The other night I was awakened by the pathetic cough of a distressed ’83 Caprice Classic. That old black beauty had been sitting in front of my building for a few days and now, at 3:35 on a Tuesday morning, someone was trying to start it. He tried turning it over for ten minutes before finally popping the hood. I watched from my darkened window.
Like most Canadians, I’m very familiar with automobiles frozen solid out of ignorance or neglect. I’m particularly familiar with the ’83 Caprice. It has a special place in my heart. It was the first car that I ever drove. I wasn’t as nuts about it as this guy is about his, but I did have a certain fondness for the car, especially its musty smell and its ample backseat, which did see its share of action. It was a lovely two-tone silver/blue monstrosity with steel bumpers, blue velour seats, a bulletproof tape deck and a huge V6 under the hood. I gotta say, the thing really kicked some serious ass.
Being young and stupid as I was in those halcyon days, I froze the fucker solid on more than one occasion. My family didn’t have a garage so the vehicles took winter’s brunt fully. I once had the bright idea to wash the car in -25 weather because I figured that the car wash would be dead. It was dead. For obvious reasons. It went down to -31 that night. The car was a Popsicle the next morning. I had to chip the ice from around the door jamb just to get the thing open. I creaked open the door and sat down. The seats had frozen up so it was like sitting on a phone book. I gave ‘er a shot. She gave me that pathetic, sneering wheeze that carbureted vehicles gave when they were subjected to the white hell of winter. While trying to coax her into complying, I did the Canadian Car Starting Yell: “C’MON YOU BASTARRRRRD!” Nothing. Not a fire, not a complete turn. Deader than Colonel Sanders. I got out and checked the front of the car. The block heater cord was dangling unplugged in the icy morning, mocking me in my assheadedness. My dad tried to boost ‘er. No good. Not a mouse fart from the damn thing. I had her towed to the garage for thawing.
During my reminiscence, Buddy continued his efforts to start his car, but the black steel lady was having nothing to do with it. Wouldn’t crank worth a damn. He poked his head under the hood for about five minutes to no avail. He made the same dumb mistake I did. He smashed the hood down and went back to his apartment. He left his sweet black ride in stasis on the street, her windshield yellowed by the streetlight above.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?