In August 1990, I moved from Orange County, CA to Houston, TX. I hauled several boxes of books, a large arm chair and a garbage bag of clothes with me in my 810 Datsun Maxima station wagon. My dad accompanied me, and because it was my dad, we had to take the roundabout route from there to here. And we had to listen to the same "Shell Classics" (as in Shell Gas Station) cassette tape over and over. The only other tape we could listen to was one of my Bob Dylan tapes -- Desire -- and only once every 200 miles or so. It took us three days to get to New Mexico, where we spent a couple days resting in Taos. Then we drove out of town the back way, over the mountain through Angel Fire Ski Resort into Las Vegas, New Mexico. From there we took highway 84 to highway 277, headed toward San Antonio.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I noticed that my toes were getting dripped on underneath the dash. I told my dad. He leaned over while driving, stuck his finger in the drip and then sucked the drip off his finger. "That's not good," he said. I figured he knew what was wrong because he had owned an auto parts store for the majority of my childhood. "It's the air conditioner," he said. "One of the hoses is broken."
That was not good, indeed. Like I said, it was August in Texas. We kept going until we hit the next town; well, the place wasn't even trying to pass as a town, it was just a few buildings on the highway. One of them looked kind of like an autoshop/garage. My dad pulled into the bay where a guy in overalls was hosing down the concrete. "We're closed," the guy said. It was 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. "But keep driving down the highway until you see a field full of Chevys," the guy said. "Darrell's place. He can fix it for you."
We headed down the highway. Soon we saw a field full of probably 300 cars, most of them Chevys from all different eras, in all states of disrepair. My dad turned off the highway and into the field. He headed straight toward a farmhouse, then veered sharply around the side of the house. Without stopping, he careened over the lawn, through a clothes line with clothes actually hanging on it, through a bunch of chickens strutting around, and toward the barn. When he reached the barn, he didn't get out, he just honked.
"Dad!" I said, taking my hands away from my eyes.
"What?!" he barked.
"You can't just --"
"Oh shut up. Don't be such a pussy."
Darrell came out of his barn, dressed in jeans and no shirt. My dad stayed seated in the car and waited for Darrell to come up to the window.
"What's going on?" Darrell asked, as if he and my dad had just seen each other the day before. My dad explained the situation. Darrell said he could fix our air conditioning hose, and he did, in less than 15 minutes. When it came time to pay him, my dad offered him $20 bucks and a six pack of Lone Star from our cooler. That was just fine with Darrell.
On our way back to the highway, my dad went around the other side of the house, where instead of a clothes line, there was a bunch of lawn furniture he had to maneuver through. Darrell didn't seem to mind. And as mortified as I was by my dad's behavior, I was more grateful to have our air conditioner working as we pulled back onto the highway and headed straight into the sun.