Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Car--First Girl

I know it’s not a great picture but it’s the only one I have. I wish that I had a better picture of both because they were beautiful…at least to me. My first car and my first girl…literally…in the same photo. I loved both. But maybe the car just a little bit more than the girl.
 MG Midgets weren’t exactly ubiquitous in Florence, South Carolina. If less than a dozen Mercedes prowled the mean streets of Florence, one can figure that the body count for British Midgets would be low. There might have been one other MG…maybe an MGB or an MGB-GT in town and there was nobody and I mean nobody who could work on these things. I learned out of necessity to work on mine. Amazing what images one can find via Google. The car above is almost identical to my mine.
There was a parts company in Charlotte, N.C. that handled British car stuff…Viking Imports. I just checked and they are still there—at the same address. Of course this was pre-internet so the process was by today’s standards, onerous. I would call them and tell them what I needed. They’d locate it and I’d send them a check. Most times what I needed wasn’t too esoteric so after my check (or my mama’s if I was a bit short on cash in the bank) cleared, they’d forward the goods. But even in the best scenario it usually took a week and a half. So if the needed part sidelined the car, and in my case it usually did, I either bummed rides or cajoled my sister into lending me her much less esoteric but slightly more reliable Pinto. The part shown above is an MG Midget Slave Cylinder…for the clutch. Yep, a hydraulic clutch…just one of the many examples of British motorcar persnicketalia.  It seemed that I  blew out the clutch slave cylinder every other month and surely one of the reasons had to be that I wasn’t rebuilding it properly. The guy at Viking, after selling me the rebuild kit a couple of times, suggested that I order “more than one if I was gonna go through ‘em so quickly.” Smartass.
South Carolina allowed you a restricted drivers license at fifteen so you could drive without a guardian in the car but only during daylight hours. I’d been fifteen for a few months when my dad pulled up one day in what was to be my little MG. But I thought it was his toy. He let it sit in the driveway for a week before he told me  it was mine. Three years old with about thirty thousand miles on it which today is nothing on a well maintained car. But these British babies were a bit dodgy from the get-go regardless of the mileage and mine, aesthetically pristine, soon became shall I say, a mechanical character builder.
 The Smiths gauges and the always interesting Lucas electronics were like the weather in England—a bit unpredictable and more often than not...cloudy. I learned to tolerate the electronic shenanigans out of love for the car. Who am I kidding? I learned to tolerate intermittently operable temp and fuel gauges because I had no choice. Shut up.
 What I couldn't repair or maintain was an issue with the tires. MG Midgets came with either wire wheels or ugly, utilitarian looking rims seen below. Mine was blessed with classic wire wheels replete with the single lug/spinner knockoffs. But the front rims weren't true. So I went through a pair of front tires every 3 months…crazy I know. Recaps…remember recaps? Fifteen bucks a throw.  
What a great first car though—even with all of its typical British car idiosyncrasies. But then they ultimately ruined the lines on MGs when they were forced to put those ugly black rubber bumpers on them—the beginning of the end. I can remember driving down Cherokee road with First Girl beside me. Top down, quarter tank of gas and ten bucks in my pocket. Everything at that moment, if the clutch didn’t blow, seemed right. I can even remember what song was playing on the radio…Rock the Boat by the Hues Corporation. Damn.
 So what happened to the car? My dad offered to swap me a Triumph GT-6 for the MG Midget if I’d give him my summer job savings to boot. My MG Midget, at least through my eyes, went from sugar to shitake in a nanosecond. The GT-6 was sleek to my Midget’s sudden boxiness. The GT-6 had problems too but it would run—fast. So fast that my dad took it from me within three months.
The Girl…my first real girlfriend. I’d never really kissed a girl…leastways not a real kiss kinda thing. I think I nervously gave S.B. a tentative peck on the lips during a sixth grade pool party and it took me a week to work up the nerve for that particularly bold move. But First Girl…she was worldly and learned by Florence South Carolina standards. She’d had an older boyfriend before me…a wise and skillful old sage of sixteen years. And she’d made it known to me that she’d already learned how to kiss. And I did not make it known how scared I was and how out-of-my-league I felt.
I remember pulling up for the first time in front of her house. I was so nervous I think I drove around the block ten times before turning on to her street. I had to meet her parents and her dad was the kind of dad I want to be the first time a guy calls on LFG. He was nice but he had that piercing look in his eyes…the kind of look that says “I’m being nice to you but don’t get comfortable with me son. I could kill you just as soon as look at you.” This would be me around that time. Boast or Fred Perry tennis shirt on and a pair of Bata Bullet tennis-court shoes. I shoulda stuck with this look.
I’ve already admitted somewhere in a previous story that the mid 1970’s was in my opinion, an absurd sartorial epoch. And I was impressionable. Impressionable at about a hundred pounds soaking ass wet. Impressionable with barely enough meat on my bones to skulk into the Men’s Department and hope that they had something small enough to fit me. I might have been driving a traditional British motorcar but that’s where any semblance of tradition ended. This was a synthetic moment and Nik-Nik shirts ruled the day.
God only knows the mélange of petroleum distillates that went into the creation of one of these babies. Five gets ten that the carbon footprint from one Nik-Nik shirt equals a month’s output from that gay little spaceship known as the Toyota Prius. Carbon footprint or not…I had to have a Nik-Nik.
And can you imagine what this slinky shirt looked like on a bony, bird chested boy who weighed a buck-ten? I’m glad there’s no photo evidence of it because surely, my spindly frame avec Nik-Nik probably made that pencil necked bird-esque Ira Magaziner throated Anthony Weiner look like the Incredible Mutha Futha Hulk. These are the Allman Brothers. I wanted to be an Allman Brother. The Allman Brothers wore Nik-Nik kinda shirts. Any questions?
And please, let’s not forget my shoes. I had Earth Shoes and Famolores. Ok, let’s just stop the story train for a minute. At least I’m confessing my sins. So if you’re sitting there howling at me, I’m good with it. But what was your worst sartorial moment? I didn’t ask to be born at a time that would assure my transition to the Men’s Department would find me amongst such absurdly synthetic swathing options. Thankfully my foray into things Nik-Nik and Famolore would be brief. I tried to be a hippie. I really, really tried but I was never a good one. But then again who was a really, really good Florence South Carolina?  
So picture this. I’m all showered up. I've blown all the the curl out of my hair and its height has me standing, as opposed to my usual at that time, five feet maybe five inches…at about six feet tall. Cheap bell bottom jeans from Mangum’s Army-Navy Store on Dargan Street and my brown Earth Shoes. I’m wearing a size small Nik-Nik that’s still two sizes too big for me so it hangs on me like some deflated County Fair balloon. Half of the graphics are tucked down into my jeans. But in retrospect it was probably a good thing. The graphic stuff should remain in your britches.

