Some Good Things Lost
I asked my grandmother if everything was wonderful in the good old days. She told me that “wonderful” can exist at any time as long as you are young and have enough money. She also said it’s better to be young than anything else, but since nobody stays that way, sources of money should always be cultivated.
My Grandpa Henry was a custodian at a community college for forty-three years. And although he made a decent “working man’s wage,” and in all other ways was a generous man, not once in his life did he pay more than two-hundred dollars for a car.
He had a thing for extremely tuckered government vehicles at state auctions. One year he landed a 1970-something Plymouth Fury for twenty bucks because he was the only one to bid on it. Grandpa Henry was proud of that car even though the only way to start it was to wrap your left arm behind the wheel and pull hard on the shift while cranking the starter with your other hand and pumping the accelerator, hoping it fired before the battery croaked.
Grandpa Henry wasn’t much of a mechanic, but he was the best driver I have ever met. And when it came time to teach me how to drive he taught me in an elderly but street legal Ford pickup (a sixty dollar gem from the city of Yelm’s Parks Department). The truck had a standard transmission whose chief features were a sticky clutch and a column shifter called the Three on the Tree.
PERSEVERE OR TAKE THE BUS
Grandpa Henry said if I could learn how to drive the truck I could drive anything. I didn’t protest much because the only option was the Fury, which was about the size of an aircraft carrier and its unique method of ignition probably wouldn’t have passed muster at the DMV. It took a while, but I eventually mastered the truck.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE PARKING
I am the only person my age I know who can operate a manual three speed–or would if I could find one. Amazingly few people can work any kind of standard transmission anymore, and not one can parallel park worth a damn.
Failed Attempt at Disingenuous Backtracking
I do not dislike new things. I’d much rather eat a bagel freshly made than one that has survived yet another week at the espresso shoppe. Nor do I believe that there should be prolonged intervals between bathing and changing your socks, or in people who have a “philosophical dispute” with wiping. Some items are best left to the past.
Yet there is no way in hell I will ever ride in a driverless car. For once, it’s not so much fear that will prevent it, but the insult of the thing. I don’t give a robot’s patootie how competent AI is; I learned to drive in a vehicle not far removed from a Stanley Steamer, sitting close beside a good man whose only shortcoming was breath like last night’s gin, and dealing with a clutch that popped up to the knee and a front end that pulled to the left faster than CNN if you relaxed your grip on the wheel. Baby, I have the scars; no goddam circuit board can say the same.
FIVE GOOD THINGS GAINED
Like learning to drive, writing in a skill almost everyone can learn, but few do well. This week featured two debut authors, another pair who have quickly broken through with their second appearances and a writer whose mountain of stories keeps rising at a breathtaking pace. All excel at the literary version of the Three on the Tree.
Monday saw the site debut of Engela Snyman with The Eye of the Hurricane. This piece beautifully builds tension and, damn it, there’s something to be said for a woman sitting quietly in the garden, with a gun.
Richard Yu appeared Tuesday with his second LS story, The Bund. His voice is understated yet sincere, and he takes the reader gently into his world of quiet observations.
Another writer broke through with his second site story not far off the heels of his first. Poetic Loredano Cafaro’s brilliant The Maker of Creches will certainly “open your eyes!” It’s startling and it increases anxiety word by word. A stunner.
Thursday saw a first time writer who was a first time writer in the literal sense. The Wait was Lisa Toner’s first submission to anyone anywhere. Judging by her quiet, retained prose, I’d say she’s been at it forever, but here we have a fine exception to the rule.
This is my ninth weekly roundup and the ninth one in which Yashar Seyedbagheri is a part of. The odds favor that because Friday’s To Serve was Yash’s thirty-second story this year alone. You can read these in order or in any arrangement and understand the main themes in this ongoing tale–for Yash’s brilliant material does not take the linear path.
There you have them, the five good things that happened during the week that was. If you have missed any, they’re still around and are receiving visitors.
A Celebration of Hairspray
I am a fan of 1980’s pop culture, and have a blind spot for the obviously cynical power ballads of that era. But I also like the little things that have been mostly forgotten. So, below is a list of things and people and critters who shone like comets then but not so much now. As always, I leave the tenth slot ajar.
- Yahoo Serious
- Max Headroom
- Just Say No!
- “Screaming in the Night” video by Krokus
- Bartles and Jaymes fogeys
- Stroh’s Beer 15 packs
- The Yugo
- Fawn Hall