(Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a work in progress, From Mountain Road to Easy Street, a fictionalized memoir I hope to complete this year — if it doesn’t kill me first. This is a first draft so I hope you can excuse any typos or imperfections).
“What’s the matter? Why did you stop in mid-sentence?”
“I don’t know why I’m talking so much. I sound like a crazy person.”
“It’s understandable. I like listening to your story. I have a chance to catch up with your life for the last ten years. So, please go on.”
“Well, if you start feeling dizzy from me talking too much, tell me to shut up. After the trip was over, if Dad missed California and his cousins, he never mentioned it, but he did miss the car that we left behind. Dad had wanted to drive us to New Jersey. We had a 1962 Chevy Impala — by then it was like eight years old — but he thought it was a great car. Lando had to talk him out of it, telling him that if it broke down somewhere, it would cost us a hell of a lot more to tow it and repair it in the middle of nowhere. Well, I think that Dad was glad that he had listened to Lando when he saw the desert that first night, because it looked so damn scary. I am sure that it crossed his mind, breaking down there. It would have made Mom absolutely crazy. I think it would have been hell for all of us. My poor old man. He did get a chance to drive an Impala across the country years later, though. This was a Chevy they bought brand new, with their savings and their credit. It was avocado green with a beige top that was the love of his life. He thought Chevrolet made the best cars in the world. We drove down to Miami from New Jersey to see family and friends. It was Seventy Four or Seventy Five, I don’t know for sure. It was Mom, Dad, Elena and Sonia my girlfriend. Dad even let me drive parts of the way….”
“Why are you smiling?”
“I just remember something about that trip that was funny.”
“What? Tell me.”
“You can take the peasant out of the countryside but you can’t take the countryside out of the peasant. Mom insisted on cooking pork chunks to take on the road the day before we were to travel south. I don’t know if she thought there would be no food joint open between Union City and Miami but she brought, along with her espresso maker, the pork chunks in the oil in a pot and she stored it in the trunk, neatly packed next to our bags and all the crap we were taking for our vacation.
“Well, we were driving along, happy as can be but the smell of frying pork was trailing us from state to state and we couldn’t figure out why the smell was so strong. So in one of those rest-stops that they have on the highways over there, Dad popped the trunk just to see what was going on. When I saw him shaking his head, I knew something was wrong. The summer sun hitting the car for hours at a time most have sent the temperature inside the trunk to a thousand degrees because it made the oil hotter than a deep frier. It splashed oil over everything. Dad was furious about the mess and we spent an hour cleaning the car. We did eat the pork in the rest-stop with Cuban bread and Coca Colas but the aroma inside the car, that followed us all the way to Miami.
—Image: My 1962 Chevy 283 engine with stick shift in front of 11430 S. Yale 1961 © 2010 by James Voves. Please visit his Flickr Page