Part 6 – Garden State Meltdown

Our Costly Escape

Our Costly Escape

A. We were in desperate need of a getaway.

B. Our friend Dave’s family owned an amusement park in PA.

C. Therefore, our free vacation would be enjoyable (one would hope).

And — if we wouldn’t mind driving, said Dave (who didn’t feel comfortable taking the ailing Dodge Charger he called “Doug” on a long trip) — we could sleep in his parent’s farmhouse — also gratis.

How could we turn him down?  The Pinto had just gotten out of the shop. I was unemployed. And D. had predictably put the kibosh on my “Escape to Mexico” idea.

Come Friday evening, we picked up Dave and his one year-old daughter, Anna — who was wrapped around his torso like a baby gorilla — in front of his downtown loft.

About an hour later on the Jersey Tpke., a terrible banging noise suddenly erupted from the engine.

D. pulled the car onto the shoulder, got out and lifted the hood. All of us took a look, even Anna. But, at what? Hot metal parts smoking in the dark?

Lucky thing she was with us. Anna’s tiny presence significantly amped up the sympathy factor. It wasn’t long before a Good Samaritan pulled over to help us.

He took one look under the hood, waved his arms and said: “Ahhhh, nuts! She’s seized up. The pistons are shot. Fugetaboutit!”

He then said that his wife would be happy to set four more places for dinner. He even invited us to sleep over his house.

We thanked him, but decided to call a tow truck. He drove us to a pay phone. There was no end to what this man would do.

Shortly thereafter, a rig showed up and towed the Pinto to a gas station. We rode in the cab with the driver, who wasn’t much older than we were.

As a tip for his services, we gave him the unopened bottle of Almaden Mountain Red Burgundy that had been sitting in the Pinto’s back seat — the cheesy wine of choice since college, prized for its low price and high buzz quotient.

Food Pairing: You will love this wine with your favorite comfort foods, including appetizers like nachos and potato skins, or meals such as hearty soups, pizza or barbecued chicken.

Suggested Food Pairing: hot dogs

The gas station owner offered fifty dollars to take the Pinto off our hands. We jumped on it and then boarded a bus to N.Y.

By the time we arrived at Dave’s loft, I was totally exhausted. All I could think of was collapsing on my own bed and sinking my face into my own pillow.

But Dave had other ideas. “There’s no reason why we still can’t go,” he said. “We can take a Greyhound to Pennsylvania. I’ll make some bologna sandwiches for the ride.”

After four hours sleep on a rock-hard platform bed, I awoke headachy and depressed. Before we departed for the Port Authority bus terminal, I quickly scanned Dave’s shelves for a book to get me through the 5-hour bus ride. I grabbed “Lolita” (Nabokov), which I’d never read.

To further add to the misery, my seat was located on the sunny side of the bus. All the way to PA I baked in its unrelenting glare, while suffering intermittent bouts of claustrophobia and motion sickness. The eeewww factor of Humbert Humbert didn’t help matters.

To this day, I cannot remember if he too painted Lolita’s toenails in the book as James Mason had done in the film. But does it really matter? No. I’m never going to read it again to find out.

What Else I Was Reading: Scruples (Krantz), The Thorn Birds (McCollough), The Chosen (Potok), Something Happened (Heller), Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Rossner), The Great Railway Bazaar (Theroux), The Bermuda Triangle (Berlitz).

Coming Soon in Part 7: Paradise Lost – The Torino Meets the Dat

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