An Accident, A Road Trip to Vegas, A Wedding… and a New Car!

13 12 2006

No, I didn’t play The Price is Right. This title is a short rendition of my life for the past two months.

It all started with my car being broadsided. A young girl in a Honda Civic was coming off of the 134 Freeway near Griffith Park, and failed to see me. Neither of us sustained any injuries, but the driver’s side of my car was beat up pretty badly. This being the second accident I’d had this year, I was feeling none too happy about the prospects of claims, body shops and rental cars. But, I recited the mantra that accidents happen (especially in L.A.), and this is why I pay an insurance premium.

That next week, I took my car into my insurance company’s assessment center, and was given news I didn’t expect to hear. To repair the damage would be more than the car was worth, so the adjuster was going to recommend to the company that the car be deemed a total loss. For me, it was equivalent to being told a close friend had just died.

Those who know me know how attached I was to my little Nissan Sentra. It was a fulfillment of mobility after a long, ten-year drought of riding public transportation and begging for rides from others. In Southern California, that is no easy feat, but I managed until I could get the car I wanted, and thankfully, I did. So I was rather bonded to Silvie (the name I gave the car), and had a ten-year plan to keep it running before attempting to purchase a new one. The decision to total my car shot all those plans to hell, and threw me into emotional and financial chaos. Lynn and I also had plans to drive Silvie to Las Vegas for my friend Carol’s wedding—now that was up in the air!

The insurance company would pay for a rental car for two weeks only. Two weeks! As if that’s enough time to get things together in order to purchase a car. But, at least one dilemma was resolved—we could take the rental car to Vegas—after all, there was no way I was going to miss this wedding.

I’ve known Dr. Carol Amici Matthews for over fifteen years, when she was just “Carol,” and before she attained the lofty Ph.D. Throughout our friendship, we talked about the man-thing a lot, particularly as we entered our 40s. Both of us have more than our share of brains, and we could empathize with each other over our the struggle to find that spiritual, physical and psychic connection with the opposite sex. Now she had finally found Robert, and they were boldly going where other couples had gone before—the covenant of marriage. Of course, Robert was a Trekkie, so it had to be a wedding like no other. None of that traditional crap for them—they were not only getting married in Vegas, but on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! They booked the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, with a reception at Quark’s Bar—a wedding only a Star Trek fan could fully appreciate!

I so needed to get the heck outta Dodge, so along with Lynn, I gladly burned rubber in the rental Grand Am and headed North. We left Friday afternoon of October 27 and headed toward St. George, Utah (about an hour and a half outside of Vegas), in order to squeeze in a visit with Lynn’s Aunt Lucia (a real sweetheart) her partner Hildegard (a stellar woman), and my friends, Glenn and Barbara Kirkpatrick (they’re peaches). We arrived in St. George, Utah before 6:00 pm that evening and met up with Aunt Lucia, who took us to dinner and even booked a hotel room for us! I do love the way Lynn’s family is so supportive of him, and welcoming to me—every member has embraced me with open arms. After a tight night’s sleep (we were in a double bed), we arose early Saturday and headed to Kirk and Barbara’s house for breakfast. It was a treat seeing these old friends who escaped L.A. for the serenity of Utah. It was equally a treat introducing them to the person who has been the fulfillment of their prayers for me. They had a commitment at church that day, but they carved out time that morning just for us; so, it was very special. After breakfast with the Kirkpatrick’s we paid one more visit to Aunt Lucia and Hildegard, before heading back to Vegas for THE WEDDING. The ceremony was on Sunday the 29th, so we had all of Saturday evening to explore. We arrived at our hotel, checked in, took a little nap (on a king-sized bed—now we’re talkin’!) and then hit the Strip!

I had never actually stayed in Vegas, and Lynn had never been to Utah, so we both had fresh experiences to share with each other. Lynn got to see the Southern Arizona landscape and enjoy the varying colors of the desert, and how these colors looked different for each state. The sage green and browns of the California desert changed to the tawny beige and misty reds of the Nevada desert, then moved to the dusty blues, grays and greens of the Arizona desert. He also got to see the beautiful Virgin River Gorge, which connects Arizona to Utah. We drove through just as the sun was setting, and the shadows and twilight on the rocks was simply breathtaking!

