Cars & Cats: A List

So I bought a new — which is to say, very old but different — car today, and I’m super excited about it.

Why? Well, because it runs.

Which is pretty much all the guy said when I went to look at it: “All I can tell you is, it runs. I don’t know how, but it just runs.”

It’s a 1991 Mazda MX6, with over 250,000 miles on it. It looks about as old as it is — paint peeling and fading, several dents — but runs like a fucking top. Your basic beater.

I was dead set on buying a moped — and had my eye on one of these on CraigsList:

( My brother Shane had an awesome Vespa :

but some cracker stole it while he was out of town… )

Anyway, I guess pragmatism ( and Kari’s vehement dissent ) got the better of me…

Anyway, got to thinking about all the cars we’ve owned, between my wife and myself, in the past decade or so. It’s fairly ridiculous:

  1. ’73 VW bug (which I rolled and destroyed). Made me very sad. It was one of those souped-up Baja Beetles, with an absurdly loud exposed engine in the back and huge tires and roll bars and etc. Probably would be dead had I been driving a normal Beetle…
  2. ’86 (?) Dodge Colt — worst car I’ve ever had. Bought it with around 60,000 miles on it, for a few grand; it was nothing but trouble and lasted barely a couple years. POS. After paying once to retrieve it after it was towed, the second time it got towed (because after doing a 180-spin on an icy hill and ending up parked in a snow bank facing the wrong direction, I couldn’t get it out nor could I get it started in any case), I just said fuck it and let the city keep it. Good riddance. The jumper cables and text books in the back seat were probably worth more than the car, at that point.
  3. A ’79 Datsun station wagon — this car RULED. 4-speed stick shift, rusty as hell, seats shredded and covered with duct tape, smelled like oil, and when driving at highway speeds for great lengths of time you had to turn the heater on full-blast to keep the car from over-heating. But I loved it. (Also I remember it had only a sliver of wiper blade on the driver’s side — so it made this hideous maddening screech whenever the wipers were going.) Made at least 3 trips, as I recall, from Minot, N.D., to Minneapolis and back one summer to look for apartments, and never broke down. Eventually the clutch finally went out. (And, yes: we did push-start and drive the little bugger many times before finaly parking it and then giving it away for free. [I was actually really pissed off that no one wanted it — and almost, out of sheer spite — put a new clutch in it so I could just keep driving it… It was a GREAT FUCKING CAR, just needed a clutch…])
  4. A ’76 Volvo wagon that I bought at the Salvation Army (yes, I’m not kidding) in Minot. Love Volvos, but this car gave new definition to the term “lemon.” What I remember most about it was that I kept having issues with the fuel system — replaced the fuel pump twice (the second time left the car stranded on the side of the road about an hour from town, after stalling on a trip to some cabin for a theater party). Mechanic figured out that there was some sort of lining in the gas tank which was peeling off and clogging the fuel pump — so they had to take the tank off, clean it all out, etc. Even after this the pungent gasoline smell permeating the car did not go away — this got worse the fuller the tank was. Oh, yeah: and the gas gauge didn’t work. This meant: you had to constantly guess at how much gas you had left (the smell was somewhat helpful in judging), and then fill the tank JUST A LITTLE BIT — never over half a tank, or you’d risk passing out from the fumes while driving and veer into oncoming traffic — but enough to keep you going for a while before the next refill…. Yeah, that was fun…
