I was born into a family of hard-working people wary of the good life. So, when I became a bit of a success in New York City, let's just say I often didn't know which spoon to use.
The first time the radio station for which I worked sent a limousine to pick me up at my Brooklyn flat to take me to a gala event, I botched it. The driver rang the bell, saying my car was here. As I stepped on the street, the neighbors stared. "Good Evening, Mr. Aylward!" said the driver, opening the door to the monstrously sized car.
As I stepped into the limo I fell on the floor. I had no idea the seat was so far back. The driver, seeing my predicament, remarked, "It happens all the time." Incredulous, I said, "People fall on the floor?" He said, "Very often, sir!" A diplomatic limo driver.
I've had my trouble with regular cars, too. I had a sponsor on my radio show who sold Buicks. After a luncheon one day, I was taken to his showroom and fell in love with the "cream puff" on the floor. It was a baby blue and white Buick Regal, with leather seats, opera windows, the works. When I drove it home, my neighbor said, "You're not parking that on the street, are you?" I said, "Why not?"
One morning not long thereafter I headed to my car, stepping over a man sleeping it off in my Prospect Park West doorway. I got into the Buick, tried to put the key in the ignition, and found a giant hole where the ignition had once been. I also found a huge rock on the backseat, and the left-side opera window broken.
The car was a two-door, each heavy and long. One early morning I somehow closed the driver-side door on my left foot. Though I continued my day, when I got back home I could barely get my shoe off. I wore slippers for days, limping around. Later, during a scheduled physical with my doctor, he asked me why I was limping, so I told him. He was astonished that I had never had it X-rayed. He sent me for an X-ray and it showed that I had indeed broken a bone, though it was healing on its own. My doctor thought I was nuts.
During that time my great friend Ethel Gabriel, the head of RCA Records, decided to have a gala at the Larchmont Country Club. She invited the famous, and she invited me. I told her I had a broken foot. She said, "I'll send a limo!" She told me to buy some dress-up slippers and forget about it. I got navy blue and, with the suite and tie, I didn't look too shabby. The limo arrived with British band leader Johnny Douglas and his wife. I crawled in carefully and we were off. I sat next to Ethel at the affair and, after several serious libations, I said, "Would you like to dance?" She said, "I'd love to," and the next thing I knew I was on the dance floor. My foot felt wonderful! What a little expensive bourbon can do.
Several cars later I came down to earth and bought a Chevette. Tiny, but I was able to fit into it perfectly. It was a stick shift and I could park it almost anywhere. One morning I was driving into the city, got to Houston Street and was stopped at the light. A guy wanted to wipe my window with a dirty rag. I had no money and told him so. He got furious, jumped on the hood and swung a beer bottle at me. The little Chevette windshield held. I put the car in gear and drove through the light. He rolled off.
Just another morning, another car in the Big Apple.
Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Jim welcomes letters from readers. Write him at P.O. Box 1596, Elfers, FL 34680-1596.