First Car

It all started with this car they had, a 1964 candy red Ford Mustang, that my neighbor Joe had gone to pick up off a guy in Mill Basin.
By Mark J. Chiusano

It all started with this car they had, a 1964 candy red Ford Mustang, that my neighbor Joe had gone to pick up off a guy in Mill Basin. We were sitting at his kitchen counter, me trying to edge out the door, him telling stories. Back then—it had to be nearly 50 years ago—it was still forests there, and the guy had 20 or so cars in a lot he’d carved out from the trees. Fifteen bucks, he said. Joe had a friend named Cappy, who knew a bunch about cars, and he checked it out and said it was good to go. They pulled their buddy Johnny into it too and for five bucks each they had themselves a ride.

One night they decided that nothing much was going on in Brooklyn so they went into Manhattan to go to a club where they knew there would be a party. It was a Puerto Rican club, and all the women were Puerto Rican, and they wanted the boys to buy them two-dollar drinks, which the kids just didn’t have. So after a while they decided it was time to split, and they jumped on the FDR to head home. But on the Brooklyn Bridge, Joe looked up for a second because all the cars were honking, and he realized that they were going in the wrong direction. “Am I gonna get home tonight?” he thought to himself. Cappy was driving, and that was the last time they let Cappy drive, Joe switching with him once they got on dry land to get back to their homes.

They were dropping Cappy off first on Mill Avenue near Ocean when Joe, who had picked up the driving, realized the breaks didn’t work. He said, “Listen Cappy, I’m driving real slow, so you’re gonna just jump out when we get to your house and I’ll keep going.” So he did, and it turned out alright, until the old lady who lives a few doors down called the cops, said there was a mob drive-by and they threw a body out onto the street. The cops came to Cappy’s house first because he was Italian-American and he said, “I don’t know nothing about it.”

But what happened to the car? It turned out that Joe knew a guy a few blocks from there, who had a garage, and they pumped the brakes real slow until they were traveling slow enough down the avenue to stop. Some cars were really honking at them from behind and cursing, what’s going on here? The street got backed up for a few blocks and some of the cars darted up and down the side streets to get away. In the morning the guy gave them a new set of brakes, for a few dollars, at least that’s what they said.

That was a few months after they bought it. They still had the plates on from the guy in Mill Basin who sold it to them. Things were different back then. Eventually they figured they were pushing their luck enough with this piece of junk so they sunk it in the marsh off Avenue U, license plates and all. Who knows, it could still be there, roof just above the surface. You always remember your first car.

—Mark J. Chiusano ’12 is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His parents always told him it’s not good to throw people out of cars.