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1959, 1995, 2015?

So, in 1993, I was a the wee slip of a girl you see above, clambering joyously aboard a car-hauler to inspect her Very Own Car. Most teenagers dream of their first set of wheels, and have quite specific ideas about what their dream car is. Most never do get their hands on their dream car. I, however, was a very, very lucky girl. Lucky in that I dreamed on an accessible scale, and that my Dad was running a VW repair shop at the time and tended to have his ear to the ground as regarded any vintage German steel on the market. I’d hoped someday to own a vintage VW (pre-’67, in those days). We got the glorious beast you see above (and below) for $500 from a neighbor who’d originally bought it thinking it would be a father-and-son project for his boy. His kid, however, was not even slightly inclined, and so the car languished in a barn for a few years before our neighbor gave up and sold it in disgust. He knew that it was going to an appreciative party. This car, a 1959 Type I, was everything I’d ever hoped for and more…it was even green(ish). My favorite color!

I was trying to imitate some of the pinup girl poses in Hot VWs.

Please forgive me: I was trying to imitate some of the pinup girl poses in Hot VWs. I was 18, and obvs. v. v. proud of my car and my horrible hand-made halter-top thingy.

The first year that I owned it, it was largely un-driveable. The original 36-horsepower engine was using oil and had a LOT of endplay in the flywheel, and rather than risking spinning the main bearings we left the car parked while a fresh, new 1600cc single-port went up on the engine stand. Part of the whole deal of my having this car was that I had to have sweat-equity in on it. I considered it a privilege, an honor, and a treat to get my hands dirty. I’d been earning my pocket money for some years by helping out in the garage. When I was just a little rat, Dad would have me sorting bolts, wire-brushing crud off the halves of engine cases, or doing other low-stress chores. When I was big and strong enough to manage the bulky air impact wrench, I got to un-bolt connecting rods from crankshafts. I LOVED doing that chore. There’s something innately pleasing to me in the sound of the airgun. That ba-ba-ba-ba-brrrrrrrrrr. Loves it! I moved on from knocking off connecting rods to actually stripping old engines for core.

That was always an adventure. Sometimes you’d be able to postmortem the engine failure, where a head stud had backed out of the engine case or a valve had floated and shattered on the piston. Most of the time, though, it was just boring old quotidian wear. Worn out rings, scored cylinders, slow, miserable engine decline. Bleh.

Once, though, I was tearing down an old Type III engine from the junkyard, and in its time out to pasture, a mouse had crawled down the carburetor, through an intake manifold, found an open valve, made a nest in one of the cylinders, and then died. When I started on that engine, I thought, “man, something smells kind of weird.” The smells just kept getting worse and worse as I worked my way down the engine. When I finally pulled the offending cylinder head off and found a wad of fluff and a decomposing mouse carcass, I seriously almost barfed. The smell cannot be underemphasized. It was unspeakable.

So, after tearing down plenty of old engines, I got to put one together. Under supervision, of course, but I personally got to assemble an entire Volkswagen engine at age 17. It was kind of a big deal to me.

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Another consideration with this car was that it started out with 6-volt electrical system. As a teenager, I figured I would want a stereo at some point. As a parent, my Dad wanted my car to have decent headlights and indicators. So, a large part of the summer of ’94 was spent in the junkyard scavenging up the appropriate wiper motor, turn signal switch, horn, and starter motor. I plunked down for a pricey pair of halogen headlights, which were the big deal in technology at the time, and which met with considerable parental approval. I dorkily spent a blissful summer evening with the headlights on, pointed at the side of the house, aligning the beams with a screwdriver.

Between my Dad and I, we had the thing up and running before the start of my Senior year of highschool. In 1995, the car looked like this:

1995

1995

It had kind of a bald patch on its roof via its former owner, who had tree branches overhanging her garage. Every time she pulled in or out of the garage, the car got a pine-needle sweeping, which eventually played merry hell with the finish.

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Most people looked at it and saw nothing but a shabby old Volkswagen in a dodgy shade of green, but to me, it was about as close to perfection as I could ever hope to get. More importantly, it was mine.

