Monday, February 27, 2006

The best f'n car EVER!

So, my freshman year of high school, my dad went out and bought a 1978 Delta 88 to use as his "get around town" car. The thing was a tank. Had a vinyl roof, plush seats, and a trunk that could fit two bodies, at least. Problem was, the car leaked. When it rained, you had to place paper down on the seat to make sure your ass didn't get wet (especially on the way to school every day). It was even more difficult to stay dry in the winter because, growing up in Cleveland, it snowed 5-6 months out of the year. And, if you had a father like mine, clearing the snow off of the car was done using the windshield wipers...nothing else. So, the back window rarely got cleaned, and he drove the car around town with three to four inches of snow on the roof. Snow that melted and leaked into the car.

When it came time to get my driver's license, do you think my dad went out of his way to help me with my exam by borrowing someone else's smaller, compact car (like he did with my sister two years later)? Hell no. I took my driver's test in the Delta 88, and barely passed. But I did pass, and within days, I was behind the wheel of that boat. This was the winter of '85-86.

That Spring, I decided to figure out why the roof leaked and I tore off all of the vinyl. There were huge holes in the metal where it had rusted out and, having grown up observing my brother work magic with bondo on the Ford Torino we used to own, I decided to give it a try. Man, was it ugly. The next logical step was to paint it, but Dad wasn't going to spend money on repainting an old junker, so I jokingly suggested painting a flag on the roof (visions of the General Lee were dancing in my head). He wouldn't have it. "I worked in Georgia during the 60's" he said. That's all he would say when refusing my request for the Confederate flag. I was bummed for about 10 seconds because I immediately proposed the Union Jack and he said, "Sure."

Over the course of two weeks, I painted that flag on the roof and the two of us drove the thing around town. I believe he got a thrill from showboating around town in a crazy looking car. I thought I was cool. It was my friend, Sally, who christened it "The Whomobile" some months later, so I painted that moniker on the front lip of the hood. That Summer, while I was still employed at Taco Bell, I came out to the car one night after work and someone had put a note on it. "Who the fuck are you?" A real fan, I'm sure. My finally stroke was painting that question (minus the profanity) on the trunk so that every car behind me could ask the same question of themselves.

I loved that car. Everybody loved that car. You could easily sit six or seven people in it. You could have a damn party in it. One of my favorite moments of my youth happened in the Summer of '87 after school had let out. Steve and I were driving the valley, listening to Tom Petty in anticipation to a huge party that night and the beginning Summer before us. As "Don't Come Around Here No More" began its crescendo to the climaxof the song, the two of us pounded on the dash board, beating the hell out of the cracking vinyl. It seemed like the old beast could take it. It enjoyed it. We were giving it more love than its previous owner had, that's for sure.

That car lasted until just before Thanksgiving '87. In an intersection at Lorain Road, it began to stall out, like Puff the Dragon breathing his last breathe. I was able to veer it off the road and into the lot of an Auto parts store (King's Auto Parts, as I recall... or Crown Auto Parts). When Dad came to pick me up and have the Whomobile hauled to a gas station, it was the last time I saw it. The shop called and the amount to repair it was not worth it. My parents decided it was time to buy another van (UGH!). The Whomobile was no more.

I never had any photos of that car. For all the time I spent in it, I never thought of recording it on film. It was going to last forever, wasn't it? However, during my senior year, the boys cross country team piled on to the car for an impromptu team picture. I guess my friend Phil's camera was used and he's had that picture ever since. He sent me a copy of that picture today and I just had to post it. Has there ever been a better picture of the joy of youth? Look at these kids. No worries (so it seems). The future is bright. We're young. We're carefree.

What happened to those kids?


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