I drove from the City of Brotherly Love to San Diego in January 1993. My chariot: a $4,900 1984 Toyota Celica. It wasn’t Manifest Destiny; it was an escape from Philth-adelphia, a great place to eat cheese steaks, see the Liberty Bell and smell New Jersey, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Six weeks after I moved, my dad died suddenly. A month later, I received a check from his estate, ditched the jalopy and spent nearly all the money on a Nissan 300ZX.
Saving a few dollars for rent and food would have been a good bet, but it was too late. Luckily, my rent was only $375 for a one-bed/one-bath place behind the VONS in Pacific Beach. Unluckily, I was making $150 a week as a high school sports reporter for the La Jolla Light.
I abandoned the newspaper gig for a marketing job at Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation, a traveling cartoon series based in La Jolla. That paid $6 an hour, which I supplemented with tips from waiting tables in Hillcrest.
Of all the waiters, I had the nicest car, by a long shot. There were plenty of times I regretted spending all of Dad’s money, but never when I was behind the wheel of my Z - until a pick-up truck backed into it in a 7-11 parking lot in PB. It took me two years to be able to afford to have the fender fixed.
While working at Spike & Mike’s, I met a guy from a radio station, 92.5 The Flash (now Magic 92.5), which led to my being hired as an advertising sales-guy, a position I held for six years.
By the time I left The Flash for 91X, I was driving a 1995 BMW 525i, which I drove and loved for years. Next was a used Jeep Grand Cherokee. When I met my wife, who had just moved from Brazil and had $5,000 to spend on her own car, we found her a very used Nissan Sentra. Shopping for that Sentra along El Cajon Boulevard, I found a used, two-door Toyota Camry for $9,000. Not counting the Celica, it was the most affordable car I’ve owned.
Today, I drive a 2005 BMW 525i. I leased it for three years, and then bought it when the lease was up. Now, 96 monthly payments later, I finally own the damn thing.
If I had invested all the money I’ve ever blown on cars, I’d be rich today, even if I had spent only that first $4,900 on Apple stock instead of a Celica. Old habits die hard, but lesson learned, I guess.
Those new Teslas sure look nice, though...
P.S. Perhaps the coolest thing in this automotive-themed issue of PacificSD is the motorcycle charity raffle, through which Miller High Life, the San Diego Padres and Harley-Davidson® San Diego are raising money for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) living in San Diego. I was invited (I begged for the invite) to throw out the first pitch at the September 23 Padres game, where the winner will receive the keys to the motorcycle. I hope you’ll buy a raffle ticket to support our vets, Dear Reader - and join me on the pitcher’s mound. As for what car I’ll be driving to the Padres game... I’ll probably call Uber (see “In for a Ride”).