I Get High with a Little Help from My Cars

1984. My first car, a 1968 Mustang, 289, V8 in pale yellow that could pass for cream on a good day. WZA968 read the original brown and yellow California license plate. I was 15 when my dad bought me that car, $1,500 from the original owner. Led Zeppelin, Creedence and the Scorpions were my posse. My best friend was Kim.

She had a Challenger. Brown. 340 V8. We used to pull up next to each other at stoplight after school. She’d gun her car. I’d gun mine. My car was fast but it wasn’t as fast as hers. I remember lying in her room during the summers listening to “Still Loving You,” by The Scorpions.

I remember the guitar holographing from left to right. Mind blowing. But I might have been stoned. I remember her Barbie Townhouse still decked out in the corner. I remember her pink, ruffle curtains. I remember Drill Team. She was the shortest, I was the tallest. She had the biggest boobs, I had the smallest.

Then there was the summer before senior year, 1985. I liked a guy. He was into VWs so I convinced my dad that I needed this 1964 Karmann Ghia, slate gray. My dad dropped the $1,000 for that go-cart and kept the Mustang for himself. A VW bus engine with dual carbs powered that baby. Julie was my best friend. That VW brought us dancing three times a week. Madonna, OMD. The Cure. Violent Femmes. I wore black eyeliner that ended in crosses at the corners of my eyes, my hair wrapped in a bandana skullcap. I was almost 17. A wannabe punk. You know, Wasted Youth, Fuck Authority. But, the novelty of the guy and the car wore off. It was fun while it lasted, but there were so many dash holes blasting wind it felt like a convertible, except it wasn’t. I was tired of bundling up to drive. Let’s face it, the car was a piece of shit. My dad gave me back my mustang and sold the Karmann Ghia.

“Your hair color matches that Mustang,” Julie said, as I stepped out of the car. “When I think of you, I think of that car.”

Me too, I thought. I had just arrived in Chico, the land of raging parties. I smiled, thinking how happy I was that my dad never sold the Mustang. It was great to have it back. I was free in that Mustang. Free to spend weekends in Chico. Free to model in San Francisco. Free to live.

I left for Paris at 19. My dad promised to babysit my car. Home, every six months or so, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, NYC. My Mustang patiently waiting to take me to Chico, to Tahoe, to San Francisco—on the same day of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. To accompany me six hours to Santa Barbara to visit my new boyfriend, soon to be husband. Melissa Etheridge, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd blasting the Jensen speakers. He loved my Mustang too.

“It matches your hair,” he said, gesturing toward the car as I pulled into his driveway.

“Yes,” I said with a smile.

1992. My eyes focused on the license plate, WZA968. I should have removed that before they towed it away, I thought. Totaled. Not by me. Someone had stolen my baby. He didn’t get far with the club on the steering wheel. He ended up running head on into a building at the end of Kings Road in Los Angeles where I lived with my husband. Didn’t the moron know he couldn’t turn the wheel, with a club on? He left a Dodger’s cap left behind. I hate the Dodgers. I was 23.

“You left it on the street?” I asked. “Not the garage?” I was confused. My baby left on the street overnight. Me, out of town.

“Yes. FUCK!” He yelled, angry with himself. Angry that the car was gone. Angry that he didn’t put it in the garage. Angry at the stupidity of the thief. Angry at his stupidity. Angry.

I moved the phone away from my ear. I needed distance. My car. My baby. My love. Gone.

“I’ll call my dad.” I said. “He’ll come to get it.”

“FUCK!” He said. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

1993. NYC. No car. No Need. My home for nearly a decade until August 2001. Then SF bound. 9/11 free. Family plans. Went VW again only this time a Volkswagen Jetta, black with tan interior. 5-Speed. New German car, new German husband. Beck, Moby and Kid Rock blasting. Queen when I felt nostalgic.

2002. My first baby boy delivered home via that Jetta. He hated that car. Staring at the back seat was not his idea of a good time. Mine either.

2003. A Jetta for a Jeep. Good trade, Grand Cherokee Gray. Happy to be higher, my bouncing 8-month-old baby boy. A window to the world, speeding behind him. Our lives improved.

2006. Back to Lalaland. Time to go badass big. Twins on the way. That will make three kids under four years old. GMC Yukon, black on black.

“Shouldn’t we get a station wagon?” asked my German husband.

“No.”

“Minivan?”

“No.”

I’m no minivan mama. Didn’t he know that?

“I want it blacked out.” I said. I’d confused the dealer. Me ready to pop with three months to go.

“We can’t do that,” the dealer said. “We could damage the car.”

Head tilt, “Who does it then?” I asked. He gave me a name.

Anonymity was what I needed, twin privacy. One large, blacked out SUV. Thank you. I didn’t need anyone peering into my life. Yukon happy. Good for kids. Good for me. Good for hubby.

2011. Another German. Car I mean. Same German husband in tow, new German Audi A4, white with tan interior. No more infant seats. Three boosters latched, good to go.

“I want the sports package,” I said.

“The tan interior matches your hair,” my husband said.

“Yes,” I said with a smile.

Light felt right. Sporty. And no fucking minivan.

2014. Audi number two parked out front. Gray with black interior. Sports package. German engineering. Fahrvergnügen.

2017. I thought about going American. I did. I thought about a Jeep Wrangler. Matte army green. Maybe a Bull Mastiff to go with it. Then some crazy friend lured me into a Fiat 500e. Peer pressure.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun car, but it’s no Audi. I’m not sure why I strayed from German to go Italian. It’s not a Ferrari 812 Superfast. Although it does have a peppy pickup. Who am I kidding?

Did I mention I still have the Yukon? I think I’m going to ramp up the sound system in that car and ride it out for two years and let my husband drive the Fiat. He likes it. After that, in 2019, when the Fiat lease is up, I’m going German again. Unless an Aston Martin is in my cards, then I’ll happily go British.

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