This is the second in a series of posts about the things that I will, and will not, miss about the big city. The first one is here.
On October 2 — when we will have lived in Portland, Oregon for less than twelve hours — my parents will show up at our new home in two vehicles. One of them will belong to me.
That car is a 1989 Volkswagen Jetta. I got it in 1999, when it was just ten years old. It had belonged to my uncle, who was living in Washington, DC at the time. It cost $1200 to ship it to Oregon, and my parents, my uncle and I split it three ways — a great car for a 19-year-old at an unbeatable price. Over the next five years, I drove the shit out of that thing: between Bend (home) and Eugene (college), to see shows in Portland and Seattle, to the coast and along the spiderweb of old logging roads that crisscross the Cascades. During the summer of 2000, I drove thousands of miles on solo hiking adventures. I sometimes worried about breaking an axle, usually when I was a 20-hour walk from a main road. But that never happened.
Getting the Jetta was one of the top-five most liberating events of my life, and I loved it to pieces, once I figured out how to drive it (stick shift). But even its manual transmission became a badge of honor, since not every college kid knows how to drive one. I didn’t even mind wrestling chains on the front tires in the middle of blizzards while my friends sat in the car, because it made me feel good that only I could do it.
Before we moved to New York, I tried to sell it, but there weren’t any takers. Finally, my dad took pity on me and bought it. For the past seven years, it’s mostly been his work car. Until recently, when he told me that he was thinking of getting rid of it.
I looked up its current Blue Book price, which turned out to be $900. Small price to pay for an old friend.
The Jetta is now 22 years old, and I’ve really enjoyed not driving (not buying gas, not finding a place to park, etc) for the past seven years. But if I am going to have a car again, I’m glad it’s that one.
We’ve shared a lot, the Jetta and I. It was in that car that I got my one-and-only speeding ticket, on Election Night 2000 (that which was not resolved for over a month), right after getting my braces removed (yes, I wore them till I was 20; it was awesome). My memories of the times I spent in the Jetta are mostly wonderful — becoming an independent adult, pursuing my own interests, testing the extent of my courage.
But the Jetta is also where I was when I lost the belief that everything happens for a reason, when — in the span of two minutes — a generalized, nonspecific fear for the first time entered by brain, where it has remained ever since.
Right now, you can’t read the Internet without finding a “where were you when” story. This is one of those.
On September 11, 2001, I woke up early for only one reason: I had to move my car or else I would get a parking ticket. School (my senior year of college) hadn’t started yet. If I had any plans for the day, they were probably to go hiking later. All of my roommates were still asleep. I went out to the street in pajamas and started the car. The radio came on and the first thing I heard was, “We have received confirmation that Senator Wyden is alive and uninjured.”
“What the fuck?” I stared at the radio. “Did somebody try to kill our senator?”
I sat there with the car idling trying to figure out what was going on. And then I realized it was so much incredibly worse than my first terrible thought. I went ahead and moved the car, because it was the only normal thing I could think of doing and the only normal thing I did that day.
I went inside and woke my roommates.
I never saw the Twin Towers in person, but every year at this time, I see this: