Road Trips, Expected and Otherwise

This is long.  I don’t even know why, but it was fun to write.

Normally, the girl and i do not put a lot of mileage on our car.  Neither of us drive to work, and our routine activities don’t really add up to all that much.  So it’s been a fun month for the car in that we took two ~2000-mile trips up and down the eastern seaboard.  For reasons.

One of these was planned a long time ago, the new and improved summer version of my side of the family’s every-two-years Thanksgiving conclave.  A giant house with everything you could want, with the Outer Banks beaches as its backyard beckoned for a week of slacking off and drinking a ton of beer.  With enough beer, even i probably would like the beach more.

To North Carolina

We set off from Boston on a Friday afternoon and made fine time toward our halfway point in coastal Delaware.  Somewhere near the ironically named Walt Whitman service area on the New Jersey Turnpike, texts start flooding in.  About this.  First we figure we’ll just improvise, as it’s just a power outage.  Buy a lot of ice, plan on perspiring more and altering our grocery plans.  My mom, already in a motel for the night, stocked up on flashlights, because dealing with situations like this is her superpower.  A half-hour further down the road, and the text messages changed further.  Now it was an evacuation, destined to be a long one.  Now my mom’s working magic on her iPad, and suddenly several cars worth of us are all making a right turn and heading west.  As shown.

There’s no booking alternate accommodations on the beach in the summer for 14 people on zero notice, probably not for any amount of money.  Thus did we find ourselves still in North Carolina, but in the mountains of Asheville.  Specifically in a golf/aviation (yes, really) resort on top of a mountain.  So anyway, this is a change of plans, and we packed wrong for it, bought the wrong liquor for it, etc., but we are resourceful people.

Some things we learned:

  • Fuck golf resorts.  We rented a nice house in a nice, but not busy golf resort, with a clubhouse on top of the mountain with gobsmackingly nice views.  It even had a bar!  An empty bar with reasonably priced drinks!  Seemingly begging for well-behaved lushes like ourselves to exchange money for said drinks!  But they don’t take money, they start by asking for a $25 resort fee.  Per day.  Per adult.  Then you can pay for your drinks.  Perfectly engineered to keep the merely comfortable away from the actual 1%, ’cause while i can afford that, fuck you for asking.  Also golf, as typically practiced, is dumb and a waste of human effort.
  • There must be something in the water (or the tax breaks) in Asheville, as three different west coast breweries have branches in the area, as well as numerous homegrown ones.  So much cheap beer to drink in so many places.
  • The fact that there’s a US Forest Service-run natural rock waterslide that you can go play on for $2 is kind of amazing.
  • The Biltmore Estate is pretty cool (once we realized it was a thing you might go see in the area).  It is impressively large, but it’s telling that the thing that’s most often mentioned is how many rooms it has, it’s so impressively subdivided.  As the girl noted, it’s almost like it’s half mansion, half hotel.  And more than half park.
  • This part of North Carolina somehow has butterflies like we have mosquitoes.

To the Middle of Nowhere

After that (also, quality family time, including indoctrinating both my octogenarian great-aunt and my six-year-old nephew into playing ruthless games of Asshole), the girl had another quest for the ride home.  There’s a state park in northern Pennsylvania renowned for the darkest night skies east of the Mississippi, so she figured we should go chase the Milky Way.

One corollary to there being dark skies, which we quickly picked up upon, is remoteness.  Cherry Springs State Park is something like ninety minutes north of I-80.  About 20 minutes into that, we began to appreciate that there would be many closed gas stations between us and our destination, but maybe no open ones.  We backtracked and filled up, and were proven right.

This is well and truly Real America we’re driving through now; ‘towns’ that consist of six ramshackle houses, maybe three with any signs of life, but most with at least four cars (or what used to be cars).  Windy, narrow roads with no speed limit posted.  A burbling stream out our window.  Bugs pelting the windshield like driving through a snow squall.  Progressively smaller roads pointed further from civilization.

