Saturday, December 27, 2014
Alpha: Memory of a Heartbreak and a Career Break
I lusted after the Alfa, standing transfixed each morning and afternoon as I strode briskly to work and paused for the moments I could. I earned $50 a week ($1.25 an hour, which was minimum wage) and was in a constant state of doing the math on being able to buy this beauty.
I day-dreamed of somebody who looked distractingly like Audrey Hepburn in the passenger seat wearing a yellow sundress, white scarf and pearls. I wore my plaid newsboy cap and belted brown tweed jacket, tan turtleneck and calfskin driving gloves, and was driving with one hand on the steering wheel, an arm around Audrey. She was smiling. I was beaming.
I fantasized day and night and during the day it got me in a lot of trouble at work because I didn't pay attention. I made a mistake shipping a large order of the wrong color of paint to a construction site downtown and was fired. It was a large bank building on Pack Square that still is prominent on the Asheville skyline.
I got a job quickly with King Arthur's Roundtable barbecue shop and after a bit followed my mother's advice to show up at the newspaper and see if I could get a job there. I did and I did.
This Alpha Romeo was just named one of "The 10 Most Beautiful Cars in History" and I have absolutely no argument with that assessment. I know that on the day I passed Ed Orr Motors and the shed no longer held the little red car, my heart was broken. A few months later, I bought a 1956 Ford Station Wagon, my friend Al Geremonte's fishing car. It was as distant from the Alpha as Jupiter from my house. The old Ford tank was my first car. Al taught me to drive it. He was my first newspaper mentor, a World War II platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal who "taught you everything you know, kid, but I didn't teach you everything I know."
I got the job at the newspaper because I lost the job at Glidden because I daydreamed about Audrey and the Alpha. That was 50 years ago. I'm still writing and I still love that car. And Audrey shows up in my dreams occasionally, too.