The End of An Era

 

 

Seventeen years ago I needed a car. I had an old beater, and it had served me well. Its hatchback had also fallen on my head a few times and jacked up my neck. There are a lot of things up with which I can put, but bodily harm ain’t one of ‘em. So the beater had to go.

 

 

I was out walking one day and I passed a couple of old ladies sitting on a bench. As I moved by them, I overheard one of the ladies saying she needed to sell her recently deceased friend’s car, as that was the last item to settle in the deceased’s estate. I stopped in my tracks and actually backed up. I looked at the ladies and said, “I need a car.” Conversation ensued and we set an appointment for me to test drive the vehicle.

 

 

When I  showed up, I knew I was in trouble, as I instantly fell in love with the car. After a very quick negotiation, we shook on the price and the deal was done. That’s how I became the caretaker of a 1966 Volvo 122 S.

 

 

I have loved that car more than you know. The adventures we’ve shared – some good, some not-so-good – are etched in my memory. I once drove her through a flooded intersection and the water was so high, it knocked out the engine. Momentum got me to the side of the road, where I had to wait for the old gal to dry out before she’d start again. I had to learn to use a choke with this car. When she was cold, I’d ride the choke like nobody’s business, until she warmed up a bit. I got real good at it, too. And I remember this one time, I was driving her in downtown L.A. Mister and his buddy Jack Daniels were in the back seat and my friend Gillian was in the front. As I took a hard left turn, at speed, Gillian’s passenger side door started to swing open. I reached across, real quick-like, and grabbed the door before she fell out. Also, whenever the front windshield fogged over, I used a throw pillow to wipe it clean so that I could see. I’ve kept a couple of leopard-printed throw pillows in there for the front passengers (myself included). The seat webbing has sagged and I can’t see over the dash without the boost of a pillow. These are just a few of the memories I’ve stored involving the old Volvo. Truth be told, there are too many to recount.

 

 

But now, well, it’s the end of an era. The old gal has been sold to someone else. I imagine he’s gonna hot-rod the shit out of it and make it into something altogether different. That’s okay. She belongs to him now and he gets to do as he pleases. I don’t begrudge him that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to be. He’s gonna tweak and tinker and come up with something that makes his heart melt. Honestly, I kind of knew he was in trouble the first time he came to see her. It looked to me like he fell in love with her, instantly.

 

 

Nothing lasts forever, friends. The car’s original owner, Gertrude, had the old Volvo from 1966 (when it was brand-spanking-new) until her death in 2000. Sammie, the gal who sold the car to me, well, she passed away last year. And now the old Volvo is off to other parts of the world, and to new adventures with her new owner. If he’s lucky, she’s got another 100,000 miles in her. Volvos are weird that way. Only time will tell.

 

 

The day before I watched her drive away for the last time, I took her for a spin. I don’t know what possessed me, but I reached over to the old radio. It’s been broken for years, so I’ve always just driven around with my own thoughts providing the soundtrack for my travels. But there I was, reaching for that knob, as if it was something I’d done every day. And I swear, the radio came on. And so I listened to “The Sound,” a radio station that’s about to be gone forever, as its new owners plan to switch the format from Classic Rock to Christian Pop. (I would call that an oxymoron, but it’s simply moronic.) I started laughing and crying, and it wasn’t lost on me that the old gal was giving me the gift of a little goodbye music. That she was playing herself off the stage. That she was giving me one last memory.

 

 

And memories I have. Along with more photos than most people might find sensible. I don’t know what to tell you. I loved the old gal. She got me around. In style. She came along just when I needed her and she helped me be true to myself. That one’s too deep to go into, so you’ll just have to trust me.

 

 

I wish the new owner well. I hope he and the old Volvo have spectacular adventures and that they make memories he can file away for himself. Memories that bring a smile to his face someday, when he’s well into middle-age and remembering.

 

 

We should all be so lucky as to have fond memories. Of life, of love, of cars. I can almost hear the old gal humming, and she’s beautiful.