Finally we find it, and sure enough, it’s plenty full, with lots of people looking up.  Unfortunately they’re looking up at a full moon (which we knew about, and knew it would set later), and a persistent haze.  We pitched the tent in the dark easily enough, and sat and had a dinner of leftover Chips Ahoy and a beer.  After nearly half a dozen times taking the girl camping, i’ve still yet to actually do it well.  Maybe it pours rain, maybe it’s cold, or maybe we’re just half-assing it on the way somewhere else.  But i swear, you can get good at it, sleep well and warm, eat good food, and enjoy a fire all night.

So we get up several times through the night and look up.  Now there are a lot of stars, far more than we city dwellers are used to.  But we also know it’s not enough.  The just-set Moon is lighting the haze enough to hide a lot of the stars. It’s still nice, though.

The next day, it’s a further 90 minutes on back roads in the middle of nowhere until we get to I-86 in New York.  Through all this, i remain suspicious at Apple Maps’ decision making, but not once is she wrong.  More on this later.

To the Beach, For Real This Time

The girl was, to put it mildly, disappointed to have missed out on a week on the Outer Banks, as she does love the beach so.  Since we were already going to quest toward the totality of the eclipse, and this meant a lengthy drive in one or more directions, it made sense to at least rig it to stop somewhere near the water.  Thus:

As we drove south on Saturday morning, the girl was entertained in the car by play-by-play of Boston vs. Internet Nazis; even though it wasn’t a very close game, we regretted missing it.

So here’s where we started to appreciate, if not trust our telephone copilot.  Traffic bit us hard on this trip.  First, she routed us around a stopped bridge through scenic Chester, PA. Later, back roads in Delaware instead of the highways.  Sometimes it was a break-even, sometimes it was a huge savings, but we started to notice that if nothing else, these alternate routes were taking us places we maybe wouldn’t see otherwise.  Boring places, crappy places, beautiful places, but at the very least, parts of part of the country we wouldn’t have seen.  Considering how i lament road-tripping with no time to take side trips, having a computer there to generate advantageous detours really changes the experience.

In any event, we arrived at the Bay Bridge/Tunnel at sunset, which is a good time to arrive there.

So i hadn’t been back to the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area since i was in NROTC as a college sophomore; i spent a month there in the summer of 1995 doing push-ups and learning about the Navy and the Marines.  Anyway, not a lot of time at the beach.  Which is nice, if you’re into beaches, but even nicer if you like seeing F-18s taking off constantly or SH-60s buzzing the coast.  The beach was just teeming with people, lounging immersed in the shallows at low tide on a hot day.  And even i like playing in the waves.

But time for business.  The eclipse being a rather fixed deadline, we needed to get within shouting distance of it that night.  This is where we started running into the fun of lane closures on weeknights on two-lane interstates.  Watching the arrival time tick up on the phone, and debating back-roads-at-night versus actual stopped traffic.

This is also where we tried Bojangles.  Listen, i am a Popeye’s devotee, having spent formative years in New Orleans, but there are people who will try to tell you Bojangles is better.  This is untrue.  Chicken’s different.  Spicier at first, maybe, and with a good flavor, but less crispy and not as much like crack.  The sides are quite good, but really my quarrel here is with the biscuits, my good sir.  i say, suh, these biscuits are not up to any comparison <slaps them with a glove>.

To the End of the World

Anyway, the following morning we get up and bounce early and start heading south.  Traffic is heavy, and frequently stopped, but not the sort of thing that will prevent us from getting to our destination.  But, as my wife the weather person reports, our intended destination of Columbia is due for 47% cloud cover.  90 minutes west, Greenville has 25%.  We ask the phone lady nicely, she refers us promptly to a narrow side road with no yellow line and no cars, and we set off west, confidently.  It wasn’t scenic, but it was easy.  We even stopped for gas and what, judging by the line, was the only convenience store with a bathroom for miles.  Maybe i made some rash decisions there.

Emerging from the woods, it turned out Greenville is a nice little college town.  We immediately take the girl to a cocktail bar with a roof deck (full, sadly) and drink a little.  Perusing the map a little showed two parks, one along the river and promising a waterfall.  And sure enough it’s just covered with people, some sitting in the water, others walking around, plenty of nerds with telescopes and shadowboxes, and high-end cameras.

