The Chevy across the street

My wife and I got a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu, used, around 2010, and we added maybe 100,000 miles to. Two of the dents are hers. Two of the dents are mine. Nobody's to blame for the rust.

It was the last vehicle Stephanie drove, until one day she couldn't drive any more so she handed me the keys. With me behind the wheel, our Chevy took us to hundreds of doctor's appointments, and then it took me to the crematorium to pick up my wife's ashes.

It took us on joyous rides, too — low-priced weekend excursions, minor league ball games in Beloit, movies at the drive-in outside of Jefferson WI, and trips to her parents' house for visits that always left Steph smiling. Sometimes our Chevrolet took us on drives to nowhere, with Stephanie reading the map and telling me where to turn, and then telling me how to find our way back when I'd missed the turn.

When was gone and I'd decided to move to Seattle, I took our Chevy to a mechanic and put a thousand or so dollars into it, making it more likely to make it across six states of freeways without any gaskets exploding. And indeed, it made it all the way, with no troubles.

Since arriving a year and a half ago, I haven't driven our old Chevy much, and as trouble-free as it was on the long drive, it's been nothing but trouble on the short drives here.

Three times I've taken it in for repairs, and several months back it made a frightful noise on a left turn, then made that noise all the way home.

It sounded like money. Sounded like another couple of hundred dollars, and I'm not made of hundreds of dollars, so our Chevy's been parked across the street, ever since.

I haven't put a hundred miles on that car this year, but I've put some serious money into it. Then came an email reminder I'd set up to nudge me every six months: "Time for an oil change," it said.

No it's not, I said in response. No more of any of that for me.

I don't like the hassle and risk of driving. Behind the wheel, a sneeze at the wrong moment could kill someone. A cop could pull you over at any time.

I don't like who I become when I'm driving. I get impatient at long stop lights, and flip a finger when another driver does something, anything, that offends my motorist sensibilities.

Usually I take the bus, and I prefer the bus, but in most of America you need a car. I haven't been free of owning a car since our time in San Francisco, where streetcars and trains and buses go everywhere every six minutes.

Seattle's transit isn't as good as Frisco's, but a car isn't a necessity to live here. So instead of an oil change, I cleared away the maps and hamburger wrappers, junked the junk in the trunk, and filled out a form to give our car to Habitat for Humanity. They'll get some but not much money from selling it for parts.

I didn't tell them that a few ounces of my wife's ashes are in the fabric of the front passenger seat.

At mid-day today, a very nice man parked a tow truck across the street, in front of our Chevy. I came out and signed the title over to H4H, then came back into the house, where through the window I watched the man attach whatever he attached, then hoist our car's front end a few feet into the air. Then he drove away with our Chevy behind him, and a hundred thousand miles of memories.



  1. Do I praise the writing or the content? I'll praise both.

    1. Heard a line I liked in a movie recently, something like... "I'd never turn down a free lunch or a kind word."


  2. The 2003 Chevy Malibu is an unassuming sedan with a roomy interior and a noisy V6 engine. Ride and handling are acceptable. Interior quality is unimpressive. A complete redesign arrived for 2004. There are 3 recalls on this vehicle. Learn More.

    1. Damned noisy engine, yeah.

      And oy, the recalls. Chevrolet was sending post cards saying bring the car in for repairs, no charge, for as long as we'd owned the car.

      I never brought the car in to a dealer for those repairs, and now I guess I never will, and the post cards will go to Habitat for Humanity.

    2. https://youtu.be/ncaIrjC7n64

    3. "We'll make the problem dissapaeh."

      Breaking Bad was quality TV. BCS was pretty good too. Did you see El Camino?

  3. Hi Doug,

    I have a list of albums which might look a little different tomorrow and certainly looked a little different yesterday. It's very mainstream, so no Fugs, even though there were a couple years there where I would have placed "It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest" toward the top of a list that has no top. So I guess you and I have similar tastes, though I exclude Tony Bennett from my list for purposes of style and taste even though he can more or less carry a tune. I'd rather hear Dylan any day. Anyway, here's the list:

    The Best Albums of the 60s, Whether they were recorded in the 60s or Not in No Special Order

    Aja – Steely Dan

    Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane

    Abbey Road – The Beatles

    Let It Be – The Beatles

    In The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson

    Prime Prine – John Prine

    Blood On the Tracks – Bob Dylan

    Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

    The Best of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen

    Ladies of the Canyon – Joni Mitchell

    Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix

    I promised this to you a year ago, so I consider this an early delivery.

    Warmest regards,


    1. Pretty sure I owned about half of these, back when music was flat and round and black. No Beatles, though. They came late, for me.

