Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate Car Trouble

I went to see PiL at the Cleveland Agora in 1987. I was pretty excited about it because I had never seen Jon Lydon before, and their new record at the time, "Happy?" I thought was pretty good. I don't think I have listened to it since 1987, but at the time it seemed cool... As a student at Kent State, my roommate Brian and I would have to drive the hour or so from campus to Cleveland to the venue. This would not be an issue as Brian had just recently acquired a car from his Uncle. Named "The Sock", for the unmistakable odor that hit you like a 2X4 when you entered the car, it was still a big upgrade from his previous car. I believe it was a Chevy Citation, but it's hard to recall exactly. It was hard to think about anything but the odor. The car smelled like a pile of sweaty clothes abandoned in a small gym locker. There was some back story about how the car had been involved in a monsoon, but a more likely explanation was his Uncle may used it to transport dead hitchhikers to shallow graves. After the police started nosing around his house, he probably gave the car to Brian as a "gift". Who knows? Still, it was free transportation and it had a Sparkomatic cassette deck. We rocked out to PiL and mixed tapes on the way up.

The show was really good. As weird as it sounds, I think Steve Vai played guitar. Afterwards, I ran into an old girlfriend, and we had a horrible fight in the lobby of the Agora. It was a very dramatic thing in a 20 year old's life. When Brian and I drove home, you can be certain I referred to her as a "psycho". She was actually probably just self absorbed and focused exclusively on her immediate needs, much as I was then and arguably now. No matter, at that time I voiced my concerns about her mental stability and her inability to stop living in the past (or some other position I had taken planted firmly on the Moral High Ground). The drive home would be running The Gauntlet, because I know we had both drank about 74 draft beers at the show. Driving home was a real suicide run through every law enforcement target area in the State of Ohio. Still, The Sock seemed like a good craft and I assumed that Brian couldn't have possibly been as drunk as I was sitting in the passenger seat.

When the red oil light went on, we treated it like a minor curiosity. "Hey, do you remember that oil light being on before?" Having been driving around in his previous car, The Seedmobile, for over a year with every possible part broken, this oil light thing didn't seem like a big deal. Hell, The Seedmobile had no functioning steering and we drove it everywhere. The car was so out of alignment that when you pressed the gas, you literally had to wrestle it to the left or pile drive into whatever was on your immediate right. The gas gauge was so off that if you got in the car with a quarter tank and drove for a half hour, you then somehow left the car with a half tank of gas. Yes, it was a car that gained gas the more you drove it. When the entire electrical system failed in a cloud of blueish flame, we knew it was time to move on from The Seedmobile. I think it was a 2 door AMC Eagle... It wasn't a great car per se, but it gave us all it had.

So here we were in The Sock on I-77 South around Newburg Hts when the engine died at about 1am. We coasted off to the side of the highway and tried to re-start it. Nothing. Shit, this wasn't good. We had no idea where the next exit was, so we climbed up the embankment to see if we could work our way to a pay phone to call a buddy to come get us. (Editor's Note... This is 1987. Only Gordon Gekko had a cell phone. We weren't Gordon Gekko. We were two dudes driving around in a car that smelled like a soiled pair of underpants. We had to walk to a phone.) When we got to the top of the hill, we discovered a fence we had to climb over. That's when I sprained my ankle jumping the fence. Cursing and limping, we made our way to the Newburg Hts Police Station, right on the corner.

Why two drunk guys wanted to tell a building full of cops that they had just fucked their car up while driving on the highway, I don't know. But the Good Lord does look out for Fools. The tired officer on desk duty squawked through the bulletproof glass of the lobby to "use that pay phone and call a tow truck". We didn't have any money for a tow truck, so we called our roommate Jeff. Jeff came to get us in his girlfriend's two seat 300Z. With his girlfriend riding shotgun. That left no other option for Brian and I than to both climb into the back hatch and hope the hatch would shut. After 4 tries, it did. It was a long 45 minute drive back to safe harbor.

The next day was grim. We were both banged up. My ankle was swollen to the size of a butternut squash. The Sock was dead of a seized engine. I guess one of us should have put some oil in there. Brian tried to drop a new engine in there later, but it was never the same. He later sold it to some pimply faced kid with a Quiet Riot patch on his jean jacket for about $1000. After the argument incident in the Agora lobby, my old girlfriend started fucking one of my other roommates to get back at me. I remember hearing her orgasmic moans coming through the vents as I listened to the second side of The Replacements "Let It Be" in my attic room about two weeks later. Even though I knew she was putting on a show for my benefit, it still was pretty disheartening.

I never would have even thought about any of this if not for finding a CD copy of PiL's "Happy?" last week. I listened to it in my car. My car ran perfectly, and the sound system is really killer. Ironically, I drove right past the spot where we had broken down 23 years ago. But you know what? I think that PiL record sounded better in The Sock.


At January 14, 2011 at 11:40:00 AM EST , Blogger Uncle said...

As always, a great story....


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