This is another recycled post from my old blog. I hate doing this but I need to show that this is still an active blog. It still is but I was so distracted last week and this weekend by phone calls, people dropping by unannounced and sleep that I haven’t been able to update lately. Hopefully, I will resume posting this week. For now, here is a post I made a year or so ago.
Recently, someone moved here who drives an early 70’s model Volkswagen. They park it in a covered, reserved spot two spaces down from my truck which is just outside my front door. I’m looking at it right now through the window here at my desk. It’s white and it’s in near perfect condition. I can’t wait to hear the thing start up. Actually, I’d like to take a ride in it. If I had the money I would offer to buy it if I thought the owner would sell. The appearance and condition of the car tells me it is not for sale. It’s obvious that the person loves the car.
I think the old Volkswagen “Bug” is a marvel of engineering. The epitome of practicality. It was inexpensive to make, affordable to most all, easy to operate and easy to maintain. It is perfectly designed for both sand and snow as well as water (I’ve always heard that they can float). It uses very little gas, will live forever if properly maintained and also provides it’s own heat in the winter via a cleverly designed duct that catches the engine heat (before the exhaust) and channels it inside. And if it ever gets stuck, all you need is a couple of buddies to help you lift it out.
I have a long and sordid history with Bugs. Bitter-sweet would be an understatement. Life and death is more applicable. The first bug I ever drove was a well kept red one. The second bug I drove was a very used blue one. The third bug I drove was a tricked-out black one with big, fat rear tires, open engine, custom interior and an honest-to-God old Hurst (Herst?) shifter. The red one was sold. The blue one burned to the ground on HWY 6 and the black one nearly caused a catastrophic, multi vehicle smash-up, also on HWY 6.
The Blue Bug
This bug has the most history. I shared this little car with the long term girlfriend I was shacking up with in the eighties in Corpus. We drove it for years. Years and years. We even towed it up here to Houston behind a U-Haul truck. When we all got up here, things started changing; girlfriend and I were not getting along and car was not wanting to run properly, if at all. Perfect.
Girlfriend decided to get away from me and go spend a few weeks with her parents in New York. Of course, car stayed with me. One night after my bartending shift (about 4:00 AM) I was talking with my bartending partner in the parking lot about my situation when the conversation turned to the old blue bug. By this time it could only achieve about 50 MPH if given a three mile stretch of highway with the pedal on the floor the whole time.
I kicked the rear bumper and said: “I hope this mother fucker blows up and burns to the ground on the way home”. It did just that about twenty minutes later. I was driving across the elevated stretch of HWY 6 across Addicks reservoir when the engine of the bug literally exploded. After the boom, I saw nothing but fire behind me. I pulled over immediately, got what I could out of the car and then just stood and watched as the car turned into a huge ball of flame. I am not superstitious, but I will say that I have since learned to be more careful of what I wish for. At least verbally.
I walked halfway home until some nice person pulled over to give me a ride. It was obvious I was the former owner of the ball of flame on the side of the road behind us. He dropped my smoky ass off at home and I went directly to sleep. The next day I called girlfriend in New York with the bad news.
“Meg? Remember the car? Well, it caught on fire last night.”
“OMG, is it alright?!”
“Um . . . No.”
“What’s it going to cost to fix it?”
“Um . . . Meg . . . The car is gone. I had to go to a salvage yard to identify the remains. I turned over the title so that we wouldn’t owe any storage fees.”
“How could you do that?! That’s my car???”
“Meg . . . It was nothing but a melted wad of metal.”
I did her a favor by handing over the title. The usable parts on that poor car were just barely enough to cover the cost of one day’s storage in the county graveyard. And how about the fact that she didn’t even ask if I was alright. My hair was singed and I was blowing black snot out of my nose for a week. She never even once expressed any relief that I got out of the car relatively unscathed.
The black Bug
Not long after that, an acquaintance of ours from Corpus showed up in Houston. He had the tough-assed black bug for sale. On a rare break from behind the bar one night, I gave him about $400.00 for it. It had brake problems, but I knew that when I bought it. I was so thrilled with this tricked-out bug! This was actually the funnest car I’ve ever had in my life, although I didn’t get to drive it very long.
I took it to a repair shop for a full brake job. They did it and I paid out the ass for it. The brakes worked fine after that but the mechanics were extremely negligent in one area: They forgot to secure the rod that connects the brake pedal to the braking mechanisms. In other words, the little shaft connected to the actual brake pedal was not secured in it’s place and fell out inside the car. It happened as I was late for work and hauling ass over the hump on HWY 6 and I 10. I came over the hill only to find that I had zero brakes and tons of other motorists below me. I shifted into second to slow the bug down, but the shaft snapped and now I had even less than zero stopping capability. I was at the mercy of the laws of physics, inertia mostly, I suppose.
I was fucked and so were the poor people below me. Thanks to God and my Dad, I inherited lightening fast reflexes. I saw a tiny escape hole and took it. It was between a building and a cluster of trees and telephone poles. I veered off the road, hit the curb, caught some air, landed successfully and bounced across the lawn of whatever property was there at the time until I finally hit concrete again which was the adjacent street, about a block from the intersection. Fortunately, it was a mostly unused road at the time. I just rolled down the road with my foot out the door trying to slow the car down. After my shoe wore down to my bare foot, I realized that I had to do something more drastic to stop the bug. So I hopped the curb again. The grass slowed me down enough that I didn’t have to ram the bug into a tree or a telephone pole in order to stop it.