Most of the time I drove my car with the respect that it deserved, but like most teenagers, I did show off occasionally. I learned that highschool boys are uniformly unimpressed by girls who do burnouts. Nor do they rise to the bait of a third-gear scratch. Boo to that. I found that effecting a third-gear scratch took a considerable great effort. You really have to hop off of the clutch pedal with a quickness and be quite aggressive with the accelerator. It became, like the successful application of a good cat’s-eye eyeliner, a private triumph.

My favorite trick, though, wasn’t a trick at all. I just liked seeing how smoothly and cleanly I could run up through the gears. There was a stop sign on the way in to town, with the speed-limit (60 mph) posted a ways off, and my daily ritual was to try to hit the speed limit by the time we passed the sign. I could only do that if I hit all of the gear changes just right and didn’t waste a scrap of the lordly 53 horsepower at my disposal. Same thing held for downshifting when slowing for a stop. It gave me a certain satisfaction to downshift at just the right speed for each gear so that you could feel a gentle pull of deceleration, but the engine didn’t get yoinked up to uncomfortably high revs.

I enjoyed driving that car pretty much daily my Senior year of highschool. Then, I went to college, and what with living in town (a town of less than 6,000 at that) I hardly drove at all for the next four years – just once in a while to get out of town to visit my folks. Then, I wa gone for a year abroad studying. When I got back to the US and moved to Kansas City, the ’59 was put back in action for a couple of years, until the humidity and salty winter streets really started to take their toll on the poor old beast.
spring 2003
Finally, in 2003, I decided to spare the sheetmetal, and drove it back up to my folks’ place in northwestern Nebraska, and took posession of a wonderful/horrible 1981 Scirocco. That car was the fount of a lot of fun and a lot of trauma, depending on the day. It had…gremlins. They lived in the fuel injection system, principally and rendered the car deeply unreliable and expensive to care for. Eventually, I sold that car, fecked around with other stopgap measures, and finally, in ’06, said “fuck it” and quit driving altogether. Had I not had a baby, I’d probably still be living in “fuck it” territory. I don’t like to waste fuel, and I don’t like to drive cars that aren’t fun. Joel’s Toyota Tacoma isn’t that much fun. His mom’s Honda Civic is, but I tend to scare her when I drive it, so I’m sort of banned from the Civ.

But, as I say, I need to schlep Mr. Kiddo around town from time to time, and what with my car all disassembled in northwestern Nebraska, awaiting rust repair and a paint job, I was in a quandary. What worked out was the longterm loan of my Mom’s old Superbeetle that she’d quit driving:

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The loaner-era end is sort of in sight, however. The last time I talked to my folks on the phone, my Dad was happy to report that the fellow we’d lined up to do the rust repair on the ’59 had finally hauled the old hulk off to get started on it. I’m not sure how long it’ll take him to patch the car back together and lay down a few beautiful and protective layers of paint on it, but I’m guessing that sometime this coming summer I’ll be heading back up to the Panhandle to start re-assembling. It’s going to be one hell of an undertaking.

Back when I parked the car at my folks’ place in ’03, Dad and I started stripping the car down. Pulled all of the interior, removed the bumpers, running boards, and fenders, started un-wiring it. We put in several solid days work and got it to looking like this:
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I knew these things existed, but it was doubly depressing to view daylight through the body of my car:
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Still, could be worse. Most of the car doesn’t have holes through it. The floorpan is solid. The heater channels, largely so. The aprons are in good shape. The worst of it is the rear quarter panels, where the fender meets the body at the floorpan. There’s a little damage in the right front quarter, too, though left side is clean. There was a lot of sand built up in the right front heater channel and that had retained moisture, hastening the demise of the body panels there. Anyway, that’s all Kevin’s problem now. I’ve saved up the money to pay him to deal with all of that horror.

Someday, in the reasonably-foreseeable-future, this car will look better than it has since sometime in the 1960s, I’d guess. I’m so excited about the prospect of having my car back, and done up the way it ought to be, that I just about can’t think straight. This is the culmination of a dream I’ve had since I was about 14.

