commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘convertible

A road trip in time

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Just last week, I told this story of my gambling Uncle Richie and the road trip I made alone to his funeral. This is one of my favorites, told in the days when both my oldest brother and mom were still alive and when we’d first begun to lose treasured family members. I come by my commuting naturally and as a lover of a good road trip.

Services for Uncle Richie

DENISE BRAY HENSLEY
PUBLICATION: Houston Chronicle
SECTION: TEXAS MAGAZINE

DATE: SEPTEMBER 20, 1992

 I scrawled the directions on a piece of paper near the telephone, my husband — in the background — more incredulous all the time.

“You’re gonna turn at Aunt Bessie’s old place,” the voice on the line said.

“But I don’t know where she lives. You know, I haven’t been out there since I was just a kid.”

 

“You’ll know it by that blue Chevy parked in the yard,” he explained.
“You sure her car’ll be there?”
“It’s been there for at least 20 years,” said my oldest brother who was giving me directions to the cemetery in East Texas where my uncle was to be buried. My husband, on the other hand and not two steps away, was giving me grief for even thinking about trying to find it.
Half the drive was a two-lane highway; the other half was red-dirt roads only traveled by the people who lived down them. My last obvious landmark would be the Arcadia Four Corners Grocery, a store that never had much business, and by now was long closed.
A battered, lone stop sign still marked the crossroads in front of the Four Corners, although the chance of two cars being in the same area at the same time was — as they say in this part of the country — slim and none.
I had been in that store a lifetime ago. My family occasionally stopped there on our way to my grandmother’s house, a place where we chased chickens and milked cows.
As a visitor from civilization, I was never comfortable with the bathroom out back or the black potbelly stove that dominated the living room. I did, however, manage a taste for the sweet well water we drank from a dipper after the silt had settled to the bottom.
I always bought grape Nehi soda at the Four Corners and poured peanuts in it — not because I liked the taste, but because it was the East Texas thing to do. Friends today ask me, “What was the point?” And I can’t really tell them. It made the grape soda salty and no longer refreshing, and it made the peanuts — washed by the soda — rather bland. The only fun was the foam, caused by the salt in the carbonation. But that wasn’t even much fun when the indelible grape soda foam washed onto my clothes. I never did it unless we were visiting the country from our home in what my mother considered the city.
“You’ll come to a `Y’ and you need to stay right,” my brother continued. “You’ll take the second road to the left. It’s down quite a ways.”
“How will I know if I’m going right?” I asked. My husband, still pacing in the kitchen, shouted, “Why don’t you use the mobile phone in Bessie’s car to call for help?”
I cut him a look while the voice on the phone said, “Well, if you come to an old burned up barn, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and come back.”
In the end, I decided it would be best for me to go too far, then come back.
uncle-richieMy uncle had been the kind of person most families kept in the closet. In mine, he was a hero. We all wanted to be at the funeral.
Uncle Richie was my mother’s baby brother, although he looked much older. He was sick or dying for years, and there was much speculation about how much of his original organs remained after the hard life he’d led. We were certain he’d lost one lung to cancer. Despite that fact, he continued to smoke and cough, sometimes falling into breathless, ragged attacks as he exhaled a long drag from a filterless cigarette. His illness never stopped him until the last year of his life.
His body, always weak and frail, was a contradiction to the reckless, carefree life everyone said he lived.
I am the youngest of six children, and my memories are shaded by the eyes of a child and remembered as legends told in a family.
In one of my few personal experiences with Uncle Richie, he breezed into town in a huge pink convertible. The car seemed the size of a living room with buttons everywhere for making windows and seats go up and down. We all took a ride around the block with the top down, a one-car parade, waving to our neighbors.
My brothers, all three of whom have a Texas passion for vehicles, tell me Uncle Richie had two separate pink 1955 convertibles — a Plymouth and a Ford. One had a hardtop that rolled down into the trunk with the push of a button. We still have a picture of Richie — taken in the late ’50s — on the hood of a convertible. He’s wearing baggy pants, a sleeveless T-shirt and a hat, cocked on the side of his head. He looks carefree and full of fun. It’s the way I most want to remember him.
