Saturday, August 9, 2008

Everyone's First Car

My first car was an old, black Pontiac station wagon with a red interior. I was 16 when I bought it for $200.00. I lived in that car, finally freed from the constraints of hitch hiking.

If you ever drive by the intersection of Tucker and Gravois in Soulard you’ll see an old service station that someone has turned into a beautiful garden. It used to be a used car lot.

Gas was .29 a gallon at Bob Riegle’s Texas Discount gas. Cigarettes were .35 a pack. I sound like an old fart don’t I? “Why, when I was your age!”

We did a lot of drugs and cruised up and down Gravois. We found all the secret ways past the flood walls where we could party ‘til sunrise on the riverfront. I never really started drinking until I was well into my 20s.

There was one major exception. My best friend Lora and I would occasionally buy a bottle of Annie Green Springs Apple or Boone's Farm Strawberry wine. We'd have a marathon session in front of a blasting stereo. I've never had a drunk as good as that since. I guess that's the high I keep trying to relive.

We’d have to drive to the East Side where drinking laws were a little more lax to get it.

Lora and I were lovers off and on for years. In our hearts we were always best friends. She taught me a lot. Maybe I should say we learned a lot together. She was surprised when I told her I was marrying Kim because we were lovers at that moment. She came to the wedding though.

When I was 16 we had no idea you were supposed to change your oil every now and then. It was unnecessary anyway. My car burned so much you just added a quart every other day.

One of my hitch hiking trips to the East Coast with Dominic I lent the car to my brother. I don’t think he was legally old enough to drive it. I gave him explicit instructions to check the oil every day. He didn’t and it threw a rod. Some junk yard gave me $20.00 to tow it away. I watched a chapter of my life being towed away.

Tony Patti and I bought a car together after that. I remember what it looked like but I can’t remember where we found it.

When Marie dragged me away I sold my half to Tony. He gave me a carton of cigarettes for it. He couldn’t even drive yet. He lent it to my mother. It exploded and the engine caught on fire in the local supermarket parking lot.

I almost forgot to mention I named the Pontiac "Wild Life" after the Captain Beefheart song.


tonpatti said...

I know, in a kind of abstract way, that I had four cars before I ever learned how to drive. It's the kind of thing you know because you remember saying it a lot, not because you actually remember what you were talking about.

I was wondering which of the four cars I owned this car you mentioned was. I didn't even remember co-owning it with you, or how I might have come up with a carton of cigarettes on my own since I didn't drive yet or smoke.

My first car was a Volkswagen van with Kevin O'Conner's engine in it that I never paid him for.

Doggie said...

It was an off-white Malibu I believe. I'm surprised you don't remember letting my mother borrow it. Especially since it blew up at Joe's Market. You probably gave me the money to buy the cigarettes. The VW engine came from the van Dominic, Kevin and I toured the East Coast in.

tonpatti said...

Oh yeah. I was at work at Duff's when it blew up or whatever. Kevin sold me the engine, not the van shell I put it in.

I remember with visceral clarity you and maybe Dominic teaching me to drive in the VW van, and someone saw a pretty hoosier girl as I was making a turn into an alley a block or two down from your mom's house and nearly hit a brick wall.

Doggie said...

I'd forgotten you had a van. I seem to remember you describing it as electro-pastel blue. I'm pretty sure that's the same engine we put into Kevin's van. I have no idea how it passed inspection. That was the one we almost died in in Pennsylvania.