“Fifteen hundred bucks!?! Are you fucking out of your mind?” Cody was still in panic mode when he spoke to the mechanic.
“Hey! Take it easy. You brought the car in and asked me to fix it. That’s a rough estimate of what it will cost.” The mechanic was a pleasant enough man who was used to irate customers, and he could tell that this kid didn’t know a damned thing about cars or repair costs. He could easily milk him dry, but he also knew the car wasn’t worth the repairs. Better to keep the kid calm and keep him interested in fixin’ the piece of crap up so I can get paid.
“I don’t have that kind of cash on me. I have to get to New York.” Cody, in fact, still had plenty of cash, but it would make a huge dent in his budget. He would need as much cash as possible to settle in once he got to New York City, and he did not think the mechanic would trade his services for drugs.
“Look kid”, the mechanic tried to calm Cody down, “we got a hole in the radiator; that has to be replaced. You blew out two pistons after the engine started burning up. You know there was no oil in the car? There are two hoses that have to be replaced…”
The mechanic’s voice trailed off in Cody’s ears. He might as well have been speaking Swahili. Cody didn’t know anything about what makes a car run or quit. The inner workings of the car never interested him the way that other guys could obsess over these things. Cody just wanted the car to move. Take me here and there and back again. That’s all I care about.
“I have to order all of these parts, you know. It’s not like I got Opel parts just lyin’ around. On top of that, I probably gotta bring in a specialist. I don’t got anyone in this shop that knows Opels. That may bring the price up. I don’t know.”
Aw fuck! Cody didn’t know what he was going to do. As it was, he barely got the Opel towed to a garage before it closed the day before, and now on Wednesday morning, August 6th, Cody felt as though he had already lost a day. And now he had no car; at least, no working vehicle that could get him back on the road.
“Well, do you have an idea of how long this might take?”
“Like I said, I gotta order parts and find a guy to do the work. Could be a week…”
“What!?” Cody was losing it. His whole plan falling apart, and his dream fading away.
“Yeah, a week. At least.” The mechanic could see that he was losing Cody’s attention. The last thing he needed was for this kid to just walk away and leave the pile of junk in his garage. It’s happened before. “Look, if you want me to fix it, then I’ll need a down payment on the estimate, and then you can sign some paperwork, and I’ll get back to you on the time it’ll take to fix it.”
“What’s the down payment?”
“Twenty percent of the estimate which is about…” the mechanic fumbled around his desk for the calculator. “Three hundred bucks. Three hundred up front, and I’ll get right to work getting your parts and finding a mechanic.”
Fuck! Cody was feeling lost. This is where Huey would be really helpful. He cursed his friends for not being here to help him. Cody wanted to walk away, but that would not help him to get to his destination. He thought about just staying in Chicago. There are plenty of opportunities for a singer-songwriter to get started here. Maybe this is where I was meant to land after all.
That did not feel right to Cody. Not Chicago. But he was not in any place to make any hard decisions at the moment.
Ultimately, Cody decided to pay the three hundred dollars to get the work started to revive the old Opel. He stumped back to his motel. He would gather his thoughts there.
Whatever I need to do, I can’t make that decision right now. For now, he just needed calm down. Back at the hotel with his guitar and pipe, he would figure it all out.
If I’m spending a week in Chicago, maybe I can at least check the place out. See the music scene. Maybe sell some acid. Maybe I’ll catch a Cubs game. I need to do some laundry anyway, so a break from the road might be a good thing after all. New York will still be there when I am ready, but I need my car. Unless…
Now pacing in his motel room after taking a third hit off the pipe, Cody wondered if staying in Chicago for a week was such a good idea after all. He started to think about ditching the Opel and taking a train or a bus the rest of the way. He was still fixated on the idea of getting to New York at once. This week. Tomorrow, by his original schedule.
Yes, he had to move. There would be no delays; no week-long stays in Chicago. Within an hour, Cody decided that he would either find the bus depot or the train station; whichever was closest. He saw the romance of riding the train across country, even if was Amtrak, and even if was only the last third of the journey. At this point he did not care about buses or trains, only that he needed to be in New York City. There was something powerful driving him toward that goal, and he could not shake it. He would not be swayed.
By four o’clock that afternoon, he gathered all his belongings, climbed into a taxi, and went to Amtrak’s Union Station in Chicago. Cody bought a one-way ticket to New York City’s Penn Station that would take roughly twenty-four hours to arrive deep in the heart of Manhattan. He would reach his destination on time—almost one full week after leaving Sacramento.
Cody was sad to leave the old Opel behind, and he felt a little guilty about leaving it for the mechanic under the assumption that Cody would return for it. He was even a little pissed-off at himself for losing three hundred dollars on the down payment to fix a car he would never retrieve. He now wished that he had thought of leaving Chicago by train last night.
He was even sadder to leave his new home, Interstate 80. He no longer felt in control of his destiny. That power was wrested from him in Tinley Park during the last moments on I-80, as the Opel gave its life for Cody’s freedom. With the Opel gone, he was at the mercy of cab drivers and corporate trains. He could no longer stop when he wanted, not that he ever stopped very often, but the principal of having every matter hinge on his own terms was now compromised. On the train, he would have to buy headphones for his boom box to listen to his own music; he would have to sit in a designated area to smoke a cigarette. His belongings would be in the baggage compartment and not within his grasp. Instead of moving steadily forward hours at a time, the train would stop every hour or so to pick up or drop off passengers in various cities. These little matters were important to Cody; he had just spent five days of no-compromise living, away from the tyranny of the Maelgwyn household, and he no longer wished to give ground on any issue.
Nevertheless, Cody tried to fixate on the end goal: moving ahead toward his newly envisioned life. It just feels right, New York City and a brand new start.
At 8:15 pm, he climbed aboard the Lake Shore Limited Amtrak car and found his reserved coach seat. He had to laugh at how many people run away from some small town in the Midwest or the Deep South to Hollywood to become a big star. And now, here is Cody heading to the Big Apple to find his niche in the music world.
L.A. is filled with glam-rock pretty boys, Cody thought. No room for an acoustic singer like me. If any city has a place for me, it’s got to be New York. That city has everything.
The Lake Shore Limited chugged along its route, at first nearby Cody’s beloved Interstate 80 along cities Cody expected to pass through on his journey. The train stopped often; in Gary and South Bend, Indiana, and then Toledo, Ohio, where he had expected to spend the prior night, before the old Opel died ignominiously. The train’s path then took a more northern path with stops in Cleveland, and then Erie, Pennsylvania. Sleeping in fits and starts, Cody awoke at every stop along upstate New York’s fine college towns with brief stops in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica. Then Schenectady and Albany, before the Amtrak’s route took a steep turn southwards toward Manhattan. Reaching Penn Station at 6:45 pm on Thursday evening, Cody stepped onto Manhattan turf for the first time and proclaimed that he was home.