Tuesday, May 28, 2019


I had a real job, a social work job, an Agency job.  I needed a car to visit my clients.  I had $663 in the bank.

It was the summer of 1972.  A brand new Mustang went for around $3000 at Fleischman's, our Ford dealership in Long Beach.  They didn't have a used car lot, though.  I had to peruse the classified ads in the newspaper to find something within my price range. 

Did I mention that my family drove Ford products?  My grandparents drove Chrysler's.  My uncle drove Buicks.  We drove Fords, or Mercury's when Daddooooo was feeling a bit more upscale.  The one thing no one in the family drove was a Chevy.

"Only idiots drive Chevy's."

"All Chevy drivers are idiots."

"Look at that idiot; of course, he's in a Chevy."

Naturally, the car I wanted was a Chevy.  Reluctantly, I showed the ad to my parents.  The mileage was right, the price was "negotiable,"  it lived just a few miles away.  But, it was a Chevy.  We agreed to go and look at it.

The older gentleman who greeted me outside his garage was charming.  He dealt with me, though Daddooooo made a valiant effort to take over the proceedings.  While my father examined the tires and looked under the hood, I listened to the car's life story.

She was aqua.  She was huge.  She was a 1967 Impala.  She had seat belts and manual windows and an AM radio.  The upholstery was intact.  I could reach the pedals and see out the mirrors.

He wanted more than what I had.  I showed him my bank book to prove that I was, indeed, spending everything I had, and he agreed to take it all.  In exchange, I took Annabelle.

Without ABS, driving to and from Ithaca in the winter was a challenge.  She barely fit into the parking space carved into the stone wall in front of the house we lived in senior year.  She survived an encounter with a City of Chicago garbage truck - her bumper was permanently askew in the aftermath, but she took a healthy chunk out of the errant truck's tire, and I sued the City and won $125 in damages.

She lasted through graduate school, managing to make it back and forth to New York a few times before her engine began to give up the ghost.  I added a quart of oil before I set out on anything longer than a trip to the grocery store.  I changed the distributor wires (singeing the little hairs on my arm because I didn't wait for the engine to cool) and brought her in for regular oil changes, but she was falling apart when I bequeathed her to Brother as his college graduation gift.

He, a mechanic at heart, kept her going for a year or two.  She died in the front yard of his fraternity house in Peoria, and froze into the icy puddles that winter.  After the thaw, he sold her - for $200 - to a young family.  I still have nightmares about that couple and their children, stranded somewhere, Annabelle having finally fallen to ruin.

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