A history of transportation

The first car I ever owned was a 1956 Plymouth Savoy, just as you see here. It had been my grandmother’s but when she died my parents gave it to me in 1967. I was married with a kid, so it was much appreciated. My first wife and I were living in a rental in Uptown New Orleans, and our only transportation was the St. Charles streetcar, and we had to walk a few blocks to get to the streetcar line.

The streetcar was a fun way to get around, but for convenience a car is preferred. This photo was probably taken about 10 years before we were streetcar regulars on the same route.

The Plymouth carried us a few years, but in 1969 I got a decent-paying job on the New Orleans newspaper. I don’t remember what happened to the Plymouth, but I bought a mid-’60s VW Bug convertible and, boy, was that fun. I found this photo online. I don’t know who the blonde is.

When my first wife and I divorced in 1971, I left the Beetle with her, and she fairly quickly destroyed it by neglect. I moved to the French Quarter, and a bicycle became my transportation until I bought a BSA motorcycle which I shipped to Puerto Rico in 1973. The BSA stayed in Puerto Rico when I left the island about a year later.

Yep, me.

In New Orleans again, I was back on a bicycle, but later I bought a 1977 Harley-Davidson Sportster. I met my second wife-to-be in the mid-’70s, and her 1975 Toyota Corolla became “our” car for years.

Then another Corolla, bought used, and then yet another, also used, when she totaled the previous one while racing a stoplight.

After 19 years we parted company in 1995 and again I had no car. That’s when I bought my first-ever new, four-wheeled vehicle, a 1995 Ford Ranger, a pickup I kept five years until I moved to Mexico.

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Mexico

Here I purchased four new cars over 14 years. First, in 2000, a Chevy Pop, a sweet, little thing not sold in the United States. It was a Geo Metro clone with no AC or even a radio that we drove all the way to Atlanta and back in 2003. Then, in 2004, a Chevrolet Meriva, also not available in the United States. Then, in 2009, a Honda CR-V. Then, in 2014, we bought a Nissan March for my child bride.

We still own those last two, which brings me to the purpose of this post. What’s gonna come next? I have a system.

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My Honda CR-V has been the best car I’ve ever owned. Twelve years and not a single problem of any consequence. The thing runs like it did the day I drove it out of the dealership in the nearby capital city in early 2009. I’d never owned a Honda before.

Looking ahead to the day when I may need a new car due to an accident, robbery or an expense so high it’s better to just buy a new car, I like to have the next vehicle chosen. I would prefer another Honda, but the CR-Vs have doubled in price since 2009, and I won’t pay that.

I don’t have a job.

I turned to Kia, specifically the oddly named Soul — good reviews and, though I am quite tall, I can get in and out with ease. So that was my backup for a couple of years till I discovered its rather meager ground clearance, not good in a nation loaded with speed bumps.

Sticking with Kia, I turned to the Seltos, which only appeared on this side of the world relatively recently though it’s long been wildly popular in India. It was my top alternative till just a few days ago when I visited a dealership and sat in the HR-V, a relatively new addition to the Honda line that was upgraded this year. Wowzer!

The mid-model I like costs 403,900 pesos, which is about $20,000 U.S. right now, plus selling my CR-V would trim that down a bit. You cannot haggle at Mexican dealerships like you do above the border.

It’s not as large as the CR-V, but it’s large enough, plenty of headroom. And it’s a good deal less pricey than the CR-V.

It’s my new main man. But I need a reason to buy one aside from just wanting to, like a teenager. Maybe I should drive my current Honda into a tree because I don’t think it’s ever going to wear out.

It appears that when you buy a Honda, you have it for life.

The new Honda HR-V is not a Plymouth Savoy.

Beneath a cool, blue sky

two
The grass circle behind is where the cursed peach tree lived.

THE PERSONALITY OF Tom Snyder, who hosted the Tomorrow show late nights on NBC from 1973 to 1982, was once likened to a Harley-Davidson with the throttle stuck wide open.

I often remember that line when I think about my child bride because she’s a high-energy sort who almost never relaxes.

I, on the other hand, am an old Vespa stuck on idle.

An obsession she’s resurrected recently is knitting, and she’s very good at it. I took the above photo yesterday while we were enjoying the midday sun on the new yard patio under clear, blue, cool skies.

