Red Chevy

>>Red Chevy


It is–at last–a cool grey day in glassland, not quite raining but wanting to, sweet relief from the last month’s desert heat. I’m on the way home from an afternoon of errand-running, partly to get things done but mostly to feel the back-to-normal, tad-too-chilly northwest air moving through my car’s open window.

I pull up to the light only halfway in the world; my brain’s musing studio tasks and content projects while NPR drones in the background. The reporter mentions the Cash for Clunkers program, and I finally notice I’m behind a clunker.

Say rather, a classic. It’s a Chevy Impala with the crossed checkered flags on the back. Late 50s, early 60s, about a mile wide from fin to fin, mint condition and shiny with wax. It’s candy-apple red with a white hardtop and enough chrome to plate a small country. There’s a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror–whoever owns this car has gone to town on the restoration–and it’s sending a heavy tang of exhaust my way.

The car is, in a word, cherry.

By the time we get to the next light I’ve pulled up alongside. The Chevy’s driver is a white-haired guy about 70, full beard and squared-off black sunglasses, in a plain white t-shirt. He’s smiling gently and nodding his head in time to Presley’s “Now or Never.”

He glances my way; I smile and give him a thumbs-up sign. He returns it with a grin and nudges the lady beside him; she leans forward, smiles and giggles.

I note that the lady really is sitting beside him, the way people used to do in movies, when cars had bench seats in front and no center consoles. It seems a much friendlier and far more romantic way to ride than today, when we’re stiffly perched in our own little buckets, chastely separated and alone.

He points to my lane, I nod, and when the light changes I let him zoom ahead. The lady moves in closer and settles her head on his shoulder. He wraps his arm around her and signals for a left turn. As I watch, he strokes the dashboard, then heads down the freeway toward the beach.



  1. Ed LaPlante August 7, 2009 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I am a major motorhead and try to work on my bikes and cars. I grew up with a father who was a lifetime professional mechanic so we were always tearing vehicles apart. Between Dad and two brothers we had lots of mechanical things going on. I grew up with a vintage 41 Indian motorcycle in the family room that only was moved during the holidays to make room for the Christmas tree. As a bachelor I had six bikes in my living room (no garage) but that all ended with marriage. I tend to hang with bike and car guys too so I am totally exposed to this culture, many time on a daily basis (by choice). I just had my bike tires mounted at a race tire shop while I lettered a race car. Right now we have three cars (including a 95 Z28 Camaro) and five bikes. I like so many different types and styles of vehicles it will be amusing to see what my newest ride is.

  2. cynthia August 7, 2009 at 10:02 am - Reply

    You know, I know a mechanic who has a real feel for older cars, and she’s just starting out so she might be somebody who could help…I’ve written about her before, just lemme know.

    My dad always wanted to own a 56 T-Bird, and when he finally got all the doctor school bills out of the way he bought one, had it stripped down to bare metal and built back up to glory. White convertible, red interior, most beautiful car I’ve ever seen. Of course, we were living in Fresno and he couldn’t leave it in the parking lot without somebody trying to steal the hood ornament, so he eventually sold it to my uncle and I was very sad…but boy, that was a car.

  3. Ed LaPlante August 7, 2009 at 9:02 am - Reply

    There are several classic car stores in Portland and I stopped at one yesterday just to look at some beautiful restoration work. While my Dodge mini van does everything I need for work and casual driving it lacks character. I hope in the new year or so I can add a car to my small fleet that returns the feel of emotion for a car with a little nostalgia too. Maybe one I can actually work on without a degree in automotive computer science.

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