 

Miles To Go

 

 

The other day I was on the road and I looked down and saw my car’s odometer was about to hit a string of twos. I was in traffic, so not only was I dodging people who think the zombie apocalypse is upon us, but also old lady drivers, kids on skateboards and pedestrians. Basically, driving took my full attention. But I persisted, kept glancing down, and when the last two rolled into place, I pulled over and snapped a pic.

 

For those not playing along at home, the mileage on my old Volvo is not 22,222. It’s 122,222. I feel pretty good about the old gal, if you must know. I mean – she’s 50 years old! Of course, being a Volvo, her miles could very well be in the 200,000 range, which would be terribly impressive. But that’s not the way she rolls. She is what she is and her miles are her miles.

 

I know nothing lasts forever. My old Volvo won’t be mine for all time. At some point, she’ll belong to another and that person will (hopefully) marvel at her milestones. At their milestones. And that’s as it should be.

 

For now, the old gal and I have miles to go. Together. And we’re doing just fine.

 

Stuck In Hot

 

 

Yesterday found me back behind the wheel of my old car, cruising all the hell over the place. Not for fun, mind you. I had bid-ness to tend, and it took me to Holly-weird and The Valley, including points in-between. It was good bid-ness, so I didn’t complain. Not when I hit traffic, and not when I got stuck in hot.

 

Here’s what happened… I was adjusting the vent lever in the old Volvo and I felt something snap. This has never happened before, and somehow I knew it wasn’t good. It only took a few seconds to realize how right I was. It wasn’t good. The vent control had somehow broken and was stuck in hot. As in – the fresh air side of things was no longer accessible, and instead the heat from the car’s engine was pumping - hard – into the car. Ugh. I thought I could handle it. I rolled down the windows and opened both front wing windows for what some of us call 2-35 air conditioning: 2 windows opened while driving 35 miles per hour. It should have helped. But that hot-ass air floating up from the floor vent was killing me. So I did the only thing I could. I drove straight to my mechanic’s. He man-handled the vent’s control cable and locked the danged lever into fresh-air mode. And he didn’t charge me. Have I mentioned how much I love my mechanic?

 

I got back into the old Volvo and it immediately felt cooler. I drove home, comfortably, and all was well. Now that summer’s here (and it is), I’m thinking I’m gonna be okay, being stuck in cool.

 

Dear god – please don’t let there be a cold snap.

The Anti-Chrysler

 

 

Yesterday I was out and about when a dude approached me and asked, “Is that a ’66 Volvo you’re driving?” I told him yes and that he really knew his stuff. He said he suspected the year of the car because he once owned the same model, year and all. It had been his first car.

 

That brief and lovely conversation got me thinking about my first car – a 1968 Chrysler Newport. It was a boat, I tell ya. (I mean – look at the photo above and see how much longer is was than a VW bus, for cry-eye!) And I loved it. Mister named it The Anti-Chrysler and the name stuck.

 

I remember driving that thing around with 8 friends piled in. And everyone had room! We didn’t all have seat belts, but we weren’t as safety-minded back then. But I digress… The car had only 76,000 miles on it when I got her and she was a beaut! That car taught me how to maneuver, because it was so danged big. It also taught me to check the oil on old cars. They tend to be a bit leaky.

 

Once Mister and I married and moved to Dallas, The Anti-Chrysler somehow became his car. Not sure how that happened, but I think he really loved the old gal. I seem to recall he even replaced the alternator once. I don’t think either of us knew he could do that. But he did, so there you go.

 

When we were preparing to move to Boston, we knew there would be no parking and that a car wasn’t to be part of living in the city. The Anti-Chrysler was sold to an elderly gentleman and we said our goodbyes. My memory is a bit shaky, but I think we may have gotten exactly what I paid for that car: $800.

 

Every now and then I spot an old Chrysler and I look twice. I know I won’t likely come across my old car, but I still like to look. And I’m glad that yesterday allowed me to remind someone else of his first car. He even came out to the parking lot to hear me start her up when I left. Based on his smiles, I’d say the memories were good.

