lot with an outrageous price tag

It is finally decided that we will drive up to a huge clearing way behind Joshua's house, where guys are always zooming around on dirt bikes and various ATVs.  We will do some donuts, roll the Omni over a few times, and maybe try to get in some serious rally action.  Then we will drain the oil and seize the engine.  Then we will set it on fire.  And then perhaps bury it.  As we head toward the neighborhood, the driver (we're not naming any names here) absent-mindedly throws it into third.  The transmission screeches and the car bucks for a couple of seconds.  We decide that before we head out to the dirt bike track, there is something important that must be done.

Test #10: An Audio Transmission

15:35 hours:  We drive the Omni all the way into Ryan's front yard, about six feet from the house.  Joshua pops the hood, Jonas assumes the throne, and Ryan runs inside to grab his 4-track tape recorder.  Jeremy stands around.  Next door neighbor and friend Erik Lofstrand walks over to see what all the fuss is about.

Joshua, Jonas, Erik, Omni and microphone.

Joshua holds the microphone, Ryan presses play, and Jonas begins yanking the stick shift back and forth, thoroughly abusing the Omni's transmission.  The resulting recording is both extraordinary and hard on the ears.  We strongly urge you to download the MP3 and allow the excellent quality of sound enhance your understanding of our little car.

Left-click to open or right-click to save the recording in MP3 format (900k).


Click to stream the file using Real Player on Windows Media Player. Coming Whenever

Listen carefully.  What you hear here is Ryan and Joshua talking, followed by Jonas revving the engine for a few seconds, followed by Jonas abusing the transmission for many seconds, followed by Jonas revving the engine for a few seconds, followed by Joshua exclaiming as Jonas abuses the transmission for a few seconds, followed by the actual sound of the 1981 Dodge Omni transmission dying a complete and utter death, followed by some more revving, followed by Joshua telling Jonas he can stop, followed by the slamming of the hood.  

What we learned:  The Omni made a bad, bad sound.  We got it on tape.

What this means:  We have a problem.  We cannot get the car into gear.  We didn't even really test anything, though, did we?  Well, I guess you could say we tested the transmission's limits.  Yes, you definitely could. Limits...  that's it.  Phew.  Close one.

15:45 hours:  Our toasted maroon hatchback is toast, and completely immobile.  Yea verily, I sing unto thee, our options have become extremely limited.  The dirt track we had intended to tool around in is too far away, and there are no other places nearby where we could set the car afire, jump out of the flames like Chappie, and watch it all burn away like so many unwanted calories.  We have no ramps or racial slurs.  We decide to push the car into the street and run another test.

Test #11:  Carpe Omni

15:50 hours:  Joshua holds his stopwatch, and we let Jonas "drive", since we know he has experience breaking the Omni, which as you know by now, is stuck in neutral.  He turns the engine on.  We all look on.  Hey, both of those sentences ended with "on".  And--hold the phone--that's three in a row that end with "on"!  And that's four!!  And...oh.  I guess that's it, only four.  When Joshua yells "go", Jonas slams his foot on the gas and revs the 1.5 liter four cylinder engine harder than ever before.  The resulting sound is loud, and sickly--hey... the last three sentences each contained the word "four"!  And, look, that's four in a row! And wow, that's--

just a moment
you just consider the problem solved
hold on...

sorry about that, readers.  he's been typing for a long time, but now... lets just say he has been relieved.  
well, i'll finish this off myself.  again, my apologies.  he certainly wont be back.

Josh watches the clock closely.  The engine doesn't sound very good.  If you listen to the recording of test #10, you can hear the engine itself wanting to die.  Well, that trend continues now.  The engine begins to smoke a bit, and it produces some strange wheezing noises.  And then the car shuts off with a rather quiet kathonk.  Jonas turns the key again, and the starter solenoid clicks a bit, but nothing turns over.  After a long 16 years, the motor refuses to start.  There is some debate, but it is finally agreed that the Omni's engine has indeed seized, and that, according to Josh, it has seized in 37 seconds.

What we learned:  When a 16 year old, 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder VW Rabbit engine is put into the first ever American compact car and driven for 150,000, it will seize in 37 seconds if half a quart low.

