Monday, November 9, 2009

RiverTown: Demolition Derby

The nicest car we ever had was a stunner, and it cost us the value of a trade-in. My father-in-law used it on Texas interstates, and it was definitely a Texas kind of car: 1980 something Oldsmobile Toronado Caliente, dark red with a white vinyl (not rag) top. I’m going to describe it in full. I also found pictures of one EXACTLY the same, except beige. So think red.

  • Vee-Eight 5.0 liter engine, Automatic transmission, A/C, Cruise Control
  • Power steering, brakes, trunk release, locks, and safety dome light feature
  • Dual 6-way power seats In Red Leather
Can anybody say, Gang Ride? But I don't want to talk about that yet.

The Competitive Sport of Crime Avoidance

The sidewalks of IrishTown were paved in auto glass. I had a Nissan, grey, modest--and like all my cars, sorry--a little dinged. I hated the Caliente. It made me conspicuous on the street.

Part of our initiation into the neighborhood was the search for guns or drugs or sound systems in our cars. And, as at Warrior Poets, if you locked your car doors, a determined prowler was never deterred. Therefore, being prudent was expensive. This is one of the first principles of being poor in America.

The Rules and the Strategies
We rapidly learned that you could not leave anything in your car. Not CDs, a penny on the floorboard, not a 69-cent rubber duck or a take-out bag from fast food. They learned we had no guns or drugs, and there would never be any food left in the bag. So, okay. After the initial flurry of break-ins, things slowed down.

Also in the car break-in thing, we were there long enough to get the nuances. There's a big difference between paying for the windshield and paying for a back window, for instance.  There's also a big difference between getting your window smashed Sunday night when you have to go to work on Monday, and getting it smashed Friday night when you're not due anywhere on Saturday, and the auto glass place is still open.

Now combine these two. Windshield + Sunday night=pretty hostile.
Side panel window + Friday night=business almost as usual.

Of course the Caliente was the greater magnet. He lost windows all the time. I lost two--in the Nissan, and two later in the truck.

I won on numbers. He won the style points: calm, collected, a man with a plan. He'd call the mobile auto glass. The guys would come out with their truck-mounted vacuum, and take care of everything. He would write a check, and move on. Of course he was moonlighting, for this and other reasons, but remember: we had no car payment.

Suddenly, the Stakes Go Up
So, I did not have a clear win in the Crime Avoidance Derby until one day, my husband came in, seriously peeved. "There's some kind of crap on my car window," he fumed. "What the hell is that about?" He lost it. Under many instances of cheerful disregard, anger had been biding its time. So we went out to inspect.

Yup, it was brown. Eventually, we determined, fortunately, it wasn't crap. It was chewed-up milk chocolate, like a Hershey bar, well soaked in spit, and then blurped all over the windshield.

I was relieved, but for some reason, this upset my husband even more.  Since he once contemplated lighting a paper bag of dog-poop on the front porch of a man who refused to make good on several minimum-wage paychecks, maybe this makes sense to you. But chocolate is a kitchen mess to me. We washed his windshield and it was over. For me.

Back inside, he was still ranting. Finally he turned to me. "Why doesn't any of this stuff happen to you?" he demanded, arms waving. "Why does it happen to me?"

Well, there was the trophy aspect--which car would be more defaced when blurped with chocolate--you know. Maybe chocolate-blurping is also a competitive sport.

"You don't say hello to people," I finally said. "The neighbors watch out, or know who belongs, but you're not friendly."
"I say hello to them if they say hello to me," he snapped back. I shook my head.
"They don't go first," I told him. "They've been ground down too long by too much. They don't take risks like that. You're a prosperous white man, you can slam them with a word."
He sat down and thought about it. "Okay," he sighed. "I can do that."

Maybe this sounds prejudiced. I think of it more as a diplomatic issue.

Thanks for buthard.wordpress for the pictures of the Caliente. Their post is here.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

There's a lot people can learn from you. Keep writing.