Of course, I had picked Saturday, the mildest day of the three-day weekend to get the heater repaired on my 1966 Simca 1600.
I called Lothar, my Croatian mechanic who lives down in Toms River and made an appointment for 11 on Saturday morning. Lothar is probably the world's top Simca mechanic. But given that the company ceased operations in 1970, the demand for his services does not run fat. The fact is, Lothar makes the bulk of his income from his auto body business (may we have the next dents) and repairing, or more accurately, rebuilding Simcas is a labor of love.
My wife gathered three woolen Afghans her crazy Aunt Louise had crocheted before she went to that great looney bin in the sky. We draped one of the back seat to protect Whiskey from the chill and each of us bundled in another. Of course I had on my Persian wool Ashtrakhan hat which the Simca's high-roofline could accommodate.
I turned the ignition and the Simca's 3.0 liter BMW 6-banger roared into life. I threw the machine into gear and in a mere 45 minutes we were in the wilds of New Jersey, maneuvering around EPA SuperFund sites and mob body-disposal dumps. Before long, I pulled into Lothar's ramshackle garage. My machine clattered to a halt and Lothar came out from the back with a small rubber-headed mallet and the front passenger side panel off an old Ford Country Squire.
"The problem," he said eyeing the car, "is the connector duct from the radiator to the engine is off. It will four hours take me to repair."
He reached into his pocket and handed me the keys to his car, a 1974 Fiat 128, with 614,000 miles on it.
"Back at one, you come. She Simca will be like a top running then."
We jumped in the Fiat and, surprising, it held against our collective weight. Driving the Main Street, my wife spotted a place that seemed on the correct side of toxic where we could get brunch. I noticed two dog grooming shops "Rub-a-Dub-Pup," and "Snip Doggy Dog."
|Whiskey freshly groomed by the groomers at Snip Doggy Dog.|
We picked the later and brought Whiskey in to be groomed while we waited for the Simca's repairs. Then we went an eatery down the street for our Adams and Eves on a raft accompanied by gallons of Joe and a glass each of city juice.
We walked the town, such as it was. Then when one finally came, we picked up our newly shorn pup and headed back to Lothar's.
He had waxed the Simca and even shined the vinyl interior and treated the tires so they gleamed.
"Hot like Hades you will be," he gleamed.
I gave him eighty dollars and two jars of apricot lekvar I had brought from an Hungarian place in the city.
"Again, soon, I see you." He shook my hand.
Then went back to banging the Country Squire with his rubber mallet.
We jumped onto the Outerbridge Crossing, then veered across Staten Island on 440 to 278 across the rest of the landfill, onto Brooklyn and were back in Manhattan by 3.
It was warm in the car.
We rolled down the windows in the 20 degree weather to let out some heat. Whiskey slept in the back.
Not a bad day.