From the Nazis to Amazon


IN THE EARLY 1970s, when I was married to my first wife and had a toddler, I bought a VW Bug convertible. It was so much fun! Totally unsafe, but who cared?

Airbags? Nah! Viable seatbelts? Nah! Padded dash? Yeah, right. It was hard steel. But we really enjoyed it, especially with the canvas top flipped down.

One afternoon in a summer rainstorm in New Orleans I was driving alone up Magazine Street (driving up, not down. There’s a difference.) and the puny wipers were doing their best. Janis Joplin was singing Me and Bobby McGee on the radio.

It was the first time I’d heard that song, and I still associate it with the interior of my Bug convertible in a sweltering New Orleans afternoon deluge. I gave the car to my wife after we split up, and she rapidly ran it into the ground. Sad.*

The world’s last Bugs were manufactured only in Mexico over the last few years, but that has come to an end. Sad again. And the only place the final cars will be sold is on Amazon Mexico. You can pay the full ride, or you can fork over 20,000 pesos for a layaway.

That’s about 1,000 U.S. dollars. Layaway is alive and thriving in Mexico.

Now, let me return to that rainy afternoon in New Orleans when I’d only been married once, had a cute little girl named Celeste, and I drove a white Bug convertible.

Imagine the rain.

* My second ex-wife scored even better. I gave her a house! Voluntarily. Or stupidly if you subscribe to my mother’s point of view.

22 thoughts on “From the Nazis to Amazon

  1. Ain’t life grand, all the dangerous things we did in the old days? Nice to still be around to reminisce the past. Sat around last night with friends talking about days gone by, lots of different stories. Great times ahead yet.


  2. Safer cars is a cool thing. Seatbelts and airbags save a lot of lives. If it wasn’t for seatbelts I would be down one brother. But kids are definitely overprotected these days. A lot of the playground equipment we grew up using is no longer allowed. There were neighborhood boxing matches the dads organized. Rope swings and treehouses from scavenged materials. If you jumped off the train bridge into the Missouri River (also illegal) you became a proud member of the River Rats. We might have had a few bumps and bruises and the occasional broken arm, but it sure was a lot of fun. Well, we did lose one kid to the river, but he had no business going in the water.


  3. In 1973 we bought a VW Super Beetle. We drove that thing to Mexico twice and all over the western U.S. We got caught in that damn glorieta around the Angel of Independence on La Reforma. My wife finally tried to move over, and we got a dented fender. They chased us for about nine blocks. We finally hid in the park across from the hospital that fell down in the earthquake. Now my wife says that hit-and-run is the Mexican national sport. She won’t drive in Mexico now. We finally traded it in 1980. That car is now worth more that what we paid for it new.


  4. A ’64 Bug (basket case which I reassembled myself) was my first car. Those seatbelts (which I wore religiously) were a lot better than you think. In that car at well over 45 MPH, I hit someone making an illegal left turn in front of me. My little Bug rolled, but I emerged just fine. Shaken, but fine, thanks to the seatbelt.

    As for Me and Bobby McGee, I think that’s got to be one of the saddest songs in the history of American Rock & Roll. Poor Janice … I don’t know if that was her life, but it’s wouldn’t be hard to believe.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’re thankful for things like traction control, antilock brakes, and the like, even if they do encourage idiots to push things too far.


    1. Kim: I think it was a Guardian Angel that saved you in that Bug, not seatbelts.

      A good friend of mine and former newspaper coworker was a good friend of Janis Joplin in high school in Port Arthur, Texas, and somewhat later. A woman who wrote a popular biography of Joplin in the 1980s interviewed him for the book. Actually, she spent a couple of nights with him and his wife. That means I’m separated from Janis by two degrees.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “Me and Bobby McGee” was written by Kris Kristoffersen. Janis Joplin dated him for a while, which I imagine is how she got the song. I don’t think she thought it was her life, but she knew a good song when she heard one.

      And as far as the seatbelts? Sr. Felipe is almost certainly right. It was less about the seat belts and more about “God watches over drunks and fools.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Creigh: Yes, Kristoffersen did write that tune. Dunna why I did not think of that earlier. But, as you say, great song.

        As for Kim’s accident, someone pulled left in front of him, so I think that was more about lousy luck than being a drunk or fool. Actually, the driver of the other car was likely a fool or drunk.


  5. Had my first old-person surgery today. Cataract removal from my right eye, laser assisted with multi-focal lens implant. Aside from all the folderol of prep and recovery, it took 15 minutes to overhaul the eye. Much improved from back in the day, and I won’t need to wear glasses. Maybe need some readers. Almost no recovery time except to be protective of the eye until it fully heals in a couple of weeks. Savage good.


    1. Carole: I’ve never had to do that or any other sort of old-person surgery. I hear lots of good things, however, about cataract surgery.

      Maybe when I’m 80. In any event, congrats on everything going well.


  6. I once lived in a house with six lesbian women who were connected to the whole Bay Area scene of the ’60s. Numerous musical stars, including Janis Joplin, would drop by on occasion. One of my roomers claims she supplied the fatal heroin that Janis OD’d on, and I believe her. Seems the heroin was stronger than what they were use to. I’ve had several VW bugs, but the ride I had at that time was a VW Bus. Slow as shit uphill but she could soar down the hills. She caught fire on the freeway (leaky gas line over the headers). Still maintaining my loyalty to VW and with the hopes of picking up chicks, my next car was a Karman Ghia. (Didn’t particularly help with the women.)


  7. Like you, many years ago, I bought a convertible. air-cooled, no airbags, no seatbelts. It had a dash to which you could stick magnets. It’s a ’62 Corvair. A previous owner had installed Ford seatbelts. He liked the way they were easily adjustable, same as on airliners. But mine sits in my garage, with 29K miles on it. Right now it needs an oil change and a new battery.


  8. It looks like, as of this morning, that car would cost me $21,312.72. Not bad, but I sure couldn’t get it into the U.S. I think the 1973 Super Beetle cost me a little less than $5,000. Money loses its value quickly nowadays.


    1. Señor Gill: The first car I bought in Mexico (September 2000) was a Chevy Popular, or Chevy Pop for short. It was not sold in the United States and was very similar to the Geo Metro of that time. I don’t recall what I paid, but it was only about $500 (U.S.) more than a Beetle in 2000. I do remember that. Made no sense to buy the Beetle, which was far less car, just to save $500. It was a spectacularly roomy car (especially for a tall guy) and remarkably reliable. We sold it in 2014 to a nephew. It was really nice when he got it. Now it looks like a garbage dump. Drives my wife nuts just to see it. But it’s been “in the family” now for almost two decades.


  9. Our current car is a 2006 Saturn. It has almost 80,000 miles on it. We change the oil on an almost regular schedule. But we don’t during the hotter months of the year. We only do absolutely necessary things then. The former Saturn dealer now has a Volkswagen franchise. None of the cars on his lot are as cheap as indicated by that ad. Some of his cars are made in Germany, and some in Mexico. The mark-up must be tremendous. While I sit there waiting for the car to be serviced, I nose around, and even though I want a new car, I see that I could never afford one. I guess we will ride the Saturn into the sunset.


    1. Señor Gill: Our 2009 Honda CR-V just got its 200,000-kilometer service. That’s about 125,000 miles, and it still purrs like a kitten.

      Saturn? R.I.P. Although it started out pretty good.


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