Friday 15 February

12:45 P.M. Friday, 15 February, 1991

The Cabin Tavern, Richmond Beach, WA.

“I was really trying to clean things up, you know?  But they just didn’t understand what was going on.”  Malach poured another shot glass of beer out of the bottle of Rainier that Reggie had placed on the counter, next to the popcorn and peanuts.  “Those assholes.  They were just as bad as me.  How could they do it?”

Reggie lit a smoke and shook his head from behind the bar.  “Malach, I don’t get it.  You mean to tell me that they fired you because you quit drinking?”

“That’s exactly what happened.  Three months ago, I realized that I wasn’t doing my job too well anymore.  So I checked in to detox, and succeeded in getting off the booze…for a while anyway.”  He poured another shot of beer and drank it down, a curious habit he had picked up in the Army.  “They fired me.  Can you believe that shit?  They got rid of me because I started doing a better job than everybody else.  Fuckin’ alcoholics felt threatened by my new work style.”  He poured another shot.

“Man, that don’t seem like much reason to fire someone. I say you’re better off without them.”

“Yeah, but Reggie, I’m 52 years old.  I’ve been working at Wesco South for 27 years.  What sort of job can a guy like me expect to get at this age?  The company has taken the best years of my life and now I don’t have anything left.  Everything’s just going down the toilet.  I can’t even get Nicole to let me see the kids.  I miss them alot, and now for some fucked up reason I miss Nicole too.”

“Shit; you must really feel bad if you wanna see her, Stan.”  Reggie put his cigarette butt in a half-empty beer bottle.  He had known Stan Malach for 14 years and had never seen him this down.  Of course, about the only way that he did remember Stan was sloshed and hanging onto the bar for support; Stan was a good customer for many years.  Unfortunately, Stan lost his wife and kids for being a good customer.  And now he was losing the rest of his life because he was no longer a good customer.  Life had a tendency towards the cruel.  “Well, what do you think you’re going to do, now that you don’t have to work tomorrow?”

Malach swallowed another shot.  “I going to start by finishing this bottle, and I’m going to finish by starting another one…”


 

1:15 P.M. Friday 15 February, 1991

18110 Ashworth Avenue North, Seattle, WA.

Clem threw the last suitcase into the back of his pickup.  “Bitch, you can’t accept anything! Well, accept this.  Our marriage is over.  Me and Dinelle are headed for Westport and you can’t stop us.”

Stacy had tears in her eyes.  “Clem, you can’t leave.  What about our daughter?  What sort of life do you think she’ll have when she finds out that her own father ran off with a seventeen-year-old high school drop-out?  Don’t you think that’ll give her an awful bad view of you?  Our marriage is supposed to be forever, not for as long as it’s convenient.  Can’t we work something out?  I just want what’s best for the both of us.”

“Well, I don’t give a shit what happens to you anymore.  That means I’m leaving you for Dinelle and heading for her Dad’s lumber company.  You should have seen it coming, Stacy.  You’re too restrictive. You’re always wanting to do stuff with my money like pay those stupid doctor bills.  I’ve never seen a baby that gets so sick in my life.  It’s not my kid if it’s always getting sick like that.  So I’m saying goodbye to you and that sick little crying skinball to live a better life somewhere else.”  He hopped in the truck and tore down the street, leaving Stacy with more than tears in her eyes.  He left her with a mortgage, a daughter with asthma, a twenty-year-old Dodge, and an empty checking account.   All Stacy could do is sit on the porch chair, curl up, and weep in silence.  Her life had never looked so bad, and she could see no positive ways out of her situation.

But deep down she knew that Clem really wasn’t the right man for her.  She could tell that when the first doctor bill had been due for two months, and Clem bought a dirt bike.  If only she had been able to see that side of him when they were eighteen and horny.  At the time, it seemed as if their marriage would work, but as the years crawled by, Clem had proven himself to be selfish and undependable.  Even so, she was willing to accept a little sacrifice for the sake of her daughter.  Kaile deserved a family background.  Stacy didn’t want to explain to her someday that her father had left both of them behind out of sheer selfishness, but she knew that the day would come to tell her the terrifying truth, that she was kin to a dickhead with a rubber neck.

As the clock in the house struck two, she decided that it was time to check on her sleeping daughter and call her mother.  What else was she going to do?…


 

2:15 P.M.

Almost finished with his fifth bottle of beer shots, Malach was starting to get drunk, as if he was under the influence of a self-induced anesthesia.  The words to “Misty Mountain Hop” rolled off his lips in a smooth slur, caused by the beer that had passed down his throat over the last two hours.  He couldn’t remember getting so drunk from five bottles of beer.  In fact, he had difficulty remembering catching a buzz off six or seven.  In three months, his tolerance to alcohol had disappeared.  He drunkenly justified to himself out loud that “rehab has made it cheaper to get wasted.”  