This is the part where we stress heavily: There is no substitute for the actual totality of an eclipse.  

It’s impossible to describe sufficiently or do justice to with bad photos.  It looks like something you’ve seen before, but only in movies or science fiction.  Like some malevolent force has covered it over.  Or like the sun is the malevolent force just barely being held back, with the wispy, fingery corona spilling out.  It feels like a dark amusement park ride when someone accidentally turns the lights on, ironically, like some mechanism behind every day of your life has suddenly been exposed.  The two minutes passes quickly, and light spills out the other side like molten metal.

Staying in a Motel Would Be Too Easy

Now we had a day and a half to drive back to Boston, and obviously we wanted to make headway that afternoon.  The highways out of Greenville were clogged, so we got routed on surface roads, to suburban roads, to rural roads to get around them.  It wasn’t the massive gridlock that people thought might happen, but it was a big, significant movement of people the whole day.  We could tell because we were following this crazy backroads route with other cars from northern states (and in heavy traffic once we returned to the interstate, again, all people like us returning north).  Amusingly, we got within an hour of where we were in Asheville two weeks earlier.

So the plan was to camp the night in Shenandoah and close the loop by getting to see the Milky Way in the sky.  Conditions were perfect for it, but traffic meant that we reached Skyline Drive at midnight, with 25 miles to drive at 35mph, with presumed furry creatures waiting to jump in front of us at all times.  It was not awesome.

But the skies were perfect.  A nice band of the Milky Way (you know you’re looking at the right thing when you have to spend time deciding if it’s a cloud), and many orders of magnitude more stars than we get at home.  A trickle of shooting stars, even.  Getting up to take a leak at three in the morning becomes the greatest thing.

Other Stuff

  • Between the two trips we maybe ate at McDonald’s eight times, which is like, half a year’s worth for me.  It was glorious.  We also went to a Wendy’s, a Burger King, an Arby’s (not just for Jon Stewart), a Bojangles, a Dairy Queen.  No Chick-Fil-A or Hardees, obviously.
  • The girl continues to profess her love of Circle Ks, and their still-100% record on clean bathrooms.
  • Does anyone know why abandoned cars and road debris proliferate like mad as soon as you cross the Mason-Dixon line?
  • Similarly, why do people pull over into the left-side breakdown lane down there?  This is dangerous madness.
  • The further you get from Boston, the fewer Mini Countrymen you see.
  • The two trips were 4,300 miles in total.
  • There were actually very few Tr*mp stickers and signs out there in Real America.  Plenty of confederate flags, though.
  • In a line at a fast food restaurant, an older gentleman looks at the UHC logo on my Revs jersey and asks if i’m in the healthcare industry.  Polite conversation follows, we northerners squirm and wonder why.
  • After spending $28 in tolls in New Jersey alone, we again decided that Massachusetts needs to toll out-of-state-drivers better.
  • Related: Why does the rest of the country have better roads than the northeast?  Is it the snow, or is this an effect of them getting $1.37 back on their tax dollar and us getting $0.63?
  • Alas, i didn’t get to go to a megachurch this time.  Someday, though.

On having a teenage roommate

Confession: since November, i’ve been holding a teenage girl against her will in my basement.

Hahaha, i’m going to big boy jail, aren’t i?

Clarification: since November, the wife’s (metaphorical) little sister has been living with us.  Owing to her mom’s moving to another town while still maintaining enrollment in another faraway school, the kid had a > 90-minute bus-T-train-walk commute each way to school.  Coupled with making some of her own bad decisions and flunking basically everything, we decided that we would solve a lot of her problems by having her live with us.  And sure, there are literally bars on her window, but 1: she has by far the best one of our two extant windows, and 2: she isn’t really mad about living three blocks from Newbury St. and all those sweet sweet material goods.

