In the early 70's, I was driving around in a Bordeaux-colored, 8.2 liter Cadillac El Dorado convertible with a phone in it, which came in handy because I was always running out of gas and would need to call a tow truck for a top-up. That car seemed to consume two tanks of gasoline per day just sitting in my driveway. Before moving back to my old haunt of Brentwood, I was living in Laurel Canyon off of Wonderland Avenue up the road from Governor Jerry Brown's house where there were always a couple of state security men sitting in an unmarked car parked in a vacant lot across from his house. I lost count of how many times I had to coast down the canyon in the morning because I hadn't stopped to fill the tank the night before (or more likely, at four in the morning).
Coasting down a twisty canyon road in a front-wheel-drive vehicle that weighs just short of 5,000 pounds without the benefit of power steering requires concentration and a certain amount of dexterity and timing as steering inputs are required long in advance of when they are actually needed or else they won’t get there when they are needed--the steering equivalent of turbo lag, you might say. Furthermore, coasting southbound towards the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Sunset Boulevard, one finds the target destination--a Chevron filling station--has been constructed on the wrong side of the street; someone having seen fit to place it on the north east corner. This obliged me to time my arrival so as to avoid two lanes of oncoming traffic as I turned into the station while maintaining sufficient momentum to carry me forward to an unoccupied gas pump at one of the islands.
There was no point in hoping for a red light to clear the way because that only complicated matters further by causing traffic to back up leaving only the wrong side of the road for continued forward motion (“Make a lane”, as my father would say) and, given the six-way lights at the intersection, there was always a constant flow of left-hand turn traffic coming up the hill. Timing, anticipation, skill in concert with dumb luck and an abiding belief in the tooth fairy was the ticket. This was not a one-time occurrence but a way of life with me and I suspect there is an appropriate quote from The Bard that would apply to the situation of lessons not learned. If not Shakespeare, surely Wilde weighed in on the subject.
One day, I ran dry coming down one of the residential streets in Beverly Hills towards Sunset Boulevard. I called for a tow truck to bring a can of gas and, as it was a sunny California day, the two girls I was with sat with me on the trunk of this opulent car waiting for help to arrive. A beautiful woman in a new Mercedes SL pulled to a stop and asked if I needed assistance. I thanked her and explained I'd already called for help. Then, she noticed the Buddah-West T-shirt I was wearing (yes, it was dark blue). It was one of the most sought after T-shirts in the music business with a rendering of Buddah on the front and the slogan ‘If God wanted us to go to concerts, He would have given us tickets’ printed on the back. I suppose the T-shirt, the two attractive ladies and the El Dorado convertible tagged me as being in the music business.
"My husband is Jerry Moss," she told me. Jerry Moss was the M in A&M Records, which occupied the old Charlie Chaplin Studios on North La Brea Avenue and featured Herb Alpert (the A in A & M) & the Tijuana Brass, Baja Marimba Band, Burt Bacharach, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66, The Sandpipers, The Carpenters, Chris Montez, Lee Michaels, Captain and Tennille, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery and Paul Desmond among others on their label.
"Never heard of him," I told her. This provoked a wonderful and appreciative laugh which I shared with her before we parted ways.
I always viewed running out of gas as an opportunity for one thing or another.
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