Relive The Joys Of '76 Chevy Nova Beater Ownership, 1991 Reno Parking Garage Style!

Since I've already plugged all this crappy analog video hardware into my computer in order to digitize the glory of a '79 Ford Granada, we might as well continue to unearth car-related tidbits from the Murilee Martin Videotape Archives.

Relive The Joys Of '76 Chevy Nova Beater Ownership, 1991 Reno Parking Garage Style!

Let's go back to 1991, shall we? California was getting hosed by the worst of the early 90s recession that later doomed George Bush I's reelection bid, and I was paying the bills by wheeling-and-dealing wretched beater cars and driving a forklift as a light-industrial temp worker. That meant that I was damn well free to groom and dress like Charles Manson if I felt like it (see photo, above), but it also meant that I had to seek out cheap forms of recreation. Such as, say, driving the 200 miles to Reno and stretching 50 bucks for an entire weekend of fun.

Relive The Joys Of '76 Chevy Nova Beater Ownership, 1991 Reno Parking Garage Style!

So what you do is, you grab your scurviest-looking hippie friend (in this case, the Staten Island mob attorney's son who did the Grateful Dead touring thing for a couple of years and then settled in San Francisco to work as an antiwar political canvasser) and the two of you dress like the Mission District hairballs you know yourselves to be. You search your pool of crapheap vehicles for the one that gets the best gas mileage- in this case, a 1976 Chevy Nova with a six-cylinder engine and crazy-tall highway gears, purchased for $100- you put it in gear and head east on I-80, and a few hours later you check into a recession-cheap downtown casino hotel. Then, once you're there, you go to the casino's sports book and lay down $2 bets on whatever lengthy sporting event might be happening (shooting for a baseball matchup that might result in an extra-inning pitching duel works well here)… because once you've bet, you're entitled to free drinks!

Relive The Joys Of '76 Chevy Nova Beater Ownership, 1991 Reno Parking Garage Style!

The key here is that you and your hippie friend absolutely reek of the San Francisco Bay Area, which will enable you to befriend the younger cocktail waitresses who have fled California's recession to make a buck across the line in Nevada; these women hate their lives serving drinks to ass-grabbing drunks from suburban Sacramento while slaving in a nicotine-stained Hell, so your scruffy-hipster presence will be comforting to them. That means that they'll bring you snacks and free decks of souvenir playing cards, in addition to ensuring that your drinks are mixed extra strong, and sometimes they'll want to come back to your room to listen to your Beastie Boys tapes and complain about their sucky lives. By this method you will stay entertained all weekend for the price of a tank of gas, a hotel room, and a few sports bets.

Relive The Joys Of '76 Chevy Nova Beater Ownership, 1991 Reno Parking Garage Style!

I always brought my trusty Canon AE-1 along, back when I had a little home darkroom in effect, so I could shoot gloomy black-and-white photographs for my "Faces Of Nevada Defeat" series, destined to ensure my rejection from every MFA studio-art program to which I thought to send an application. For this trip, I also brought along one of those big 80s camcorders, which I placed on the package shelf of the Nova for the drive out of the Circus Circus parking garage on Sunday afternoon. It's sort of Warholianly dull (if I may rip off a David Foster Wallace-ism), seven minutes of your life shot through the head, but it also serves as a mildly entertaining time capsule: listening to my friend's tape of Reckoning on the boombox (powered by alligator clips attached to fusebox connectors) as we drag our hungover selves away from Reno. Note the balky engine and bouncy suspension of the Nova; that's authentic Malaise Era technology there!