Chapter 4

I spent the past week looking at cars.  Looking.  All I did was look.  And look … and look … and look…

I hadn’t planned on looking for a new vehicle.  But it’s like the old song goes, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”


I am strictly a General Motors driver.  My last three cars – the 1991 Pontiac 6000 (“The 6”), the 2005 Saturn Ion (“Cardachrome”) and the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS (“The Blackbird”) were all manufactured under the GM emblem and were built in America by American men and women earning a union American wage.

You might have problems with my consumeristic patriotism, but when it comes to cars, that’s how I drive.

And I don’t ride with Mopar.  I just don’t.

And I shouldn’t have to assume my car’s brand is an acronym for Found On Road Dead, Fix or Repair Daily, or Found Outside Rensselaer Dump.

And I didn’t need a truck, an SUV, a crossover, a minivan, or a microcar.  I need a car that runs on gasoline, not on the kinetic energy of ten gerbils trapped in exercise wheels.

So already, my choices for Car #4 were narrowed.

And as I shopped from dealer to dealer, there were plenty of “first impressions” on each car.

I saw a 2008 Pontiac G5 in a rather nice exterior condition… but then I opened the car door, and the interior stench of mildew and menthol nearly made me vomit.  Look, I’m all for people getting together in a car and “watching the submarine races,” but a car shouldn’t smell like it participated in submarine races – and lit up an unfiltered afterwards.

I saw a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera – it was an A-frame car, similar to my old Pontiac – but the gas mileage was woeful, and there was no way that car only had 35,000 miles on the odometer.  Not unless it was stored in a barn for 30 years, and “barn finds” wouldn’t include an ’87 Oldsmobile.  Plus, the car was over 25 years old, which meant I could receive “HX” historic license plates for it – but then the only place I could take the car would be car shows, and when was the last time an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera won the GM Nationals at Carlisle?

I saw a 1981 Corvette, a bright red two-seater that probably inspired that song by Prince.  You know … the kind of car that screams “mid-life crisis” or “compensating for something.”  Readers, if I bought that car, it would be the equivalent of me compensating for not being John C. Holmes.  You figure it out.  Anyways, the salesman tried to open the car door.  It wouldn’t budge.  He finally forced it open.  Then when he tried to close the door, it didn’t close completely.  “These old cars sometimes have trouble with the doors,” he said to me.  “Are you interested in buying it?”

Er … um … well …

I looked at GM’s sports cars like the Impala and the Camaro, but rear-wheel drive with Nor’easter winters in the Camaro is not my cup of tea.  I looked at utilitarian cars like the Chevrolet Aveo and the Sonic and the Spark, but I was not impressed.  And nobody was offering the Chevrolet Impala 9C3 model – that’s the “police interceptor special” with extra leg room so you can load more shirtless perps in the back seat.  Bad boys,bad boys, awhatcha gonna do…

One last place.  DePaula Chevrolet, the dealership that sold me my 2005 Saturn Ion all those years and blog posts ago.  DePaula’s “Red Team” at their body shop have cared for for my past three vehicles, so there’s a bit of “hometown loyalty,” if you get my drift.

And on a rainy Saturday morning, I took a look at a bright red Chevrolet Cruze.  GM certified pre-owned, so that meant the dealership went over all 563 points of inspection on the car.  Mileage – only 13,000 from the factory to the Central Avenue showroom.  And that’s confirmed mileage, not like that ’87 Oldsmobile I saw earlier that could only count to 99,999 before reaching 00,000.

Okay, Cruze, you’ve got my attention.  Let’s test drive and see if you can keep my attention.

And as I “test drove” the car up and down Central Avenue that Saturday morning, onto I-90 and back – the rains poured from the heavens.  Big ol’ gully-washer.  Nice time for an outdoor car wash, shall we say.  That, or a drive to Home Depot for some ark-building wood.

Then again, the rainstorm actually allowed me to test-drive the car under less-than-ideal weather conditions.  It’s not like I would only drive this car on sunshine days.

And it performed like a champ.  Good handling, great turning circle, nice ride.  And the personal amenities were there – comfortable seat, perfectly arranged cockpit and dashboard details.

Now comes the important decision.  The major factor.

Can I afford this car?

And by “afford,” will I be able to make my payments without resorting to selling off a kidney?

I checked my finances, my credit, my available income and whatnot.  It would be tight… but I could do it.

And after a modern-day square dance with the dealership, my bank, my insurance company and the Department of Motor Vehicles …

And with a deep breath …


I am now the custodian of Car #4.  A bright red 2013 Chevrolet Cruze with the sports and comfort package.  And in five years, when I finish my final payment, I’ll own this car free and clear.

And of course, every car needs a name.  I could call it Ice, or Oathkeeper, or Needle, or … yeah, no.  This car was made in Lordstown, Ohio, it was not made in downtown Valyria.

Give me a couple weeks of driving.  I need to know how this car handles, how it feels, how it responds to more than just a 15-minute test drive in a rainstorm.  But I’m sure I’ll come up with a suitable name for this car.

Or I might just come up with ten names, and have you blog readers pick the best one.  That’s how the Blackbird was christened.

The Blackbird.  I’m going to miss that car.  I really will.

And perhaps Car #4, whatever I call it, will help me create new memories and new adventures.

And I hope to take all of you with me on these new adventures.