It’s that man, perched on the convertible, who must have been a draw for the ladies. By last count, he married eight times — the first time on a dare. The women were mostly redheads, voluptuous and crazy. The family rumor mill had most of these women on their way to or from mental institutions, both before and after relationships with Richie, which only added to his curious stature.
I remember most the beautiful, seemingly worldly, Lottie Jo. She smelled of fields of flowers and Juicy Fruit chewing gum. She wore billowing, soft clothes with blouses that hung off both shoulders, showing sprays and sprays of red-brown freckles the same color as her hair. She was the mother of at least two of his children — my cousins — who, by the time Uncle Richie was dying and they were contacted, wanted nothing to do with him.
All Richie’s relationships seemed to end violently and with threats of murder and mayhem — all from women. One burned his new home as it was being built at my grandmother’s home place. Another threatened to burn my mother’s home, and that must have been near the end of his life as he became more and more bedridden in a back room that once had been mine.
Uncle Richie made a living gambling, but it was hardly a living, as my mother said, and his unreliable lifestyle was the downfall of all his marriages. Gambling, however, was the true love of his life.
There were stories of a suitcase filled with cash on one visit, while the next trip my mother would complain he was in town to borrow money. Of all the people who borrowed money from my mother, he was the most likely to pay her back.”Oh, he forgot about a little,” my mother said. “But not much. Everyone forgets a little bit. He was just like one of the kids.”
Many years ago, Mother bought her younger brother enough clothes to go to Las Vegas for a stint as a card dealer. It was the longest period of time when he was out of our lives.
Later, when he came back to Texas after allegedly being run out of Vegas, he was among an anti-elite group of gamblers who seemed to know about any game in town. He played in barrooms, trailer houses and back alleys. It was a shock to me as an adult to be told these little towns could draw regular, semi-high-stakes card games. It couldn’t have been the glitzy scene portrayed in movies, but there were still fortunes made and lost, and shots were still fired when someone felt wronged. In Richie’ s case, the shots were most often fired at him and not by him.
“He didn’t play a straight game,” they said of my Uncle Richie.
He had his own brand of ethics, though, and one of his rules concerned the big cities. He steered clear of Houston and thought the people much too cold and calculating. He told the story of a game one night in a Houston bar where someone came looking for a hit man. Richie said he watched as others at his table flipped a coin and decided who would do the killing.
“I never knew if it was the winner or the loser who got the job,” he said later.
So, it was a damp Texas morning when I drove my own convertible to Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Shelby County, between Center and Timpson, to say goodbye to the family legend. I retraced a route I hadn’t seen for more than 20 years and had never driven alone.
The dirt roads could no longer have been familiar, but I was drawn in the right direction and never made a wrong turn. It just took me a long, long time to get there.
My mother said she was so surprised to look up and see I was there, just as she and others started to make their way to Uncle Richie’s gravesite.
I couldn’t have been any later and still made it on time.
My mother was in her element with these country people. The suburban town she’d lived in for my lifetime was not her home. This was. Everyone was related in some way or another to her — to me.
I stood among the pine trees and the graves and heard my uncle called a Texas pioneer. All the sins of his life were forgotten and he was honored for his roots. The mournful crowd heard solemn words, but I preferred to think of Uncle Richie with a gleam in his eye and an ace up his sleeve. Life was a game for him, and how he loved the game.

 

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 16, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Here’s a shocker: Houstonians wasted more time in traffic in 2015

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Let’s start with me. Yes, I’ve wasted more time in traffic this year than last year and that is despite being off on medical leave and working from home for an unusual three months and two new knees of the year. I knew before this report that my commute has increased since I first started making a regular trek to the big city more than two decades ago.  Ask my suburban friends who are appalled at the two hours I spend to and fro work every day. I’ve been saying that my commute has increased a lot lately.

