Sunday, June 9, 2013

my love of yellow...

My very first car, that I bought with my own money, was a very yellow 1976 honda civic wagon. 

It was not as spiffy or blemish free as the one in this photo.

It had a line of rust running along the bottom/base of each side of the car, and there was a rust hole through the floor of the passenger side. The floor mat covered it nicely.

My family christened it, "The Duck."

I had picked it out myself from the used car lot near our house.

I remember going with my Dad to look at cars after pleading for weeks to go and see at what they had. I had spotted it from afar every time we drove past the lot. The two things that caught my eye were, that it was yellow and it was a wagon. For some reason, I was obsessed with owning a wagon. Not the sexiest car for a teenage boy. What I really wanted was a Volvo wagon, but that was waaaaay out of reach.

"Who do you think we are?" My mother asked, not really wanting an answer. "Part of the Onassis Family?" She continued. Anytime there was something out of reach financially, the Onassis Family would always be invoked. I think it's was mandatory for Greek immigrants to use the Shipping Family as a way to drive the point home that their kids better not get any "funny, fancy ideas" about what could or could not be attained.

Even though I was going to buy a car with the money I had saved from working, it was frowned upon to buy something beyond what we were. We were working class and we should have working class things.

I had saved $700 from my job at the White Hen Pantry and I was not to be stopped from spending it on a car.

I had been driving my Dad's "project car." It was a 1967 Buick LeSabre and it was in even worse shape than the rusted out Honda Civic. It would die if you were stopped for too long, the steering pulled towards the right. A lot. And when you went over 50 it shook like an amusement park ride. It was the car I used to drive 45 (plus) minutes into Chicago everyday to go to school. The LeSabre's unreliability was not a good thing.

One very cold and icy winter morning, I started my trek into the city by pulling out of our neighborhood McDonald's drive-thru. I had just purchased an Egg McMuffin and was looking forward to driving and eating while listening to the radio. To this day, it is still one of my favorite things. I love road trips and drive-thru meals while the radio is humming along.

I had just pulled up to a red light after getting my McMuffin. I proceeded to unwrap it when I started to hear a screeching noise. I looked up into my rear view mirror and I could see someone slip-sliding behind me. The driver hadn't calculated enough room to stop for the light, so he and his car were now skating at full force right into the LeSabre.

The LeSabre was a boat. The damage was minimal and it was already missing a back bumper. The worst casualty was my breakfast. The McMuffin went flying out of my hands, hit the windshield and then feel all over the floor. It was not salvageable. His car, I can't remember what it was, was also a boat and sustained minimal damage. He took off as soon as he could get control back of his car. Good times.

My Dad's car project would not be the same. We had to scrap it. Now was the time to strike! I needed a car for school and "The Duck" was to be mine.

Later that day, when my Dad came home, we went to the car lot. I immediately went over to the Honda Civic. It was priced at $850. My Dad was looking at other, less bright vehicles. I agreed with him that the color may not be the way to go, but it was the only wagon on the lot. Plus, I knew he loved a good car project and I thought, once the weather warms up, we could do the body work on it and then paint it. We never did.

"I don't have an additional $200 to give you for it." He said. I hadn't asked or expected him to.

For some odd reason, I was confident that they would take exactly $700. They didn't. I gave them what I had and made payments on the rest. I believe it was $50 a month.

No one liked the car. In a neighborhood where all my contemporaries were driving Camaros, Firebirds and the occasional Mustang, The Duck did not exude any sort of cool or hipness.

I loved it. I even grew to like the color. It was a manual that drove rough but steady. I could fill it with more dumpster dive finds than I could dream of, AND I could find it in a parking lot without much effort!

It was the beginning of my love of yellow and I truly started thinking of ways to use it in my personal and school art projects.

Since my first real car, I've had many others including my current and second Volvo wagon. I do not think I am an heir to a Greek Shipping fortune, or that I'm fancy, but I do think I am very lucky. The Duck would be proud and would wonder why my current wagon is grey.

Grey goes very well with yellow. -angelo


Beth said...

I love this.

I love that you worked at White Hen Pantry. That was our go-to neighborhood joint for milk. I seem to remember that it was known for its ham.

And I love your choice of car. And that it was named. Maybe someone's restored one and you can buy it for nostalgia's sake. Mustangs and such get all the restoration love. Someone needs to honor the Honda Civic wagons.

Also, I'm very sorry for the loss of your Egg McMuffin.

dstoutholcomb said...

Very cool story!

That's tough losing an Egg McMuffin--the best breakfast sandwich ever!

I bought my first car in '84 for $500--cash. I think Dad talked the guy down from $700. It was a black '66 Chevy II, 4-door monstrosity, but it was all mine. bought with money earned working at Pathmark (grocery store) and babysitting. The man inherited it from his aunt--a Mennonite--no radio, no power brakes nor power steering. Shockingly, it did not have a black bumper (Mennonites used to paint them black for religious reasons--I could explain if you really want to know.)

I bought a radio at the flea market--with my money--and Dad broke three jigsaw blades trying to saw holes for the speakers.

My friend Dean said the coolest thing ever about my car--he thought it belonged in a music video! We were the MTV generation!

My neighbor has a 2-door, souped up version in his garage. lol.

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