I’m not making this up. By the time I pulled up at First Girl’s house, my back was soaking wet. The Nik-Nik against my black-vinyl bucket seat manifested a synthetic slow-burn. Kinda like the smouldering epicenter of a sawdust pile. The fellowship of these two vinyl comrades-in-arms is gonna make you sweat—regardless of the season. And it gets worse. I've never met her parents and I’m nervous. I'd never had a least one where you drive to her house and meet mama and daddy and stuff.  I’d go on to develop a rather facile approach to charming parents and quite frankly, most people. But on this day I possessed no such facility. I had no game. All I wanted to do is not puke.

Half way up the lawn I step in a big pile of dog dookie. Not a little job left by a toy poodle but a huge pile…fresh and tenacious. And it ain’t gonna come off without some effort. I can feel my face flush with heat while the back of my Nik-Nik shirt feels kinda cool as the vinyl-vinyl fellowship moisture evaporates. I can only imagine what I looked like trying to get the dookie off of my Earth Shoe by dragging it on the grass. “What’s the skinny new boy doing walking in circles in the yard honey?” I remember leaving my shoes outside at the front door and proceeding with the meet-and-greet sans shodding. Surely it went ok but to this day, I get a hitch in my gut when I recall the dookie event.
I’d go over there as often as possible during the next year. The routine was always the same. We could sit in the living room but the door had to be open. And we’d kiss our faces off till I had to go home. I’d stay until I absolutely had to haul it home to make the curfew.
I declared to my mother that I’d found the girl who was going to have my kids…that I loved her and that we were going to have three babies and live in the mountains…you know, kinda John Denver Rocky Mountain High-style. My mother laughed at the notion and I became livid...really pissed at her. How could she doubt my undying unquenchable love lust for the first girl I’d ever kissed? Geez...stupid parents. Statistical likelihoods be damned. But mama was right….just like the MG Midget in the shadow of the Triumph GT-6…First Girl faded rapidly when I met Second Girl at the tennis courts the next summer.

First Girl, mother of two grown gals has been married to the same guy for years. I saw her on Facebook one time. She seems to have remained in a hippie-granola holding pattern and that’s ok I suppose. I’m not sure the status of Girls Two through Twenty Seven. Wonder where my British cars are?

