Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

I apparently live atop a BMW dealership … who knew?

The issue of dickheads parking for free in my building’s parking area, while most of us pay for the privilege, has gotten worse and worse, and my landlord finally called in the tow truck again, in a long-overdue move.


As I said in my blog post the last time cars were towed (all the way back in October 2010, which is a big part of the problem): Our parking area has several assigned spots, but it also has an area in the back where parking is not allowed. Most people use it as emergency parking, for a short time, since parking here in Hoboken is God-awful and often nonexistent. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I’ve done it myself on occasion. But I don’t abuse it.

Unfortunately, people do abuse it, and it makes me wonder why my wife and I pay to park two cars, including keeping mine several blocks away, while other people take advantage of our landlord’s “threaten often, but do nothing” policy and park at will.

In defense of the landlord, yes, he should be more vigilant about this issue, but he also should not have to be a babysitter and constantly tow cars. And tenants like myself should not have to be bothered with perpetually complaining about the problem.

Three cars have been the worst offenders, parking for free literally every single day for months, and often parking in the two really dangerous “illegal” spots, which makes navigating the garage very difficult for those of us who actually fucking pay to park there.

Space is very tight as it is, and when cars are parked right next to the two turns, those turns must be navigated with only a couple of inches on each side. I scratched up our car a few weeks ago, and I see similar scratches on other cars in the garage — cars owned by people who, again, actually fucking pay to park there.

Two of the three cars are BMWs. I have nothing against the brand, and they’re beautiful vehicles, but if you can afford a fucking BMW, then you should be able to afford a legal parking spot. Adding to the annoyance, a very recent addition to the illegal parking brigade is another, brand-new BMW, so new that it still has its temporary, paper license in the window, as its owner is awaiting license plates.

The other car is a royal blue Honda that should have grown roots into the ground based on how infrequently this car moved before it was towed. In fact, at one point, the car was left in an awkward diagonal position a few days prior to Christmas, and did not move an inch until well after the New Year.

The absolute indifference of these people just galls me. What makes them think that they can park without paying every single day for months on end, often in spots that threaten damage to the cars of those of us who belong in the garage?

The day after four cars were towed (I didn’t recognize one, but since this person parked in a dangerous spot, tough shit to them), one of the BMWs was back, fresh from the tow lot, with the yellow crayon writing still on its back window, and a note on the dashboard. I had to go read this note, because I figured it would be good for a laugh.

The guy left a sorry-assed excuse of a note, begging the landlord not to tow his car again, and saying he was doing everything possible to get the proper permit from the Hoboken Parking Authority so that he could park his car on the street.

Seriously? OK, while anyone who has ever dealt with the Hoboken Parking Authority knows they are incompetent beyond belief, your car has been back there every single fucking day for almost six months. What’s your excuse for that? Bottom line: If this guy’s car hadn’t been towed, he would have continued to park for free, every single day, with no regard for paying tenants like myself.

I know human nature should not surprise me at this point in my life, but the utter and complete disregard for paying tenants and the sense of entitlement shown by these people is sickening.

Unemployment Nine: Transmission depression

A couple of months ago, the “Check Engine” light came on in my trusty 1997 purple Honda Accord. Some $460 later, I had a new torque converter in my transmission and new transmission fluid, and the car was driving better than it ever had in the six years or so that I’ve owned it.

1997 Honda Accord

1997 Honda Accord

Since picking the car up that day, it continued to perform wonderfully, until about 1 p.m. yesterday. I was driving over the Willow Avenue bridge that takes you from the Lincoln Tunnel into Hoboken and heard the engine revving at an alarmingly high level.

Obviously realizing something was wrong, I had already made up my mind to bring the car into the mechanic this morning. However, I never quite made it into the garage of my apartment building. The car drove slower and revved higher as I tried to get home and, finally, when I reached my driveway, it simply would not move at all when it was in drive.

One of my neighbors was kind enough to push me into the garage and into my spot. As I type this, I’m waiting for a tow truck to fetch my car and bring it to my normal mechanic in Queens. Some $1,600 later, I should have a rebuilt transmission and, hopefully, a car with some trade-in value.

I love my car, but it’s almost 13 years old, and the problems have been piling up for the past year or so. It has just under 109,000 miles on it, which is peanuts for a Honda, but it’s time to cut the cord.

Of course, as annoying as this is, it would be a lot easier to swallow if I had a freaking job.

When it rains, it pours.

At peace

My strife over the big decision on my car is over. I picked up my trusty merlot-colored Accord Friday, and it looks absolutely beautiful.

I know it sounds cliché, but the car really looks like it just came out of a showroom, which isn’t easy to pull off with an 11-year-old vehicle.

The car’s running great (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the body work, but just saying), and replacing the tacky, horrendous gold trim with normal chrome trim did wonders for its appearance.

Another good result: I’m being extra careful with the car now. Seeing the car looking this good is incentive to keep it that way. I’ll never be one of those obsessive-compulsive people who springs out of his car with a cloth every time a drop of water hits it, but I’m really going to make an effort to keep my ride in tip-top shape.

Thanks to all who chimed in with advice. Viva la Honda!

Am I making a huge mistake?

I currently drive a 1997 Honda Accord with a little over 102,000 miles on it. After recently spending nearly $900 on the car last month due to an encounter with Pothole-Zilla, I’m on the verge of doing something even crazier.

I’ve had the car about six years and, as time has passed, I’m more and more convinced that it was in an accident of some sort and was repainted. What started out as a small sun spot on my roof spread like a virus. And the paint is starting to peel on other parts of the car.

The person who previously owned it clearly had no taste, as they had a chance to change the car’s color and elected not to do so. The previous owner clearly was not of the Caucasian persuasion, either, as the car is dark purple with gold trim. I, however, prefer to call it merlot.

Anyway, a body shop that I’ve brought cars to for years is closing at the end of the month, so I decided to bring my car in and let them have at it before they shuttered their doors.

Bottom line: I am about to spend $3,500 on an 11-year-old car with 102,000-plus miles on it. The plus side is that they do great work and it will look like it came out of a showroom. The minus side? Duh! $3,500!

Am I crazy for doing this? Part of my motivation is that with the way the car looked, I would have been lucky to get $500 for it on a trade-in. Now, at least, if I can get through one more year with it, I should be able to get something half-decent back. Plus, it would be nice for the ego to look like I have a newer car, even though it is what it is.

The car runs well and always has. However, as I said, it’s 11 years old, so performance will inevitably deteriorate, as will parts.

But I really can’t afford a new (and by “new,” I really mean “decent used”) car right now.

So I guess I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope I didn’t chase bad money, to steal an expression from the gambling world.