There’s still going to be a lot of work to put it all back together. I mean, it’s basically re-building the car in entirety. Wiring harness, interior installation, all of the little chrome strips in the window rubber…just everything. Plus, the ball joints were going to cock when I parked it, the transaxle boots were getting leaky, it was showing general wear and tear in a dozen places. It’ll be a while before it’s actually on the road again. All the same, I’m excited to get my hand back in the game.

The imaginary deadline I have for the car is summer 2015. That’ll be my 20th highschool reunion. It would be pretty sweet to rock up to the old shithole in my freshly-restored first car.

Car of the Future

Last night, to end a very silly not-argument about the word “recidivist” and its proper spelling, I took to Joel’s gigantic dictionary, a Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary from 1972. After I’d won the argument (heh) I spent a bit of time just thumbing through the tome, because I like dictionaries and just randomly discovering words. What I discovered yesterday, however, were two sections of color plates one of which contained the following images:

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This is the full page of Automobiles. The bottom row caught my eye:
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Initially, I’d been charmed that Webster’s saw fit to feature an AMC Javelin and a Jensen Interceptor, two cars of roughly equivalent merit from their respective countries.
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I’d kind of glossed over the “Car of the Future” at the time, dismissing it as a flight of fancy from a bored illustrator.
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Unbidden, it kept resurfacing in my brain. It looked like it had to have been some kind of Italian supercar concept from the 1970s. A little bit of Google action very swiftly turned up some proper information. This was a Pininfarina-designed Ferrari concept car from 1969, the 512 S Berlinetta Speciale concept. For a multi-view photogallery, click here. And for a view of that fashion model’s leopard-spotted bottom, there are a few more photos presumably from Pininfarina’s archives on Tumblr. This concept car was sufficiently exciting to make it to Hot Wheels scale, apparently, but the actual car was never put into production. I kind of think we might have had that particular Hot Wheels car in a little bin of toys at my elementary school when I was a kid. It really, really looks familiar.

I don’t know what it says about me as a person that I would, could, and did turn up images and information for an obscure supercar concept design after viewing vaguely-labeled thumbnail illustration in a 42-year-old dictionary, but there it is.

Oh look, a thingy!

Haha, it’s the Winter Solstice and true to form, I am desperately sick of my hairdo.

To be fair, I decided about a year ago, when I was first pregnant, to just go ahead and let it grow out as much as it could while I was all aflush with hormones and prenatal vitamins. And grow it did. Went from this:
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to this:

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in the span of about a year.

And now, because I have a short hair-attention span and a yen to do unfortunate things to my barnet in the wintertime, I am just itching for a new haircut.

I told Joel I am going to hold off making any decisions until the Vernal Equinox, not because of any astrological superstitious crap, but because I know I’m not quite right in my head until the days are longer. But what I am pretty sure is going to happen is that I am going to revert to my old standby, the Sue Perkins haircut. Short, choppy, side-parted, and kind of tufty, this has ultimately been the best-to-live-with sort of haircut for me.

sueperkins1 sueperkins2(good for girls with short attention spans!)


Yep, I’m pretty sure this will be happening.

Which is a darn sight better than this IMG_4609

Breakfast Championship

Apologies to Maggie Mason and “Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch.”

I’ve long held that cold pizza is the ideal breakfast. Couple of slices of leftover pizza, fresh from the fridge, and a big, hot cup of coffee. Dunno if there’s a finer meal to start the day.

Oh, sure, a fresh bagel spread with guacamole, with slices of tomato straight out the the garden, paper-thin slices of red onion, and Swiss cheese is a fine first meal of the day, now that I think about it.

But I have found yet another unconventional breakfast to savor, and it is leftover chili eaten with corn chips. You know how chili is always better as leftovers. The beans soak up most of the sauce and all the spices mellow. It turns out to be absolutely perfect to scoop up with tortilla chips.

My opinions on leftover saag paneer are consistent with my take on pizza and/or chili, by the way. Perfectly acceptable breakfast. Ideal, in fact. Cereal’s for chumps.

I’m doing a remarkably poor job of this Holidailies thing. I can and will cash in the excuse that I’ve got a teething baby in the house and most of our waking hours are filled with a peculiar fractious grunting noise which is slowly grating my nerves into coleslaw. I will be beyond pleased when this particular phase of things resolves itself. In the meantime, there is baby acetaminophen and freezy toys. My hat is entirely off to the generations past who had to go through this all without such technologies.

