After reading that post, my colleague and FB buddy Fred Sandsmark wrote: "You buried the lede. I want to see pictures of that yellow 1967 Camaro convertible."
Several others commented on the Camaro, too, which sent me reeling back to my days with "Cammie." Days when I sweated profusely. And screamed. And cried. And sang along to eight-track tapes. And lost all my savings. And skipped school a million times. And feared for my life, more than once.
I'll start at the beginning.
My father bought the '67 Camaro in 1970 as a car for my sisters Mimi and Julia and me. The idea was that as each of us came of driving age, we'd share the car. Being the youngest, I lucked out. There was no one I'd have to pass the car onto.
|Cammie and me, circa 1980-81|
And I was rebellious. In high school, my friends and I would skip school, pile into Cammie, smoke a joint (or three), and ride around Greensboro, top down (even when it was cold; that was what the heater was for). We'd sing along to eight-track tapes of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Elton John, and their ilk. And then, inevitably, we'd head to Krispy Kreme for doughnuts. If I ever write a story about those fun, mid 1970s experiences, I must call it Glazed and Confused.
Let's see, where was I? Oh, yes. I mentioned earlier that I'd screamed in the Camaro. That would have happened when I was living and working in Charleston. I'd left the car windows down overnight, got in, drove up the highway, and discovered a gecko on the inside of my windshield. For those of you who've seen the fantastic opening sequence in the movie Contact, you know that my scream is still floating around in space, along with Lucille Ball's laugh.
I also feared for my life in Cammie. The first time, I somehow found myself lost in the Great Dismal Swamp, a 112,000-acre wetland preserve on the N.C./Virginia border. It was dusk. I grew fearful that I wouldn't find my way out before the blackness of night set in and therefore I was doomed to be eaten by alligators. Miraculously, I discovered the exit at last and returned to civilization with all my limbs (but not all my nerves) intact.
On another occasion, I was driving the Camaro over the old Cooper River Bridge that connected Charleston to its eastern neighbors. Anyone who had the misfortune of driving on that bridge might understand why I called it the Crack Your Face bridge, because its narrow lanes and flimsy feel (to me) would quickly erode any composure you had.
|The Crack Your Face Bridge|
I'd also mentioned losing all my savings because of Cammie. When I was working at the Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald as a reporter, I made a ridiculously low salary--just under $10,000. I had about $1,200 in savings, mostly money my father had set aside for me. During this time (late 1981), the Camaro's engine started to go. I suspected as much when I thought there always seemed to be a four-alarm fire nearby--and realized it was Cammie's engine.
I was told a new engine would cost me about $2,000. At the office, I mentioned to a co-worker my dilemma. Her husband, a mechanic, and his friends would gladly rebuild my engine for $1,100, she said.
I paid her husband the money up front, which was my second mistake. (The first was to even consider having a co-worker's no-count husband work on my car.) He and his buddies fixed the Camaro and it ran fine. For one week. And then, the black smoke returned. I insisted that my co-worker's husband fix the engine; he said he would; and despite numerous pleas and threats, he never did. I was incredulous and distraught and didn't know what to do.
"Cut your losses," Nick said--a life lesson if there ever was one. Humiliated, I had to ask my father for money to get the engine replaced.
If you'll recall, a few paragraphs back I mentioned sweating profusely. This was because Cammie lacked air conditioning. And it had a black interior. You drove it in the summer, you perspired. Epically. Like Mark Zuckerberg being interviewed on stage.
|Mark Zuckerberg's famous meltdown|
Following one particularly excruciating freeway jam without air conditioning, I vowed that that summer would be my last with Cammie. And it was.
In spring 1987, as Nick and I prepared to move to San Francisco, I decided not to have the Camaro shipped West, that it was time for me to buy a new car. I advertised Cammie in a local paper and almost immediately, the calls started. I sold her to a vintage car enthusiast who, after the deal was cinched, said he was going to paint her red.
The night before I was to hand over the keys, I took Cammie for one last ride. I'd created a cassette mix tape especially for the occasion, with songs I'd loved as a teenager, music I listened to as a young adult, and, with a nod to my future, a few songs about San Francisco. And that was the night I cried in my Camaro.
I bet you've got a few tales to share about your beloved car. Put your phone down, pull over, and tell me all about it.