By the beginning of September, my life was finally coming back together, ever-so-slowly. With a job offer in hand and numerous leads calling me nonstop, I was finally hitting my stride for the first time since April of 2016. However, while I was improving, the Mark VII was starting to falter.
The beginning of September brought me to MetLife Stadium, right after my final failed job interview. I interviewed in Neptune (for those of you who don’t know New Jersey, that’s a few miles away from the Shore, and south of Trenton), then hightailed it, cruising in the Lincoln, to Toms River to change clothes into my New York Giants gear. I then picked up my friend Vicki and her friend Siobhan down the Shore, and a mutual friend of ours, Brendan, in East Rutherford down the street from the stadium. The whole time, the Lincoln’s battery light shined an angry red. However, no matter how nasty the weather got that day (it poured, covering the front seats in rainwater thanks to the leaky sunroof), or how bad the roads were, the Lincoln soldiered on as if nothing as wrong. I made it home that night in one piece, suit in the trunk and my head held up high.
Fast forward to Labor Day Weekend, and I’d accepted the offer received right after Matthew’s wedding in NYC. I went up to northwest Connecticut to Lime Rock Park before starting work once again–but left the poor Mark VII behind. It was at his moment that the car would suffer its biggest setback–the one that sidelined it until just a month ago. I walked outside to meet Nick and Shane, and was met with the ugly sight of the Lincoln sinking at one corner. It looked like a ship capsizing on land. The front left air spring had failed, and was flat. We left the Linc behind and went and had a wonderful day at Lime Rock, and then Shane and I swapped keys at the end of the night so I could try his new R-package NA Miata (with my old wheels, no less) and he could see what a late-Eighties American battle cruiser could do. Buffalo wings were eaten, fun was had, and the Lincoln went home with me again, with the suspension temporarily holding air and the electrical system on its last legs.
At the end of that week, my next employer (who shall remain nameless) began to call me. I was now with a small controls firm in Central Jersey, working on a project in Newark. I kept dodging phone calls until I could speak to them, all the while hedging my bets about taking a job working out of someone’s house (something I hated) with no health insurance (a genuinely horrible proposition for someone like me). Soon after that, Radnor Hunt was upon us, a big favorite show of mine. I went along with my friend Nick Weiners, who took his newer Ford Focus ST (a car that I’ve had the pleasure of driving in the past) out to Pennsylvania and was nice enough to give me a ride along the way. On the way down I got my second job offer of the late summer, and allowed my life to take another positive turn. Of course, balance is everything–and the Lincoln chose that very morning to finally kick me in the nards once again.
All I wanted was to drive the Lincoln to Radnor. To cruise the 90 mile trip in old-fashioned, smooth American style. The alternator on the Lincoln had other ideas that day, and when I opened the door, not a chance of life existed in the cockpit, other than the faint whiff of sadness. I temporarily threw in the towel, and three days later bought an alternator from NAPA. After jump starting the Linc one last time, it made it a grand total of five combined miles (including another jump) before dying completely at the local Chinese restaurant (and the Orange Chicken did nothing to drown my salty tears). The car was towed back home, awaiting repairs. Somehow, after three weeks of quitting the next job I got, getting two more offers (including the one I would eventually accept, and the job I currently hold), and plenty of whining, I got the new one in. Of course, the battery was dead, so I also invested in a jump pack (which would have saved my ass with the Miata, and the Subaru as well). Two zaps with the jump pack and the Lincoln was back to its old self by the end of September. Finally, with October approaching, I got back on the road, leaving tire tracks in my wake.
The Lincoln would function normally (or as normally as a dilapidated 28 year old cruise missile could) for the next month, but I knew it needed help. With the front suspension constantly leaking, the compressor was not a happy camper. This did not stop me from taking it to the Jewish New Year services at my childhood Temple early that month, and showing it to my brother and his wife at the house (who both laughed at it and said that they kind of liked the Miata better). The rest of the week was filled with political campaigning for my friend Damon (who was running for Mayor of Piscataway at the time), a few political dinners in Middlesex County (where the Lincoln got me from Piscataway to Sayreville in record time, and without getting me killed), and to and from a few other things before the weekend hit.
On October 8, my second cousin, Joel Miller, was about to get married, and I got my suit ready to go–and cleaned out the Linc with a fine-toothed comb. The car looked better than I did. Despite wet roads and a brief scare at a stoplight caused by my right foot getting ahead of itself (proving once and for all that low rolling resistance tires are only worth using in tire swings), I made it and the Lincoln got plenty of attention from my family members (who said I was truly insane for driving it in wet weather) and the valet drivers (who parked it right out front, both shocked and impressed that the Lincoln was even here).
I started my new job that week, and in the interest of good sense, I let the Lincoln sit all week so I could use a more reliable car for my new job (and to at least look reasonably professional). At the end of the week, I took it to Sayreville to make calls for my buddy Christian Hibinski (who was running for town council), and after a brief mixup involving a check that had gotten misplaced, I got to the drop point and gave up the check I’d missed, then drove back home, to get ready for a Giants game that Sunday. Again, the Lincoln’s electrical system decided to push my temper. After briefly stopping at a shady used car dealership in South River (don’t ever go here. There is nothing here. Please, save yourselves), the Lincoln unceremoniously stalled while backing up, with smoke pouring out of the engine bay by the battery. The positive battery cable had completely burned out, leaving its smoldering remains laughing at me hysterically. The tow truck guy MacGyvered the cable back together and I fired up the 302, racing home before the stores closed for the night. With hours to go before I could get some well-deserved sleep, I had to replace the positive battery cable and wash myself off. After breaking the starter solenoid, I put a new one in and a new cable, crying tears of joy that I could finally focus on what sorts of liquor I should stash in the Lincoln for the next day.
October 16 is where this story ends. After attending a great football game (the Giants made easy work of the Baltimore Ravens), the Lincoln was running perfectly well, garnering plenty of attention at the tailgate without leaking fluid all over the parking lot. On the way home, the compressor finally gave the hell up, causing the Lincoln to once again lean over like a drunken Atlantic City gambler and scrape pavement the whole way home. I drove it a few more times, vainly attempting to operate a LSC with broken air springs (Don’t do it). At the office, it was nicknamed the “LL” for Leaning Lincoln, because it stuck out like a sore thumb. Badly. Luckily, my birthday came soon, and with it, my saving grace, or so I thought.
TO BE CONTINUED