Bart G 1968 Chrysler Newport Custom 4dr Hardtop Sedan

And she kissed me

There's something about the big ones--the massive steel ridges and wide sterns that still keep an untroubled bearing when they drift down the road. They're calm machines, those big queens. There's no love at first sight with one like that. They take you in, you take your shoes off, lay your head back, and, wham, you're hooked! It's a slow process with the large. When you are a sovereign of the street, there's no rush to do anything.

But there's always a moment for you, the one that hits you across the head, or punches you in the nose. The one that sticks out as the time you really made a bond with the one you want. It's an emphasis, really, when the enormity of the fact becomes apparent. A point when you make that soul pact; when it's imparted somewhere deep inside that that's the girl for you.

And she was a big one, the Newport. It was my grandmother's car. The fender was over my head as I first remember it. I climbed in and shimmied almost miles across the textured vinyl bench seat in the front. Luxury meant space back then, and that car had more space than Neil Armstrong's biography. I don't remember where we were going, and I couldn't see over that dash. We made one stop and I remember my grandmother throwing dozens of shopping bags in the back. They disappeared into the vastness of the back floorboard. I don't remember them again. It was summer, and the seat heated up frequently, even though I cranked the window down full. I scooted left to right when the seat got hot, and back and forth to make a cool spot (No one used seat belts in those days. I was free to roam that vinyl plain). The dash on that car protruded several inches over the console. It made a great handle for me to use when I scooted, or hopped, or ducked to the floor.

I was holding to her dash when it happened. I may have been coming up from the depths of the passenger floorboard at the time, but that's when the girl made her strike. All I heard was whoa! The car lurched back and forward again, hopping heavily across her dominion as the power brakes seized their intent, mercilessly locking the wheels. She heaved forward one last time with all of her mass and bobbled to a stop inches from the car in front of us. The last jolt caught me between grips on the dash and sent me swiftly, face first, into its edge. The hard-padded vinyl struck me square in the mouth. I fell back into the floorboard abyss as my grandmother collected herself.

Slowly, I climbed back to the seat, stunned but uninjured except for that burning swell on my mouth.

I wouldn't know what it meant until years later, but it was in my mind. A memory, a connection, a love? It was all that. Friends of mine look at the sports cars, the small coupes. But the mechanical monarchs and wide wonders of the street are the ones for me.

And that real moment it was be-knighted in me all came back to me a number of years ago when I saw one of those enormous empresses again. She was strong and stalwart, in regal pea green. "That's where I belong," I said, gliding my eyes over her commanding expanse, "nestled in for a spin with my big queen."

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