I recovered eventually. Not the case for The Chocolate Pearl. Cars from the Pacific Northwest don’t belong in Minnesota. They don’t know what salt on the roads is, they don’t know what a block heater is, they don’t know what a garage is. (“What the heck is that?” I remember asking my Oregon friend when I saw my first carport — the same thing I asked when I first ate fried tofu.)
I should have seen the demise of the Datsun coming. One crisp morning I got in the car and noticed a volcanic like fissure in the dash. As the winter went on, so did the width of the crack. Another frigid morning, I looked down to shift and as the car groaned into second gear, the vinyl covering around the stick shift cracked, as though that once supple material so similar to rich Corinthian leather had turned to stone.
But New Year’s Eve was the clincher. I finished work and intended to drive to Mankato for a wild evening of pizza, Uno and cheap beer with my friends. When I got in the car, The Pearl wasn’t talking. Not even a groan. The tow-truck driver tried jumping it (again — as in so many times that AAA of Oregon sent me a Dear John letter to drop me after that winter). No go. I sadly waved to The Pearl on his tow-truck perch as he left me on the side of the street stranded the rest of the night, which I spent forlornly by myself in front of my garage-house heater. Happy New Year.
It took a day for the car’s throttle to thaw in the warmth of the shop’s garage, but our relationship after that was always chilly. I decided Minnesota was home, and The Pearl responded by rusting so badly he became my Fred Flintstone car — I could have poked my feet through the floor to bring the Datsun to a stop.
So The Pearl died an ugly Midwestern death, his body a shell of what it once was. But I’m still here, a hearty Minnesotan — although I probably should join my snowbird Dad in sunny Arizona for a week, or a month, or maybe three.
Kathy Vos is daytime news editor and can be reached at email@example.com or 344-6357 (unless she’s in Arizona ...).