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

When I agreed to this gig, my commute was 45 minutes or less. Heck, when I used to teach at University of Houston at night, I gave myself 35 minutes to get to campus from my Livable Forest home, leaving my toddlers with their father who was home from his day job. But then, none of my UH students ever cared if I was on time or even absent. Such is the life of an adjunct professor.  And I had a silver convertible — also named Streak, like my current road bike. It was fun to drive home in the open air to find the kids asleep and the husband mellow. Today, it’s much different. As an empty-nester with a cool new swimming pool, great garden of flowers and a husband who is an inventive cook, I have a lot waiting for me at home.

I hated to see it counted in specifics and real-life metrics. This week, a new report from the Washington-based Inrix Inc. shows Houstonians wasted 12 more hours in traffic in 2015 than in years past. OMG! That’s a season of binge watching “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.” It gives me several meaningful episodes of “Game of Thrones” that I will now have to sit in a chair and lose my life to. Luckily, I’ve already binge watched all of “Luther” or I’d be in trouble, perhaps trying to watch on my iPad in the car.

The average Houstonian wasted about 74 hours in his or her car last year sitting in gridlock traffic, the report says. Yikes!  Of course, true.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Just last week, a terrible story erupted about a woman in a three-car wreck in Houston who took off her clothes and danced wildly on an 18-wheeler, stopping traffic for hours. I could be that woman! I have wanted to make a statement many days as I sat in my Nissan Rogue Clarence, going nowhere. Luckily for my now-adult children, I’ve kept my clothes on  . . . so far. They are still worried about their mom being tossed against the hood of Clarence and handcuffed by “The Man” who has stopped me three times in the last six months in sneaky speed traps for breaking the traffic laws.  I’m certain I’m being profiled now that I’m no longer a cute young thing who can talk her way out of a traffic ticket. They think I’ll pay and not complain. So far they are correct.

This week’s findings make Houston the city with the fourth worst traffic in the country.  We fall  behind Los Angeles (No. 1 ), Washington, D.C., (No. 2), and San Francisco (No. 3). It was the only Texas city to make the top 10.

Houston can brag of being the road most traveled in five of the top 100 most congested stretches of roads in the country. The city’s most trafficked area was the portion of Interstate 610 from the Woodway Drive exit to Beechnut Street, near the Galleria. The less than 7-mile strip, which has received low ratings before, should take about six minutes to traverse, according to the report. At peak travel time, the strip takes about 26 minutes. I believe it takes longer.

Almost to work

Almost to work

Other highly trafficked roads in Houston within the top 100 in the country were:

  • S. Highway 59 from Lorraine Street to Texas 288 (been there; done that.)
  • Interstate 45 from Texas 5 Spur to Gulf Bank Road
  • Interstate 610 from Evergreen Street to W. 11th Street
  • S. Highway 290 from Antoine Drive to N. Eldridge Parkway

Now, here’s the even worse news:

The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that it would invest $447 million toward relieving traffic on three of the city’s major highways. TxDOT has even proposed elevating lanes in some of the most congested areas of 610 to help alleviate traffic. However, construction on other roads is still expected to bring about closures and congestion.

When this road work creates even more traffic jams, I will certainly shed my clothes, dance in the grid-locked traffic and make a spectacle of myself. All I can say to the family is “Be prepared; I’m not quitting anytime soon.”

Houston commuters … I’m back!!

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View of the Texas Medical Center from my ortho doc's office

View of the Texas Medical Center from my ortho doc’s office. Photo by John Hensley.

After being housebound for a month and a half because of a knee replacement, I will hit the roads next week with my doc’s permission to drive again. And, yes, the new knee is the right one. And, yes, I know that’s my gas pedal foot. And, finally, I realize the drive is at least an hour and I’m supposed to straighten out my knee as much as possible. Houston drivers, beware! Like the Terminator, I’m back and better than ever with some new, somewhat expensive, better-than-nature new parts.

