In May of 2003 I walked onto the lot at Bonnell Ford in Winchester, MA in the company of a woman named Mary, with whom I was living. I was ready to trade in my 1996 Ford Taurus SEL, the goal being to find a newer Taurus. The 2006 was what was called a “program car”, a car that had served as a two-year lease for someone, or a rental car, then turned back into Ford and sold to Ford dealerships. I was looking for another program car, another Taurus. Moving through a lot filled with used as well as new Ford vehicles I came upon a black 2001 Taurus SEL. The car was a program car and had 29,000 miles on the odometer. It looked to be in great shape, clean inside and out, the engine looked clean, not worn. I took it for a test drive and it drove great. I asked Mary about the color, not being sure about black. We had driven to the lot in her black Volvo. Duh.
My 2006 had over 150,000 miles and was giving out, surely but not so slowly. It had been a great car for me and the SEL was the top model – upgraded engine, lots of goodies like keyless entry and moon roof, and a fabulous sound system. That was the best thing about program cars. They were used goodies. I wanted another one. I came back a couple of days later, the saleman got me a really good interest rate, they offered $500 for the trade-in, and I made the deal. In May of 2003.
That black Taurus is sitting just outside, here in Portland, OR, right now, in June of 2014. Thirteen years old, 11 of them with me, paid off six years ago, with just over 131,500 on the odometer. I drove her back and forth from Lowell – where I lived with Mary – to Arlington every day for a couple of years. I drove to California to take a job in San Francisco. I drove back to Massachusetts, with my son Cameron on what I consider one of my greatest adventures – fun stories and memories from places like Elko, Nevada and York, Nebraska – Davenport, Iowa, and Erie, Pennsylvania. I drove alone on yet another journey into the unknown from Cape Cod to Portland – here. And my car has been just wonderful through it all – comfortable, quick, great gas mileage on the highways, and the outstanding sound system. If someone has told me 25 years ago that I would be the happy owner of a Ford Taurus I would have laughed. Way too unhip. But both cars, especially this one, have been great. This one has become my friend. An old friend.
A couple of Fridays ago I brought the car for an oil change at a Jiffy Lube. They proceeded to tell me the usual litany of things wrong and in desparate need of attention. Two did get my attention, brake fluid and anti-freeze on the verge of uselessness. So on the way home I stopped at a Vietnamese owned garage within walking distance from my house, a place I trust, and scheduled both of those fluids to be changed. I brought the car in three days later and an hour or so after that I got a call telling me the master brake cylinder was leaking and would need to be replaced. I told them to do it – broke struggling artist or not. I have a credit card. When I walked up to get it later in the afternoon the mechanic told me the crank shaft bearings are leaking oil. He told me it would cost around $2000 to fix it. I don’t have it so I told him no thanks. He told me is wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t continue to drive the car for a while until it was time for a new one. I looked at him and grinned and said there isn’t going to be a new one. This is my car.
So I have new oil, new brake fluid, new antifreeze, a new master cylinder, tires with pretty good tread, an interior that isn’t peeling and ripped everywhere, and a great sound system. Loaded in my six -disk player right now, in fact, are CDs by The Temptations, The Velvet Underground, Sly and the Family Stone, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Beach Boys, and the original Steve Miller Band. The gas mileage has dropped off quite a bit, some of the sensor lights malfunction, and what with the crank shaft leaking when I drive, I will try to not feel like an emplyee of Exxon or Enron, fouler of the earth. I’ll just feel like me, Buddy Cushman, flower child, believer of all things hopeful and magical – painter, writer, walker, dreamer. And proud owner and driver of a 2001 black Ford Taurus SEL, which, by the way, happens to have a bitchin’ sound system, and a decade filled with wonderful memories.
Prized possession? Yessereebob.