Onward. Home from Anaheim. Thankfully in all cotton.


James said...

You are a master wordsmith, but this is your best ever. I could feel all your pains, and felt empathy for most of them. Good God almighty is there anything as sweet as your first love?

Anonymous said...

This post was excellent, I was laughing out loud by the end, guess I wasn't the only one going through these things.
I pulled up to my favorite week end breakfast joint this morning to see five MGB's and a Midget. They belonged to guys in there 60's and 70's. All were pristine.
Headed to Myrtle Beach on Monday for business, with a side trip to Florence to visit wife's family.

Belle de Ville said...

Ok, so I never wore anything as bad as the female equivalent of a nik-nik shirt or famolare shoes, but I did wear Laura Ashley dresses when I was pregnant in the early 1980s. I looked like the side of a barn...with small floral print. It was hideous.
I did though have the same car when I was in college. It was a fun car to drive at that age.

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

My college 1984 Jeep CJ-7 had a hydraulic clutch. It was the reason I can still do no-clutch shifting. Worst idea ever... but AMC later sold out to Chrysler, and they ditched round headlights and hydraulic clutches... one good change, one bad.

M.Lane said...

I agree, this is your best ever. All of this is iconic for the 70s. I had a NicNic that had all seeing eyes all over it that I wore for EVERY law school exam I ever took. It was my talisman. And it worked very well. Luckily the class room chairs were not black vinyl.

Always loved the Leyland products but never owned one.

Never had real earth shoes. You should have tried my sort of goldenbronzesuede ones from Sears. Girl KILLERS.

Loved the Allman Bros., still do. Loved John Denver. Still do.

First Girl......well.....they all have that special place, don't they?

Again, great post.


ilovelimegreen said...

Oh ADG, what a glorious account of what it feels like to be 15 from the other side of the fence - a boy's perspective. How I love the vision of you on your big night with dog mess on your shoes. As for fashion faux pas, let's not talk about Laura Ashley dresses.

Preppy 101 said...

Well, you are right. I was laughing out loud. I swear you should be a professional writer. This was a delight to read. Yes, we all had our sartorial "moments". :-) xoxo

Anonymous said...

volvo 240 wagon as my first car... hmmm. haven't moved too far from that.

laughed out loud at your nik-nik and famolares. too funny.


Laguna Beach Fogey said...

@ ADG ~ You might be interested in a new large-format, illustrated book on the Ivy League universities, published by Assouline coming out in October.

According to my sources, the book covers the various histories of the universities, and reviews campus clothing styles.

It’s not on the website yet.

I'm telling you this, as I don't want those feckers John and Christian getting the scoop.

Even though you neglected to contact me during your recent OC visit. What's up with that?!

Young Fogey said...

I never succumbed to the dubious pull of either Famolare or Earth Shoes.

But I did have a pair of two-tone platform shoes. I scuffed the toes nicely playing kickball.

Brohammas said...

I have learned, through sad experience, that girl #1 is much harder to obtain if car #1 has not yet been obtained.

TNN said...

My mid-90's hiphop rig isn't a pleasant thing to look back upon either...
I didn't experience the 70's, but it couldn't have been worse than 1990-1995.
Great post. I think we all have our own version of the dog shit story. I certainly do.

Anonymous said...

Oh Max, my heart sings. If I show you how close I've gotten to the Hitchcock doublestack hat, will you marry me?

Something in a bright color for LFG?

Happy Fathers Day, Max.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this, and I remember those cars well. I had friends and boyfriends who drove both MGs and Triumphs. I also remember how dicey they could be at ttimes and how one might be forced to call the parents to come to the rescue. That fact aside, what great fun these British cars were! Enjoyed seeing your girl, too.

Speaking of girls, I dropped by to wish LFG's dad a Happy Father's Day. You are a super dad. Keep up the good work!


garden and gun said...

right on the money....hillarious...owned a '64 Alpha Romeo Spyder in Spartanburg, had to order tires from Viking Imports in Charlotte, early seventies..misery loves company!!!

Anonymous said...

It took me longer to get to the BL car phase. My Bugeye Sprite and I were both a little older, but I wasn't much wiser and the car wasn't any more reliable. One girl swears we lifted it onto the sidewalk when it refused to behave,

Time treats Little British Cars like 3AM treats a college boy's brain cells. If God hadn't given us so many, there wouldn't be any left at all.