I’ve always been known as a bit of a lead foot but now I’ll be heavier in the knee area – cobalt and titanium, that is. It actually doesn’t feel any heavier so that’s an empty threat. It can be quite a bit stiffer when I keep it in one position long, but it doesn’t hurt at all. As a matter of fact, it’s much better than my real, left knee. Now, when I go for a walk and want to rest, I can put all my weight on my right side and stand and stand. Perhaps forever.

Uncommon sights of Houston. This man is sharing his bread with some pigeons from an artsy chair.

No sight is uncommon in Houston. This man sits in an artsy chair in downtown, sharing his bread with some pigeons.

I’m looking forward to being behind the wheel of my Nissan Rogue, Clarence, weaving in and out of slow-goers and perhaps finding my way onto a magic lane or two. I’ve missed the skyline at sunrise as I approach from the ‘burbs. I miss the airport at sunset when the planes come in from all directions – often looking like spaceships before they come into sight completely. I miss the Texas Medical Center and the characters who ride and walk the streets of the big city. I’ve tried Metro and carpooling but prefer to saddle up and ride alone. I listen to Bruce , the Joel or Paul Simon. More often, I have a murder mystery on download. Still, I keep my head on the swivel I was taught in ninth-grade driver’s ed. In Houston, you want to see who is behind you, beside you and what might be flying out of the sky.

As a kid growing up 90 miles from here, I never loved Houston. It felt too much like home, I think, being from a smaller but similar version of an oil boomtown. And, as a newspaper reporter in an era when the Houston papers were known for being in bed with big business, I skipped right over my nearby city and headed straight for Dallas, then Fort Worth and on to Detroit. Motor City was the only other place in the United States where I would get as much solid driving experience in crowds of hostile, aggressive motorists. Driving in floods in Houston is nothing compared to driving on black ice at 4 p.m. in Troy, Michigan, when it’s already pitch dark and you have two elementary age children in your convertible.

But now, I’m all in. I love Houston’s melting pot of ethnicities and people – from art to cuisine. I love speaking Spanish as my second language and eating Mexican food as my first preference. I love the Texans, the Astros and trying to get used to soccer with the Dynamos, driving by their Dowling Street stadium on days when I want to see what’s going on in Houston’s lively Third Ward. I’m just as likely to hear some street music as I am to witness a public oration or see a boxing match or the athletes running outside the boxing hall.

So this weekend I’ll polish up Clarence; he’s pretty dusty from all the pollen in the air. I may even vacuum and dust him out some and certainly fill him up with gas. I’ll find my office key, my name tag and my parking pass. I’ll locate my sunglasses and maybe a second pair, just in case. I’ll kiss my faithful hound and adorable husband goodbye and ride off into the sunrise. Baby, I’m back.

Shop in Third Ward where folks are invited to rent a bike and “tour the hood.”

Sailing the roads in the car of your dreams

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Cars have been considered a reflection of their owners’ personalities at least for the TV generation since 1958 and the second episode of 77 Sunset Strip when Efren Zimblist Jr. handed his Thunderbird over to Kookie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqvFmAm9C5w

For men, their vehicle can be a symbol of their success or of their machismo. My car always has been an important part of my identity. So please excuse my brief stereotyping. As a woman who loves cars, I’ve never considered it a guy issue any more than my own personal issue.

I take great pride in buying my own first car, a green 1971 Pinto. That’s right. Take that, Ralph Nader.

My mom’s car was falling apart one night when I was running the roads more and more. I was late because of terrible car trouble, and we got into a huge fight at midnight.

Mermaid

My dream hood ornament

“I will never touch your car again,” I shouted. She didn’t acquiesce. The next day, I biked to the nearest used car lot and bought my Olive for $1,999. Payments were $60 a month. It was part of the dowry I would bring into my marriage my freshman year of college.