Cross-eyed, he looked around the bar to see the two Reggies walking in parallel behind the two bars.  Two men, identically dressed, were playing solo games of pool at two matching tables.  He looked outside to see his two cars sitting in front of the bar.  He knew that he should go home and sober up, but wasn’t sure if he could negotiate the two sets of lanes going east towards his two homes.  Better have one more, he said to himself, because there’s no booze at the house.  He took another shot.  The feeling in his throat was so familiar and welcome; he never wanted to go back to reality again.  Reality is what fucked him over, and he felt better avoiding it.  He had missed beer over the preceding months.  Often, beer was the only one that could make him feel good.  Beer was always there.  Beer always listened to his problems, something Nicole quit doing about the time that Malach really needed reassurance.  The emptier the bottles became, the more room they had inside to listen.  As soon as the empty bottle of Rainier turned into the two empty bottles right in front of his drunken double vision, Malach knew it was time to go.  

He stumbled out the door to his awaiting blurry car.  He dropped into the driver’s seat like a lead ball and sat fumbling his keys for several minutes.  “This is the best part,” he mumbled.  “I love this drive home.”  Home was six miles east, a drive that Malach had made F.U.B.A.R. many times.  After the last bottle, he now had the confidence he could do it one more time.  He pulled away from The Cabin and headed east towards North City…


2:25 P.M.

“Yes, he’s gone for good, Mom.  He left with that sleazy little Dinelle about an hour ago.”

“Well, it’s about goddamn time.  I never liked him anyway.  He was almost as worthless as your real father.”

“Come on, Mom, he wasn’t that bad, was he?  I mean I’ve only seen my Dad about ten times since I was twelve, but he seemed like a nice guy.”

“He was a lazy, worthless man.  But the thing that bugged me about James the most is that he would sit in front of the TV and clean and cut his toenails while I was eating.  Imagine that while you’re trying to eat a turkey pot pie.  He didn’t give a damn about what was going on around him.  Do you realize that he ran out on his child support during the last two years?”

Stacy was experiencing deja vous.  Her real father sounded just like Clem.  It was a good thing that her mother had found a boyfriend not long after her Dad left town.  “How come you and Ray never told me?”

“Honey, when Ray was alive, he loved you more than James ever did.  When the payments stopped, he was more than willing to take care of you himself.  We both felt it was best.  He hated Clem; I want you to know that.  You meant more to him than anything.  He saw Clem taking advantage of you all along, but was afraid to say something and hurt your feelings.”

Stacy was crying again.  “Mom, I miss Ray.  He meant a lot to me too.  I wish he was around to help me raise Kaile.  All I want is for her to have a family life.  She deserves that.”

“Well, Stacy, it’s time that you and I do that together.  I miss Ray too, honey, but the two of us can raise Kaile just fine.”

The line was silent for a few seconds.  “Do you want my opinion, Stacy?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I say you get out of that rat trap home of yours and move back to Edmonds.  You know I have lots of space.  You can go back to college, honey.  We’ll work it out.”

“Mom, I don’t have any money to go back. And what do I do about Kaile?”

“Now don’t you worry about either one of those.  They’re both taken care of.  You just come home, Stacy; it’s never too late to start over.”

Stacy hung up the phone, and went to check on Kaile.  She was sleeping soundly in her crib.  Stacy stood and looked at her for some time.  She was so adorable in her innocent youth, sleeping as if there were no cares in the world.  Stacy thanked God that Kaile looked nothing like her father; to go through life looking at someone resembling Clem would be painful.  But now he was out of her life and was never coming back.  For the first time she was beginning to feel relief that he was gone, and looked forward to taking another crack at college.  She could now see light at the end of the tunnel.  Together with her mother, she would raise Kaile to respect independance but not abuse it.  With Clem gone, this would be so much easier.  

She started packing a batch of belongings that was going to her mother’s.  Kaile’s clothes and toys of course went first…


2:30 P.M.

“I can’t believe I’m lost,” mumbled Malach.  “How did I get on this street?”  He maneuvered his Chrysler through a noisy U-turn at the end of the cul-de-sac and rumbled down the street, attempting to regain his bearings.  The last two bottles of Rainier were now starting to take effect, and he began to feel sick to his stomach.

He pulled into a church parking lot, and fell out of his seat onto the grass in front.  He looked up to see a carved wooden angel perched on the church’s sign.

“Forgive me father, for I have…HERRRRAALLLPHFFFF!!!!”  He strained against the heaves that turned his insides out, breathing furiously between attacks.  The convulsions made his back hurt, and his already sour stomach hurt even more.  Finally, it was over, with the car still running and Malach curled into a fetal position on the grass.  He lay there for what seemed like hours, and started to cry.  “Oh God, what have I done?  Is my life so shitty that I have to lose out on whatever’s important to me?  Why is my worn out body still around?”  As he cried out for solace, the angel just stood and watched.  A light rain began to fall, creating tears on her face.  Nature seemed to be looking on him with an all-knowing eye of sadness, and as the rain came harder, the angel looked more and more despondent over his pain.  Malach crawled back to his car and got in.  He sat in the seat, drenched from rain and tears, whimpering for salvation.

