Tag Archives: Datsun

Travels With Clarence…On The Road Again.


Downtown Stillwater. Hasn't changed much.

Around about one o:clock, after four games of eight-ball, and as many beers, Clarence decides it’s time to call Larry.  Except he can’t find the business card.  He’s searching in all is pockets, and saying, “damn” and “shit” and other things.  I remind him that there is a book hanging down from the pay phone that surely has “Larry’s Automotive” listed there, alphabetically, with the number.  

“Oh, yeah,huh” he says, and looks up the number in the book.  He dials it, shifts from side to side as it rings, and then I watch him, animated, talking to, I assume, Larry, on the phone.  “Okay,” is all I hear and he hangs up.

“He says the car will be ready in an hour.  Might as well start walking back there.”

We thank the bartender, who, it turns out, is from Albuquerque.  Small world.  She is up there hoping to start school next semester, as there couldn’t be much other reason to be here, I figured.  But she said she liked Stillwater and wasn’t sorry she had made the move.  I asked her if she had saved up enough to start school yet, and she said no. 

Clarence and I sober up some as we walk the few miles back to the auto shop.  When we get there, the car is still in the bay, but there are no parts lying around, or scattered tools, so I’m thinking that’s a good sign.  Larry comes out of the side office, all smiles.  

“We got ‘er done,” he said.  “She’s ready to head for Soy-Os-It or where ever.”

Now, I should point out here that Clarence did not have any money.  Any charge card balance that could handle a repair bill of an amount.  I had about $200 available on a MasterCard, but it was all the credit line I had.  I couldn’t imagine that this bill was going to be anything under $200.  Neither one of us would have any additional funds until we got paid next Friday.

“What’s the damage?” Clarence asked, his hands stuffed in his empty pockets.  Then he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his billfold.  I figured he had about sixty bucks in his billfold, and he had paid for the beers earlier.

Larry says for us to come into his office and we sit down in two kitchen chairs on the other side of his desk.  The walls are plastered with post cards from every where in the world.  

“You go to all these places? I asked.

“Nah, I’ve been to a few of them places, but most of ’em were sent to me by my customers.”  I mean the walls are literally wallpapered with the 4″ X 6″ photo cards.  “Wish You Were Here.”  “Wish You Were There.”

He picks a couple of sheets of what looks like mimeograph paper and runs a few numbers on a 10-key machine, the manual type with the handle.  He pulls up the tape, looks at it close, and says, “Looks like you boys owe me $139.47.”

I whistled, I think, and said something like, “you gotta be kiddin’ me.”  Clarence elbowed me hard in the side.

“Well, there was the tow, and the parts, and the labor…yep, a hunerd forty-nine forty-seven.  Too much?”

I’m quickly figuring that Larry is buying his parts on the black market, he only charges $5 for towing, and his labor rate is about $12 an hour.

Clarence, rightfully so, is thinking he’s getting a  hell of a deal, and glares at me.  I’m holding my side which is still smarting.

“No…no.  Sounds fair to me.  Can I write you a check?”  Clarence says politely.  I can’t believe it.

“Sorry,” Larry says, “can’t take a check.”  Cash or credit.”

Amazingly, at least to me, Clarence produces a VISA card and hands it over to Larry.  He picks up the phone and dials a number, reads the card number over the phone, and then hands the card back to Clarence, hanging up the phone.  “Charge won’t go through,” he says.

I reach into my back pocket, pull out my billfold, and hand Larry the MasterCard I was going to use for my travel expenses.  For all the fun we were going to have in New York.  The charge goes through this time, and Larry hands me back the now useless card.  I used to have an American Express card, the kind that have no limits but have to be paid in full monthly, but I got a call from them before I left on the trip and they said I shouldn’t leave home with it.

We shake Larry’s hand several times, no hugging, and thank him again and again for all he’s done for us.

“Glad I could help, he said.  Now don’t forget to send me a post card from this soy-os-it.”

We agree, climb into the Datsun 200SX with its new clutch, start her up, and drive out of Larry’s garage, waving as we go.

Clarence and I don’t say much as we make our way back to interstate and are again heading East.  Finally he says, “Can you believe that?”

“What,” I say, “that he barely charged us enough to cover the parts, let alone the tow, the ride and pickup from the hotel, the labor, working all night, getting someone out of bed to get him parts…what exactly?”

“Nice guy,” is all he said.

The radar detector made a series of beeps and Clarence let off the gas a little.  We both saw the Oklahoma State Trooper passing on the westbound lane at the same time.  I looked out the back window and saw him crossing over the median, and watched him come up on us fast with lights on and sirens screaming.

Clarence said, “SHIT!” real loud.  I said the other four-letter word that starts with “F”.

The trooper roared past us and disappeared into the distance.

More to come… 

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More…Travels With Clarence.


While we were waiting in the backseat of a police car, the trooper struck up a conversation about our trip.  He pointed out, again, that it was a long drive, and he wished us luck.  The whole time he talked with us he never turned around, just looked at us through the rear-view mirror.  Something he was probably comfortable with when he had a suspect in the back with his knees up under their chin.  There is, purposely, not a lot of leg room in the back of a police car.  Keeps the perp from kicking at the steel cage that separates him from freedom, or at least doing bodily harm to his adversary, who is taking him to a place he doesn’t want to go.  He wore his hat the whole time.  One of those brown trooper hats with a round brim that looks like someone punched it in on both sides of the front.