      Always thought there should've been a punk band called Bony Tenet.

    2. I was 14 the first time the Beatles played on Sullivan. They totally had me with the first chord. They were available in both mono and stereo. As with Dylan, the mono was slightly better adapted to rock. Also, significantly different play times for mono vs stereo. That's why the 45s sounded so good. With headphones, of course, the stereo was a better experience.

      I'm happy to hear than you had half of these records. Several of them came out when you were under 10. Good taste early.


    3. Your choice of mono or stereo, in the Beatles/Sullivan era? I would've thought stereo came a few years later.

      Why the different play times? The same songs were recorded at different sessions, mono and stereo?

      Did you buy the Beatles in quadraphonic sound when it became available?

    4. No. Quad sound was a gimmick at best. Mixing a performance down is an art, whether to one channel, two channels or four channels. Quad tries to replicate actually being at a concert, but, of course, many factors go into a concert experience, most notably the acoustics of the venue, which are crappy unless you're in a concert hall.

      Sound engineers and producers gather all the material that might appear on a cut and do a "mixdown". Stereo became available in 1957, so since shortly after that the engineers did both a mono mixdown and a stereo mixdown. Many books talk about how to do this, and I 1) am not a sound engineer and 2) don't want to bore you with the little I know. But I want to respect the question.

      So briefly, they create an image that a turntable needle can pick up by sensing bumps on a record and relaying the information to a sound processor. They're envisioning a performance, and frequently mix with the potential listener in the center of the venue somewhere around row 20 (this philosophy has probably changed in the decades since I was into this shit). Where you sit dictates what you hear, so they try to give you the best seat in the house.

      The mix is called an image. The most always put the primary vocal and drums and bass (rhythm section) in the center.

      Goddamnit, I'm being interrupted again. I have to learn to write the esoteric shit at night. If you leave me some "reply" space, I'll write more later. Prevue: If you don't put the drums in the middle, the needle will likely jump out of the groove. See ya later. . . . jtb

    5. Claude Reigns, What?July 7, 2023 at 6:28 PM

      "Your choice of mono or stereo, in the Beatles/Sullivan era?"

      The Beatles in mono obliterate their stereo recordings, even the later, more "sophisticated" albums, like the White Album, where both versions are available. Mono forever.

      Kubrick released all of his films in mono because his research showed most theaters - even in the 1980s and beyond - were subject to poorly installed and/or misfunctioning audio equipment.

      Also, the greatest pop composer and producer of all time - Brian Wilson - was deaf in one ear, hence his best recordings being in mono.

    6. Claude, while I have a minute to breathe, I suspect that mono in general is better than stereo for rock. Just a more solid sound. However, the biggest problem with stereo is listener placement. Thinking in terms of a home sound system, if you aren't sitting exactly between the speakers, one track will dominate. The rhythm stuff will be fine because that's on both tracks approximately equally, but vocal, lead guitar, background singers, strings, and all the other shit they throw into the mix will be off balance. If there are three or four people in the room, they can't all be in exactly the right place without some kind of group grope.

      Most music is mixed so badly that it doesn't matter, but with the top notch producers it matters a lot.

      Given those two factors goddamn it interrupted again fuk fuck fuck

    7. Love produced three outstanding albums in five or six years. Arthur Lee was a brilliant composer whose genius balanced on the edge of madness, but in that balance he found art. The mono image seems fuller on first listening. I'm surprised how much of Forever Changes I remember. I agree that this makes a good case for having both mixes available and makes a good case for Arthur Lee as someone who should be better remembered.

      About another song: my Koss cans have a mono/stereo switch. I spent a half hour switching back and forth between the two on "She's Leaving Home". Of course, the mono/stereo switch isn't the same as a professional mono mix, but, on balance mono held its own. In stereo I hear Paul's vocal in my left ear and Sheila Bromberg's harp in my right ear. In mono, I hear both in both ears. It's a very different listening experience.

      I do not know which to prefer,
      The beauty of inflections
      Or the beauty of innuendoes,
      The blackbird whistling
      Or just after.

      Thanks for the trip.


    8. Faskinating backstory on stereo, thank you John.

      Quadraphonic sound was a scam, of course. We only have two ears, not four, and mine were never so finely adjusted to bother paying extra to hear a fiddle from 'left-front' instead of simply 'left'.

      I was never even much enthralled by stereo. You have to be sitting in exactly the right chair equidistant between the speakers to get the effect, and if you're not in the right chair in the right spot the music will sound wrong. Only time I ever even noticed stereo as a positive effect was visiting an audiophile friend's house, when he insisted I sit in the one and only stereo-balanced chair to listen as his tech split the Mamas from the Papas, and it was maybe the nicest-ever rendition of "I Saw Her Again," so long as I didn't lean to one side and obliterate the effect.