“Please, God, if there’s justice in this world, I won’t see tomorrow.”  He put his car into gear and headed for the intersection of 185th and Aurora…


 

2:35 P.M.

Stacy packed the back seat up with clothing and toys after strapping Kaile into the car seat.  Even though her car was twenty years old, it had her husband beat for dependability.  Her Dodge was a relic of mammoth proportions, big and safe.  The one thing that Stacy always liked about the car was that it had so much room to pack things.  Three or four trips to her mother’s and she would be moved out of her house.  The furniture stayed; it was disgusting and old.  Whoever bought the house could do with it as they pleased.

“Okay, Kaile, we’re on our way.”  Kaile’s laughing grey eyes gave Stacy reason to smile back and kiss her on the cheek.  “You’re the best thing I’ve got, Skeeter.  You and I are going to Grandma’s–for good.”  Stacy strapped herself into the Dodge, pulled out of the driveway with her first load, and headed north to Aurora and 185th…


2:37 P.M.

The intersections were melting away for Malach.  To him, the world was one big beautiful blur.  The street signs and lights moved by him in an almost surreal fashion, surging toward the back of his car.  He tried to concentrate on the road, but kept losing his train of thought as he passed trees, driveways, and anything that would catch his eye in a weird way.  He looked at the speedometer.  Does that say 10 or 70?  He couldn’t tell.  Ones and sevens looked the same to him at this point of intoxication.  “Whatever speed it is,” he thought to himself, “it doesn’t matter.  I haven’t felt so free since the last time I was at The Cabin.  Nothing can stop this feeling now.”  As his Chrysler screamed down 185th at 70 mph, he could feel all his worries and troubles being magically wiped away.  His sudden feeling of freedom was engulfing all his senses.  He could see the intersection with Aurora coming up on him fast and blurred.

“Is that light green or is it red…?”


 

2:37 P.M.

Friday.  This was the day that rush hour began early for commuters on Aurora.  Stacy was able to squeeze in behind another car going north as she pulled out onto the road.  She had always been amazed at the amount of traffic that built up on this street on Friday, as if everyone was just out goofing around.  She started to move with traffic as the car in front of her moved forward.  It had moved well ahead of her and left quite a gap between them.  Rather than move up right behind, she maintained her distance, thinking of safety and speed.  

Passing through the intersection of Aurora and 185th, she looked around at traffic conditions.  She saw nothing out of the ordinary, until the last second.  Barreling down on her from Richmond Beach was a giant Chrysler, doing well over the legal speed limit, and apparently not seeing the red light he was about to run.  She screamed in mortal fear and slammed on her brakes.

But the roadway was wet, and her reaction was too late for her car to be missed…


 

MOTORIST KILLED IN NORTHEND ACCIDENT

Stan Malach, 52, of North City, died in a two car accident yesterday.  Uninjured in the accident were Stacy Bonnaham, 22, and her daughter Kaile, 2, both of Edmonds.

Mr. Malach was reported to have run a red light while traveling east through the intersection of North 185th and Aurora at a high rate of speed.  According to witnesses, he impacted with the front end of Ms. Bonnaham’s northbound car before overturning into a telephone pole.  King County Police are investigating the possibility that Mr. Malach was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ms. Bonnaham and her daughter were treated for minor cuts and bruises at Stevens Medical Center and released.   

————————————————–

Written in 1991 as a college assignment – ed.

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It’s Gotta Be An Oldsmobile

Olds 442

This story was written originally in 1991, then revised in 1993 – KC

“It’s gotta be an Oldsmobile,” Teddy explained when I asked how he liked my recently-purchased GTX.  “You ain’t nothin’ if you don’t got a 442, Larry.”  Of course, I didn’t like what he was telling me, but anyone who knew Teddy would say that his response was normal.  He had been like that since high school.  I should know; I’m his best friend.

In 1973, after years of college living, I was finally making enough money to get out of my college car.  My rust-bucket ’58 Chevy wagon had seen over 148,000 miles and countless clothes hangers, bungee cords, hose clamps, and retreads.  It made it to the East Coast in five days and on seven quarts of oil, carrying five drunk decision makers of the future.  It went to L.A. in ’71, serving as the Attitude Adjustment Project Vehicle for me and my roommates.  We drove straight through to escape Washington State University for spring break, and with the exception of five quarts of oil, two tickets in Oregon for doing 95, three busted fan belts, and a flat retread, the car made it without actually stranding us.  The Chevy was my only mode of transportation (and often my only source of headaches) for two years of high school and four years of college.  I knew every inch of that car intimately; every inch had needed repair at one time or another.