So, excuses made, I’d like to rave a bit about one of my favorite things to do these days: nap in the bathtub. Seriously, it is one of the great sensual pleasures of our age to run a hot bath, climb in, lean back, and zonk out.

It is faintly embarrassing to fall asleep in the bath so often, but on the other hand, it is so comprehensively delightful to have a nap all enveloped in hot water that I’ve shaken off the shame and fully embraced the pleasure in bathtub-napping. And why not? It’s low cost, hygienic, fat-free, and doesn’t contravene any of the laws of Leviticus. Unless you’ve got mildew in your bath. In which case, there are Leviticussy problems. As there are in so many aspects of our poly-cotton modern times.

And I suppose if you were ambitious enough to eke out a crafty wank whilst soaking in the bath, that would be a Leviticus problem, too. What a bugger. Oh yes, another freakin’ law broken.

Look, just run a hot damn bath, boil your bottom, have a nice little snooze, don’t get up to no funny business, and wipe down the tub when you’re done. It’s all good then. All very, very, very good indeed.

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With a little scrounging, a little thrift-shopping, and a little swearing, I got the tree all festive today. Didn’t get to shoot anything at it via compressed air, however. Maybe next year.

I started ratting around in my craft-crap bins and realized that I had a crapton of tinsel garland that I’d pulled out of a dumpster years and years ago. So of course that went on the tree. It was, for the record, brand new tinsel garland, still in the original plastic zipper bags. I forgot how much I like the scent of tinsel garland. It has a particular plasticky, tinny aroma that nothing else does.

Despite not being very decorate-y people, Joel and I have a positively ludicrous number of strings of lights between the two of us, so the tree is now festooned with four of them:

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Seeing as this sucker is 7′ tall, four strings of lights is just the right number.

I had a bunch of stuff I needed to take to the thrift shop this morning: clothing Joseph had outgrown and stuff of mine that I hadn’t worn in even distant memory and would probably never wear again, honestly. Things that were either too juvenile, or else just too ugly, even for my own questionable tastes. Anyway, while we were at the thrift shop, I picked up a couple of random bags of colored baubles for the tree, since I had none. I had some other ornaments: wooden soldiers, a pretty brass carousel, snowflakes of stamped stainless steel, and other family keepsakes, but I didn’t have the basic colored-balls-on-a-hook that one typically associates with tree decorating. Fortunately, you can get a good-sized sack of them for all of a dollar.

While I was at it, I also acquired a decent winter hat for Joseph:

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I’ve been looking for a good, warm hat for the little chap since well before the weather turned cold, and haven’t been able to find anything good. Most of the baby hats on offer are just flimsy little cotton jersey beanies. They’re okay for around the house if you don’t keep your house very warm (we don’t) but simply won’t cut it outdoors in Kansas winter. This one, however, is quite acceptable. It’s an acrylic/wool/angora blend and is double-layered and fairly tightly knit. This ought to keep his little ears from freezing off the sides of his head!

Don’t know why it’s so hard to get a decent baby hat around here. Apparently people either don’t relinquish them to the thrift shops, or else nobody buys them in the first place. I’d be less surprised if we lived someplace with really mild winters, but it gets capital-c Cold here. I guess maybe there’s the assumption that you’re only taking your kid from the house to the car, from the car to the house or something, but we’re out on foot pretty much daily (though to be honest on the really cold days, our walks are pretty brief). For that, you want a good warm hat, along with a fleecy snowsuit. I bundle the little fellow up quite snugly, then I bungie him to me with the Moby Wrap, so he gets the benefit of my body heat and my coat, too. Occasionally old ladies will tut me for taking him out in the weather, but honestly, he’s so layered up and snuggled down that he’s not the slightest bit bothered by the cold.

Joel either read my blog or my mind, and came home last night with quite a nice fake tree, so we’re now ready to get Festive.

I draped it in lights today, then failed to find the extension cord, so right now, the tree project is stalled out slightly. I’m actually going to re-arrange things in the living room a bit tomorrow and get it all set up properly, so photos may ensue.

