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The Column

Snaking Your Engine
4/11/04

I'm officially moving to Los Angeles. Nothing changed in the last few days to make it any more official – but I've been talking about it so much that if I backed out now I'd be a real weenie.

I did two things recently that signify that I'm actually moving to LA. One, I priced cars. Two, I watched a movie based in Los Angeles to see if I could recognize any places. It happened to be the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles from "Escape from LA," but it was still Los Angeles.

"Look there!" I was hoping to say. "That guy in the cloak trying to behead Snake Plissken is like a mile from the Laugh Factory!"

For those of you who have seen the movie, Steve Buscemi's "Map to the Stars Eddie" character really does remind me a great deal of my agent.

I am torn about what kind of car I should buy. Having more knowledge of subway cars than automobiles, I am convinced that any used car being sold has something inherently wrong with it that I will only discover 30 seconds after the warranty expires. I feel the used car dealer will put a bomb in the car set to explode the engine directly after the warranty expires just so he can laugh at the sucker from New York who bought the exploding car.

"Only a New Yorker wouldn't know to look under the hood for an engine bomb," he'll say to his tweed-wearing co-worker named Crazy Earl. "Those fool Yankees and their lack of knowledge of how easily cars can explode."

Maybe that won't really happen. Maybe I've been watching too much Snake Plissken.

I know that not all used car dealers wear tweed and try to explode their customers. But that is the impression I've gotten from years of television commercials where tweed-wearing used car dealers named Crazy Earl are yelling about new models through thousands of balloons. If they're willing to do all that stuff, beheading me in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles is well within their capabilities.

I do trust at least one used car dealer. I have a fraternity brother who used to own a few used car dealerships, and we hung out a good deal in college. And there was this one time where...wait, this story doesn't end anywhere good. It certainly wouldn't refute the idea that used car salesmen can be insane. But he never wore tweed, so that's a start.

I turned, as most consumers do for most things, to eBay. eBay is a good way to see what other people are paying for consumer goods before you end up going to a store anyway and paying much more. If you were worried about the authenticity of that Kirk Gibson baseball, what chance do you have to get an authentically working engine? About as much chance as Snake Plissken had of making it back in time to save the world, but he managed it twice, didn't he? Oh, sorry to ruin the ending for you. If you haven't seen the "Escape" movies, ignore those last two sentences. Snake, um, dies. Yeah. The hero of the movie totally dies. It's a real buzzkill. You should go see them.

I'm deciding between getting a nice mid-sized car with good gas mileage (like a Nissan Sentra or Toyota Camry or one of the other three cars I've heard of) or a late 80s sports car. They're about the same price on eBay, and you can't get a girl with a Nissan Sentra. Actually, getting girls is not why I want the sports car. In Hollywood, you are successful when you present the image of success, and you can't do that in a Sentra.

Yes, I am the first guy to ever consider getting a sports car solely because it will help me get a job. Wait, that's wrong. I am the first guy to ever consider getting a sports car solely because it will help me get further in my occupation. Plenty of guys have tried to use their sports car to get a job. (Badum!)

The main problem, of course, is the insurance. I'll be under 25, living in LA, spending a great deal of time on the road, and driving a sports car with an engine that may or may not explode after having just gotten my license (next month, I hope). Do you know what insurance agents say when they hear about someone like me? "Ha ha ha, let's all go to Hawaii."

I hope Snake Plissken is there waiting for them.

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