One morning last summer, I swung by Autobahn Jaguar in Fort Worth. I had to see the new metallic British racing green color, since the dealership finally had an example resplendent on an XJL Supercharged sitting in the forecourt under gauzed canopies. It looked just right—better, I think, than the old botanical green. Less ambiguous and more emphatic. “Confident” would be the word.
As I turned to compare Jaguar’s new color to the non-metallic British racing green on my XJS, parked only yards from the row of pristine XJs, XKs, and XFs, a priest or minister of some denomination appeared from nowhere and walked across the forecourt in the blazing sunshine. He was about 33, I would say, sandy hair, medium-tall with a slim build. He wore a short-sleeved brown shirt with a clerical collar. Jaguar would have called the combination “truffle with ivory.” He walked toward a 2011 ebony XKR in need of a clean with 20-inch Kalimnos wheels.
He opened the door of what many regard as the world’s most beautiful and understated grand tourer, got in, started his engine without ceremony, and exited stage left from the forecourt with restraint but deliberation and purpose, maybe even a touch of theater, as if leaving the altar during communion. A man of God in an XKR. Or, rather, another man of another god in an XKR. For a moment, I thought it might be Jesus.
It may have been a sign. As I stood there inspecting the new color—the seemingly finer, New Testament Xirallic metal flake (which is unique to a single factory in Onahama, Japan) of the new British racing green, compared to the more blatantly flaked but more peat-like hue of the Old Testament botanical green—I became aware that the clergyman and I were at the service of different gods but momentarily vying for the same altar. He had slid too quickly into his car, like a man without a clear conscience.
I’m not sure to which denomination the XKR-driving priest might have belonged. A Catholic, one would expect to see in a black clerical shirt or even a cassock. And perhaps at the Maserati or Ferrari dealership, although equally likely at Jaguar. Wearing a cassock and sandals is no way to drive a 510-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 supercharged hell-raiser. Or maybe it is the best way.
A Calvinist or Lutheran would drive a heavily de-tuned Volkswagen Passat or one of the newer offerings from General Motors but, either way, with custom hair-shirt seats and making heavy work of it at every four-way stop, pushing the car up inclines whenever possible so as to incur maximum toil. Lutherans would secretly hanker after an Audi, but only after the happy gas in the dentist’s waiting room.
A Baptist would drive a low-end Lexus in gaudy pearlescent white that throws off iridescent Barbie pastels that nature would never have tolerated but Texas took in like an orphan from the world’s cheesiest adaptation of Oliver Twist. And with a blanked-off sound system and internal washer-wipers squirting river water at the face, to re-birth at every gas station.
A Methodist would drive a similar Lexus, but with a better-specced interior and with a stereo that played only Kelly Clarkson. A Church of England vicar would drive a maroon Vauxhall station wagon, something bland and capable of carrying several cheap acoustic guitars and tambourines in the back, but not sold in the United States in any case.
But we were in Fort Worth, so I was quite unsure. Not Church of England, then, of that I was certain. Of which denomination was this cloth man? It was like a scene from Chaucer’s “Parson’s Tale.”
I remained mildly distracted by the clergyman invading my parish as I studied the paintwork from many angles, turning the issue over in my head. Was his congregation so scant on females that he was using the Jag as a congregational babe-magnet? Aware that in the Fort Worth Cultural District, this was a more convincing way of shepherding wayward ewes back into his flock?
Or was it the most dastardly of all scenarios? He was not really a priest at all. He was a modern Alfie, renting the clerical shirt from a fancy dress supplier and driving the Jag as the ultimate act of caddishness, on his way to pick up a 12-pack of Coronas at a Latino beer barn with bikini-clad babes in bubblegum-pink hot pants. I will never know.
I let the thought hang in the hot summer air and returned to the back of the XJL and more reverent thoughts. The new metallic green took on the correct bottle green, almost bluish hue that epitomizes the archetypal British racing green. As with a Bolognese, everyone has a different idea of what is correct and authentic when it comes to a true British racing green.
Under the canopy and seen straight-on, without direct sun, catching reflected light bouncing from the concrete of the concourse, the color was near black, like the ocean inside a cave or the water in a deep lagoon. It was Leonardo’s green. Or Courbet’s from The Woman in the Waves. It belongs to one of them. And where lit up in patches of direct sunshine, it showed the viridian, with undertones of emerald.
Venice. Now I was in Venice.
This was color’s sermon so carefully put together, so deliberate and sublime, specifically paradoxical as to be a thing of untold beauty, to create mystery and intrigue like the farthest point in the iris behind the cornea. Unfathomable color. It was pure temptation. I couldn’t leave the garden of Eden.
There could be no one color, no one perception, but the whole gamut: light trapped in a semiprecious stone and impossible to take in all at once, glimmering here, and elusive there, creating movement and depth at one with the harmonic form of the pressed aluminum. “Slipping glimpsers,” as de Kooning would have said. Like stealing the image of the curve of the underside of a woman’s bare breast in public, inside a dress fantastically but fleetingly undone.
But all the while, I was left with the granular and dour image of the modern churchman in his wholesale cotton-mix trousers, striding directly into the light, looking straight ahead, focused only on leaving. For some ungodly reason, he didn’t mingle with the other cars. He wasn’t down on one knee, as I was, bathing in them, checking to see whether the Xirallic paint flakes created some new color never before seen by man or perhaps gave a glimpse into another world. Ruining my prayer was the murky after-image of his Fort Worth-brown clerical shirt and the unsightly film of grime on the priestly XKR. I was left wondering if he had the time left after preaching to look carefully enough at the sublime aspects of the world that man has so lovingly punctuated.
He was, after all, at the dealership, just as I was, two mortals, one with belief and one perhaps without. He must have been there for some higher calling, his XKR being nowhere near its first service and too young yet to take communion with the mechanics in the shop at the rear of the showroom. Was he suffering doubt and checking in desperation for unlikely secular proof of divinity right there on the street, in broad daylight, on the mostly grim and unrepentant industrial stretch of White Settlement Road?
It was not the familiar Jaguar script. Not the script I learned in London at least. A far cry from famous actors; flashy dolly birds in miniskirts with Kate Moss thighs and the powerfully rutting buttocks of star soccer players; and sons of art dealers with their Warby Parkers, St. John bacon sandwiches half-unwrapped in greaseproof paper, and jackets cut straight from an art fair’s vernissage, speeding past the stage-door Johnnies on their way to nowhere at all.
I believe I have seen his “car of god” before, parked on West Fourth Street outside one of the churches there. I tend to know many of the Jaguars in the area. I would like to imagine he at least plays Allegri or something similar on the Bowers & Wilkins sound system while driving on the highest overpass of the High Five. I hope he does.