Jewel and Israel were on their third date, driving from East Windsor to Ocean Grove in Israel’s new, red 2015 Volkswagen GTI. He lamented letting go of his dark green 1997 Saturn S Series SW 2. What an irrational attachment to that vehicle he had—even to the name, “Saturn”; like the Mercury cars, it made him think of outer space and this felt more exciting than the names of most other cars. How strange, Israel thought, that both Saturn and Mercury ended up defunct within years of each other. The Saturn was his first car and he didn’t want to get rid of it—he liked holding on to relics: a couple of nine year old t-shirts, his VCR for example, a record player his grandparents had given him, their old plasma ball, their copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… but alas, that damn Saturn, it cost him, on average, a thousand dollars plus, a year—sometimes as much as three thousand dollars a year– in repairs. A year earlier he had to replace the catalytic converter, the oil pump, and needed air conditioning repairs. In search of a reliable but cheap automobile he scoured consumer reviews online and stumbled upon a February 2015 US News and World Report article on the Volkswagen GTI which claimed the vehicle was the “best sports car” for the money in 2015. A year earlier the GTI had been ranked by the US News and World Report as the best “upscale small car” for the money. Perhaps not the most “attention grabbing” but the bright red color was. He actually would have preferred a sky blue car, but he didn’t have so many options, and anyway, he liked how red pierced with ambition and passion in his mind so Israel, ultimately, was pleased.
The drive—straight down New Jersey Route 33– took about 45 minutes. Route 33—at least the eastern portion of it– was one of the few nearby highways Israel enjoyed. He liked passing through communities like Manalapan and Howell which leaned more rural—more open fields to gaze at from the corners of his eyes (because he prided himself on focusing on the road)—in contrast to suburban East Windsor—where he lived all his life (Jewel lived there now too); the open space always relaxed him; for him, it symbolized the free and undeveloped, uncharted terrain of consciousness, ripe for discovery and cultivation of new thoughts. Israel told this to Jewel as they were driving, and she told him she also found a deep, personal connection to certain aspects of the environment. Then she brought up her love for mountains and her desire to live in a community where views of them were ubiquitous.
“I fell in love with them back in 2008,” Jewel said. “It was my senior year at William Paterson University. I thought Clinton and Obama running against each other that summer in the primary, and then Obama winning general election was just so amazing.”
“Yeah, it was. I remember that night too,” Israel said.
“Yeah! So…it literally gave me this, like, natural ‘high,’ and…with the university happening to be on mountains, this theme of…you know… of interconnected elevation… and… that was the night…” she paused, and Israel, who had been falling in love with her, was falling deeper now, and feeling even a touch turned on (and a touch guilty about it) by her passion, the volume of her voice increasing, her hands moving to accentuate her words and expressiveness…“that I decided I was going to be a history professor, and that I could get a spiritual high out of history…these events of such significance! And so the image of mountains are kind of like a memento of that, like a reminder of my purpose. Does that make sense?”