The Frustrating Thing About Phil’s Memories

In this life, I often remember the car someone owns.  I still remember the little VW Squareback our neighbors in Torrejon, Spain drove back in the 80s when my father was stationed there (I must have been 2 or 3), not to mention the SEAT 133 we had, the Fiero one of my father’s friends had around 1988 (he only visited our place once), and the Ford Aerostar my best friend’s parents had when I was 5.

So the fact that I would remember cars from Phil’s life is not surprising.  The trouble is, Phil found these facts important enough to write down so I’m kind of hoisted by my own petard here: if I remember something about a car, chances are Phil thought it was already noteworthy.

I haven’t found a reference to Kathy Demuelle’s Nova… yet.  That being said, I haven’t read “A Scanner Darkly” yet, and that’s the one novel based on that particular time (currently reading “Man in the High Castle” which, like “Voices from the Street” apparently also mentions the Studebaker).

There is something else about Kathy’s car that I didn’t mention.  I am a bit confused as to whether it was a second-generation Nova or a third generation Nova.  I had initially thought it was a third-generation Nova because it had a sloping back; however, when I saw the sloping back my impression was not of a Nova but of a Ford Capri or possibly a Toyota Corolla.  I then ruled out a Capri and the Toyota because my second thought was that this was not an import (the Capri was actually a German Ford), and I seem to recall Kathy’s car having a front more like the second-generation Nova.  When I asked the person who knew Phil in the mid-70s about the little red two-door, I did mention explicitly that it was a car of American manufacture, definitely not a VW or a Toyota.

However, I now know from a mention in VALIS that Phil may have owned a Capri II Ghia later in life (ca. 1978) which I might have confused with the earlier memory of Kathy’s Nova (ca. 1972).  The Capri is the car I believe came with a Blaupunkt stereo that was upgraded to a high-end Pioneer tape deck.  My research confirms that Blaupunkt stereos were OEM equipment for the Capri and suggests (but does not confirm) that Pioneer did make high-end tape decks for this car.  But any proof that Phil actually owned this car or evidence that he upgraded his tape deck has eluded me.

Another car I haven’t found in Phil’s writing (yet) is what I believe to be a 1929 Chevrolet (with this exact color combination) parked outside the house in D.C. where Phil and his mother lived in the mid-30s.  I’m guessing Chevy because it had the solid wheels like the car pictured, and not spoked wheels like the nearly-identical Fords of the era.  But if it was a car significant to his life, chances are I’ll find that in his writing too.

Phil even had many of the same dream cars that I do.  In “Time out of Joint” there’s apparently a mention of the Tucker (a car I’ve wanted since childhood), and in “Ubik” there’s a 1939 LaSalle (a car I’ve wanted since high school).  Phil seems to have liked cars that were distinctive and thoughtfully designed, a trait that has certainly carried over into my current life: I must confess that I am that strangest of all breeds, an American who owns a Citroen (which might blow my cover if not for the fact that I know of an astonishing number of these cars in Portland).

It’s a bit frustrating because I’ve found a thread where I’m a little too similar to Phil to really prove anything to anyone but myself.  For me, it’s a pretty good hint that I’m the same person because I know what I’ve read and what I haven’t, but for anyone else, it actually weakens my claim substantially because I “could have read that in a book.”


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