Tuesday, June 12

Vile Gossip

San Diego, summer of 1997. An acne-faced kid was knocking on my door (i could see him through the blinds) while i was watching the Padres on my couch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I remember being annoyed but i figured he was some kid in my my Apartment complex or something. But what did he want? Sugar? Turns out he was selling magazine subscriptions as a summer job. I did the acne-faced kid a favor even though he wasn't much of a Salesman and signed up for "Automobile Magazine" (incidentally a magazine i recently had read and enjoyed a lot) and "Spin" for my then new bride Kristin who occasionally bought the magazine (She is half-Mexican and half-Swedish, but thats a different story!).

A few months before our 1st anniversary she would file for Divorce, i would cancel her subscription! This would spawn my love affair with Automobile Magazine though (10 years running now), and its wonderful and colorful cast of journalists. Often i would read their articles feeling jealousy because their job comes with nice little perks like driving exotic cars (in most cases they keep the cars for days...bastards!) that the common man could only dream about, then write articles about them (my job comes with a lap top... boo!). I suppose vicarious is better than nothing. The best thing about the Publication, though , isn't all about the cars. I mean the cars are always going to be the Star of the show, but for me, the real draw is the surplus of interesting and awesome articles month-in and month-out. Articles ranging from conceptual-cars, to daily-commuters, to general industry stuff like crude and petroleum price hikes to GM's weakening strangle-hold as the number one Car-maker in sales volume, and the like.

Jean Jennings, a long time columnist of Automobile Magazine is a favorite of mine. She writes a monthly column called "Vile Gossip". At one time she was the editor-in-chief too. Yes, a female columnist, and yes for a Car Magazine. She'd surprise you! I look forward to reading her column every month (even saving it for last...) because she evokes fond memories of years past. Her articles i always found lurid, funny, and insightful. Perhaps addictive... Often i would literally put the magazine down so i could have room to laugh... In this months column she writes about her mothers struggles in obtaining a drivers license years ago in her home town New Baltimore, Michigan. Her mother was such a terrible driver that her father refused to let her behind the wheel of his car after she'd driven it through the neighbors fence and straight into their garage, the first time out. Years later though, she would try again. "My dad wasn't convinced this driving thing was a good idea and stalled at taking her for the official driving test, to the point where she finally made her way to the city hall and demanded that the Chief of Police take her out for the test. Dad got home from work and poured his usual shot of whiskey and shell of beer. before he could throw down either one, she gave him something to really drink about, waving the new license in front of his nose. "Who in God's name gave you that?!?" he demanded. "Eddie Riem!" she pronounced, triumphant." Funny stuff huh?

This story reminded me so much of my ex girlfriend who I'd met in 1998 when she was just turning 19, fresh outta DMV with a new driving Permit. Apparently she was not able to obtain a Drivers License through the life of her first driving permit. Meaning she failed her driving test, twice. "Miserably!" described her flamboyant Mother (lol). I thought this was funny too, until she bestowed me the sole responsibility of training her, behind the wheel of my own car. Damn it, where's her Father?!? I remember not knowing what to say to her right then... This would be the beginning of the end as we knew it (lol). I found her inattentive and she found me insensitive, somehow, after a few shouting matches in the car. I snarled at her every time she ignored the speed limit, a concept she seemed to have trouble grasping. Kind of amazing really. Picture this-- she was an anxious driver and would never look down at the speedometer, so she never had any idea how fast she was going until everything seems warping. "I don't wanna look down at the Speedometer!" she would sneer back when i reminded her to slow down. "Okay, how about this simple concept" i said, hopeful she would soak it in, "If you notice you are passing every single car on the Road, you must be Speeding!!!". Though I think she thought i may have been kidding... For good measure, she had this unusual habit of stopping three car-lengths behind the solid white line at every stop like an imaginary 16-wheeler sat there waiting for the green light. She said the DMV guy suggested a safe distance from the pedestrian lane when waiting at a light (huh?). But three car lengths? It drove me nuts!!! No pun intended...

It took her two more go-arounds with DMV to finally snatch that evasive drivers license, but not before getting pulled over for speeding. Hah! The way she was driving, it was inevitable really. During a long drive to San Francisco that summer, i let her have at it. She was at her usual speeding antics even at my constant imploring. "You are going to get pulled over if you don't slow down!" i warned. And wouldn't you know it, just when i decided i would let her off the leash in hopes that she would slow down on her own merit, she gets blipped-blipped. Yep, that unmistakable sound. The Highway-Patrol was kind of a jerk too, he wouldn't let her off with just a warning. Can't blame him i guess, she was doing just under 100 mph, on a Permit no less. That's like becoming an alcoholic before turning 21... My ex cried uncontrollably (though she would never admit to it) as the Patrolman scolded her like a kid who'd just broken a petty rule anyway while writing up the ticket... No, i didn't say "I told you so!" if you're thinking it haha! (coz' i'm nice).Then she swore she would never drive again. "I don't care, i'm never driving again!" she cried, then calmly said "Take me to lunch, i am hungry". Amazing how she loss all composure then regain it all in an instant, out of hunger.

In spite of all this, i would eventually co-sign when she decided to purchase a brand new car (i know!). Sometimes when i look back at this surreal period of my life, only one thing comes to mind "What the heck was i thinkin'!?!". She would tack-on around 75k miles in less than three years while the car aged even more rapidly. Oh, she drove into my garage once, too, like Jean's mom. In a less spectacular way though, you might say. She said she was trying to hit the breaks but somehow the gas-pedal got in the way, driving her then immaculate car into the wall instead. Funny, that happens to me all the time!! Car payments it seemed were always a problem too, she was constantly tardy (not good for my credit obviously). She also knowingly neglected to pay her registration renewals and insurance bill so she could fulfill her Christmas shopping list. Apparently, shopping took precedence. She has a Huge family you see. "I planned to pay it later on" she said in defense. But the problem was it bit her in the butt before she got the chance to reconcile it. She rear-ended someone on her way to the swanky Club called "Highlands" in Hollywood when she revealed this rather alarming news to me, sobbing all along. Not out of guilt i might add... An expired tag, driving without insurance, and getting into an accident on Hollywood & Vine on a Friday night all dolled up with her dopey friends, how Fabulous is that? I wonder if she ever would have paid had she gotten away unscathed, hmmm... As a result, she got her DL suspended for a year, the new car impounded, and was sued for damages. Classic!

I should share this to Jean Jennings.


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