Because of its myriad of problems, it’s safe to assume that, by the time I graduated in May of 1973, I had made the decision to retire the Chevy. Me and all my college buddies had to drive the worst cars ever to roll down the roads of Western Civilization, and the Chevy was by far the grubbiest.  It only suited our purpose because of its size, and I only kept it because of my poverty.  But now, out of college, I felt compelled to get a car that had the great feature of dependability, with the option of getting in, turning the key, and driving away without going through some ritualistic series of whacks, adjustments, or pumps on the accelerator.   

I got a good job and started saving money.  Putting some away from each check was hard with rising gas costs, but my need to replace the Chevy far outweighed my hatred of paying the upward side of 45 cents a gallon. I didn’t care about gas prices.  The lines of cars that curled around the gas pumps and out into the street didn’t bother me either.  Bad gas mileage didn’t even bother me.  In fact, nothing could stop me from getting rid of that ’58 Chevy.

Combing the car lots, I found a beautiful three-year-old GTX.  The Plymouth dealership was practically giving the thing away.  $1495 was roughly a third of what it had sold for new in 1970.  Gas mileage was the issue of the day and a GTX with a 440 and digger gearing was on an economy death list.  Therefore, the dealership couldn’t unload this car no matter what they tried.  I was able to get my desired price because of this, and a decent trade-in on my rust bucket.  I didn’t care about OPEC; I just wanted something better than I had before.

Teddy disagreed.

It needed to be more than something better; it had to be an Oldsmobile.  He was like me when it came to the gas crisis, which meant he didn’t care either.  But what he did care about was whether or not it was an Oldsmobile.  He was weird that way.  Any time a buddy of ours would buy a car, Teddy would say “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile.”  We could always tell if he liked the car by the tone of his answer; if his “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile” had bubbly inflexion, we all knew he liked the car, but didn’t want to admit it.  If his “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile” was under his breath or had no enthusiasm, we knew he didn’t like the car, period.  After scoping out my GTX for about 15 minutes in silence, Teddy let out a slightly enthusiastic “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile.”  It was his way of telling me that, deep down, he liked my Plum Crazy B-Body Plymouth, but had too much conviction to say so.

Outwardly, Teddy was never the odd sort.  He was just like the rest of us, drinking the same kind of beer and throwing the same ounce of dart.  But his Oldsmobile fetish really put him on the wrong board.  His first car had been an Oldsmobile, a ’51 Holiday 88 2-door.  The back seat was the size of Rhode Island and was probably the main reason why he now has a daughter living somewhere in Oak Harbor with her mother.  That car was the biggest thing I had ever seen when he got it in ’67.  But as soon as he bought it, all his friends could see that Teddy’s personality was beginning to change.  It was almost evangelical; he would collect data and literature on Oldsmobiles with zealous enthusiasm.  Warthog, his ’51, had many rare and collectable parts installed as our years at Shoreline High School progressed.  She received a full set of Strombergs, side pipes, fire paint front covering a flat-black body, and eventually power steering from a ’63 Starfire.  Teddy, who was the type that never had to study, would spend every available hour on Warthog, before and after school.  It became his obsession, which received his loving touch end to end.  

A conversation with Teddy would eventually get around to Oldsmobiles.  I would be talking about a date or outing and he would usually interject with “what kind of car did he/she have?”  If it was an Oldsmobile, it was all over.  He would go in to something like how the Starfire had a special blend of paint, or how the 442 had a super-stiff suspension.  After his sermons, he was always euphoric, smiling and pliable.  Apparently, he saw something in their marquis that none of us could pinpoint; something called to him from behind the chrome and emblems, and he felt a need to indoctrinate his friends in the glories of his faith.  But Teddy wasn’t always a good orator, and could never make his true feelings known to us.  Therefore, it remained a message that none of us heard, but one to which Teddy had the right frequency.

Just before I left for college in ’69, Teddy began to collect more than Oldsmobile data.  He began to collect Oldsmobiles.  Storing Warthog for awhile, he bought a ’64 four-door 442, a car that was not only hard to find, but also unknown to many collectors.  Teddy’s was an ex-police car, the exact purpose for which the 442 was formulated.  It had a 330, a 4-speed, 4 doors, and about 120,000 cop miles.  When he brought it home from the Everett Police auction, he muttered a dreamy “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile.”  To an outsider, Teddy’s infatuation with Oldsmobiles would have seemed physical in origin.  But physical love is so shallow and misleading.  No, Teddy’s love for Oldsmobiles was spiritual in nature, rooted far deeper than a lust after a physical body style.  

Something other than design drew him to the marquis.  

As Teddy pursued his own type of education, I struggled through classes that had no real-life purpose. I feel that way because I spent four years in confusion, not knowing when my next meal would be slapped aluminum first on the TV tray. When the stomach growls, the brain doesn’t think.  But getting an education meant more than just going to unnecessary classes and receiving a diploma.  It meant living like a rat for a few years and learning to enjoy it.

Teddy got a job at the local Oldsmobile dealership in the Parts Department right out of high school and quickly became the only one who could find rare or hard-to-come-by parts.  He knew it all.  The dusty parts books spoke to him clearer than to anyone else behind the counter.  