  5. When I first met Kari she drove an old Nissan — which was a great car, except that the passenger door would not stay shut, so she had to tie it shut with string wrapped around the door frame and tied to the seat belt or some goddam thing.
  6. Perhaps because she had a child, and this car did not seem the optimal choice of transportation in this situation, she bought a sweet old Jeep Grand Wagoneer — the brown kind with the wooden panels on the side. V8, 4-wheel drive, the whole 9 yards. A lot of fun to drive in the winter in N.D./Minnesota. Eventually had to sell it because it got approximately 8 gallons per mile. (This reminds me of our nightmarish move to the cities. Perhaps that will be my next post……..)
  7. After selling the Datsun and the Volvo, I bought the best car I have ever owned: a ’93 Subaru Legacy wagon. Had over 150,000 miles on it when I bought it, I paid $1,500 for it, and ran it with NO problems until it had over 250,000 miles. Finally, the brakes gave out (had I been better at maintenance, this probably would have been avoided, but alas) — the cost of replacing calipers, rotors, etc. on all four wheels was at least $800. So I decided to sell it for $400. But that thing ran like a brand new fucking car. I almost wish I’d just fixed the brakes and kept driving it….
  8. Bought an old (’89?) Hyundai something-or-other. Hatchback, 4-speed stick. Nifty little car. A bit loud. Can’t remember what happened with that, but I do remember learning that Hyndai’s weren’t exactly as good back when they were first built as they are today…
  9. An ’86 Toyota Tercel. Reliable little car, though it had trouble with things like acceleration (e.g. merging onto the freeway…) and traveling over 65 mph… Ran it till it pretty much died.
  10. An ’86 Audi — 4-cylinder 5-speed manual, miles unknown (odomoter didn’t work, but I think it read around 200,000). Bought it for $500, just needed a new exhaust system, ran it without any trouble. Ended up selling it, for some reason, to our friend Paul… Who proceeded to abandon it in a goddam field, for some reason. (Paul, WTF??) Good car, well worth it.
  11. An ’89 (??) Volkswagen Jetta. Solid car. Great boxy little thing with some character. Bought it for $450 and finally sold it when we were so behind on our mortgage payments that we were considering selling our internal organs…
  12. **UPDATED: forgot about ye ol’ Mazda MPV mini-van (and yes, Kari, it’s a mini van. Just because the back door opened like a regular door instead of sliding open doesn’t make it a station wagon : ) ) Gotta insert that here — cause I do remember that was right before we bought our first non-ancient vehicle. (MPV was great, by the way, but used a bit o’ gas, and the breaks, I think, or the front axel was dying so we sold it.)
  13. A 2000 (?) Kia Rio. (Great cars. Unfortunately they don’t have much resale value, for some reason, though…)
  14. A 90-something Mazda Protege — actually, THIS is the worst fucking POS car I’ve ever had. Drove it for less than one day before it started on fire — on our way out of town, miles from home. Took it in to Firestone to have them look at what was wrong with it, and they basically said, “Yeah, someone went to great lengths to hide a whole lot of shit that’s seriously wrong with this car. I wouldn’t even try to fix it — it’s going to cost you about $3,500 just to do all the diagnostics on this thing…” And so, to the crooked fucker who sold me that car: I hope you get mugged, beaten senseless and then urinated upon. And then beaten some more.
  15. Finally we broke down (so to speak) and bought a newish, fully-functional and reliable car: a 2003 Hyandai Elantra. Pretty much the perfect car (o.k, except it’s not a hybrid). No problems yet.
  16. And now: the ancient Mazda. We shall see……..