Some things about living with a teenager:

  • It’s gone a long way towards settling our indecision about what to watch.  No more deciding whether or not we’re in the mood for serious fare or comedy, we’ve got someone to choose for us now:
    • YouTube, especially, and the idea of it as a primary go-to for ‘what’s on’.  She definitely does not like RiceGum, and tells us how she doesn’t like him anymore while she watches.  This is one of those dudes who’s famous online for reasons (i’m not even sure he’s a video gamer anymore), and now he’s mostly known for badly rapping about his beefs with other YouTube ‘stars’.
    • Beyond that, she’s kind of omnivorous, but terrifyingly short on attention span.  Fast forwards through opening credits, skips to favorite scenes like playing the track on a CD on repeat.  Recites seemingly meaningless bits of dialog as non sequiturs.  Berates the wife for her refusal to admit that she’d dump me for her latest onscreen crush.
    • Also, now i have been exposed to the Kardashians, which she’s aware that she shouldn’t like, but has strong opinions about nevertheless.  Also, why does she keep turning on Dr. Phil on snow days?
  • We’re learning about the capacity of our little apartment.  On the plus side, once we get a door installed, we can call it a two-bedroom with a relatively straight face, due to rigorous testing.  On the downside, there is now not a single horizontal surface of the bathtub that does not have a large bottle of hair product balanced on it.  Most of it’s mine, obviously.  There are other things, like needing a third chair at our tiny dinner table, or finding that said table isn’t ideal for homework, then noting that the light in the room is too dim for scrawling out math problems, too.
  • Tongue-in-cheek characterization aside, a lot of the problems with it are roommate-esque in nature.  Dishes and cups left everywhere, things of all kinds just dropped in place and left.  The good news is, we can flat out issue orders to fix this; the bad news is, teenager’s gonna teenager, and these have only temporary, grudging effect.
  • We are picking up new slang, such as “that’s so extra!” (going above and beyond in terms of awfulness, esp. as applied to homework, but also in the sense of trying too hard), and “that’s a neck!” (accompanied by a chopping motion, implying that you have just been owned by a joke).  Also, “literally dying.” (as in, this is her all the time)
  • There are lifestyle changes, too.  It’s tough for us to tell whether this (especially the getting up 1-1.5 hours earlier) has made us no fun anymore, or if it’s just the natural effect of February.  But with our tiny apartment, since she must go to bed at 10, that means so do we.  Or at least we hide in our bedroom.  Which is funny, because as we rationalized making an offer on the place, we said, “who cares if the bedroom sucks, it’s not like we’ll spend any time there!”  Anyway, our renovation punch list has been reordered now.
  • Finally and most disturbingly, i find myself doing all sorts of things my father did when I was a kid, but chiefly just being a relentless hardass on homework.  “Well, you halfheartedly did a crap job on an easy one, so here are two hard ones.”  “Okay, here’s another one, but this time, try.”  “You know this material, but you’re going to fail this test because you’re rushing through stuff you learned in September.”  «Pour le vingtième fois, tu dois savoir le difference entre avoir et être
    • Also, sometimes i’m punning.
    • And i have gray in my beard.

Anyway, the important thing is, what once were straight Fs are now straight Bs, and the kid’s better rested, maybe somewhat better off.  Me?  I’ll get over the whole turning-into-my-dad thing eventually.  And at least the wife gets to make fun of me for that.

Fight All The Time

The girl and i had a big Saturday.  Ikea, Lowe’s, Market Basket.  A lot to do, we didn’t know if we had time.  What with the ongoing collapse of what we know as civilization and all.  Having purchased our own home we feel, understandably i think, attached to it, and accordingly a bit dismayed upon realizing it’s basically stuck in a country that’s fighting for its soul.

So it’s a hell of a thing to put aside, for the moment, the grim specter of fascism, to concentrate on staying married through the relationship test of a trip to Ikea.  The prisoner needs some kind of storage unit for her orange coveralls, but which one is best?  More drawers, or hangers?  Minimalist, or ultra-minimalist clean Scandinavian design?  And can this clothes rod be fashioned into a shiv by an average teenager?  Somehow we ended this trip having purchased a bed.  A serious piece of furniture weighing 200lbs and requiring five hours and three beers worth of assembly.  We now have a lot invested in this bed, and it seems somehow wrong to flee to Canada.  Sure, it’s possible that brownshirts are going to come for our prisoner someday, on account of her religion (which, to our surprise, turned out to be more than simple devotion to popular accessible-luxury brands), but we just built her this goddamned bed so we’re not leaving.