In fact, that last evening in the Ford Cartina had been terribly dangerous – especially by today’s standards. I had been as upset and angry as my mom. Her silly maroon Cartina had been a major mechanical failure since my renegade brother and usually motorcycle rider had borrowed it and attempted to pop wheelies in it. He’d drop it into reverse, get going pretty fast and then switch quickly to drive. Not smart but then how many 16-year-old boys are.

Olive

Olive

Eventually the gears were stripped and untold damage caused. My mom had boo-hood on my shoulder at the expensive repair bill, but the car was never the same. It was even more unreliable than I was but a far cry from as unreliable as my brother.

The night my mom and I had our falling out over my transportation, the Cartina’s electrical system wouldn’t work when my friend Penny and I decided to go home from the Beaumont drag at about midnight. The engine would run but the lights would not. I couldn’t see the dashboard or how fast I was going. Everything inside and outside was pitch black.

Penny and I were pretty good at finding some male companionship back in those days and may have lined up a couple of new friends already. I can’t quite remember. Nonetheless, we had two Romeos who were perfectly willing to follow us home, shining their car lights on us for the 20-minute drive. OMG! Perhaps their plans were different, but ours were merely to get home alive.

Clarence

Clarence

When we arrived safely at my house, I turned Penny over to the two strangers for her own lift home.

Dear God in Heaven: Please forgive me for my foolishness as a teenager. Thank you, God, for giving me far less to handle with my own kids. And thank you for delivering my best friend and most fun running buddy home safely. God 1; Denise -XX, at age 16, I think it was just double digits at the time.

I’ve not always gone up in car ownership since the Pinto and never quite made it to the Jaguar level – the car I admired most as a kid. Of course, I’ve lived in the two places where car ownership is a sense of pride – Texas and Michigan. Or, shall we say, Houston and Detroit.

Bullitt

Bullit

I had a series of used and superfluous vehicles until I bought one of Lee Iacocca’s first convertibles back in the 1980s when he’d returned to Chrysler to save the car maker. I had a new high powered job at the Dallas Times Herald and would be commuting to Dallas. I wanted to travel in style.

I raised my two babies with car seats in the three-quarters backseat of that Chrysler ES Turbo. It moved with me to Detroit for five years when I freelanced at the Detroit Free Press.

I finally faced change and bought a Grand Caravan when my kids were in middle school. Ironically, by then, they never wanted to be in the car with me anyway. Later I would buy Vinny, the Xtera and now Clarence, the Rogue. I still aspire to a Jaguar but may not be the right character for a chic car.

I have a desire for flames or lightning or a full-fledged mermaid on the front of my car – perhaps the reason I’m drawn to the big cat on the Jag. I want to hang fun items from my rearview mirror and put unique signs on my bumper or in my windows.

Thus, I’ve settled for elf ears on Clarence this Christmas. I’ve conformed to a degree and so far. Clarence prefers a bit of dignity and is not quite a fan of the elf ears. When I find just the right mermaid for his hood ornament, I think he will be happier.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 7, 2014 at 8:54 am

Skeleton from the closet

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I scrawled the directions on a piece of paper near the telephone, my husband — in the background — more incredulous all the time.

“You’re gonna turn at Aunt Bessie’s old place,” the voice on the line said.

“But I don’t know where she lives. You know, I haven’t been out there since I was just a kid.”

“You’ll know it by that blue Chevy parked in the yard,” he explained.

“You sure her car’ll be there?”

“It’s been there for at least 20 years.”

My brother was giving me directions to the cemetery in East Texas where my uncle was to be buried. My husband was giving me grief for even thinking about trying to find it. Half the drive was a two-lane highway; the other half was red-dirt roads only traveled by the people who lived down them. My last obvious landmark would be the Arcadia Four Corners Grocery, a store that never had much business, and by now was long closed. A battered, lone stop sign still marked the crossroads in front of the Four Corners, although the chance of two cars being in the same area at the same time was — as they say in this part of the country — slim and none.

