Editor’s Note

A Very Good Gear

Thoughts on passing the baton, from cars to editors.

By Catherine Matusow November 3, 2015 Published in the November 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock

As the Houstonia staff put together the Car Buyers’ Guide featured in this issue, we all got to laughing about our first rides. Mine was a 1970s flaming-orange Mazda station wagon inherited from my dad and adorned with a sticker of unknown origin: Toxic Waste Transport Vehicle. (Considering how much junk I let pile up in the backseat, it definitely lived up to the name.) Many others followed, all of them dignified in their refusal to even attempt to impress, and all but the last one a family hand-me-down.

Ah, the parade of cars I’ve commanded along these Houston streets … as I recall them all, I realize that we Houstonians—who spend countless hours on the road—become attached to them, perhaps even more so than we do to our fleeting human assignations. Our wheels take on personalities, lives of their own, and so we love them.

Of all my exes of the vehicle variety, the most memorable is not the TWTV. It’s a dogged little ’96 Honda Accord standard, passed down to me from one of my brothers in 2003. The thing was adamantly nondescript, painted a faded beige-gold that was already peeling in spots when I got it. And I made no attempt to beautify it, letting the paint crack and, more often than not, relying on thunderstorms to give it a rinse. Oil changes often came six months after the little sticker on the window said they were due. Inspections weren’t much more timely. 

And yet: the darn car just kept going. It ignored my benign neglect, or maybe accepted it, continuing to take me wherever I needed to go without complaint. Years passed; boyfriends came and went. But it was still the Accord and me, together forever. Then one day, I became overwhelmed with the sense that I needed a change.

So it was that in 2012, I found myself test-driving a shiny red Hyundai Accent hatchback, another standard. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the first car I’d ever selected for myself, and it was brand new. No more hand-me-downs. No more Dr Pepper stains or worn-out transmissions. It even had that new car smell, which, it turns out, is real—and way better than those car-deodorizing tree-things had led me to believe.

The salesman offered me $500 for my faithful Accord, and I accepted on the spot. Before turning it in, I sat inside in the driver’s seat for a minute and gave the dashboard a little pat. It’s not you, I thought. It’s me.

What happened next felt fated: I got engaged, I moved, and I got a new job here at Houstonia, all in the same year. You can tell me those events aren’t related to my purchase of a red Hyundai Accent hatchback, but I won’t believe you. 

Coming to work here was one of the great decisions of my life. Houstonia editor-in-chief Scott Vogel has been a tremendous mentor and friend to me. Together, we’ve tried to make sense of this city on the rise, our mutual hometown. Together, we’ve watched Houstonians embrace this magazine, joining us on our mission to figure out just who we are and to push this place to greatness. It’s what’s kept us inspired every single month since launching Houstonia in April 2013—32 issues so far, and many more mini road trips to our favorite haunt to hash things out over margaritas and nachos.

As Scott moves on to a corporate editorial role with our parent company, SagaCity Media, I’m thankful that he’s staying put in this city we love—his Smart car next to my Hyundai in front of the Houstonia house—as we shift into the next gear. 

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