And that’s before the fucking paint, too.  Oh sure, we rounded out our trip by choosing paint colors.  In a fit of hubris, now we’ve decided to paint things, as if that somehow means that i’m less likely to be sent to reeducation camps for taunting that fascist Milwaukee sheriff one too many times.  “But Herr Kapitan, we just got the bathroom vanity the way we wanted it…”  And we’re finally going to mark our door with something other than black Sharpie (one wonders if we could have afforded the place were someone to have scrubbed it off).  It’s going to be borderline respectable, and now we’re supposed to leave?

So the next day, we built the bed, painted the damn bathroom, briefly attended a beer festival we bought tickets for a month ago, and then went to a protest.  But i’m not gonna lie, it feels weird sometimes to do normal things.  To worry about painting something, or visiting grandparents or in-laws, to wonder if the Revs are going to have a competent backline, or to think about how much i want a cheeseburger, or to worry about building the best thingies i can at work.

There’s a pinch of guilt with all these things, a little sting to remind me that this is complacency, complacency to which we’re all entitled–truly, life does indeed need to go on–but needs to be checked.  If i want to keep my freshly painted door to my new condo in the best city in all the world, it demands this vigilance.  If we ever get too comfortable, too distracted, and go back to our big Saturdays, someday there might not be 200,000 people ready to fight.  And then i’ll have to find someone to move that friggin’ bed, because i promise you i’m not doing it.

On buying a house

In the generic term, i mean, by ‘house’ we actually mean tiny basement apartment in Boston.  We’re so used to life around here that it’s in many ways, more than we could ever have hoped for for a first home.  It’s two blocks from a major crossroads of a central part of the city, beautiful, scenic, and bustling.  And while this comes with the obvious compromise of being in a basement, it has outdoor space that makes it not feel like a dungeon.  And it was somehow so much easier than we thought it would be.

i mean, it was the first time we put down an offer.  We figured we’d lose, handily.  We figured we’d get trounced, but at least we’d get our initial mistake-making process out of the way, confident that we would make more than our share.  And we were right about both things.  We came in second on our offer, but the runaway winner was also enough of a runaway asshole that the seller picked us.

And headlong did we dive into the process of unearthing piles of paperwork and hastily shopping for a mortgage, all the while warning the broker, the loan officers, the lawyers that we were going to ask them a really dumb question and never once letting them down.  The thing is, it all went off without a hitch. Sure, there were lots of sleepless nights wondering about what we’d missed, since surely in our haste we’d have to have fucked something up.  The most difficult thing was really just making sure our little pile of money was in the right place (and documenting in triplicate our efforts to move it to that place).

It was a two-month-long process, really, but in the end, a half-dozen entities that could have screwed us, in ways we would never know about until it was too late, didn’t.

And then we had keys.

So many keys, it turned out; like eight of them.  Later, we learned that we really only needed four of them, and that the color code on them was wholly incorrect, so we’d best make our own.

And we had an empty apartment.  For over a month.  A fairly dirty one, but we owned it, and all the possibilities therein.  Possibilities of expensive problems, possibility of comfy nights of drinking beer under lights outside.  i immediately binged on Asana tasks for fixing things, the girl immediately rolled her eyes at what a fucking nerd i am.

It’s an obvious difference over renting, the option of simply fixing it, changing it, redoing it if you don’t like it, and better still when you can get so much satisfaction out of simple changes.  A new shower head here, a slow-closing toilet seat there, my ongoing war with beige electrical fixtures.  $5 or $10 at a time, you can see it slowly go from that musty, flawed basement, to the sort of place you want to live.  And grander plans, of course, fall by the wayside.  Probably should have checked the ceiling fixture before buying a fan.  Replacing the nasty (brand new) carpet with flooring was more expensive than we’d thought.  Assorted forays into actually making something with wood have yet to occur (i’m more of an aluminum kind of guy).  But the option is there.

