I Miss My Riviera
It’s cold as shit here in Austin this morning. Well, cold for Texas anyhow… When I left the house it was 28-degrees. My ’39 lacks a heater, so I rely on my newly installed stereo for warmth. Somehow Ray Charles bellowing about Georgia and his own state of mind warms me. It also makes me a tad bit introspective.
For whatever reason, I started thinking about my old ’65 Riviera. I bought the car out of LA when I was in college. I couldn’t get out there for a couple of months, so Rob Fortier looked after it for me until I could. Marcie (then my girlfriend) and I worked out a plan to fly out to LA and then drive to Paso with Rob and his buddies for the custom show. The drive from Orange to Paso was one of the best of my life. The Pacific Coast Highway has a way of changing a man.
The show was great too, but we mostly enjoyed simply driving the old car. We stayed in Morrow Bay and the cruise over the hill and into the ocean breeze after a long hot day of “car showing” was nothing less than picturesque.
After the show, we started the long drive back to Oklahoma. The desert just west of Vegas claimed us as its own. The nailhead just didn’t like the 115-degree temperatures and we found ourselves in the cool down lane for hours at a time. When we finally pulled on to the Vegas strip, the radiator let go – the tank split right down the middle and spewed hot coolant over everything within a 15-foot radius. You can imagine the spectacle. The Vegas strip late at night… Neon splashing on everything… and in the middle of it all a ’65 Riviera appears to be engulfed in flames.
Of course, we were college students and had no money. We had budgeted the trip to the last dime and all we had enough dough for was a cheap hotel or two and gas to Oklahoma. We just didn’t have the means for an overnight stay in Vegas, but we didn’t have a choice. We weren’t going anywhere. So, I bit the bullet and used the emergency credit card my folks had given me when they sent me off to school. I got a room at the Paris hotel and casino.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had an “Ace in the hole” in my pocket. See, my girlfriend (now my wife) is an absolute rabbit’s foot. Dressed in the only clean clothes she had left in her bag, her pajamas, she went down to the craps table and started gambling away money we couldn’t afford to lose. In seemingly no time at all, she turned our meager savings into around $2000. The winnings were just enough to buy a couple of airline tickets and ship the car back to Oklahoma.
Once back in god’s country, the car continued to provide stories. Some I can tell, some I can’t… But the car always looked the part, ya know? It was one of those cars that you could park next to a Ferrari and it would still look ready to pounce. It looked illegal. It looked pissed. It looked like it was ready to eat whatever was sitting in front of it. The car was a gangster of steel.
This evil persona was made even more lovable when Marcie drove it. I can still see that cute and innocent little girl pulling up to the University of Oklahoma library in a car that looked like it should have been driven by Samuel L. Jackson. It’s that contrast that makes me hang on to the memory of that old Riviera.
I eventually had to sell the car to a good pal in order to help finance our first house in Kansas City. It was totaled a few short months later… I don’t have the means to relive my Riviera dreams right now, but I hope to someday. It’s one of those cars that got away. Same old story, right?