Thursday, November 25, 2004

Saying goodbye to an old friend

There are times in our lives when we see the paths walked by two close friends diverge. Regardless of the rhyme or reason, it's a time of intense, irrational sadness that can never be understood by someone who hasn't gone through a similar experience. Even after time passes on, the dull ache of the loss can come back without warning, keeping us awake at night and haunting our dreams.

I'm referring, of course, to my 1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, which I lovingly referred to as "The Beast." While its replacement is arguably superior (see "Mercules" under Links) there was something about The Beast that no vehicle will ever replace, no matter how fast it goes or how little gasoline it leaks.

Perhaps it's the way that the breaks squealed whenever I rolled up to a stop sign. Perhaps it's the way that she hovered over the road, her suspension so loose that she would frequently bounce off the pavement when coming out of a driveway. There's no denying that when I sold her, a piece of my manhood was sold along with her, carefully hidden away in her $500 price tag.

I can still remember driving to New Orleans in The Beast. Many an hour I spent in the luxurious folds of her cloth seats, bathed in the gentle yellow glow of the 'Service Engine Soon' light. The thrill I used to feel when I'd stop every two or three hours to refill the 90 litre tank, just taking in all the admiring stares... it was beyond description.

"That's right," I'd say to myself, "This baby comes equipped with a Citizens Band radio."

Oh sure, The Beast may have had her problems. She never did like winter, and getting around Kingston with nothing but a pair of threadbare all-season tires and 3,000 pounds of rear-wheel driven steel could be a bit exciting at times, but she was my car and I loved her for it. I loved her when her muffler rusted through, and turned her purr of contentment to a lusty, bicyclist-deafening roar of passion. I loved her when her heater core exploded, driving an orgasmic explosion of lime green coolant into the pure white snow outside my apartment. And I loved her most of all, when she under-steered right into a sign post, sheering it in two like it was made of soft, signpost-shaped butter. I would caress the love scar that it left, thinking of all she had sacrificed in my name and in the name of my careless driving habits.

Sleep, my gentle princess. Know that you are in my thoughts and dreams. Know that Chris Johnstone, who I sold you to, who will use you to take his friends out to the cottage so they can get drunk and fight one another, will love you just as much. The torch must be passed. I would not have cleaned your dank, coffee-stained interior, not for any amount of money. No longer could I muster the enthusiasm to rapidly flick your turn signal on and off to make up for your blown fuses. Our time together, as special and magical as it was, had come to an end.

But know that I will never forget you. Your spirit lives on. It lives in Chris Johnstone. It lives in the cabs I ride in. It lives in the vehicles driven by elderly men that I get stuck behind. It lives in giant car heaven, where '79 Grand Prixs, '84 Cadillac El Dorados and '91 Caprice Classics frolic and play, with nary a fuel surcharge in sight.

I'll miss you, The Beast.