And of course, the flip side is, you own all the flaws.  You wash your hands one day, two months after buying the place and notice that the bathroom vanity is made from hideous, cheap wood, because you’ve noticed that it was only partially (cheaply) painted white.  Or that multiple light sockets emit foul buzzing noises.  Or that the fasteners in some electrical boxes are badly rusted.  The idea of how much work you have to put in both for yourself and for your hypothetical future self trying to sell it sets in.  And that’s before pipes burst in the middle of the night and air conditioners crap out in the middle of a late summer heat wave.

And all along, you’re not paying rent, you’re building up, slowly, the percentage of the place you actually own (even though, to borrow the tired phrase, you’re still setting fire to the money you pay in interest).  But it’s something.  And it sure seems like a better bet than the relentless bipolarity of our 401(k)s.

More than that, though, it’s nice to be able to look on my hometown from a distance, and think that a short distance away from the tallest building is a little patch of it that’s ours.  And it becomes more so every day.  Unless something happens on Tuesday and we have to move to France.

So, what happened?

It’s been five months since i’ve written anything here.  In that time, the major thing we did was that we bought a house.  Which is a pretty plausible reason for not writing blog posts for nobody to read, but It’s not as simple as that, of course.  This being 2016, the worst year for basically everybody that anybody can remember, there were no fewer than a dozen shitty things that happened in that last five months, from multiple instances of serious bodily harm (we’re ok now), to multiple instances of surprise multi-thousand-dollar terribleness, to the myriad little insults that by themselves just ruin your day, but en masse kinda make you feel a little beleaguered.  So i haven’t written much, because it’d just have been complaining.

So, while trying to steer clear of complaining, let’s talk about new experiences.

i bought a house.

i got hit in the face playing soccer and had to have surgery on my jaw.

we acquired a teenage roommate.

And like so many others, i took on a third job battling our incoming fascist government.

Maybe some of these i will talk about at length.  Maybe some of them i wrote a lot about and i didn’t publish yet until i edit it.

Year In Review, 2015

Before you ask, no, i don’t entirely understand why i enjoy doing this so much.  It takes some effort at the end of the year, but it’s fun to see how a few seconds a day writing trivialities down becomes somewhere between an interesting story and the most mundane of Xbox achievements.  It’s worth it, though, when i learn new things about myself.  Or about how often the girl tags me on Facebook.

Page 1: Running

Sometimes it results in pretty pictures we drew with our feet.  Yes, there’s a dick somewhere in there.

Page 2: Bicycling

Sometimes it reminds me of how bad i was at certain things this year.

Page 3: Soccer

Sometimes it makes me feel like maybe my defense could’ve been worse, mostly.

Title 4: TransportSometimes it makes me sad.

Page 5: Travel

It almost always makes me want to have more vacation days.

Page 6: Beer!Sometimes it makes me thirsty.

Page 7: FoodOr disappointed and hungry.

Page 8: Entertainment

Baseball and soccer come back soon.

Page 9: Teh IntarwebsActually, i’m not mad, i’m impressed.

As always, looking back on what you just did is a good way to reflect on what you want to do.  Have a good 2016, everybody.  i’ll be here drinking beer, eating McDonald’s and bicycling more.  It’ll turn out fine.

“You don’t look that old”

I feel like i should take the above as a compliment.  More than a few people have said this to me in the past few months.   It’s not like me to think about such things, not the least bit, but it’s happened enough times and is at such odds with how I’ve been feeling that it’s a fine opportunity to navel-gaze.

It should go without saying that i pride myself on a certain sense of immaturity, combined with a stubborn tendency towards cheerfully taking whatever on, prepared or no.

But it’s funny that right when i find myself surrounded with interns, coworkers, and teammates who are near half my age is the same time i’m given cause to question whether or not there’s an end to my ability to just do all the things.

Maybe i can’t get away with drinking beer and eating an appalling diet and just counting on exercise to offset it.

Maybe that’s the reason that i’m now just able to play a good enough centerback long enough to finally get beaten for the goal that costs us the game.  Not fast enough or quick enough to deal with the 23-year-olds on the other team, even if the ones on my team have left it to me.

Maybe that’s why i’ve run the last three long races i’ve run like shit and finished far behind or slowed down my favorite wife.

Why my knee and heel hurt for the first six months of the year and i’ve gotten sick much more than is typical.