1969 was Oldsmobile’s heyday, the time for “The Newmobiles for ’69” and “Dr. Olds.”  Their 442s were running faster than ever, thanks to improved induction systems, and a little rule-bending from inside the corporation.  Even their station wagons could be purchased with performance options, under the guise of “towing packages.”  As a performance car manufacturer, Oldsmobile was climbing to the top.  Teddy’s knowledge of rare parts carried him right up the ladder with them.

All along, Teddy collected the cars and the data.  It was spiritual.  Each month, he would contribute 25% of his gross earnings to his cars and his acquisitions.  Every time I’d arrive home from school, Teddy would have another Oldsmobile or more parts in the garage of his home out in Bothell.  His third Oldsmobile was a close-to-new ’70 442 W/30 with only 3000 miles on the odometer and a toasted wiring harness from a severe electrical fire.  His dealership had taken it back on warranty and gave the owner a new one.  Teddy bought it for some ungodly low amount and towed it home.  Painstakingly, he rewired and stored the car, occasionally driving it to Oldsmobile shows.

He was a fanatic about restoration.  He would get into what we called “the restoration mode,” becoming a man of few words, and usually limiting a conversation to varied grunts and “uh-hums.”  For many nights at a time he would spend countless hours in the garage on one of his projects.  It was almost as if he was on a quest for something, to create in real life what only he could see in his mind.

Yes, Oldsmobile can be called Teddy’s devotion.  While our friends were experimenting with drugs or singing folk songs at church youth groups, Teddy was spending the wee hours of the night reading Oldsmobile Technical Service Manuals, and periodicals on Oldsmobiles.  He also combed the classifieds from several Washington newspapers, looking for Oldsmobiles and parts for Oldsmobiles.  He made a pilgrimage to Oldsmobile’s R&D Office, so he could see their research and development up close.  We jokingly called his home “The Sacred Shrine of Oldsmobile,” pointing to all the posters and amassed parts that cluttered his garage.  We also referred to Linda Vaughn, the bikini-clad spokeswoman for Hurst/Olds, as “Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration.”  When we bugged him, Teddy would shrug and explain in a determined tone “maybe you guys need to read up.  It’s gotta be an Oldsmobile.”

Since Teddy was so deep into Oldsmobiles, I have to admit that I considered getting one instead of my GTX.  I thought I was starting to see reasoning behind his obsession, and figured if they were good enough for Teddy then they would be good enough for me.  I had looked at a beautiful ’72 Cutlass Supreme before I got the GTX.  There was no denying that it was a really nice car, plush and comfortable.  But I just didn’t like it in the same way that Teddy did.  When I talked to him about the ’72, he replied, “Hey man, that’s a great car.  Rochester made a lot of changes to the Dualjet for ’72.  They ain’t as finicky to adjust no more.  And that 350?  What a puller.  Just watch out for that fourteenth lifter…damn thing gets stuck all the time…” and so on and so on.  Sure, I like the technical side of cars, but after strapping my ’58 together with Duck Tape for six years, all I wanted was a car that went fast and didn’t break down.  For me the Cutlass was too soft and too quiet.  I wanted rugged and loud.  Everyone has their preferences; Teddy’s doctrine wasn’t for me.

I guess that Teddy considered me a sinner after I bought the GTX.  But even some of Teddy’s hardest, fastest iron couldn’t come close to my 440 4-speed, except when he’d catch up to me at the gas station.  Every time I’d race Warthog (by now complete with a Dyer-blown 455) or against one of his 442s, Teddy would scratch his head, complaining “it’s gotta be an Oldsmobile,” which implied that he didn’t understand how my Plymouth could run as hard or as fast as an Oldsmobile, and not be an Oldsmobile.  He couldn’t see Plymouth as being a performance car, since his faith was in Oldsmobile.  Teddy’s sight was narrow and this overpowered Mopar was out of his vision.

Yet, he persisted in his obsession, like a bee against a window.  Flexibility was not his strong point when it came to cars.  He couldn’t visualize anything outside of Oldsmobile or why anyone would want to own anything outside of Oldsmobile.  Time and time again, he would point to the literature, saying “it’s all here in the book.  See?  Read this and you’ll see there ain’t no other choice.”  He refused to believe that my GTX was every bit as powerful, fast, loud, and unbreakable as any of his Oldsmobiles.  Teddy was obsessed, and felt his views should be everyone’s.  His faithfulness to Oldsmobile was getting the best of him, and pissing me off in the process.

But that message kept calling to him, though neither I nor any of Teddy’s friends could hear it.  His shrine grew as he acquired more and more Oldsmobiles.  He was still listening to that inner voice.  He knew something about his cars, but didn’t tell us what that something was.  He thought that his mystic vision was visible to everyone.  

