Friday, March 12, 2010

FLASHBACK FRIDAY!: The Stromberg Family Car Curse

Sure, I'll do a theme every week. Why not?

And why shouldn't it have something to do with my childhood, since that seems to be my fixation? (I know, I know I write about it all the time.....well guess what? Deal with it.)

*Last night I was able to dig up some concept characters from an old NYU Animation course. Lili, the cartoon depiction on the left of my real-life little sis (and her fishie), seemed like the perfect mascot for Flashback Fridays.

I figured I would start off with a great piece of Stromberg family lore:

The Infamous Stromberg Family "Carrrr Currrse"
::cue spooky music, thunder claps::

For as long as I can remember, my family has owned the crappiest cars known to man. We have never had the luxury of a brand new or certified pre-owned beauty; only sad clunkers, pre-used by other folks in their four-wheeled glory days, but too abused by time to be reaped of its transportation benefits by the Stromberg clan. And through the struggles of failing transmissions, broken windows and noisy mufflers, my father still insisted on maintaining a long lineage of half-assed purchases.

I am convinced that somewhere in Stromberg history, we must have royally pissed off a car. Perhaps there's something rotten in my namesake's history of engines. Nevertheless, this curse has been passed onto the next generation, ie me, for my luck with cars did not get any better once I got my license. I learned to identify the smell of anti-freeze before it even started leaking. (This is why I live in NY and take public transportation.)

Anyway, here are some of the highlights of the Stromberg transportation heritage. Or should I say, here lie the ghosts of Stromberg past. May they forever rest in pieces.

Mom's Hyundai
Admittedly, it was a great little car. However, when it was broken into in Brooklyn, and the entire dashboard was stolen, mom dec</span>ided it was best to move to New Jersey. I also distinctly remember sitting in this car as a child while my mom pulled away angrily, as an insurance (or some other corporate asshole) stood waving his arms to try to get her from leaving, and nearly running him over. Don't deny it mom. It's okay. Cuz that's pretty bad-ass.

Dad's White Convertible
Dad's baby. It had a pre-ripped black leather interior that would heat up like a frying pan in the sun, a black cloth top, and a decal of a naked woman bending over (that was always awkward). Dad would play the same Alice Cooper cassette over and over on the way to softball games. But the car had no heat, and it broke down at least every week.

Dad's Big Ugly Grave Digger
Dad's bigger baby. It was a bright yellow monster with a crappy pipe design on the side doors. When you started the engine, the whole neighborhood roared, and you most likely experienced an apocalyptic heart attack. There were also fist-sized spiders hiding in the back.

My mom HATED this truck, claiming it never worked and wasn't worth the money. But I will never forget that
day in 2nd grade when that huge monster came chugging into our elementary school parking lot. Every kid out there dropped their jaws in awe; I felt like a queen as I was lifted up 3 feet to sit in the passenger seat and waved to all the gawking parents and their boring two-door coupes. It was the best day of my 7 year old life.

Chevrolet Silver Lumina Van
We were so excited t
o finally have a VAN big enough to fit our ever-growing family! And it had working features! It was used, but it was still new to us. However, things started deteriorating after a few years. The sliding door could only be opened from the outside, while the front drivers side door could only be opened from the inside. The CD player didn't work (major bummer) and sometimes the engine would overheat, which resulted in a cascade of antifreeze to pour out from under the hood.

On the way back from grandma's on Rte 8 in Jersey, our radio kept going in and out: the battery was dying. We pulled onto the side of the road, as I sadly left the Entemann's crumb donut grandma had given me behind on the dashboard. We entered a bar to wait for dad to show up. This is when we realized that it was half bar/half chinese restaurant that also sold fried chicken and burgers. An old man stood in the corner creepily meowing like a cat, while a Steven Seagal movie played on TV.

This van may have died for a two year hiatus, collecting leaves and grime in our driveway while we still had to pay insurance, but then it was back with a brand new engine; just in time for me to get my license at 18....and subsequently crash it during a botched left turn, leaving a gaping hole in the front.

Two Lincoln Continentals
They were comfy, low to the ground, and classy for a Stromberg car. But they were old. The ceiling was caving in and the mufflers were fucked so much that it sounded like a motorcycle driving down the highway.

I started driving our Continental to high school, which was an hour away. One particular spring day after class, I decided to follow a group of friends to the beach, which was only about 10 minutes away. We had only traveled a few feet when I hear a horrible scraping noise.

"Geez, who's car is making that annoying sound? Doesn't sound good."

My friend Esther and I looked out the window and saw someone in the next car signaling us frantically with their hands.

"Oh, shit. It's me."

At the beach I made the startling discovery that my muffler was dragging behind the car, hanging by a thread. A friend tied it up with twine temporarily, but warned me it wouldn't last long. Back at the school parking lot I called my dad:
Me: "Dad, there's something wrong with the car..."
Dad: "SHIT! What did you do?"
Me: "....Nothing! The muffler is hanging by a thread, it looks like it's gonna fall-"
>Me: "...we tied it up with some twine..."
Dad: "That's gonna catch fire! That COCKSUCKER! I put a Pepsi can on it; I thought that would hold it!"
Me: "You put a WHAT????"
Dad: "Listen, this is what you gotta do. Get a wire hanger, and bend it, then wrap it around-"
Me: "Dad, I don't know how to do that!"
Dad: "Why can't the janitor do it?"
So, there I am, at the end of the day, crouching next to my principal who is laying under my car as he wraps a wire hanger around the muffler. He is still wearing his suit.

Tara's 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger
My first car ever. My dad pushed me to get it, since he was the one who really appreciated it, but I fell in love easy. Quite simply, this car was HOT. I got more looks from dudes than I had ever gotten before (...mostly they were drooling over the car, not me). But it didn't matter; I had high hopes for this pin-up on wheels. I was gonna get it re-vamped, with some sky blue paint and a radio that played more than just the AM stations.

But this thing was 30 years old, and it showed. The floor was rotting away; there were two bowling ball sized holes on near the gas pedal, so when I drove, I worried about it turning it into the Flinstone's car. Neither the heat nor the AC functioned, and the entire dashboard would shake if you went over 60 mph. It also cost me $1,200 for a new transmission.

But I shall always remember it fondly.


Tune into Flashback Friday next week when I share a Matlock Memory!

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