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Multimedia Special

Gene's Car

Photos Courtesy Gene Weingarten
January 2006

My car, from afar. Not so bad, right? Yes, the finish is as dull as a State of the Union message, but still.

From the rear. Still okay, though the alert viewer might take uneasy note of the Carter-Mondale bumper sticker. (It was incompletely scraped off by an irate neighbor one night several years ago, after I wrote a column making fun of him and his roommates for their loud, drunken parties.) You are now at the closest distance my wife will come to this car. But we shall dare to approach further, you and I, because we are made of sterner stuff.

A detail of the rear window. This is significant only because The Whitman Vikings were the sports team of my children's high school. The year 2000 was the last time either of them attended this school, but I have not gotten around to removing the decal.

The front left bumper. This was accordioned by my son in a minor driving mishap about three years ago. A body shop offered to restore it to its original shape for $700. I then took it to Phil, my neighborhood mechanic, who offered to bang it out into a shape vaguely resembling the original, using a ball-peen hammer, for a fee of nothing. "The boys and I will just take turns whacking it, until it sort of fits." Naturally, I chose this repair option.

Here we have the driver's seat, photographed from the back. This is not the way it it came off the assembly line, as you can guess. What happened is that, over the years, the upholstery began to fray and rip, with that yellow foam stuff leaking out from several holes, particularly in the seat back. I never minded this much, even the little balls of foam that would attach to sweaters and such. But one day, I lent this car to an actual woman -- B.J. King-Taylor, my friend and neighbor who does not own a car and sadly must take what she can get as loaners -- and it came back this way. B.J. had reupholstered by seat by stretching a T-shirt over it, straitjacket-style, and cinching it in the back with those black manuscript clips. Aren't women wonderful? Anyway, this was fine with me, but now I notice the thing is beginning to fray and sag a little, so it's probably time I lent the car to B.J. again, for some needed reupholstery.

The floor on the passenger side. This is cleaner than usual. There are cigar wrappers and old pens and assorted other crap, most notable of which is an unopened bag of "Barcelona Mojo Mix." This is significant, archeologically, because it dates the artifact precisely. I don't eat Mojo Mix, but The Great Zucchini does. I last transported him in this car on Nov. 12.

My stick shift knob. This was a thank-you present from Will Mainor, an extremely talented young cartoonist whom I helped out with some advice about a new comic he is working on.

Same stick-shift knob, after you press a button on its right ear socket.

The contents of the trunk. I haven't the slightest clue what any of that junk is, except for a pair of my wife's shoes that a shoemaker couldn't fix about a month ago. Throw them out, he said. I did the next best thing.

Okay, we'll exit on this one. It is of interest not for the odometer (second-car, city-dweller low mileage) but for the speedometer. Note that the speedometer goes up to 140! Essentially that is like a speaker with a setting of 11. Or a chihuahua growling at a Great Dane. The only way this car could attain a speed of 140 is if it were dropped from a helicopter.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company