Keep Your Cash: Love For Clunkers

1:15 A.M. Pacific time. Can't sleep again, but at least it's Pacific time.

During my last two thousand miles of travel, rubber on pavement, I stumbled across a collection of poems by Charles Bukowski and oddly enough the day before I got the chance to drive my beloved Impreza (Hermes) I read this...


With old cars, especially when you buy them secondhand and drive them for many years a love affair is inevitable: You even learn to accept their little eccentricities: The leaking water pump, the failing plugs, the rusted throttle arm, the reluctant carburetor, the oily engine, the dead clock, the frozen speedometer and other sundry defects. You also learn all the tricks to keep the love affair alive; How to slam the glove compartment so that it will stay closed, how to slap the headlight with an open palm in order to have light, how many times to pump the gas pedal and how long to wait before touching the starter, and you overlook each burn hole in the upholstery and each spring poking through the fabric. Your car has been in and out of police impounds, has been ticketed for various malfunctions: Broken wipers, no turn signals, missing brake light, broken tail lights, bad brakes, excessive exhaust and so forth but in spite of everything you knew you were in good hands, there was never an accident, the old car moved you from one place to another, faithfully-the poor man's miracle. So when that last breakdown did occur, when the valves quit, when the tired pistons cracked, or the crankshaft failed and you sold it for junk-you the had to watch it carted away, hanging there from the back of the tow truck, wheeled off as if it had no soul, the bald rear tires, the cracked back window, and the twisted license plate where the last things you saw, and it hurt as if some woman you loved very much and lived with year after year had died and now you would never again know her music, her magic, her unbelievable fidelity.

(I changed the format a bit and added punctuation for posterity)

That poem made me miss my car even more, and even though the throttle cable snapped hours after setting my bags down a smile remained. Freezing, hands bloody and trembling, wrenching in love.

I love the fact that after I roll my window up I can pull the crank handle off and slip it in to the door card pocket. I love the fact that he has carried me tens of thousands of miles, and I can still go play rally in the dirt on the weekends. I love when people look at his odometer and their jaw drops (238,8XX and still chugging). That love equates to respect, the respect that shows with letting him warm up for a few minutes before taking off or the respect of being liberal with maintenance.

It's going to be a long while before Hermes sees retirement. He took his 401K and blew it on fuel and tires. He's working until his skeleton shatters and welding can't save him. He and I will continue to see this country and breathe it in. He has seen the oceans, the Bonneville salt flats, snowy mountain passes, dodged cones on airport taxiways, felt the breeze underneath his tires and landed gracefully in the dirt; He has lived and will continue to do so.