      Mono for me, please. Sounds good in every corner of the room.

      Sorry about the interruptions. The kooky Google software seems to leave 'reply' space in the appropriate spots, but only until there are half a dozen comments, and then you gotta go to the end of the line when you find the time to come back.

      Claude, I hadn't heard that about Kubrick and stereo. It aligns nicely with what I've noticed about TKX, if THX still exists — the big brag is that THX sends technicians to the theater to balance the sound, but shit and also fuck, theaters are in the business of sight and sound, shouldn't you expect them to balance the sound on a regular basis, same as you expect them to tweak the focus and remove the blur at least once monthly?

      I love that we're all agreeing mono generally beats stereo. Even now, I have no stereo capability here in my room. I *do have stereo headphones, but only because they were cheaper than mono. They get plugged into my mono laptop output.

      And I kinda love Love, a(nother) band I'd never knowingly heard before. Thanks for that, Claude. Dumb name for a band, but good '60s music.

    9. That's Wally again.

      Been listening to Forever Changes since I got back from breakfast, on a loop.

    10. To clarify, that's the music on a loop, not the breakfast... though that's a tempting thought, too...

    11. Stereo with really good equipment makes a difference. There isn't just one chair. Any chair that's equidistant from both speakers works fine. I rented a house with a guy who built a pair of Speakerlab Ks. Ks are/were pentagonal speakers about 4 1'2 feet high and over three feet across (it's a fucking pentagon so there are lots of measurements). My little Marantz 2270 receiver, with which I could blow the roof off my folks' house didn't have enough power (70 a side) to drive these speakers. More later. Save me a reply spot. thanks....jtb

    12. OK, I'm back. Without going into geek detail on the stereo setup, my roommate was pushing 150 watts at 8 ohms into each plywood speaker box, driving a huge woofer in each whose sound exited the back of the speaker four feet from the back wall, an array of midrange speakers pointed forward, and a pair of tweeters at to top of each box. The presence of the system was fabulous. The room was remodeled by the homeowners as a danceroom/partyroom with soft walls for sound absorption and a hard surface to dance on. It was as tall as a room can get and still support the two stories above it with a fairly soft ceiling as well. Even with a dozen dancers in the room the sound was true and fairly separated without being kludgy. You didn't have to turn it to 11 to find good strong sound, but it you did and opened the front door and a window or two and put on Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Symphony with help from the United States Marines on cannon playing the 1812 Overture, you could hear the melody pretty clearly two blocks away, and at three blocks you could certainly tell there was something going on. We only ran a volume soundcheck twice as I recall.

      We decided that stereo, in this case added to clarity and presence. We had some fine dance parties. We were both about 23, both single, and neither of us was indifferent to those attributes of young women which propelled our species forward in our ongoing struggle against the insects for world domination. The Speakerlab Ks were one weapon in that struggle.


    13. "Been listening to Forever Changes since I got back from breakfast, on a loop."

      Arthur Lee's solo work can also be wonderful:



      And Bryan Maclean, the other songwriter in Love, too often overlooked:


    14. Ten seconds of chuckles at your comments, John, but other than that I have no comment, only appreciation.

    15. I'm less enthusiastic about Bryan Maclean, but I coitenly enyoyed an hour with Arthur Lee's solo work, and added a couple songs to my perpetual playlist, thanks.

  4. Never read a eulogy for a car before, but you about broke my heart with it. Thank you is all.

    1. It was parked across the street for so long, I'm still surprised when it's not there.

      The neighbors are probably surprised, too.

  5. Wow, momentous, a man and his car...part...Eel

  6. I want to repeat what I said just to be clear. There's a place for stereo and a place for mono. My Uncle Ed owned a television store and also sold some basic sound equipment. The first stereo record I heard on a stereo (2-channel tuner) was a demo record that RCA sent my uncle. It was of various ambient events captured in stereo. The only one I remember was a train that started left of the left speaker, roared through the left speaker into our fireplace, entered the left side of the right speaker, and exited from the right side of the right speaker. It was pretty cool.

    I've noticed that musical groups rarely include actual trains in their set design. So IRL, the speaker separation is whatever the producer/engineer decides it is. Usually it doesn't work very well, but occasionally it does. Good Vibrations and God Only Knows both sound better in stereo to me, if I'm using cans or am sitting about halfway between the speakers. She's Leaving Home sounds different, and I'm not sure which I prefer.


  7. Mono, stereo, quad, it's hard to beat "God Only Knows".


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