Thursday, August 20, 2015


We were greeted with an orange sun in the eastern sky. Smoke, from the many fires in the north state, is settling down around us and the air is definitely not safe to breathe. My voice is a raspy imitation of what I once sounded like and I cough frequently. That's life these days in the dry and flammable Pacific northwest.

I just came back from having coffee with my middle daughter; a Thursday morning tradition. We had to sit outside because the barista makes lots of iced coffees and that ice crushing blender makes a racket that shakes the room. But, we did sit under a shade canopy so that the smoke wouldn't fall on us.

Later. For some reason I was thinking about one of my early car purchases. It was just one of those stray thoughts that fly through your mind all day but this one lingered long enough for me catch and expand upon it. It was 1957 and I was 17, still in high school. I had been driving down Sepulveda (Pacific Coast Highway), in Redondo Beach, when I spotted a little red and white sports car in the lot of a used car dealer. I turned around, parked and went to look at it. It was a 1954 Austin Healey and I was hooked as soon as I opened the door and sat down behind the wheel.

Since I had been saving for a car and had a great after-school job, I had the money to buy it, $1,700. But what I needed was a parent to sign some paper that would allow me, a minor, to purchase the car. All I had to do was convince my dad that it was in my best interest to drive a sports car. So, I took him down to the car dealer and we walked all around the car, kicking the tires and lifting the hood to examine the engine. Then it was time to do the test drive.

I had already driven the car a few days ago so I knew how to start it and maneuver through the 4-speed floor shift. But, the clouds that had been growing darker decided to rain upon us at that moment. 'No problem' said the salesman and he showed me how to unsnap and lift the top into place. He opened the trunk and removed the side windows from a protective carrier. The early Austin Healey was a true roadster; no rollup windows for a real aficionado of sports cars! The side windows even came with a hinged flap at the bottom so you could thrust your arm out into the rain and signal for your turns.

We both got in and that was when I discovered that my 6'-2" frame meant that my head was jammed up against one of the supports for the top. No matter; I knew I would rarely need the top to be up. After all, we lived in sunny Southern California and it rarely rained. Ever.

I put the car in gear and pulled out into traffic. What a rush! When you are sitting a mere 8" off of the pavement and have what seems to be a powerful engine at your command, everything speeds up. You barely turn the wheel and you're in the next lane. You can feel as well as hear the growl of the exhaust as you wind the engine up in each gear. I was definitely in love with this car!

We didn't drive very far as I could tell that my dad didn't care for us test driving in the rain. I got us back safely, but would he sign the papers? He did, and I drove my new car home. And that was the car that I still regret selling. In 1959 I joined the Navy and was then assigned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. I couldn't envision me driving across country in my car and I didn't want to put it up on blocks (why not?) so I sold it to a friend. I never saw it again. But I still dream about it.

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