"I suddenly understood with great clarity that nothing in life—except death itself—was ever going to kill me. No meeting could ever go that badly. No client would ever be that angry. No business error would ever bring me as close to the brink as I had already been."
– David E. Davis, Jr., on the liberating effects of the automobile accident which almost claimed his life
David E. Davis passed away today.
I began reading his writing in December 1979, and it's not hyperbole to say that his influence changed my life for the better. An amazing writer and raconteur, his magazines informed and inflamed my passion for automobiles, and provided me with a view into a fascinating world of colorful personalities, fantastic road trips, and his own singular point of view on what made for a quality life. Everything I learned from his writing and editorial direction has informed my professional work. As a consummate storyteller, he was truly a great American treasure.
I began corresponding with him via email a few years ago. We exchanged views on a variety of topics, including the marketing of Suburbans as Cadillacs and the proper shade of metallic blue required to bring out the personality of a Ferrari 550 Maranello. We tried to meet up at a running of the California Mille, but our schedules didn't overlap in the way we hoped, something I truly regret. I left a copy of his book Thus Spake David E. with a mutual friend, and David wrote me a wonderful, humorous inscription with an offer of dinner sometime. Though I took the time to thank him for his influence on me via email, I dearly wish I could have had that dinner and looked him in the eyes and told him so. In life you've got to seize the day and make the most of things, and I didn't in this case, with regret.
The quote above is from a graduation speech he gave a few years ago. Whenever I feel like life is kicking me in the teeth, I think about his points above. The ability to pick oneself up from adversity, in the end, may be as important — or more important — as the instinct to go forth boldly in the first place. For me, the lesson of David E. Davis is to live your life out loud, to keep on engaging with new adventures no matter what life hands you in return, and to do it all with as much vigor and chutzpah as you can muster.