I had been in that store a lifetime ago. My family occasionally stopped there on our way to my grandmother’s house, a place where we chased chickens and milked cows. As a visitor from civilization, I was never comfortable with the bathroom out back or the black potbelly stove that dominated the living room. I did, however, manage a taste for the sweet well water we drank from a dipper after the silt had settled to the bottom.

I always bought grape Nehi soda at the Four Corners and poured peanuts in it — not because I liked the taste, but because it was the East Texas thing to do. Friends today ask me, “What was the point?” And I can’t really tell them. It made the grape soda salty and no longer refreshing, and it made the peanuts — washed by the soda — rather bland. The only fun was the foam, caused by the salt in the carbonation. But that wasn’t even much fun when the indelible grape soda foam washed onto my clothes. I never did it unless we were visiting the country from our home in what my mother considered the city.

“You’ll come to a “Y’ and you need to stay right,” my brother continued. “You’ll take the second road to the left. It’s down quite a ways.”

“How will I know if I’m going right?” I asked. My husband, still pacing in the kitchen, shouted, “Why don’t you use the mobile phone in Bessie’s car to call for help?”

I cut him a look while the voice on the phone said, “Well, if you come to an old burned up barn, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and come back.”

In the end, I decided it would be best for me to go too far, then come back.

My uncle had been the kind of person most families kept in the closet. In mine, he was a hero. We all wanted to be at the funeral.

Uncle Richie was my mother’s baby brother, although he looked much older. He was sick or dying for years, and there was much speculation about how much of his original organs remained after the hard life he’d led. We were certain he’d lost one lung to cancer. Despite that fact, he continued to smoke and cough, sometimes falling into breathless, ragged attacks as he exhaled a long drag from a filterless cigarette. His illness never stopped him until the last year. His body, always weak and frail, was a contradiction to the reckless, carefree life everyone said he lived.

I am the youngest of six children, and my memories are shaded by the eyes of a child and remembered as legends told in a family.

In one of my few personal experiences with Uncle Richie, he breezed into town in a huge pink convertible. The car seemed the size of a living room with buttons everywhere for making windows and seats go up and down. We all took a ride around the block with the top down, a one-car parade, waving to our neighbors.

My brothers, all three of whom have a Texas passion for vehicles, tell me Uncle Richie had two separate pink 1955 convertibles — a Plymouth and a Ford. One had a hardtop that rolled down into the trunk with the push of a button. We still have a picture of Richie — taken in the late ’50s — on the hood of a convertible. He’s wearing baggy pants, a sleeveless T-shirt and a hat, cocked on the side of his head. He looks carefree and full of fun. It’s the way I most want to remember him.

It’s that man, perched on the convertible, who must have been a draw for the ladies. By last count, he married eight times — the first time on a dare. The women were mostly redheads, voluptuous and crazy. The family rumor mill had most of these women on their way to or from mental institutions, both before and after relationships with Richie, which only added to his curious stature.

I remember most the beautiful, seemingly worldly, Lottie Jo. She smelled of fields of flowers and Juicy Fruit chewing gum. She wore billowing, soft clothes with blouses that hung off both shoulders, showing sprays and sprays of red-brown freckles the same color as her hair. She was the mother of at least two of his children — my cousins — who, by the time Uncle Richie was dying and they were contacted, wanted nothing to do with him.

All Richie’s relationships seemed to end violently and with threats of murder and mayhem — all from women. One burned his new home as it was being built at my grandmother’s home place. Another threatened to burn my mother’s home, and that must have been near the end of his life as he became more and more bedridden in a back room that once had been mine.