Believe it or not, this list now actually seems rather short to me. It just seems like we’ve had SO many bloody cars….

This is what I’d really like to drive again:

But, well, I don’t feel like driving to Montana.

“So, what’s with the ‘Cats’ part of the title of this post?” you may be asking (assuming you’re still reading this, which is very, very unlikely indeed)…

Well, that’s another area where it feels like, Holy Mother of Fuck, how many of these have we HAD??!!!

Here’s a list:

  1. Moved to Minneapolis with three: Keeshawn, Tinkerbell, and … shit, I can’t even remember the third one right now…
  2. Little Brother. I remember coming home one day, and there was Kari, sitting on the couch with a tiny little baby orange and white kitten cuddled next to her. What could I do? (He is, though, pretty much the perfect cat.)
  3. Lickey (So named because, well, she liked to lick people. She would simply lick your hand, and never stop.)
  4. Smokey. Ah, Smokey. Kari and Abbey went to the pound to look at the cats, and saw this poor sad looking guy, fat and old and completely shaved (clearly he’d had mats all over his fur, which could not be combed out), shy and timid but loving… We had to have him. But, the other cats ended up trapping and terrorizing him……..
  5. Grey Pie. (Yes, you read that right: “Grey Pie.” Because, as Abbey quite logically explained, “Because he’s grey! And I like pie!”
  6. Crooshanks… O.K., there’s sort of a story here… My friend Mary came to visit from Montana, and along the way (somewhere around St. Cloud) at a gas station saw this poor cat hanging around — super friendly and sad-looking, tail and ears frozen off, hungry… She asked the people at the gas station if they knew whose cat it was, they said, “Nah, just a stray, probly.” And of course she couldn’t just leave him there, so, she took him with her. And left him with us. Which is fine — he really was quite possibly the nicest cat I have ever met. However: in addition to his putrid smell, he was not fixed… He proceeded to impregnate all of our (3) female cats. We found out later just how quickly he had “gotten down to business” : all three cats gave birth in one weekend. That’s right: we had three litters of kittens in one weekend. What was amazing about it was that rather than being territorial or protective of their young, all three mothers conglomerated into one basket and joined together as one big group family — sharing the nursing, etc. We had no idea, after that, whose kittens were whose. (All these cats were basically black and white, so…) So, in short, our cats turned into fucking goddam pinko commies.

  7. One kitten was named (by Abagail) : Blackberry. He was pure black (obviously), scrawny and sickly, and we tried to bottle-feed him and keep him healthy, but he died, and we buried him in the backyard. (I remember that well, because Abbey wanted us to “say something,” like for a funeral, but I had nothing to say… But I knew she felt really sad, so I tried, but it was difficult for me…)
  8. Was “Zebra” one of those kittens? I think so…
  9. And then there was “Chewbacca,” who we kept also — and who freakishly makes a wookie noise — I kid you not — when he speaks. But we had never heard this when he was named. Some predestination, apparently…
  10. We had another batch of kittens — just before FINALLY getting Chewbacca fixed — and they were absolutely the cutest, cuddleyest, sweetest kitten I’ve ever seen. One of them — horrific story — got his tail chopped off in the paper shredder. He was playing with the shredded paper in the basket, and somehow managed to step on the “shred” button and turn the thing on, just as his tail happened to be near the slot… That is one of the more horrific experiences I can recall — the sheer sound of his screams, and his desperate flailing about, and my own yelling in horror, and trying to hold him still while trying to turn the thing off, and then reverse it so that his little tail would come back out, and him feeling as though I was the one hurting him, and scratching the living shit out of my hand, blood all over it…. Yeah, that was no fun. And then afterward, seeing the end stub of his tail cut off and stuck there underneath, in the blades of the shredder…. *shudders* But you will be happy to know that he went on to live a perfectly normal and happy life, and was as cute as every — in fact the cutest kitten of the bunch — long-haired and fluffy, just like his dad.
  11. Anyway… So we managed to give away the kittens to friends of ours, and — oh, yes: WANDA! Forgot about her. There was a nice lady cat named Wanda, who sort of became antisocial and we ended up giving her away.

Our cats at present:

  1. Little Brother (not so much little any longer)
  2. Chewbacca (yes, he has stayed with us — and he and I, as Abbey says, “share a love”…)
  3. Zebra (Abbey’s favorite — lets Abbey pretty much do whatever she wants, and hold her in all sorts of contorted positions without complaining or trying to flee…)
  4. Mabel — the one kitten we kept from the last batch, after — Oh! Shit, I forgot a kitten. “Popa Di Milo III” — the perfect little all-grey kitten, who we loved and had planned on keeping — and had desperately bottle-fed, to no avail… died also. But: Mabel is the one kitten we did end up keeping from that batch — not all grey, but grey and white (the others were all black), and (at the time) the sweetest of them all. Calm and sedate and loved human contact. Now… well, she’s kind of insane, and appears to despise me at times… Ah well.
  5. Binjigate (or, “Binnie,” as we call her) Abbey named her after the last name of our good friends Dillon and Emily Binjigate (sp.), and she is a bit aloof, will only be held for approximately 22 seconds, but is quite nice. Cat #5…

(But, then, I should really just shut my bloody trap. Shouldn’t I.)

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