Auto Neurotica

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...