Thursday, May 3, 2018

Honoring my old Honda



After watching 'The Fast and Furious' stars talk about their first cars this morning on NBC's 'Today' show, I instantly thought of my first set of wheels.  I also spotted a clone of the car and its sedan version in the new Childish Gambino video at the 3:28 mark.

Here is a trip back to my old Honda (and curly bushy '90s hair.) In honor of the car's sky-blue hue, the text has a blue background.


It was my worst-best car. The second generation 1982 Honda Accord hatchback was my first car, a belated 17th-birthday gift from my parents in Miami Beach. The first time I saw it, the car was parked, with all its glorious small dents, in the driveway of our home. No one was around when my friend Kellyn and I discovered the car but as soon as we peeked through the window, I knew this was my car. It spoke to me. Sky-blue with a whoosh Accord logo written in italics on each side. 

The smallish hatchback looked sporty, cool, contemporary despite being 8 years old. Something about the word "Accord" sounded important, unique. I couldn't wait to drive it. I just had to figure how to drive it. The car was a stick-shift. But after a few starts and stops and starts and stops, I nailed down how to switch gears without that annoying grinding noise and I hit the roads of Miami Beach. 

With its 75-horsepower engine, the car provided me a smooth ride with enough pep to speed down Pine Tree Drive or whip and weave on Interstate 95.

A navy-blue velour material sheathed the seats that seemed to suck you in. The shag carpeting tickled my feet. The AC was icy cold blowing my curls of dark brown hair. Whenever I pulled away from a greenlight, the car carried an electronic hum, reminding me of a futuristic exhaust of a spaceship.


Although the car was heralded as one of the most reliable in the US, my used vehicle with some 70,000 miles, had some car quirks and I knew we I were going to have to work together if we were going to stay in this for the long haul.

When it rained, it literally poured inside the car. Sealant problems plagued my front-glass windshield. I used napkins to dab the wet spots that pooled on my dashboard but my uncle/godfather patched that up for me. Another time, when my high school lunch-bunch friends piled into the car, a rattling sound followed us as we left the school lot.

The car dragged the muffler like the end of a Just-Married chain of cans. We didn't make it to Burger King that afternoon and my dad gladly took care of the repair. Although I lived and hung out in Miami Beach, I had trouble leaving the 33140 area code. The car's temperature spindle would inch into the red zone if I ventured over the causeway to the Miami side or if I idled in traffic too long. I replaced the clunky radiator. 

When the car did work properly, it sparkled and I beamed just as brightly whenever I pulled into my driveway, my high school parking lot or at The Miami Herald building where I was an intern penning a weekly column titled "Friends and Neighbors." The Accord meant independence and I felt that spirit whenever I started the engine or paid for my own gas at the local Amoco station. 

This was my Accord and I could deal with all the minor auto warts I had inherited from the previous owners. The car liberated me. I felt like I was growing up, becoming a man. Too bad the Accord didn't last through high school. The car only survived two months in my hands.

 After making a McDonald's run with Kellyn on Thursday afternoon, I collided with a rental car driver and my Accord spun down NE 30th Street off Biscayne Boulevard like a dreidel. (No one was hurt but we still can't account for the missing medium chocolate shake that I had in my hands.)


Post-crash, the car sat lifeless, its rear folded in crushed like an accordion. I felt the same way. A tow truck dragged the car back home where an insurance adjuster eventually declared it a total loss. Until it was towed away to a car cemetery, I sat in the car each day, my fingers grazing my weathered steering wheel as I relished my short-lived adventures this vehicle gave me. Then it was gone. 

Over the years, I've seen clones of that light-blue Accord. When I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I often saw an identical car (but with lots and lots of rust) parked on side streets in Harvard Square. I was often tempted to leave a note for the owner to say "I used to own a car just like this high school. I am glad to see that it's still running for you." Not that long ago,  I spotted another copy zoom by me in Miami's Little Havana. Whenever I see my Accord's double, it's as if a ghost from my past, my teen years, another time, dashes by. 

But I like to think that my old car may have been restored by someone and that it's out there somewhere in South Florida giving another owner the pleasure it gave me for those two sweet months.  

And what a surprise, an identical version of the car can be spotted in the Childish Gambino video toward the end. (Screen grab below of the two blue early 1980s Honda Accords. The one on the lower right looks just like my old car.)



Yep, that's me (below) with my 1982 Honda Accord parked outside a friend's apartment building in South Beach. Check out the dents (and my hair).


And yep, that's me below posing for a cheezy photo with my current car, a Volkswagen Golf. (I stuck with the blue hatchback theme.) 












(The top two Honda images above were original magazine ads and brochures for the 1982 Honda Accord model.)