BOTH BODIES WERE BEAUTIFUL
I don’t know which was worse: losing my girl or my white‐over‐blue Monte Carlo.
My friends in the Midwest had warned me about New York.
“You’re crazy going there without job,” they said. “New York will chew you up and spit you out.”
“Look,” I told them, “I’m 35 years old. Time is running out for me. I’ve got to take a chance. What have I got to lose?”
For starters, my girl and my car.
Sue, the girl, had green eyes and chestnut-brown hair. She was 22 years old. Everybody in town wanted her.
Blue, the car, had a big eight with overdrive. Nobody passed Blue on the road. He had a white landau roof and a deep blue body.
Both bodies were beautiful.
I was making good money at the paper. I spent it all on Blue and Sue. Blue had the best in tires and motor oil from the Eight Mile Sunoco. Sue had the best in shoes and dresses from Ann Taylor. We had some great times together. Me and Blue and Sue.
What makes a man give up all that? Like Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Rocco: I wanted more. It had come to me in a slow moment of panic. Possibly, I had lived half my life; but more likely, I had a mere 15 years left, less than half of what I had lived so far. I figured 50 would be the cutoff point. My father had died at 50. It became imperative, therefore, to try and Do Something with the few years left to me.
“Damn your midlife crisis,” said Sue. But her green eyes cried and she said she would wait for me and be true to me and so Johnny Rocco roared down Interstate 80 in his powerful blue machine with a lot of big dreams in his head.
I rented an apartment on East 69th Street at First Avenue. Money evaporates in New York. I found it difficult to earn any. I started laying down bad paper for goods and services.
OLD BLUE BLUES
Blue was costing me a bundle in parking fees. I missed Sue so much I was spending a fortune calling her long distance ($328 in one month) and flying back to see her every weekend ($168 round‐trip).
I became a regular in the bar at La Guardia every Friday afternoon while waiting to board American Airlines Flight 649. I grew to love that plane. He became my Old Silver.
But Old Blue was languishing. One raw morning in March I took him for a spin. I parked at a meter on 48th Street near Seventh Avenue. I came back two minutes late. The tow-truck cop was already attaching the hoist to Blue’s bumper.
“Hey, it’s okay, I’m back,” I said, relieved that I had made it in time. “When da hooks are in it, it belongs to the city,” said the cop, and he towed Blue away.
I had the towing fee of $65, but I had fallen way behind on the monthly payments and the insurance. I had also let the registration lapse. No insurance, no registration; no registration, no car. It would cost me $1,079 to get Blue back. I didn’t have it. American Airlines had. Bell Telephone had it.
I never saw Blue again. I left him in a cavernous shed on the far West Side.
That Friday I sat in the bar at La Guardia. I told the barman all about Blue and Sue. He told me: “Go home to Sue and stay there. Forget New York. I know what this city can do to you. It can turn you into a geek, your mind shot to hell, pounding out your frustration on the sidewalks, mumbling to yourself like a fugitive from an insane asylum.”
Sue and I had dinner at Joe Muer’s.
“I’m too young to handle a long‐distance relationship,” said she, more beautiful than ever. “All the airport farewells, the phone calls, the lonely nights, I don’t know how to deal with it.”
I told her New York scared me now and I wanted to stay with her forever and hide under her bed and be a normal person but I had to go back. I couldn’t give up yet.
We screamed at each other on a frigid street in the Midwest. The telephone wires dripped ice. We ended up at the airport, hugging for dear life.
I flew back to New York in a snowstorm. The city below had vanished. But I knew it was there. Waiting to devour me.
Mercifully, the pilot announced a holding pattern.
I figured that was the best place for me. Circling New York forever.
Originally published in The New York Times