My first motor vehicle was a motorcycle, a Honda Superhawk. I’d never heard of Honda until my buddy bought one, but it was fast, and that was all the recommendation I needed. Dating on a motorcycle was possible, but wasn’t much help with the girls I wanted. Actually, it was fine with the girls, but no help with their fathers, so I still wanted a car, which was dangerous in a much better way.
My first car was a 1965 Buick Electra 225 convertible, two years old. You old people can imagine what that was like. Going from my parents’ Chevy Biscayne to a deuce-and-a-quarter was a huge jump. I was power-drunk. Power everything—including antenna, windows, and six-way seat—was icing on the cake. I had the baddest ride in the neighborhood and good times with those six-way power seats. Mmmm, boy.
I suppose it burned a lot of gas, but a gallon at the Clark station on 95th and South Park cost only 32 cents, about the same as a pack of cigarettes, another government-subsidized addiction. The globe wasn’t warming noticeably, and in Chicago that would’ve seemed like a good thing.
After a couple of years, I was ready to take another crack at college, and even 32 cents a gallon was starting to eat a hole in my pocket, so I traded my deuce for a Fiat 124 coupe, still one of the best road cars I’ve ever driven. The salesman who sold it to me called it a little Ferrari, clearly a lie, but close enough with a little imagination.
My Fiat was a lot of fun—I could lay rubber in first and second—and it could stop on a dime, but it was cheaply made, with thin-gauge steel and too much plastic where metal was called for. Fiat had the right idea poorly executed.
Next was an Oldsmobile, during my executive period. It was decent, barely. Big, comfortable and wallowy on the highway, it got me to all the meetings I didn’t fly to in the early ‘70s, half of them in Springfield, Ill. Sympathy is appropriate.
After my Olds, I rode a bicycle for years. I did a lot of walking, too, sometimes many miles a day, to Hyde Park or even downtown to the Art Institute, but a bicycle was my default.
When I moved to Minnesota in the mid-'80s, I rode a bicycle exclusively and did just fine, except in the everlasting winter. I bought a Plymouth Horizon from a friend of mine, but it was suicidal from the start and didn’t last long.
Now and then I still yearn for a Maserati, but an ever-increasing part of me would rather have a walking life, with no car at all.
Just after I came to Chico, I read about the proposed widening of Highway 99 to encourage more traffic, and I realized how paved roads and parking lots prevent anything from living there ever again, or at least until this goofy system breaks down, maybe not so long as we think.