An Attitude of Gratitude

 

“Here I stand; I can do no otherwise. God help me.”

Martin Luther

(1483 – 1546)

 

 

 

 

The photo above was taken in the cab of a tow truck. As I was taking the pic, I was in that danged tow truck and my old Volvo was being towed. It’s a funny story, actually…

 

On Friday I had about a million, billion, god-zillion things to do. One item on my list was to go downtown to the fabric district, where I needed to pick up some fringed trim. At my local fabric store, I found a fringed trim that was sort of okay and that I could live with, but not quite what I had envisioned. With a coupon, that trim would have cost $7.50 per yard. In the fabric district, I found precisely what I was looking for at – wait for it – $2 per yard. But I digress. While I would ordinarily take the train downtown, I had other to-do items that day. Items that weren’t on the train’s route and required me driving. So I drove downtown. No problem. I jiffy-quick ran into the fabric store, found what I wanted, bought it and very nearly skipped back to my car in the adjacent lot. I climbed into the old gal and hit the engine and – nothing. I mean absolutely nothing happened. As I’ve lived with my old Volvo for 16 years now, it wasn’t my first rodeo. So I grabbed the branch on the tree and shifted the gears. There was no resistance of any measure.

 

Years ago I had a similar experience and called AAA. On that occasion, the tow truck driver looked under the car and found the problem: the gear shift had become detached from the mechanism that actually shifts the danged gears. That guy was a mensch, I tell you, and he had me take a look beneath the car so that I’d understand the issue and be able to handle it myself, should the problem occur again. So Friday, in that downtown L.A. parking lot, I remembered the day the AAA tow truck driver taught me to fish (instead of merely giving me a fish), and I got down on the ground and reached beneath my car. Sure enough – the problem was the same as on that long-ago day. I reconnected the gear shift parts, asked the parking lot attendant for a tissue, cleaned my hands enough to not oil up my steering wheel and that was that. I started the car just fine and hit the road. I was off to my next task.

 

After several miles, I took my designated freeway off-ramp. Just as I began slowing, I heard a loud bang beneath the car. I stopped at the off-ramp’s stop light. When it turned green, I followed traffic through a turn and onto the street, where I found myself stopped at another light. The car didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt like I was coasting to that next light instead of driving with any power. But what could I do? I was at a stop light. So I waited in the queue, then when it was my turn, I coasted through the left turn and continued to coast about a block and turned right into a parking lot where I had bid-ness to do. There was a vacant spot at the back of the lot, next to an alley and I coasted all the way into it. I checked the steering wheel and it was the same as downtown: nothing but give. I got out of the car and again got down on the ground, ready to reconnect the gear shift. But when I reached beneath the car, something was wrong. Part of the car seemed to be – missing. There was nothing to connect the gear shift to. Was that what I’d heard? Had the bang occurred when that part of my car broke off? I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected. So I stood up, retrieved my phone and called AAA. Once I was on their list and knew how long I had to wait for the tow truck to arrive, well, I went ahead and took care of my task in that area. Why not? Might as well get some things done while I waited. I handled my bid-ness and went back out to my car to wait for the AAA guy.

 

Just when I thought I’d been forgotten, the tow truck arrived and the driver did his job. I could go on and on about that guy, and in fact I may in a day or two, but for now, suffice it to say I and my car made it safe and sound to my mechanic’s and from there I got a ride home with the big guy himself. He told me he’d probably get to my car on Monday (today) and that he’d update me as soon as he could.

 

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know how Friday went. And I want you to know how Friday went because I want you to know how I dealt with the day’s events. Basically, I chilled. When I found myself temporarily stranded downtown, I didn’t fret and instead handled the situation. Then, when I found myself permanently stranded, I sort of did the same. And not once did I stress over the scene. When I called AAA, the customer service chick even commented, “Wow! You sure do have a positive attitude about all this.” I didn’t hesitate in saying, “Well, I’m safe. And really, how cool is it that my car coasted for me for at least a quarter of a mile? That’s pretty cool, right?”

