Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I've seen this car in my neighborhood for several years.  I've always loved it.  My grandfather had one in Florida in copper until the late 70's.  No flashy hardtop, like the one in the picture, his was a salesman's car that he had driven around the Midwest selling menswear, mostly sweaters, for a company called Robert Bruce, until he retired.  The back seat was huge and had an armrest that folded down in the middle.  Me and my brothers called it the king seat and sitting on it - no seat belt, of course - you felt pretty cool cruising around humid Sarasota.  The giant car had ashtrays everywhere; in the dash, in the bulky door handles in the back, and there was one housed in the back of the front seat that contained a push-in lighter.  One time, on the way to Busch Gardens or the Ringling Mansion - we were always going somewhere advertised in a colorful pamphlet - I pushed in the lighter and when it popped I removed it, saw the glowing red element and put my finger to it like an idiot.  I'd say, "like a curious six year-old," except I still do this kind of thing.           

I snapped these pictures while walking to breakfast one Sunday to meet my ex and her sister, who was visiting from out of town.  We were very recently broken up and both hoping, against reason, that we could reconcile.  Her sister's visit was a neutral way to be together, preventing us from falling into a horrible discussion of what went wrong with our relationship, or falling into bed.  My ex is very beautiful, very smart and 20 years younger than me.  In short, she's hot and it's almost impossible for me not to want to touch her, even though I've been burned many times.   Like I said, I'm an idiot.

This model of the 225 - a poor man's Cadillac, known as the "Deuce and a Quarter" - is from either '71 or '72, a couple years newer than my grandpa's more conservative version.  I remember riding in it to St. Armand's Shopping Circle and going to Tail O' The Pup, a bar and grill that had great cheeseburgers and was dark and very air-conditioned, unlike the rest of Sarasota.  We went to Florida all the time when we were growing up, from being little kids fighting to sit on the king seat, to getting crushes on  granddaughters who were down at the pool at my grandparents' condo, all the way until I could drive.  Unfortunately, by that time the old Buick had been traded in for some crappy late 70's car - I think it was a Dodge Aspen - so I never got behind the wheel.   

The breakfast with my former fiance and her sister went as well as could be expected.  Everybody was on their best behavior.  The only truly weird part was afterwards when we took some pictures outside; one of her and her sister, one of me with my arm around my her, and one of all three of us, snapped by a waiter.  I'm not sure what we were commemorating.  "Hey, remember that awkward, overly polite brunch last January?  In case you don't, here's some uncomfortably posed photos." Doing something familiar like that and realizing it feels foreign is one of those things that tells you that you've started a new chapter, but goddamn it's impossible not to want to flip back a couple hundred pages.  Afterward, I walked home and noticed the beautiful  Buick was gone from the parking space where I had seen it earlier.  I hoped to catch a glimpse of it again in neighborhood soon.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

El Camino

This is a beautifully restored and tricked out Chevy El Camino.  Unless it's a Ford Ranchero, but I don't think so.  I saw it at a stop light on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood on kind of an overcast morning as I drove to my therapist, early on a Friday this past December.  It had just been a year since I had terminated therapy after going pretty consistently since Spring of 2001, but now I was going again since my engagement ended.  At this exact moment my ex-fiance and I were driving in separate cars to my shrink--we were going to try couples counseling. 

The paint job and finish on the El Camino were really beautiful.  The super straight sedan-like line was made even cleaner by the fact that the door handles had been removed in classic cholo street rod fashion.  I don't really know if there's such an aesthetic as "cholo street rod" but it seems like there might be.
If I was rooting around for metaphors for what went wrong with my relationship, I could do a lot worse than a car with no handles on the doors.  The two of us had really been in love for going on two years, and had even weathered being apart while she finished grad school, but once she graduated and moved to LA to live with me, well, the handles fell off.  Up to then, whatever problems there were had been minimized by the fact that we were in love, really liked hanging out together, and of course the long distance aspect probably extended the honeymoon phase of the relationship.  Once we were living together in the same city and were engaged, a lot of shit went wrong.  Our differences in age and culture, (20 years, Jewish/Asian) which previously seemed awesome in many respects, were now causing problems.  I didn't understand why she would invite her friend to stay with us for three months and she didn't understand why I was such asshole who didn't want to open our home to someone who was like a sister to her.  That was one of our central arguments and after a while it really felt like we were standing outside our past relationship, looking inside at the plush tuck-and-roll upholstery, wondering how in the hell to get back in there when the door handles were missing. 

Normally I'm not a big fan of big rims and white walls, but with the simplicity of this car in every other way, the blingy-looking wheels and tires give the whole ride some serious dignity.  I'm not going to tell what happened at couples counseling.  It would probably bore the hell out of you.  I just wanted to say that seeing this car really cheered me up on an otherwise totally crummy day.