As the years passed, and as he acquired more Oldsmobiles, Teddy began to collect only certain kinds.  One of the most specific was a ’78 Quasi-442, which had a 260 and a Borg-Warner T5 5-speed.  Teddy told me he wanted one for his collection, because its 5-speed was the same unit installed in the IROC-Zs of the ’80s and was worth a lot of money.

Money?

I had never known Teddy to be material.  He cleared it up for me.  “Some guy come by my place last week.  Offered me fifteen grand for Warthog.  I tell him it ain’t for sale but he can buy my big-block Vista Cruiser for seven.”  Teddy’s ’70 Cutlass Station Wagon had only 15,000 miles, and was powered by a 455 and a 4-speed.  “He told me my cars are worth a ton.  And he bought the wagon for seven.”

Then it occurred to me.  Teddy’s inner drive hadn’t necessarily been money, but rather blind faith in instinct.  He didn’t realize, until this guy’s healthy offer for Warthog, why he was collecting Oldsmobiles; he just collected them.  

Well, it’s 1993 and I still have my GTX.  The beautiful Plum Crazy paint job is now chipped and spider webbed.  In the 20 years that I’ve owned it, I’ve replaced the u-joints three times, rewired it once, and had the body straightened after two Seattle accidents, both which ironically affected the side of the car that already had the best paint.  The trunk leaks like a sieve and the windshield cracks up the middle every time I slam it into second gear at full throttle.  Even with these problems, I have to hide the keys from my 16 year-old.  To my son Jeffery, it’s not a well-used piece of crap; it’s a piece of crap with some abuse left in it.  I know that, at the hands of a teenager, my poor GTX would die a painful death pasted to a telephone pole somewhere in Lynnwood.  It’s given me almost 170,000 miles of faithful service since 1973; to have it crunched by Jeffery after that many miles would hurt far too much to bear.

This is why I considered selling it to someone who would restore it and treat it with some respect.  We are now living in an era when old muscle cars get top dollar.  Clean, low-mileage examples of my GTX get well over $10,000 with the 440.  If it’s an original Hemi car, don’t even bother looking at it if you have less than 30 or 40 thousand.  My GTX is no Hemi, and is neither choice nor low-mileage, but it does have the original, unrebuilt 440.  This means that as a restorable, it’s a great deal for someone who wants to take the time on it.  But I found out that it’s not near as desirable as any one of Teddy’s 442s.

Remember the W/30 he bought in ’70 with 3000 miles?  Well, it now has 8500 miles and is worth $35,000.  Warthog is worth about $20,000 (now sporting an alcohol-burning, injected and blown 455 that will lay molten rubber for an entire city block).  There’s no telling how much his collection is worth, considering most of it is stored and low-mileage.  His cars are in great demand because of their condition and Teddy’s devotion to detail.  He knows everything about every car he’s ever owned.  He can tell a guy what plant the car was built in, along with the exact month and day.  He sold his four-door 442 and paid off his mortgage, and then his ’78 5-speed to buy his daughter an ’86 Firenza as a college car.

Needless to say, I wanted this sort of stuff to happen to me.  My GTX wasn’t nearly as pristine as any of his Oldsmobiles, but it was complete.  I hoped there was someone out there who would want my car.

Teddy told me of a guy who was looking for a restorable muscle car and gave me his phone number.  Apparently, Teddy’s collection was too rich for his blood, because the demand and price for performance Oldsmobiles had gone through the roof.  This guy wanted something to restore that he could buy for less.

I could sense the inner voice now that Teddy had followed.  The voice that had pushed him on for all those years was speaking to me, and making me realize that it has to be an Oldsmobile to be worth something.  I listened to Teddy in high school, but didn’t hear what he really meant. His consistent comment didn’t relay all that it stood for.  But Teddy had listened to the voice; it told him to buy Oldsmobiles.  “Buy them for the future, because in a few years, your small investment and your annual 25% offering will become a fortune in your garage.”  That’s what the voice was telling him.  And since he blindly followed, the deities of his faith looked kindly on him and rewarded his efforts.  All this time, his quaint little phrase had more meaning than it seemed.  His collection was now worth big bucks.  Any performance or modified Oldsmobile was like gold.

Although I was sure that my GTX was worth something to someone, deep down I knew I would never be able to get as much for it what Teddy could get for any of his cars.  Still, as a restorable car, I was hoping to get some some good money for it.  I called the phone number Teddy had given me.

“Yeah, I’m looking for something restorable,” the guy said.  “But Teddy didn’t tell you.  I want to restore a 442.  They got that super-stiff suspension, and I already got a Vista Cruiser to use for parts.  The lines of the ’69 hardtop really put a hook in me when I was in high school.”  There was a short sigh of euphoria.

“Sorry, man, but I don’t really wanna restore a Mopar.  It’s gotta be an Oldsmobile.”

