After my freshman year at Claremont McKenna College, I was in Houston for the summer visiting my mother, who had moved there to play in the symphony. My stepfather Bob gave me—and I was grateful for it—the rather onerous job of painting apartment balcony railings in the city’s dreadful heat and humidity.
My Dad had offered to help me buy my first car, so I was motivated to paint those rails. I had been longing for a Ford Capri II hatchback, and toward the end of the summer, my Mom and Bob took me to a dealer near their home. As if ordained, they had exactly the combination I wanted: a sleek white manual with a tan interior. Better yet, it had a sunroof.
I truly loved that car, an emotion that came to define my relationships with cars. Once they were mine, I was all in. While I don’t need a lot of possessions, I tend to care mightily for the ones that I have. They become part of me, and I keep them meticulous.
That car took me through college and graduate school, eventually ending up in Miami, where my wife and I lived for several years while I was the general manager—my first job—at Miami Magazine. Eventually the Capri—its air conditioning not up to the Miami summers and the salt air rusting its underbelly—gave way to me buying a new Volvo 240, white with tan interior. It was a beautiful car and everything worked properly, especially the air conditioning. It felt like a “grown-up” car.
We decided that Miami was not for us, and we traveled in my beloved Volvo to the Peninsula. Once my newly established publishing company was humming along nicely and we had bought a home, had a couple of children and bought a Suburban for the family, I discovered the Infiniti J30. It was shaped a bit like a classic Jaguar, and I was drawn to its elegance and sophistication.
Breaking with my color code, I bought a beautiful British green J30 (although still with tan interior!). I loved the many glowing dials and switches in the car, and they reminded me of a small jet plane. I felt good driving down the road in this—for me—luxurious car.
I drove this much-adored Infiniti for almost a decade, yet it still looked brand-new inside and out when I sold it and bought a Mercedes 240, white with tan leather interior. I was uneasy, honestly, buying a German car since growing up my father had a strict rule about not buying anything made in Germany because of what he went through as a child there. But my sister had bought one, so I decided it was okay if I did as well. The car had a lot of plush aspects to it and frankly, I felt proud to be behind the wheel of a Mercedes. I guess it was the stage of my life when I needed to demonstrate my success, as modest as it was, though it took a while for me to get comfortable with that notion.
About eight years later, I moved up the ladder to a Mercedes E, again—and always now—in white with a tan leather interior. Its larger size and greater power served me better as I drove around my four teenage children. I relished this car, came to love it and care for it like a baby, but it did not love me back and developed severe problems as it aged—warning lights that could not be fixed, engine issues that were constant and a failing dashboard screen.
I thought long and hard about what I wanted next, and I realized it was time to get a vehicle that at its core was practical and versatile, one that could accommodate the projects and demands on me and my children now that they had their own homes and constantly needed help to move furniture or building materials or children’s “stuff.” I found a Range Rover Sport in white with a tan leather interior (a guy can’t change too much) that I instantly fell in love with, though my daughter Tali told me it was a “woman’s car.” So what? At first it was a challenge for me since it was so large, but it quickly became “me” and it has been enormously helpful on a regular basis.
So, I’ve had six cars in my life. These cars seemed to define who I was at different points in my life, from the sportiness of my youth to the practicality of having young children to a feeling of wanting to drive “success” to, finally, not caring about anything but having a workhorse of a vehicle. But I truly loved each car, bonding with them in what is certainly a ridiculous concept, fastidiously taking care of them and then feeling remorse when letting go of them.
I know, of course, what my last ride will be and just hope that my family has the good decency to make sure that it is white with a tan interior. And maybe a sunroof.