Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My 1963 Rambler, El Tanque


My first car was a 1963 Rambler.  My dad bought it for me in 1971 because I needed transportation to get from college to my student teaching assignment.
A boxy looking sedan, engineered by the American Motors Corporation to be economical and sturdy, the Rambler was not exactly what I envisioned as my first ride.  A putrid pink, somewhere between flesh color and throw up, I nearly fainted when Dad drove home with it.  
On one of my first outings, I turned the wheel too much while backing out of a parking space and scraped the whole side of the car parked next to me.  It looked like it had been hit by a semi-truck. My car did not have one scratch.
Made of solid iron, I named my pink baby El Tanque, the tank.  
A few weeks later, I t-boned a mustang that belonged to some high school football hero who lived down the street from us.  For the record, the kid was at fault this time and not I, so he got the citation. I was following him when he slowed down and rode along the curb on the right. When he came to a complete stop, I started to pass him. It turned out he was making a wide turn to the right before turning into his driveway on the left. Thankfully, I wasn’t going too fast when I plowed into his driver’s door. This was before seat belts, so the impact threw him into his passenger side and that saved his life. His new Mustang was totaled and he was in crutches for several months.  The Rambler had a scratch of paint on the bumper that came off with some Ajax.
When I called home a week later to report I had been in another accident, my dad was in good cheer because I was innocent once again.  He said bad luck usually happens in threes, so maybe this was it. This accident was caused by a woman who was not paying attention to the traffic lights. While I waited for the light to change to green, I noticed in my rear-view mirror that she was not going to stop, so I jammed my foot on the brake and gripped the steering wheel.  The woman hit me so hard, the Rambler jolted and so did I.  Once again, the Tank held up but the woman’s car had to be towed away.  
By now the Rambler and I were infamous, a joke in the family.  I prayed it would all stop before something worse happened.
Not long after that, I was in the middle of a busy street, waiting to turn left into a parking lot, when suddenly, a man driving a motorcycle coming toward me lost control of his bike.  It went one way and he flew straight into my windshield.  Like a rag doll, he barely made any noise on impact.  He looked at me as he melted softly off the right side of my hood unto the street.
I was afraid to check on him, thinking he was dead, but an ambulance and the police soon appeared and assured me the motorcyclist was okay, a few broken bones, but nothing serious. When Dad got there, I cried.  I bawled.  I wailed and I told him I thought the Rambler was cursed.  He assured me that wasn’t true.  It was just temporary bad luck and it would all end soon. He said, one thing for sure, the Tank would keep me safe through good or bad.
I made him promise me that was true.  He laughed but he promised.

I kept that car for almost ten years before I traded it in for a bigger family sedan.  I had three children and we needed a new vehicle.  I cried when I gave it up.  El Tanque and I were family.  We had been through so much together, so many trials and adventures. She wasn’t a beauty on the outside, but she was my first car and my protector, and that made her special.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Facebook – It’s the High School Cafeteria All Over Again


We enter the cafeteria in waves. We look around scanning for friends.  The self-proclaimed cool yell for each other from across the room. The louder we yell, the more important we feel. 
All the cliques jostle for space in the lunch room: the jocks, the nerds, the thugs, everyone. 
Importance is measured by volume and drama. Popularity is measured by number of friends, both true and imagined. Acceptance is decided by “others,” how we dress, speak, act.
We pretend our privacy, but relish rumor about others.  Rumor becomes gossip and gossip becomes truth.
Territories are marked, that club over there, that organization opposite, the undefined along the wall.
We dread the cafeteria but it is a part of who we are and cannot resist its lure. 
*     *    *    *
One billion of us log onto Facebook. We scroll through the feeds, scanning for friends, some we have never met or will never meet.  The Pope, the President, movie stars. We know more about the lives of strangers than we do about family members.  
On one hand, we bewail the loss of privacy; on the other we hope our posts crest over the FB algorithm and go viral, and we end up on the 6 o’clock news or Ellen or Huffington.
We are willing to sell our privacy to strangers, so we worry about selfies, platforms, domains, brands. We put up with trolls and threats from people with too much time on their hands and too little brains.
We have redefined “news,” and grammar, and punctuation.   We pin and tag and poke, meme and post. Every day we learn some new hook that keeps us lured to FB.   
Instead of outgrowing the cafeteria culture we left behind in high school, we are reliving it through Facebook.  




Monday, April 10, 2017

Stop to Smell the Zinnias


          For a brief time in the 90’s, I owned my “dream home.”  It was this spacious, two-story, four bedroom, two and a half bath beauty. It had two living areas, but I turned one into a “formal” dining room.  This gorgeous expanse of HOUSE met you as you walked in through the front door.
          The backyard was tiny compared to the half-acre we owned before so we built a deck that encompassed the whole back of the house.  I made it more welcoming by adding container plants, and we spent morning and evenings outside.
Landscaped by the builder, the front yard had the usual sapling and the all-purpose shrubs most new subdivisions provide. I wanted to distinguish it from all the other front yards on our street, so I went out and bought fifteen envelopes of zinnias. I planted them all in that front flowerbed. By June, the shrubs were hidden among the zinnias.  They had taken over and created a beautiful display of color.
          The flower bed was situated underneath this majestic, cathedral window, and whenever I was home I opened the shades to let in the view. I was surprised one Saturday morning to find people looking in my house while I was looking out. Parents positioned their babies in among my flowerbed and took picture after picture.  Photographers took close ups of my flowers. There were people on my grass and in my flowerbed at all hours of the day and late into the evening, so I made a polite sign for the trespassers and posted it in front of my flowerbed. 
YOU ARE WELCOME TO ENJOY THE FLOWERS, BUT PLEASE DO NOT TRAMPLE MY GRASS OR THE FLOWERBED.
          I sold that house after four years. The new owners were a couple who stopped one day to enjoy the flowers and fell in love with the house.  I have driven by twice, and the sapling is a tree now and the shrubs have been replaced, but the memory remains. I think of my zinnia experiment every spring when I plant flowers in my yard.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Aging Angst, Bad Bladder, and Keanu Reeves


          My intelligent, strong-willed, old-fashioned parents restricted my creativity.  I wasn’t allowed to do anything extra-curricular.  If it meant they had to go out of their way to take or leave me some place other than what the school bus provided, it was out of the question.
          School was a priority in our household; straight A’s a must, so I was shocked to learn that any college money saved was intended for my older brother. There would be none for me.  I got my parents to agree that if I could get financial aid, I could go to college.  They were more than surprised when the offers started coming in during my second semester as a senior. 
          I was allowed to accept the one offer that kept me in town.  At first, they were their usual negative selves, putting up barricades at every turn. They complained I was costing them money, and I was wasting my time and theirs. Secretarial school would be easier and faster than pursuing a four-year, teaching degree.
What changed their mind about me was that my older brother flunked out of his first year of college.  He got drafted and went off to Viet Nam, while I was speeding through university, making good grades.  They were suddenly proud of me. When family asked about my progress, my parents took full credit.  I never contradicted them in public, but privately I reminded them that they blocked me at every turn.
Burned by that experience, I made my first husband promise he would never hold me down in my pursuits.  He kept his word but his own endeavors took precedence over mine or of the needs of the three children we raised.  I was done with barricades in my life.  I was done with negativism.  Life is too short to let others stand in the way of accomplishing one’s dreams. 

The only angst that holds me back now is my aging body.  The aches, the pains, the bad bladder.  I am free to do whatever I please as long as I know where the nearest bathroom is located.  As for Keanu Reeves, nothing negative there.  I would love to meet him one day, but it better be soon.  Shout out to Keanu.  Hey, babe.