The Food Shark

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“Hot, Fresh, & Cheezy”

In January 1991 I had just lost my beloved 1959 International ½ ton pickup to a snapped axle on Snoqualmie Pass. By then my wife had graduated from WSU and moved back to Seattle; I was one year behind her. My only transportation in Pullman at that point was a choice of motorcycles – my Honda CB550 or her 250 Rebel which was still on The Palouse. Outside of The Bookie I saw an ad for a $100 car; from that ad a friend and I got an idea to share a vehicle to deliver pizza on different nights of the week. All told, this car would rack up 35,000 miles in 15 months, and it made a ton of money for whoever sat behind the wheel.

Pizza Pipeline offered us a larger cut of the profits if we painted the company colors on my own car. While I don’t recall exactly how the idea came up to put the teeth on, I do recall that the original name – which got nixed by the shop owner as unprofessional – was “Pie Shark.” The innuendo was all wrong, so the “Food Shark” it became.

Food Shark’s teeth and racing stripe were painted on the car in a WSU parking garage while the outside temperature was hovering around 20 degrees F. Obviously the paint didn’t stick too well in that chill, so it was repainted in May after the weather improved. Typical gas mileage for the Food Shark was around 11mpg when delivering, and 18mpg on the road. The Food Shark needed very little to be dependable. I gave it regular oil and coolant changes, did a tune up, u-joints, tires, and true dual exhaust (no emissions testing in rural Washington). It only stranded me only once, when the electronic ignition gave out ($12 fix).

The “Shark” Concept proved to be popular and profitable. During the first part of the year, friend Paul and I shared the Food Shark and traded off evenings delivering as we had planned. In May he purchased his own Shark – another Cutlass, this one a 1976 – for $50 and drove it home on bad brakes after the City Of Pullman threatened to tow it. Paul repaired the second car, painted it with the obligatory teeth and stripe, and dubbed it “Shark Tooth.”

Oddly, Shark Tooth got horrendous mileage and averaged a dismal 7mpg while delivering pizza.

The Sharks were loved and hated equally in Pullman; as we drove around, children would smile and wave while public safety officials would stare and glare. With the racing stripes and the shark’s teeth, the cars cut a very high profile when on the road. This worked to a financial advantage for Pizza Pipeline but worked against the people driving them, as we were watched very closely by the local authorities. While I tried hard to stay within the law, I still managed to rack up 3 or 4 traffic stops and one messy court date. Paul drove Shark Tooth hard and was pulled over often.

In the Spring of 1991 I had attached the front license plate above the driver’s side headlights, in an attempt to keep the plate from coming off the bumper every time I entered a parking lot. I had considered mounting it with zip ties on the grill, but it covered too much and would have caused the car to run hot. I then consulted the Revised Code Of Washington and determined that I could move the plate from the bumper to the upper panel and still be within requirements. Code indicates that the front license plate on a Washington vehicle should be mounted level in such a manner that it can be read “left-to-right” at all times. It says little else, other than indicating the maximum height from the ground (I was within limitations here as well). Mounting it above the headlights was admittedly in a gray area, because top-to-bottom angle was extreme; I asked the Pullman Police Department if they had a problem with it, and they said “no.” Then one summer day, on the lonely way home on Highway 26, I was pulled over by the Washington State Patrol because the trooper didn’t like how the plate was mounted on the Shark. After I showed why I had mounted it in this manner, indicated what Code I had consulted, and that I had spoken with my local enforcement, he tried to cite me for drunk driving (I hadn’t been drinking at all). This incident is one of the contributing factors to my current status as an occasional drinker, and never when I am going to drive somewhere.

My favorite memory of the Sharks involved an impromptu session of Front Bumper Scrummage; I was coming back to the pizza place in the Food Shark as Paul was leaving in Shark Tooth. We then went bumper to bumper and pushed each other around for a while. I won, presumably because my car cost $100 and his cost $50.

I retired the Food Shark from pizza delivery in December 1991 after graduation from college, using it as work transportation after that. I removed the Pizza Pipeline lettering & logos and replaced them with the simple door inscription “For Recreational Use Only.” In April 1992 – knowing the Shark would never pass the stringent emissions test for the area – it was sold to my brother in law, who promptly parted it out. Paul drove Shark Tooth until 1993 and then traded it in for a new Geo Storm.

The Infamous And Diabolical Brownmobile

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In March 1996, my Toyota 4×4 was totaled by a Chevy Suburban. The accident almost totaled me along with the truck. After that, we were down to one car – a Corvette – and needed something that could haul more than two people and a sandwich. So we went searching for a cheap Toyota to replace our totaled Toyota. We found the Brownmobile for $1200 on a car lot in Seattle’s University District.

The full name was actually “The Infamous & Diabolical Brownmobile.”

It was brown, and had been sitting on the car lot for a long time. Hey, it **must** have been diabolical in some way. The Brownmobile was a 1979 Toyota Corona wagon, grandfather to the Camry. It was powered by the famous Toyota 20R 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission. One unusual feature was its hydraulic clutch, instead of cable or linkage. Having a juice clutch made the car very easy to drive. With 124,000 miles on the odometer, it was not perfect; the power steering howled slightly, the second-gear synchronizer was just about shot, the windshield had an annoying (but legally acceptable) crack along a lower corner, and the rear of the car had been upholstered in beige shag. But it had an factory AM/FM radio, front seats that would adjust in a gazillion different directions, and a roof rack.

