Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Subject of Cars

I don't really like cars. In this respect, I think I am probably unusual. I do, of course, appreciate the convenience of having a car at one's disposal.  Waiting for buses (which I did for a couple of car-less years) can be annoying especially if it is raining or unusually windy or cold.  On the other hand, bus passengers can be rather entertaining. For instance, I remember a woman ecstatically clutching a number of items she'd just purchased from the Goodwill Store. "I used to not be caught dead going to some second-hand store," she gloated. "What a fool , huh? What a fool!" The pure pleasure she took in her conversion was
contagious and I departed the bus in a state of euphoria.

I don't remember ever having a "first car" all my own. After receiving my license at the age of seventeen, I borrowed my mother's car and proceeded to back it into a pole at a fast-food establishment called Hot Shoppes (similar to present-day Sonic). That incident was the first of a number of incidents in which I backed into things. Fortunately it coincided with my getting accepted to the college of my choice so my mother wasn't all that mad. She was less forgiving when that same car, which I had hastily parked slamming the gear into reverse rather than park, ended up in a neighbor's front yard.

Just after we were married, my husband and I purchased (with some help from his parents) an Opel Kadett station wagon. (At that time Opels were still made in Germany.) What I remember about this car is that Rick was always locking the doors and leaving the keys inside. Eventually a former car thief taught us how to gain entry by using a bent coat hanger.  I grew to hate this car because whenever I drove it, it sputtered and died.  Rick would have to come to my rescue. One quick turn of the key in the ignition and the damn car revived. Perhaps my former husband was a car whisperer. That's the only explanation that makes sense because he had no mechanical skills whatsoever.

My father was a Unitarian minister in the days when preachers still had dignity. His strong belief was that someone of his profession should drive a somber-looking car, i.e. a black one, a squat, ugly-looking black one. A year or two before he died, though, he boldly departed from tradition and bought a navy-blue Nash which had to be the ugliest car ever made. I thought it resembled a hideously grinning Galapagos turtle and was embarrassed to be seen riding in it. One time I was on my bike practicing wheelies in the middle of the tree-lined suburban street in front of my house, when what should come creeping  into sight over the hill but the repugnant reptilian Nash itself with my father at the wheel. Needless to say, I was grounded, my acrobatic dreams postponed indefinitely.

Ironically, the only car I've ever bonded with wasn't actually mine. It was a Toyota Previa that in fact belonged to the family of one of my special needs clients. Various people suggested that it looked like a condom and maybe it did but I didn't care. SUVs were in and mini-vans were out, hence the derogatory remarks. The Previa was bigger than any car I'd ever driven. I felt elevated and powerful, cozy and well-protected. This was a vehicle I could live in if I had to. (Having once or twice fallen on bad times, I was always looking for make-do possibilities.)

After a number of years, the Previa gave up the ghost and I ended up driving a Toyota Corolla which I still have. It is a sturdy, serviceable car and I'm not complaining. It is heavily dented because a well-meaning gentleman with the sun in his eyes accidentally drove into the side of it. Years later, another well-intentioned person backed into it and slightly enlarged the dent. There is, in addition, a bullet-sized hole in the rear bumper which I acquired while being pursued by members of the Mafia hell-bent on trying to silence me.

Additionally, the doors on two of the interior compartments have broken as has the handle to the door on the driver's side. There are two prominent cracks on the front windshield and the left side view mirror has been shattered. Since none of these cosmetic flaws interfere with driving, I have chosen not to spend my scarce monetary resources getting them repaired. Though the car looks like shit,  its internal organs remain healthy and that's what counts. People whose self-esteem is linked to the the make, year and pristine condition of their vehicle inspire nothing but pity and contempt on my part. To quote the infamous Mrs. Rafina Draminsky, "A car is a machine the purpose of which is to get you from one place to another. If yours is a work of art, then park it in a museum!"

That could be a matter of sour grapes on Mrs. Draminsky's part, and mine too, but I honestly believe that were I  to become the proud winner of a brand new car, I would sell it in order to buy and fill another floor-to-ceiling book case or maybe take an extended vacation on some tropical isle.

Or, if I was feeling generous, I would give it to my oldest grandson who, being infinitely more sensible and conscientious than his nana, might actually take good care of it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Writing

The rarest thoughts
have wings of tissue that
once torn, remain
forever grounded...

Inspiration of the kind
worth sharing
rarely can
take flight;

through you always
remember how it feels
the lift, the thrust,
and now aloft...

Sweet savagery of wind,
bare, craggy heights,
nearness of dimpled cloud
and shock of sunlight...

Green sea beneath
all gold-chipped
tumble of waves and sweep of froth
that cannot stop

that cannot stop,
that, surely,
cannot stop,

And yet
inevitably does.
World without end
but ending

Wings ripped to shreds,
all broken now,
nerve endings
shrieking pain,

and all that remains:
faint shadow of wings,
the leap
and the ache of the love of it.