Southland Tales: Cars

Photo by Michael Essington

Photo by Michael Essington

Growing up in the 70’s, my mom had some bad luck with cars.

My mom became a single mom at 23. She was left to raise two boys. I’d like to say that we were good, even tempered guys, but I don’t think my mom would agree 100%.

Mom made a conscious effort to stay home and raise us, which meant certain sacrifices. She cared for other children so we didn’t become latch-key kids. It was fun, we always had somebody to play with, and it felt like an extended family.

But in order to do this, she didn’t always have the newest and best of things, mainly her car.

I remember one of our cars died at the beginning of one summer, so she saw an ad for a VW Hatchback, met with the guy and bought it. The first or second time we were out driving it died. She called the guy, he said to climb into the back (of the hatchback) open the floorboard and jiggle the battery cables and it will be fine. We did and it was.

But because of that call the guy thought they were buddies or more.

I came in the house one afternoon, that summer, to eat lunch, my mom had made some kind of lasagna/beef stroganoff casserole dish and I was waiting to dig in. I walked into the kitchen and the car-guy is standing in there eating our casserole. I left the kitchen and went to ask my mom why the hell that guy is eating grub, she said he just walked in and said he wanted to see if the car was running OK, then headed for the kitchen.

Needless to say, we kept the door locked and didn’t answer for a bit, and then he stopped coming around.

After the VW, one of the dads at my school offered to let my mom take his Pinto for a week, if she liked it she could buy it. On the second day it stopped working; he came over tinkered with it and said everything was fine. On the 101 heading toward Calabasas one morning it started acting funny again, and right at the off-ramp it died. She called the dad and said, basically, the car is dead; it’s parked off of Calabasas Parkway you can pick it up.

Over the decade that was the 70’s, my mom owned two Oldsmobile 98’s, huge cars, with enough room inside for, at least, seven people. When she got an opportunity to buy a newer model she decided to sell the older 98. My mom’s best friend at the time had a sister who was married to a car “salesman.” The salesman was a guy named Frank. Frank was a hustler; he sold cars on the side without ever signing paperwork. He’d take your car, sit on a corner and within a half an hour it would be sold and the new owner may or may not register it. When he couldn’t sell a car he’d “accidently” fall in a grocery store and live off the settlements for a bit.

Anyway, Frank came by, he said he wanted to take the car for a test drive, and then afterwards he would see if he could sell it. Frank took the test drive and then came back, gave my mom some money and said he sold it. We weren’t ready to sell it, just yet. My mom’s tapes were still in the car, some of my brother’s sports equipment and my mom had a gold bracelet in door jam.

My mom took the money and told Frank that we needed to contact the buyers to get our stuff back. He shrugged and said he had no idea who they were. I’ve always wondered if he didn’t just keep the stuff.

Years later I heard that Frank went to prison for acts with a minor, possibly his own child.

Michael Essington

About Michael Essington

Michael Essington is an American author and poet, most famous for his Mike Check column. Over the years Essington has done dozens of celebrity interviews, as well as hundreds of music reviews. The weekly Mike Check column, which appears on Strange Reaction, has also been printed in The Los Angeles Beat and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington's column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Denmark. Essington has been writing since his high school days. He is married to wife, Elizabeth, and has two children, daughter, Breana & son Lucas. And has a dog, Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.
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2 Responses to Southland Tales: Cars

  1. Eddie Cook says:

    Another great article, Mike. Keep it up~

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