The Brownmobile put its dark-colored hook in us.

It was cheap, drove very well and had a certain worn familiarity that many Toyotas get after 100,000 miles. The engine burned oil; oddly the oil level would remain full for the first 1500 miles after an oil change, at which point it would require a quart at 2000 miles (I usually just changed it then). Tune up took about ten minutes. With the purchase of a Thule bike rack, the Brownmobile became the car of choice for trips and commuting. For the next 27,000 miles I drove it everywhere on little more than a tune up and a new set of tires, and was rewarded with steadfast dependability.

I considered keeping the car forever, but it went through 2 fuel pumps over the course of 8 months; on Brownmobile, the fuel pump was in the tank ($$$). It also failed Washington’s emission test. At that point I decided that it needed to go elsewhere. The Brownmobile was sold for nearly the amount we paid, and the bike rack went to some bike-loving friends. About a year later, I got a notice in the mail that Brownmobile had been sitting – abandoned – in Renton for several months, and that I was still the registered owner.

I suspect it went through a third fuel pump.

Brownmobile 02

Kurt’s Cars: 1972 Chevelle Station Wagon

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Aug 1983 – My totaled Chevelle wagon. Truck next to it is the one that hit me.

It’s a shame that I don’t have any good pictures of this car.

I should, because it was one of the most dependable cars I have ever owned. My parents purchased this 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle station wagon in 1981, to replace their aging 1974 Chevrolet Impala wagon. By then the Chevelle already had 108,000 miles on the odometer, but still ran like a champ. It hauled them and a trailer across the United States with little more than gas and oil. I purchased it from them when I took over a very large Seattle-PI 220-paper delivery route in Edmonds WA during the summer of 1982, and put 60,000+ miles on the clock over the next year.

This was the car on which I truly learned the art of maintenance. As a daily-driven vehicle, it was important that the car work every day. None of my other cars to that point had to operate on that level, because school was two blocks away and 7-Eleven was three. Driving a 31-mile long paper route changed all that. The stop-and-go of driving from paper box to paper box made brake jobs and tire replacement a quarterly affair. The number of tune ups doubled. Things that would normally last 20,000 miles on other cars only lasted 8,000 miles on the Chevelle.

But all along the car never complained. For better or for worse, the 307 small block Chevy motor was a workhorse with enough torque to get the job done. A few things went wrong but nothing major occurred. I trashed an axle when the bearing seized. I went through a set of front brake rotors in one month; to this day I’m not sure why. One day the tailpipe dropped in the street, so I replaced the exhaust with 2 ¼” duals. The water pump went bad, but I managed to eek out another 3500 miles before replacing it. The timing chain got really sloppy at 140,000 miles so it too was replaced. By August 1983 the car had traveled over 175,000 miles without an engine rebuild. Oil consumption never changed from the time my parents purchased it – 800 miles a quart – no matter how hard or easy the car was driven.

Then came the accident.

I remember every detail like it had occurred last week. In August of 1983 I was traveling south after dark on Meridian Ave N. While going through the intersection of N 185th St and Meridian I was hit in the passenger’s front door by a pickup that had run a red light. Nobody in the early 1980s wore seat belts. The impact knocked me out of the driver’s seat. The impact spun the pickup around, which then hit the wagon a second time in the quarter panel – just ahead of the tail light. My wagon was now traveling through the intersection uncontrolled, with the steering wheel out of my reach. It ran head long into a Buick Skyhawk that was sitting in the left-hand turn lane.

When dust settled, there were three totaled vehicles in the intersection and no serious injuries. The pickup driver was not insured, which in 1983 was not as serious in Washington as it is now. Because the pickup’s driver wasn’t insured, the Skyhawk’s owner tried to come after me for the damage to his car. My insurance company laughed and gave him the bureaucratic middle finger. In the end I got $400 for my wagon from the pickup driver’s parents. The Skyhawk’s driver went after the pickup’s driver with legal action for $2500.

A month later, I retired from delivering newspapers and walked headlong into the cruel working world. Day jobs were so different from the life I had known of making my own hours, sleeping in after finishing the route, and paying no taxes (couldn’t get away with that now). For about five years I worked the kinds of jobs that convinced me that going back to school was the best idea.

Oddly, the accident that totaled my car was probably for the best.

Good or bad, that evening became an important turning point in my life. Had I left the house 1 minute later, I probably would have continued delivering papers for some time. But another life awaited me; I look back on a synchronized chain of events that has led me to my loving wife, my new relationship with God, two great kids, and a safe home in a great city. In retrospect it’s probably a blessing that my beloved car got smashed in 1983.

But I still miss the Chevelle anyway.

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