Monday, December 13, 2010

a total loss

This will be important later.

The Spruce Goose came into our lives during the long winter of 1998. My mother made the questionable decision to spend her birthday weekend chaperoning our yearly Forensics team trip to Gatlinburg, TN, and when we returned home, Mama’s beloved green 1995 Mazda 626 “Cindy” (so named for our favorite supermodel) had been replaced with a big silver-blue-grey luxury sedan. Our new 1998 Toyota Avalon was big, wide, smooth, and fast—so abrupt in accelerating that we came to call the car “Goosey.” Over the years, I formalized her name to “The Spruce Goose,” after Howard Hughes’ massive flying boat. My massive flying boat.

just look at that badonkadonk

Mama drove Goosey for seven easy years. She cruised to the grocery store or Cool Springs a few times a week, but never much more than that. By 2005, Goosey still looked brand new. That summer, I bought Goosey from my parents for a few grand and brought her out to Texas to start my new life in Austin.

Goosey no longer lived the life of luxury to which she was accustomed. I drove Goosey hard over the pockmarked Austin roads. I scraped against brick walls and scuffed the bumper on other cars. Goosey was the victim of her first hit-and-run in a coffee shop parking lot. She had her front windshield smashed by an errant rock thrown up by a lawn mower at my apartment complex. She took flight as I tried to turn off a Texas highway into a parking lot on my way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, flattening a stop sign en route and coming to rest perfectly within the lines of an empty parking spot. As her front driver’s side hubcap rolled away in silence, half the town flooded out of stores and homes to see if I was okay. I was. And so was Goosey. I took her straight on to New Orleans and back again.

Goosey’s been totaled at least twice before. In 2006, I got distracted while careening down a one-lane road near the house I grew up in and drove off the road and straight into a historical landmark. I shouldn’t go into too much detail, since it’s probably very much against the law to destroy historical landmarks, even accidentally, but suffice it to say that I did my part in breaking down 10 to 12 feet of the Walls of Oppression. The entire passenger side of my car was unspeakably mangled. The insurance elected to fix my beloved car, for reasons I still don’t understand.

In 2007, Nick and I were driving a packed-full Goosey to our storage unit in Austin when a teenage girl crossed three lanes of traffic to turn right and slammed into us, dragging us with her through the turn. We were deep into our first listen of the new T. I. album, and we did not miss a single beat of our enthusiastic car-dancing as we were dragged 20 or so yards down the street. I hollered at the girl when we got out of the car. Nick went across the street and bought her a Gatorade. My insurance fixed my car again and we rejoiced. However, I can never hear "You Know What It Is" without remembering the fateful first time we heard it.

Goosey’s had all kinds of adventures my insurance company doesn’t even know about. Goosey was our tour guide for our massive Southern road trip this summer, carrying us 4000+ miles in a little over a month.

She rode on two boats in North Carolina. She climbed the Smokey Mountains, got sand between her treads at the Outer Banks, and endured the soggy days and nights in Jefferson National Forest.

At Transformus, she was parked in a meadow on a hill for the long weekend. It rained and rained and rained and the cars on the hill slid down the muddy slope like toys. It took half a dozen attempts to get her unstuck—two of the tow trucks brave enough to try ended up getting towed themselves. Finally a man who can only be described as an angry mountain ginger in a kilt got behind the wheel and sledded Goosey General Lee–style down the muddy hillside. Nick and I screamed out in victory until our throats were raw. Goosey emerged unscathed and fondued in mud.

I’ve always attributed my car’s unlikely ability to emerge victorious over collisions to my baby doll head. Nick bought a number of dismembered vintage baby dolls at an estate sale in Austin just before we moved to Atlanta, for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to me. On the drive home, I impulsively stuck one of the baby doll heads between the dashboard and the windshield.

apotropaic baby head
apotropaic baby head

I immediately felt safer, like the baby doll head was helping me watch the road. She’s been there ever since, guiding the way on our road trips like a mermaid figurehead on a ship. Sometimes I think Nick and I are the only ones who like it. I’ve been pulled over by cops for no other reason than they wanted to tell me my doll was creepy. But my doll head keeps me safe, so I don’t care.

from our summer roadtrip

At least…until a few weeks ago. My dear friend Julia borrowed my car to do me a favor and ran over a tool that fell off a lawn care truck. The damage is entirely cosmetic—the car still runs fine—but my insurance just informed me this morning that the car has been deemed a total loss. After all the daring escapes and brushes with death, a small superficial wound has spelled the end of my Goosey Girl. I guess 1998 Toyota Avalons don’t go for much these days. I haven’t spoken to the adjustor yet, so I am still holding onto the hope that somehow Goosey will get fixed in the next ten days and will be able to carry us home for Christmas. But realistically, I might have to say goodbye to my girl soon. So let’s all raise a glass to my Goosey girl and the good times we’ve had.

Discussion Question:
Have you ever loved a car?


  1. i'm pouring one out.

    also, i was in my grammie's attic last week, looking around for the christmas decorations. i opened an unmarked box and found it FULL OF CREEPY DOLL PIECES. heads and limbs, unattached. i nearly peed myself.

  2. Yes I loved my 1988 Isuzu Trooper, AKA Vega the Party Trooper AKA Suza Belle. She drove across the country with me 11 times. She has been to the Grand Canyon more than anyone I know. She most conveniently *almost* broke down in Moab, Utah in 2007, requiring me to camp for almost a week in Moonflower Canyon while I waited for a hard-to-find auto part to come in. She has moved me from house to house. Sometimes she was my house. Through snow and ice, heavy storms and wind, unbearable heat, and miles of nothingness. If I could have brought her to Australia, I would have.

  3. Molly, it appears your holiday shopping is done! Doll parts for everyone!

    ...unfortunately I can't embed the Hole video I was planning to. womp womp

  4. Mimsy Jane, we all loved Vega too! Remember how she made it all the way from Bellingham to Austin and broke down on the exit ramp two minutes away from our first apartment? Remember how the door broke when you dropped me off at the airport after your bachelorette party? That beautiful boxy girl. Why are do all of my fond memories of Vega involve her breaking down?? :)

  5. What is it about Goosey that inspires creative writing? I almost wrote a poem about her yesterday. I can think of other special memories, like the time we took her to the beach with the Miller family and Lanier. And Bradley tied a piece of dental floss to the passenger side and dragged a gummy worm on that piece of floss hanging out the window from lower Alabama all the way home. The gummy worm was intact, making us all wonder if they stay in your digestive tract for years. I left the dental floss tied to the overhead handle to commemorate that special time. Goosey always kept you safe and that is the bottom line.

  6. Nooooooo!
    She will carry you guys home, she will, she MUST! I am a firm believer in the mysterious powers of your Goosey Girl. Keep us posted!

  7. OH MY GOSH Mama, you're right!!! I forgot one of the best memories? We had that floss there for yearsssssss.

  8. Denise, I'm hopin that baby head juju will take care of us!