On the nights I taught at USC or was away on business trips, Bing’s repertoire of daddy-daughter activities included feeding Akemi tomato beef chow fun at Golden China, letting her pick out videos at Blockbusters, and making the rounds of the local German car dealerships. That he would tell her “Shh! Don’t tell Mommy we went out looking at cars!” made it all the more fun for her. She thought she was confessing a deep dark secret a couple of summers ago when she told me they test-drove a lot of cars together. Silly-nilly, I replied, Daddy left those Mercedes brochures in our bedroom and how else would she know so much about BMW models?
It was a guy thing, I figured, and a Leung thing, especially – Bing had a rusting 2002 when I met him and I’m counting up at least 4 other BMWs in the extended Leung family over the years. But for those years during which we ran our Mazda 626 into the ground, we really did need to decide on the next car, and I was willing to leave that decision up to Bing.
I was on my way home from a week in Chicago at the October 2000 ULI Fall Meeting, calling to let them know I was on the LAX shuttle to Lot C, when Bing said, “I found our next car! Are you too tired to drive out to Palm Springs? The dealership has been holding the car for me until you got home.” Bing had hunted out a 1999 Audi A6 Avant Quattro station wagon which had been driven around modestly by the dealership owner, which the dealership was offering with new car warranties at a nicely depreciated used car price. I had never heard of this car before, but I came to quickly learn that Bing (and Akemi) had thoroughly scoped it out. Among its most important salient features was that it was just long enough to be able to fit Akemi’s Sabot mast and boom inside, with a rack to car-top the boat itself.
Akemi could not believe that we were driving home a car from Palm Springs late that night with Bing having sprung the whole idea on me just hours before, but I was fine with it. I ended up being the one to drive it the most since I was doing the heavy-duty freeway driving, but it really was the car that made Bing happy. Akemi and I have called it our “happy memories” car – the car which took us endlessly to Colburn, ABYC sailing every summer, regattas, road trips to Palo Alto, school field trips. Then I held onto it so that Akemi had wheels once she got her drivers license. Even though the clear coat was starting to flake by that point, she was just happy to have a car to call her own, and it was an Audi, besides. She did not mind it was an aging one among the new model cars some of her high school classmates sported about in.
With every expensive repair, though, I started to mind. With about 10 days to go before Akemi returns to Boston, the Audi convulsed on her, fortunately in a residential area within walking distance of home. When I got the repair estimate, the death knell sounded. I had recognized I had kept it longer than reason would have dictated. It may have been just a car, but it was the last daily representation of Bing in our lives.
So at the end of the most hectic week of the year in the life of a university administrator (meaning I really didn't have time to deal with this, but okay), we sang a requiem to the Audi yesterday, celebrating the happy times in it, having a hard time biding it farewell.