 

As of this posting, I’m still without a car. And I’m prepared to rely on my bicycle for getting around. I’m cool with that. And I’m still amazed at how charmed my day was last Friday. And I’m grateful. Not only was my attitude aces, but I had a lot to be positive about.

 

It is a wonderful thing – being blessed. It is greater still to know it. And man – don’t I know…

Student Driver

 

 

Yesterday I let a potential buyer test-drive my car.

 

Just kidding. I was visiting with friends and Master Ben climbed in the front seat of my old Volvo and started “driving.” He couldn’t have been any cuter. I adore that kid. His parents are pretty keen, too.

 

In a couple of decades, when he’s all grown up, I might consider selling my car to Ben. Maybe…

 

45 Minutes Later

 

 

This was my trunk before I tackled a portion of the Rock Camp shopping list. There will be many more stock-ups, before and during camp. Fresh goods are acquired daily. A lot of what we eat is donated. I can’t tell you how grateful we are for that, as every dime not spent on making camp happen goes directly toward scholarships for the girls. That am be good, um-kay?

 

Anyhoo – back to my Costco run. 45 minutes later, and this was my trunk…

 

 

I couldn’t even fit it all in! It’s almost here…

Doing Alright

 

 

 

You know your skin fits when you find yourself at a Ladies function and the temperature has topped 90 degrees, and your old Volvo just ain’t gonna make it home without you adding some water to the radiator, and you pop the hood right there in the parking lot of the historic building where your meeting just took place, and you hike up your proper clothes and fill that radiator to the top, in front of all the other Ladies you just saw at the function, and instead of batting an eye, you smile at each of them and wave.

 

Yep. I’m doing alright.

Old

 

 

This past week, I was out and about when I noticed a liquid trail leading to my parked car. I knelt down, touched the substance and thought it looked (and felt) like oil. I looked beneath my car and there was a sizable puddle. I hopped in the old gal and drove straight to my mechanic.

 

The next day I called the dude and the news was not good. Yes, there was an oil leak. But there may be other leaks. Other problems. And then my mechanic said something that just about made me cry: Maybe it’s time to consider making this car into a garage queen, driven only on the weekends.

 

My old car is older than me. She’s put in a lot of good years. In all honesty, she probably deserves some rest. But she is also my only car. I don’t have a second vehicle for getting around (unless you count my bicycle). Yes, Mister has a car. But he’s driving that one. And that guy has places to go, too. We’re not a 3-car household. We’re just not.

 

And now I have some serious thinking before me – about whether or not to keep my car. I love the old gal. I do. But L.A. is a big town, with spotty public transportation. Not having a car – for me – is unrealistic. Not having a car payment has been pretty awesome. Just thinking about new debt gives me the willies.

 

I always knew my old car wouldn’t last forever. I just thought she’d hang in there a few years more. Bummer.

It’s a Difficult Responsibility…

 

 

For those who don’t know, I drive an old car. A 1966 Volvo 122S, to be precise. It is uncommon and it is darling. It is also a bit of a responsibility.

 

When I return to my parked car, be it in a lot or on the street, I often encounter admirers checking out the old gal (the car, not me). And those folks are always, always, always wrapped up in the moment. When they see me approaching, they want to share their admiration for my car. They want to ask a few questions. Some want to share their own experiences and memories of Amazons (the common name for my type of car). They absolutely do not care if I’m in the mood to chat (as I experienced this week while suffering the Blahs). And they’re not concerned with my schedule, either. If I’m in a rush, it doesn’t matter. To them, it’s Car Time.

 

That’s how it feels to me anyway. And I’ve accepted this. Because at the very least, my old car forces me to engage with human beings. And it forces me to say Thank You when a compliment is paid. I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought this old Volvo so many years ago. But I’ve decided I’m grateful for all she offers. Long may she reign.