She’s making a shawl for a niece, Paula Romina, who’s just shy of 2 years old. My bride promises she’ll later knit a sweater for me. I already have two she’s crafted, one a black wool and one a wine acrylic.

Breakfasts have been ratcheted up a notch in recent weeks, emotion-wise, because she watches (on a Samsung tablet) the 7 a.m. press conference given by our doofus, leftist president. That means she arrives at the table around 8 a.m. in a state of high dudgeon. Daily.

She really loathes the prez, who recently compared himself to Benito Júarez, exhibiting an stunning level of hubris. It would be like Trump comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln.

Being an old Vespa, however, I react in a more leisurely fashion.

* * * *

Life goes on

I went to a dentist here in town yesterday at 5. My usual dentist, since 2014, works in the nearby state capital, but I had an issue between Christmas and New Year’s, and he was on vacation.

So I called a young woman dentist here, and she saw me on Christmas Eve day at noon. The issue was resolved, but a small cavity partially below the gum line in the back was discovered. That’s why I saw her yesterday.

She shares a practice with two brothers. The three have different specialties. Their office looks fairly humble from the street, but once you step inside it’s very modern and large. I would recommend them to anyone in town who doesn’t want to drive to the state capital.

Speaking of which, that’s what we’re doing today, driving to the state capital for shopping. Normally, we do that weekly but, due to the gasoline shortage caused by our new doofus president who thinks he’s a reincarnation of Benito Júarez, it’s only the second trip there this month.

The gasoline crisis has vanished for now. Gas stations are open. They either have no line of cars waiting, or the line is very short.

Lord knows what the ding-a-ling is going to pull next.

10-great-white-egret-in-flight-paulette-thomasReturning to the Hacienda about 6:30, I paused at the archway entrance to the veranda.

There was still a good bit of light — the days are getting longer — and I saw a low-altitude, V-formation of white egrets.

Perhaps if I’d returned to the veranda 30 minutes later, I would have seen our bats depart on their nightly bug hunt. Life goes on.

But not for some of those bugs.

Geezer dreams

easy-rider-dennis-hooper-peter-fonda-jack-nicholson

OVER THE PAST month I’ve been embracing some very thrilling ideas.

Dreams that have reached the very edge of realization though the reality has yet to happen and likely will not.

We all have dreams, but what sets these dreams of mine apart is that they were given very serious consideration. One or both might still happen, but likely not.

Without further ado, here they are:

(1) Buy a motorcycle. I’m a biker from way back and even though I sold my last ride around 1990, the siren call remains. Over the past month, research has narrowed my future ride — if the dream were to get off the ground — down to this:

The 2016 Suzuki Boulevard C50, an 800-cc, cruiser-style machine. I think I would look very fine astride it.

Much of motorcycling is about style, of course, and I’ve even investigated that. Were I to buy the bike, I would also order appropriate accoutrements from this place.

They’ve told me they ship to Mexico. I told you that I was looking into this very seriously.

I already have a biker babe here in the house, the most important accoutrement of all.

Given the spectacular exchange rate these days, the motorcycle would cost about $8,000. The Harley Sportster I purchased in 1977 cost $5,000. That the comparable Suzuki is just $3,000 more almost 40 years later is surprising.

(2.) Buy a new car. This is slightly more likely to happen, but just slightly. My current ride is a 2009 Honda CR-V, which I purchased new. I’ve never liked it.

It’s about eight years old now, and has never given me a lick of real trouble. It’s a great car. Its sole defects are some design lunacies that only the driver would notice.

Of course, that is always me.

No matter. If I buy a new car, I’ve narrowed it down to the 2016 Chevrolet Trax.* It would be the fourth new car I’ve purchased since moving to Mexico, if you don’t count the 2014 Nissan March we bought for my child bride 18 months ago.

With the current resale value of the Honda factored in, the Chevrolet would set me back about $8,000, just like the motorcycle. How about that? I have $8,000.

I don’t need a new car, and I probably would perish on the bike, so neither of these dreams is likely to happen.

But you never know.

Magic happens in Mexico.

* * * *

* The two cars previous to the Honda were Chevrolets, a Pop (Geo Metro clone) and a Meriva, also available as a German Opel. I loved them both.

