The mechanic who worked on that car when my dad couldn’t also serviced Powell’s 1967 lime green 122, which he decided to put up for sale just as I got my license in 1993. This was at Don Beyer’s dealership in Falls Church.
I wanted to buy that Volvo (on Powell’s right in the photo above), so over a series of phone calls, Powell and I talked cars and a little bit of politics and agreed on a price for what would be my first car. The mechanic who set those calls up, who is now 85, recently told me he remembers it as clear as day and that Powell was very concerned that his car would go to good home. Evidently, I made the cut.
Eventually, though, Powell decided he just couldn’t let it go; it was a part of who he was, there was too much of him in it. Of course, I was disappointed.
Years later, when I was a reporter on Capitol Hill with Congressional Quarterly, I covered the vote authorizing President George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Several senators told me they were casting their vote on assurances from Powell. I found this strange. I wasn’t thinking about his old Volvo then but about those mobile labs he described as I watched him at the United Nations from the CQ newsroom. I knew something was off. And it was. He later admitted he had basically been used, and he knew it would stain him forever. It was quite a blow, personally.
I also watched as he moved away from the GOP, as I did. He saw Donald Trump coming years before we got there; he saw it from the inside, like an old Volvo junkie sees the quirky Swedish engineering that doesn’t quite look like it should work but somehow keeps rolling on a bucket’s worth of old bolts.
I like to think that kept that old lime green 122 sedan puttering along. I can easily forgive him for keeping that car. He taught me a few lessons, even before I knew that’s what they were. Hang on to the things that keep you moving and give you sense of self, let go of the things that hold you back, even when you hit big potholes. Take the right fork in the road and keep rolling. Keep rolling. That’s what the word “volvo” means in Swedish.