Or maybe it’s why i take a few minutes longer to get up and get ready in the morning, and am tired at midnight.

Why i don’t convince myself to ride my bike out to work more.

It’s nice that people still see me as i like to think of myself, but that doesn’t do me any good if that’s suddenly not how i see myself anymore.

My dislike of my birthday has nothing to do with my actual age, but turning 39 has really been the first one that coincided with feeling different.

i hate it.  i refuse to act my age and i’m not about to let my body start making that decision for me, goddammit.

i hate it and i reject it with as much vigor as is available.

A Year With a Furry Roommate


Most of us wake up in the middle of the night. My favorite is waking up in the waning parts of it, with the sun threatening and maybe 52 minutes sitting in between me and my alarm. It goes without saying that i might spend a couple of those minutes pretending that i don’t need to go to the bathroom, but we all know it’s a doomed effort.

Except now as soon as my head pops up, so does another:

cat      It’s time to get up now, hooray, let’s go!

spaceman_me_circleOh, i’m just getting up to go to the bathroom.

 

cat      No, it’s time to eat!

spaceman_me_circleSo eat.

 

cat      No, you gotta watch me eat.

spaceman_me_circleThat’s ridiculous, i’m going to the bathroom.

 

cat    Okay, but I’m going to go with you just to make sure you come back.

spaceman_me_circleFine, let’s get this over with.  (So i walk over to the food bowl and as she digs in, i walk away).

cat      (stops eating) But I wasn’t done.  Hang on, let me come with you.

spaceman_me_circleDammit.  (So i pay careful attention to her as she noms on her food for an acceptable amount of time, and only then can i pee and go back to bed).

 

Thing is, i’d never had a pet growing up, so this sort of daily madness is new to me, what with our last year of living with our temporary (-to permanent?) cat.  She curls up where my feet belong in bed.  She sits between me and my computer until she gets a piece of my burrito.  She has to be able to stare at me in the shower else there will be meowing.  She turns our bedroom light on in the middle of the night if certain demands are not met.  Kind of an asshole, really.  On the other hand, she rolls around and bats at shoelaces, she purrs, and she meows excitedly when we near the door.  Sometimes, when i walk away when she’s not done with me, she scampers after me and taps me a couple times on the leg and looks up, as if to say please?  Guess we’ll let her stay.

Requiem for a Lightweight

Here’s to my beloved little smart car. Who had to retire a bit earlier than we’d planned, the repeated pummeling of Boston’s matchless collection of potholes finally too much for his totally nonexistent suspension. Thousands of dollars away from a plausible shot at an inspection sticker, we had to part ways. While i handled it better than the loss of my dear old minivan, it wasn’t anywhere near as easy as selling my Neon to a friend (who, years later, reported it was totaled saving his sister’s life in an accident in 2012—a great car).

Maybe i didn’t take as much crap for my little car as i did for insisting on using a janky mid-1990’s Mac at an engineering school, but if i’m honest with myself, it was a similarly iconoclastic, impractical, downright foolish decision in any objective sense. i really can’t honestly recommend them to anyone in the northeast—the maintenance is brutally expensive and you’re going to break too many things. Even if i didn’t spend huge amounts on maintenance, it sure felt like something was always broken. Something underneath the car, mostly.

So why did i love the little guy so much? Only a few of you got to drive him, and fewer still enjoyed it (ahem, @swimman79), but when you’re really truly used to it, it’s really like there’s nothing between you and the road. For better and for worse, obviously. But he goes right where you put him, squeezes into ludicrous parking spots, and once you get good at it, you can use all 70hp well enough to dodge Storrow traffic invincibly and beat almost anything off the line. It just felt good to drive. Comfy warm seats on a cold day, 360˚ of sunshine on a nice day, and a nice ledge for the girl to put her feet up on on the passenger side.

Cars are deeply personal because as Americans, we spend a lot of time in them. Good times, shouting along to Underworld after a tight shutout, bad times, sitting in traffic while preoccupied with something i designed that doesn’t work right.

The little man was there the whole time, and i will miss him so.

Big shoes to fill, new car, whom i will also name Car (but probably use a lot of other names, too). Big, little shoes.