Aerial adventures

Me

ONE SWELL THING about multiple marriages is that you get a recess between wives.

My recess between Wife #1 and Wife #2 was five years, and it was a great recess out there on the playground of naked women.

On the other hand, the recess between Wife #2 and Wife #3 was a spell of much misery and lasted seven years. Recesses can vary in tone.

One of the many happy things I did in the first recess was learn how to fly small planes.

A favorite activity during that time was landing a Cessna 172 at the New Orleans Municipal Airport right next to Lake Pontchartrain after an hour or so of fun flying over the swamps of south Louisiana or maybe a jaunt over to cornpone Mississippi.

During steaming summers, I would park the plane, hop aboard my 1977, black, Harley-Davidson Sportster, and haul butt about a mile south on Downman Road to a sprawling clapboard tavern that kept the air-conditioning in the neighborhood of 35 degrees year-round, or so it seemed, and it was sweet.

I was often alone and wearing cutoff jeans and a T-shirt that said San Juan. The best things about that bar, the name of which escapes me, aside from the air-conditioning, were boiled crawdads and chill Dixie Beer.

Not being rich enough to have my own plane, I joined a flying club, which basically was a bunch of folks who banded together to maintain a few small planes, and each of us paid a fee per hour to take one up. It’s how poor people fly, but in time even that system got too rich for me. By the late ’70s, I was a retired flyboy.

Much of my life back then was haphazard. My first flying lesson took place on July 23, 1974, with a lanky, hillbilly instructor named George Gunn. He was an inch taller than I am, and I’m 6’3″, so it was quite a squeeze in the cockpit of the tiny Cessna 150 training plane.

hija
A flying companion, my daughter.

I first soloed on June 28, 1976, which was quite a spell later. I must have been paying more attention to Dixie beer and crawdads than I was to flying lessons with Gunn.

The last time I took a plane up was November 9, 1978. I still have my logbook. Later, I went up in a hot-air balloon, parachuted once and put in some training hours in gliders.

There were only two times I ventured far from the skies over South Louisiana and Mississippi. Once was a Christmas when Wife #2 and I flew to Southwest Georgia to visit my parents and sister out in the boonies.

Due to a menacing weather forecast, we left early to return to New Orleans on Christmas Eve morning.

We were forced down, hair-raisingly, in rain and buffeting winds at the airport at Dothan, Alabama, where we spent the night in a motel, not much of a Christmas, trust me.

The second venture was down to the border where I flew with two friends to visit the sins in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. This flight too presented problems. First, I neglected to adjust the altimeter to the higher altitude of the airport in Laredo, Texas. As I entered the pattern to land, a birdie whispered that I was quite low. I didn’t understand why until after I landed and a light bulb ignited over my head. Whoops!

* * * *

Radio out, overshooting runway

Flying back to New Orleans from Laredo the next day, the plane’s radio went out. I could hear transmissions directed at me, but nobody could hear my response. But before that happened, we were forced to land at Galveston, Texas, due to bad weather, again. I did not have the proper license to fly in bad weather.

I was a fair-weather pilot.

Two of us spent the night in a motel, but the other companion decided to return to New Orleans in a bus. He said he was in a hurry, but I believe he’d just lost his nerve, the panty-waist.

Early the next morning, we took off again, one man lighter, and it was over Southwest Louisiana that the radio went out. Some airports allow landings without a radio. Some do not. New Orleans is one where you cannot.

Just north of Lake Pontchartrain is a small airport in the piney woods. I needed to land there to phone the New Orleans control tower to let them know to expect me. That’s one solution to not having a radio.

Here’s how I landed at that airport in the tall piney woods: badly. Due to those tall trees, you must come in rather steeply and level out at the last moment. Alas, it was a very windy day. To offset that added peril, I came in faster than usual and landed farther down the runway than I would have done in a perfect world.

When the tires finally screeched down, halfway down the short runway, my passenger and I watched as the trees at the other end got nearer and nearer with alarming rapidity. I braked like nobody’s business.

The concrete runway ran out.

And we were still barreling along — through high weeds. But we stopped short of the trees.

We taxied to a hangar where I phoned the other airport. An hour later we landed in New Orleans uneventfully. I believe that flight was my last. I decided to stick to motorcycles, crawdads and Dixie Beer.

And I did that with a vengeance.