What this means:  16, 1.5, 4, 150,000, 37.

1562.5/37=42.2297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297297 297297297297297297297...    

Forty-two is the meaning of life, as we all know.  The first digit to the right of the decimal point is 2.  This makes sense. Two is the lowest even prime number, and it signifies the most basic of human relationships, between man and god; man and wife; man and car; man and beer; man and sports; mother and child; master and slave; boy and dog; turtle and cow; customer and salesman; king and subject; mind and body; feet and teeth;  democrats and republicans; bread and circus and fungus; chicks with overalls and white T-shirts.  But this last group of repeating digits: what did they mean?  2 from 9 equals 7... does that mean something? The simple and perfect beauty of mathematics, of the basic physical principles that led to the development of the four stroke engine?  Is 9 trapped between these two prime numbers, oppressed, perhaps, for being square?  Could it represent a spatial distance, or a temporal one?  Could it represent a spatial distance, or a temporal one? What? What?  Stop typing everything I type.  Stop typing ever  Okay, that's better.  In the end, the answer seemed simple: something important was going to happen in February of 1997.  But it's August now, and it looks like we missed it.  And you all know damn well that I'm typing all of this up in 1999 anyways, and February whatever-whatever seems like about 6 years ago, so just forget it.  Don't look to cars for advice.  Just get on with your life.  Never waste a day.  Seize the Omni.

16:00 hours:  The seizing of the engine was a bit of a letdown.  It was quick, quiet, whimpering, Kipling.  We let out our frustration with one final test.  Ryan goes down into the basement, pokes around for a little while, and finally reemerges, ready to continue.

Test #12:  The Sledgehammer Test

16:01  You have reached the beginning of the end.  Here we choose to try and preserve our memories of this rad little car by destroying its baser, physical elements.  This is hard for some people to understand.  You will.  And AT&T is going to bring it to you.  As we embark on this final test, let's cut out this silly narration completely.  Please try to enjoy each image in the Destruction Sequence to the fullest.  Two days, and over two years.

17:00  With the car rendered messy and immobile, and with Ryan and Jeremy's mom due home any minute, Joshua makes a phone call to deliver the Omni up to that big Junkyard in the sky.  Pay your last respects along with us and our good friend Todd (it lives on, T Dog) as you move along the Goodbye Sequence.

Joshua gives the guy thirty bucks to tow it to Michael's Junkyard in Kingston, or somewhere like that.  It's hard to remember, now... so much aluminum in our diets.  We call first and they agreed to take it, but laughed when we asked if they would pay us anything for it.  Thirty bucks to tow it to Michael's Junkyard in Kingston, or somewhere like that.  Just smile and nod.  So we wander back inside, away from the gray, August clouds, the summer evenings full of laughter, and one certain little car that slowly moves on, piggybacking its winding way to a new life.

What we learned:  The pounding of a ten pound sledge hammer against a windshield  is nothing compared to the pounding of that human heart which cares for a good car and for close friends.

What this means:  You have devoted a great deal of time to the reading of this website, time that probably should have been spent preparing that presentation or writing that essay or cooking dinner for your family.  Whatever you do. Time spent doing the things you need to do to live a happy and productive life.  But, indeed,we thank you for reading.  Feel free to visit reverse to send us your comments and stories, because we all appreciate having the chance to let our memories live on.  Never forget that an automobile, no matter how old or poorly manufactured, can grow to be a kind of extension of a person, an an element of attitude, a warm blanket.  And if you wander into a dried up creek, or through a junkyard, or into an old abandoned warehouse, you may find that self-same automobile: you just might stumble upon a little car that once meant so much to someone.  Too often our cars become separate mobile closets that hide us from one another as we compete for mere feet of road, for the parking space closest to the mini-mall entrance.  Please, try to use your imagination to put yourself into the shoes of another driver--try to recognize that the other guy's relationship to those things that he cares about is exactly like your relationship to those things that you keep close to your heart.  And remember, if you ever visit Plymouth, Massachusetts, you just might stumble upon pieces of the little maroon hatchback that meant so much--and still means so much--to Todd, Fatty, Daniel, Dave, Joshua, Jonas, Jeremy and Ryan.

so long, and thanks

 Had you for a second there, eh?

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