After about a half an hour a tow truck pulled around from the westbound lane.  “Larry’s Auto Service, Stillwater, Oklahoma,” and a phone number embellishing both doors.  Larry jumped out and walked over to the patrol car.  I know he was Larry, because the embroidered  name above the pocket on his blue overalls said so.  I remember a comedian saying something like you don’t want your son to grow up and get a job where he has his name embroidered over his pocket, or something like that.  Larry, however, was the business owner, unless another Larry worked at Larry’s Auto Service.  “Hi, I’m Larry, and this is my brother, Larry, and my other brother, Larry.”

Clarence and I got into the tow truck, thanked the Oklahoma State Trooper whose name we still did not know, and headed back towards the car.  It was now approaching one in the morning.  Larry asked the inevitable question, “Where you guys headed?”

“We’re driving to New York, Long Island, Syosett, heard of it?

Can’t say that I have,” he said.  “Heard of New York of course.  Never been there, though.  Can’t say that I want to.  Don’t know anything about this soy-os-it though.  Never heard of it.”

 We have to be there tomorrow night.”  Clarence said.  The he added, “We’re in a real hurry.”

“Well, maybe you’re in luck,” Larry said.  “I might be able to fix you up”

When we spotted the car in the eastbound lane, Larry drove the truck over the median and pulled up in front of it.  “Let’s have a look,” he said.

He got in the car, started it up after Clarence handed him the keys, put it in gear, and, nothing.  The engine still sounded good.  “It’s the clutch,” Larry said.  “Let’s get it to the shop.”

Larry hooked up the car to the Ford dually wrecker truck with obvious expertise.  We were headed down the Will Rogers Expressway in no time,  then north on US177 towards Stillwater.  Clarence asked the inevitable question, “How much you think this is going to cost?”

He paused for a minute, kind of checking us out I guess, to see if we were moneyed.  Then he said, “Probably get it done for around a hundred, hundred fifty, and have you on your way in no time.  You boys got a place to stay?”

We didn’t.  I expected to be sleeping in the copilot’s seat of the 200SX this night.  We hadn’t really budgeted for motels, barely budgeted for meals, and now we were going to have to come up with over a hundred for car repairs.

“I’ll drop you off at the Motel 6.  We’ll get there in a bit, and I’ll pick you up in the morning.”

At least I was in shock.  I don’t know about Clarence.  “I said, really, you’d do that?”

He said, “Sure, no problem.  I’ll be working on this all night anyway, so I’ll pick you up around 8:00.”

I couldn’t believe our good fortune.  Clarence on the other hand didn’t seem all that pleased.  Then I figured it out.  After Larry dropped us off at the Motel 6 sign flashing “Vacancy,” he drove off with Clarence’s car hooked to the back of his tow truck, with nothing to show for it but a crumpled business card.  He was thinking he wasn’t going to see that car again.  I tried to reassure him.  We had the name, Larry Owens, we had the address, we had a phone number.  What was he going to do, part out the car overnight?

Eight o:clock sharp, we were standing in front of the office of the Motel 6 sipping coffee I wouldn’t serve to a mortal enemy, and up drives Larry in his tow truck.  We jumped in.  Clarence smiled his trademark smile.  I didn’t figure we were out of the woods just yet.  Maybe we were being kidnapped now.  I mean didn’t Larry have another vehicle?  Apparently not, or so he told us later.

We drove for a few minutes and pulled up in front of a small mechanics shop with “Larry’s Automotive Service – All Makes and Models” emblazoned on the wall over the one stall garage.  The Datsun sat in the middle of the stall, parts strewn around, wrenches here and there, obviously not in working order.

What Larry told us was that he pulled the tranny, put the new clutch in, but he was waiting for a part, a throw-out bearing or something, that was being shipped up from Oklahoma City and should be here in a few hours.  He had gotten the rest of parts from his local parts supplier.  He got this guy out of bed at two in the morning, made him go open his shop, and bring him over the parts.  I still, to this day, do not believe all the things Larry did to help us out.  He promised us the car would be ready early afternoon.  Larry suggested we kill some time over at Oklahoma State University, get some lunch, a beer or something, and call him around one.  Off we went in the direction of OSU.

The first thing we noticed is that the place looked deserted.  Not just the campus, but the whole town.  There didn’t seem to be ten people in the whole place.  Hardly any cars were driving around.  Some business were open, but a lot of them had closed signs, and “Go STATE” banners in the windows.  Toys and bikes were left idle in front lawns everywhere.  Not a kid in sight.  It was like Stillwater had been evacuated for an eminent natural disaster or something.

We walked over to the campus and found Boone Pickens Stadium.  I had never been on “Astroturf,” and I was surprised that we were able to walk right onto the field.  It was blue.  It isn’t anymore.  They have replaced the blue field with traditional green since I was there.  The carpet was not different from any outdoor carpet on a concrete patio, and it felt pretty hard under foot.  Not what I expected.  I also didn’t expect there not to be anyone, I mean anyone, around.  It was just weird.  We ran a few mock plays on the field, looking up in the stands, imagining what it would be like to play college football here on a Saturday afternoon.

We walked off campus a few blocks and found a little bar that was open.  There wasn’t a soul around except the female bartender who cheerfully said, “What can I get you boys?”

“Where the hell is everybody?”  I said,  “This place is like  a morgue.”

“Everybody’s up in Norman.  Game Day.  OU and State.  If it was a home game, you wouldn’t be able to get in here,” she smiled.

“Enough said, we’ll take a couple of Coor’s Lights.”  We went over to the single pool table and put in two quarters.  The balls crashed out, and we picked a cue stick from the rack.

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

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