Uncle Richie made a living gambling, but it was hardly a living, as my mother said, and his unreliable lifestyle was the downfall of all his marriages. Gambling, however, was the true love of his life.

There were stories of a suitcase filled with cash on one visit, while the next trip my mother would complain he was in town to borrow money. Of all the people who borrowed money from my mother, he was the most likely to pay her back.

“Oh, he forgot about a little,” my mother said. “But not much. Everyone forgets a little bit. He was just like one of the kids.”

Many years ago, Mother bought her younger brother enough clothes to go to Las Vegas for a stint as a card dealer. It was the longest period of time when he was out of our lives.

Later, when he came back to Texas after allegedly being run out of Vegas, he was among an anti-elite group of gamblers who seemed to know about any game in town. He played in barrooms, trailer houses and back alleys. It was a shock to me as an adult to be told these little towns could draw regular, semi-high-stakes card games. It couldn’t have been the glitzy scene portrayed in movies, but there were still fortunes made and lost, and shots were still fired when someone felt wronged. In Richie’s case, the shots were most often fired at him and not by him.

“He didn’t play a straight game,” they said of my Uncle Richie.

He had his own brand of ethics, though, and one of his rules concerned the big cities. He steered clear of Houston and thought the people much too cold and calculating. He told the story of a game one night in a Houston bar where someone came looking for a hit man. Richie said he watched as others at his table flipped a coin and decided who would do the killing.

“I never knew if it was the winner or the loser who got the job,” he said later.

It was a damp Texas morning when I drove my own convertible to Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Shelby County, between Center and Timpson, to say goodbye to the family legend. I retraced a route I hadn’t seen for more than 20 years and had never driven alone. The dirt roads could no longer have been familiar, but I was drawn in the right direction and never made a wrong turn. It just took me a long, long time to get there. My mother said she was so surprised to look up and see I was there, just as she and others started to make their way to Uncle Richie’s gravesite. I couldn’t have been any later and still made it on time.

My mother was in her element with these country people. The suburban town she’d lived in for my lifetime was not her home. This was. Everyone was related in some way or another to her — to me.

I stood among the pine trees and the graves and heard my uncle called a Texas pioneer. All the sins of his life were forgotten and he was honored for his roots. The mournful crowd heard solemn words, but I preferred to think of Uncle Richie with a gleam in his eye and an ace up his sleeve. Life was a game for him, and how he loved the game.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

July 19, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Momentous mileage

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About to turnover to 160,000

Today is going to be a momentous day for Vinnie and me. By the time we return home and are snug in our bed and garage, we will cross over to 160,000 miles together. This will make Vinnie my most cherished and longest lived vehicle in my long driving life.

Hi-yo, Silver

I crossed over 100,000 with my mom-mobile mini-van before I bought Vinnie and had a long but less mileage-accomplished relationship with a really cool silver Dodge ES turbo convertible. It was 1984 and I’d just taken a job at the Dallas Times Herald that involved my first big commute. Meanwhile, Lee Iacocca was cooking up a comeback of the convertible – always a family favorite since the days my oldest brother and flashiest uncle drove convertibles. I raised two kids with baby seats in that little three-quarters backseat – driving it all over Texas and Michigan – before we all moved on to junior high and mini-vans.

Otherwise, I have had brief but meaningful relationships with my vehicles, starting with an ill-fated green Ford Pinto.  My first car I purchased my senior year of high school with earnings from my newspaper job at the Mid-County Chronicle Review. I had been driving my mom’s equally ill-fated Ford Cortina since getting my driver’s license at 16. After the Cortina lost all electrical power one night, I was forced to drive home while some friends shined their headlights on me. Needless to say, neither my mom nor I were happy with the fight that ensued upon my arrival home. I just remember my final, harsh words were, “I will never drive your car again.”

Thus, I found myself on my new 10-speed the next day, biking to the nearest used car dealership. I believe the car salesman saw “sucker” printed across my forehead and sold me the Pinto.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

April 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm