’63 Chevy Nova, My First Car
A Christmas Story of Sorts
I bought my first car — a ’63 Nova — from a neighbor lady. Paid $40 for it. I was 18 or 19 at the time.
Most kids my age were on their second or third cars by then. Not me. I hadn’t really needed a car. I lived in the city and, if I wanted to go somewhere, I took the bus or hitchhiked.
(More stories for another time.)
The Nova was what gravel-voiced troubadour Tom Waits would call “monkeyshit brown.” Most of it, anyway. One door was blue.
It was a six-cylinder with manual shift mounted on the steering column, AKA “three on the tree.” Mine was the bare-bones model. No radio or heater.
Heaters weren’t standard equipment then. To defrost the windshield, you drove with the wing windows open and an ice scraper in your lap.
The previous owner met me to have the title transferred at the storefront office of a neighborhood attorney on West 105th Street. I was reluctant to go there. I’d had a run-in with the attorney years earlier.
He didn’t remember me until I refreshed his memory after he put his notary seal on the title. I confessed that I had been among the neighborhood punks who tormented him. It was the usual stupid adolescent stuff – taunting, making faces through the storefront window while he was with clients, occasional mooning.
One day he caught me and a couple of other guys. He had been laying for us and burst out the door with a revolver in his hand. He gave me a good cuffing.
I was about 14 at the time. Never said anything about it to my parents, because I figured I had it coming.
On the Christmas Eve following the incident, I was feeling remorseful. I took some of the money I’d earned working at the bakery next door to his office and bought a humidor filled with cigars, the kind he smoked. I attached a Christmas card on which I’d written an apology and placed it at his doorstep.
When I told him about this, his eyes watered up.
“I suspected it was a bomb,” he said. “I called the police. They took it away and blew it up.”
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