Adios Amigo

When you came into my life, I was a little past my prime, but I guess the same could be said about you. Lots of miles: 155,000 in your case.

Toyota Sienna: I never thought I’d grow so fond of you, but I’ve had this thing for minivans. You weren’t much to look at, and filthy. The previous owner let you go cheap because he didn’t have time to make you presentable. “It just needs a thorough cleaning,” he said. His kids were off to college, and we found a petrified diaper under one of your seats. Fifteen years’ worth of empty sunscreen tubes; beach passes, fake nails; teeth whitening strips. There was even a mouse infestation. But an afternoon with a vacuum and a bucket of Lysol and you were ours.

The miles added up, and winters took their toll. Gigs, get-togethers, dump runs. One rear door handle snapped off in the cold, then another. The driver side door lock didn’t work, the passenger door wouldn’t open from the outside. Eric and I devised a routine we called “hutching”, a low-grade cop maneuver – toss of the keys, one handed catch, but you weren’t allowed to look at each other. Like Starsky & Hutch. It beat feeling irritated about the doors. We made allowances for our Toyota. That’s what you do with family.

Passing vehicle inspection every year’s been a trial, but we knew a guy named Al…Some miracle of Japanese engineering kept you running when lack of money and credit dictated it was you or a couple of bikes and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

I don’t know when I began avoiding you. Probably around the time you started roaring like a jet. With the windows closed, the fumes made me sick. The noise through the one window I was able to get down meant I couldn’t hear myself think. The mechanic said you needed a new catalytic convertor and, given the 266,000 miles on your odometer,  recommended putting the one grand a repair would cost towards a new car. I let the water bottles pile up on your floor and never filled the gas tank more than half.

The other night when the temperature dropped to the single digits, I wanted to stop and offer a friend a ride. She was picking her way down the sidewalk on the passenger side. I couldn’t honk the horn, couldn’t roll the window down to shout at her. I knew it was time to let the van go.

But how to replace you, buddy? You have a CD AND cassette player! There’s no selling you, except maybe for scrap. When I finally drop you at the junkyard, the sun reflecting off the duct tape that holds a corner of your windshield in place, you’ll look like trash to the rest of the world, but I’ll know you’re royalty – a 2000 Toyota Sienna – and we won’t see your like again.


So farewell old frie- wait, there’s a 2002 Subaru Forester up for grabs? And the Subaru has everything done; all wheel drive, heated leather seats, plus a moonroof? What, do I look like some upstate New York cliche?

Let me just get the plates off this old van…

Toyota mini-who?

14 thoughts on “Adios Amigo

      1. longingforasong

        Oh Amy, This paragraph is so choice, “The other night when the temperature dropped to the single digits, I wanted to stop and offer a friend a ride. She was picking her way down the sidewalk on the passenger side. I couldn’t honk the horn, couldn’t roll the window down to shout at her. I knew it was time to let the van go.”

        How you going to roll when your wheel won’t go?

  1. tubbygazelle

    Lovely testament to an old buddy, Amy – thank you. This brought back memories of when I had to say good-bye to ‘The Noxmobile’ – the main man at the garage said “we’ve done our best but …” and then I knew that our time together was up. I’m sure that will be the last time I get to play cassettes in a vehicle again. Our nine years together were great but life has never been the same since. I miss old ‘Noxi.’

    1. amyrigby

      That is the key, when your mechanic throws up his hands. I’m really pleased this new to me car has a cassette player too – who knows, with the renewed interest in cassettes it might soon be a cool feature in certain new cars?

      1. tubbygazelle

        Ha – fantastic! I only lost my ‘in-drive cassette system’ about a year and a half ago as my old van had one in. I’d been less than diligent in indexing some cassettes I’d recorded over so it was great rediscovering stuff I’d forgotten all about. I’ve got some interviews I taped off the radio years ago – with Joe Strummer, Lou Reed, Graham Parker, Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, Tom Robinson and probably more. One of my great unfinished projects is getting stuff like this from the tapes onto cd before the tape crumbles. Way to go!

  2. Andy Bollee

    Since I am not allowed to drive anymore due to an increase in epileptic seizures, I can only speak in distant past tense. I blew up/ burned out 3 different cars banging around US doing gigs. The saddest goodbye was to beautiful orange VW bus that logged in over 100,000 miles all over Eastern half of US as well as a chunk of Canada. The bus was subject to methodical scrutiny each time it crossed any border except Detroit/ Windsor, I guess they assumed that anyone driving a VW bus must dig the Grateful Dead & smoking illicit substances.
    I will always fondly remember the icy breeze shooting up from the accelerator/ clutch area in winter. It gets mighty cold in Michigan in January. In summer, me & the band sitting in the parked bus drinking beers.
    When I said goodbye to the bus & US to go live & play in Europe, I felt a wave of sadness as I said goodbye to Busworth. All those memories and cities, places we had gone together along with a bunch of crazed musicians. I discovered I could make far far more dough being a piano whore in Europe than playing in “alternate” bars for crummy money, so t was time to say adios ah but o still miss those halcyon days of driving 200 miles w/ 3 other musicians to make 75 bucks a man after expenses like gas & food & crappy motels, sleeping 4 guys to a room… Especially those places that smell like flea powder & had fungus in the tub…. Ah but the bus, it was a sanctuary… I know how well one can love a vehicle. Now I ride trains and have dreams of being behind the wheel. Stay safe behind whatever wheels you are steering ….

      1. amyrigby

        That’s a lovely bunch of memories Andy. And at 75 a night each you weren’t doing too bad! You have some nice trains there in Europe, but there is something about being in the cocoon of a van – remember the Lucinda Williams song Metal Firecracker?

  3. zakin

    I don’t trust Subarus! Needed to replace both engine and tranny on a Forester (98: it was a very bad year) at 135k miles and I’ll never look at one of those things again! They’re either great…or they’re not. Plus the whole upstate thing 🙂

    1. amyrigby

      No – don’t rain on my Subaru parade! I researched and found that they did need certain work done right around when yours did, this one’s maintenance records are spotless. I’m giving in to embrace the upstateness of it all! Can’t even begin to pretend I have current city cred but figure I put in enough time in the bad old 70s 80s and 90s to last forever…excuse me, I have an indoor farmer’s market to get to!

  4. A

    We had a Toyota Picnic for a bit, I think it was white but you couldn’t really tell, and it didn’t smell too good, either. We used to call it the Nature Reserve because it was full of wildlife that had escaped from the garden rubbish we were always taking to the dump, and because it had healthy flourishing moss growing all round the windows. Eventually we traded it in on something that would accomodate more grandchildren and fewer slugs, and got more that we’d paid for it three years previously…

    1. amyrigby

      The Picnic sounds perfect – I don’t think I’ve seen one of those over here. I still can’t get around to calling someone to pick up the van, I can see how people in the country end up with their yards littered with used vehicles!

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