I am glad you admitted to the Nik Nik and Earth Shoes. Now the rest of us can pretend we never sank so low. I sure do remember kissing in one room while her daddy rustled his paper in the next. There was no set time limit, but I heard Early On about The Time he came out and asked her sister's date what he wanted for breakfast...

Ahhh, yout,...

Austin McSpridget


LPC said...

In case you didn't know, when you write these brilliant bits I go on Twitter and say I don't know what to say except to come and read. Because I don't. I don't know what else to say. It's always such fun to read when you get going, there's a dawning realization, like, oh yeah, he is, he is going to pull it off.

ADG said...

James…I had no idea that part of my affinity for First Girl had anything to do with those emerging young fella hormones. Love/Lust? I had no benchmarks. Got an assload of them now though.

AnonymousRTS…think about me and the MG Midget if you venture down Cherokee Road.

Belle de Ville...Yep…I never liked the way I looked in Laura Ashley dresses either.

Yankee-Whisky-Papa-Compass-Boxer…I never understood the why behind hydraulic clutches.

M.Lane...thanks. If this is my best ever, then it’s gonna be downhill from here…faster. The Leyland products were ALL notoriously unreliable. Shoes from Sears…hilarious. I need to do another post on my best buddy DCA and his fake Famolores from Sears. He was almost stoned in public for wearing them.

Ilovelimegreengal…fear not, the V-Names aren’t done yet. What other perspective, other than the boy’s, is there.

Preppy 101...I’d starve if I tried to do this for a living but I love you for saying I could.

AnonymousMTown…why you commenting anonymously?

LagunaFogey…Thanks for the Assouline heads up. Anaheim…geez what a benign place. My trip was a quick in/out…a talk at the convention center and then the red-eye back east. Brutal. Besides, we’ve concluded that you are really a 67 year old cat hoarder living in a mobile home somewhere around Cupertino.

Young Fogist...I wish that I hadn’t. And the Lord I think, insisted that I confess. I had three-toned platforms…red white and blue!

Brohammas...I hear you.

TNN...I think every era has its tough spot. And the dog dookie thing…I’ve lived in urban areas so long that I generally don’t experience dookie-shoe fellowship these days.

Flo...I think Mr. Flo might have something to say about the marriage thing. But if we do get hitched, I’m wearing the purple pimp straw hat. And thanks for the Father’s Day wishes. LFG abandoned me for two weeks in Ponte Vedra. Who could blame her?

AnonymousElizabeth…Thanks for all the kind words. I’m not seeking some Super Dad award; I’m just trying not to eff it up.

garden and gunner…The Spyder….damn. That one might have been less reliable than the MGs and Triumphs. I was amazed to see Viking still in biz and right in the same place.

AnonymousBugeye…The Bugeye Sprite has more great little eccentricities than my MG ever had. What happened to the girl?

LPC...I love you for scores of reasons and your kindness re my written drivel is just one. I’m still torn between trying to write something more thoughtful like this…perhaps every ten days or so…and just dropping the usual drivel on everyone 4-5 times a week.

j.mosby said...

I still have nightmares about things like Nik-Nik shirts(Tats on polyester) mens platform shoes and buying an over priced pair of earth shoes in Cambridge, Ma. Trends of the time, not the Trad. I guess you can call it growing pains? The Allman Brothers still rock!

Anonymous said...

What happened to the girl? She married a guy with a reliable car, that's what. Isn't that what always happens?

The girl whose father was such a master of throat clearing went on to be an engineer. She has probably retired by now, or secretly runs the world.

What the Miata lacks in pure character, it makes up for by Always Showing Up. And just in case you get too nostalgic for the old days, the one most authentic aspect is the authentically leaky canvas top...

Let's all get Fiat 500s and see if the Italians have really changed. Somehow I'll bet not. All of those Lucas electric parts had to go somewhere.


Patsy said...

Good Grief, for a brief second I thought that was a picture of me. Something about the hair, profile and pointed shirt collar.

Anonymous said...

"LFG abandoned me for two weeks in Ponte Vedra."

Wellhelldamn, sunscreen mecca, and she's about 25 minutes or so from my front door.

CeceliaMc said...

Actually, the young ADG looks very like the older male model in the goofy shirt and goofier beads picture.

By your junior year, I bet you were the very cute guy that my gender very casually...nonchalantly... scoped out to sit behind.

Charles Frith said...

Somebody pointed out my shirt looked like a Nik Nik shirt and I had no idea so your post informed me generously. If you have any left you know there's a good home waiting for them ;)