I enjoyed my Vegas experience, and got to finally see what all the “whoop” was about. I have found that people either love the place, or hate it, feeling it is the best entertainment bastion around, or the best example of our debauched culture. I would say it’s a little bit of both.

Detractors and gambling addicts notwithstanding, I actually liked Vegas, and feel it serves a purpose in our culture. Not all of it is debauched, and much of it has become family friendly. I especially enjoyed the few museums and exhibits we were able to hit over the two days—if your town hosts Bodies, the Exhibition (http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/), go see it—it’s a tremendously educational and jaw-dropping experience!

Another plus in the Vegas column is that it doesn’t contribute to our nation’s (or the state’s for that matter) unemployment rate. There’s a place for everyone and everyone has a place. The frenetic, fast 24-7 pace is not an environment I would want to live or work in—but for others, it offers them a source of provision, as well as a source of community. Despite the negatives about Vegas, the positive aspects far outweighed them, so I can’t condemn the place outright. Which is good, because we both plan to visit again. There is always something to do and see there, so that’s another plus in the column.

Sunday afternoon arrived and we headed to the Hilton in order to be a part of the Matthews-Shelton nuptials and partake of the Star Trek Experience. One of the things I loved about the wedding (besides its uniqueness) was that both Carol and Robert were all giggles and smiles. I’m all for weepy weddings, but the laughter and merriment was more apropos for them because Carol and Robert have both had a pretty shitty year. Carol’s dad died, then her aunt died, then her favorite cat Dusty died! Robert had some difficulty with his board examination (he’s a psychologist, just like Carol), and then learned that his job was coming to an end due to a shortage of funding. So they were both due for some life and joy, and it was good to see these reflected all over their faces as they said their vows. The reception was great fun, and we received Tribbles as the reception favor! They had extras, so I was able to take two home: a baby brown one, and a bigger tan one. I’ve remembered not to feed them.

We stayed another night in Vegas, so that we wouldn’t have to crawl back to L.A. on the I-15 with the rest of the weekend revelers. We left the next morning in order to hit the road and get a head start in order to beat L.A. rush hour.

But I was still left with the dilemma of how to acquire new wheels. The rental car company was quick to remind me that my insurance company would only pay for the car for another week, and despite the payout on my car (about $5,000) my bank account and current financial status reflected no indication that I could pull this off. But more often than we expect, God works miracles, and he worked several for me.

My credit union works with a car-buying service called Autoland, and I decided to give them a try to see what they could do in finding me a car that I not only could live with, but that would be the tremendous blessing and provision my last one was. I also went the traditional route of a regular dealership, but that turned out to be as demoralizing and counterproductive as I knew it would be—lesson learned. On to the blessing.

To bring an end to this long tome, Aaron Bridges, the consultant at Autoland, located a silver 2006 Nissan X-Terra S-series (the model above the base), and with the payout from the Sentra, a loan from my credit union and a little help from my friend and love Lynn, I was in a car that next week, and the exact same day that I needed to return the rental!

I learned much through this experience. “You have not, because you ask not,” would be the biggest one. That’s old King James-speak, but the New Living Translation puts it just as succinctly, “the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.”

So, despite what I felt my state was, I asked—of God, my credit union, and other people—and I received more than I imagined I would get! I also relearned a lesson that I used to have posted on my wall: “Don’t Postpone Joy.” Crisis should not define my life and shut me down, and I’m thankful that I didn’t allow this crisis to do that. Otherwise, I would have missed out on precious time with my love, family, and friends and the blessing it brought to them to have us there. But more importantly, I would have missed out on the freedom of the open road and new destinations. My chosen car company’s best ad slogan was “Enjoy the Ride,” and for the first time in a long time, I did.

And now, I have a shiny new Nissan X-terra in order to continue to do just that! Thanks God, you rock!

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