In the meantime, here are a couple of clips of my favorite Top Gear presenter, the gloriously dorky James May, from one of his side projects, Man Lab. In the Man Lab Christmas Special, they Rube Goldberg-ed their way through “modernising” holiday traditions, including this extremely dramatic way of felling a tree:


Once acquired, they then contrived to decorate it via air-cannon:

I particularly approve of the bauble-mortar. My brother-in-law constructed a similar contraption for firing the wedding bouquet and garter when he and my sister got married. It was the highlight of quite frankly the absolute most fun wedding reception I’ve ever attended. I’m firmly of the opinion that festive occasions in general could all be improved by the introduction of some sort of air-cannon.

I guess I’m going to try to find us a Christmas tree tomorrow.

They’re usually pretty much going begging in the thrift shops. I wasn’t going to bother this year; I have never done holiday decorations in my whole adult life and I figured Joseph is too little to really know any difference, but I was thinking, “how crap would it be for Joseph to look back through the family photos someday and see positively no festive-ness taking place during his first Christmas?” So, even though I’m not a big celebrater and I’m sure we’ll be batting Cats out of the tree every five minutes by the clock, even though we have feck all for baubles and gizzies, and I have the aesthetic sense of a concussed gopher, by golly, we’re decorating a (fake) tree.

For example, I’m quite glad that these photographs exists:

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I think, eventually, I may seek to do something like my Mom does nowadays. She has a couple of sizeable Norfolk Island Pine trees that she festoons with very lightweight ornaments. She has some darling crocheted snowflakes, and some little birds made out of feathers and styrofoam and a few other delicate little baubles which look really cute nestled amongst her oversized houseplants.

But for now, a secondhand fake tree with a generous number of strings of lights and a handful of baubles will have to do.

I dasn’t Google it.

Oh, so many years ago, before I moved to Kansas City, I made a road-trip here with some college friends to visit a couple of other college friends who were already living here. On the trip back home, we pulled off the Interstate somewhere in the back of beyond in central Nebraska to re-fuel the car.

Across the on-off ramp, there was an “adult entertainment warehouse,” and I swear to you, hand-on-heart, the damn place was called The Porn Barn.

Sadly, however, we encountered The Porn Barn in like 1997 or 1998, back before digital cameras were affordable or broadly available, and cell phones were barely capable of taking and making calls, let alone being also cameras, videorecorders, game systems, and The Internet. And regular photography was kind of a hobby for the not-impoverished, a class into which I definitely failed to fall. Getting film developed always involved diverting funds from something actually critical, so I took very few photos. Plus there was always that letdown of getting your prints back, and like two thirds of them were shit, anyway.

So, what I’m getting at was that none of us was prepared or equipped to take a photo of The Porn Barn so as to substantiate our reports of having encountered a Porn Barn. And on subsequent trips between Kansas City and northwestern Nebraska I have failed to re-discover The Porn Barn so that I can once and for all capture it photographically.

I have lasting woe that I never got a picture of The Porn Barn, and I am positively terrified to try to do a Google Image Search for said ‘Barn. I fear The Porn Barn will have to remain a mystery, a legend, a grotty blip in my dodgy memories.

Black blue jeans

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I climbed up to the shelf above the closet in my sewing room today to get some crap down from “the archives” (or rather the boxes of accumulated crap that represents the criminal evidence of my youth). I needed my old cassette tape collection for reasons.

Okay, by reasons, I mean that I felt like listening to poor quality recordings of shitty rock bands that engendered in me the first fizzings of adolescent hormonal nuttiness and a burning need to curl, fry, spray, and tease my hair into a tormented thatch which could easily have housed a moderate flock of guinea fowl. Don’t be fooled by this outer crust of “cool” bands ranked across the top of the box. Just below the surface lurks all of the Mötley Crüe, Poison, and AC/DC required to seriously dent a young girl’s understanding of romance, sex, and the place of leather bodices in fashion.

For my birthday this past year, my parents gave me this wonderful all-in-one stereo affair that contains a radio, record player, CD player, cassette player, and a jack for USB music devices. It’s a delightful little thing, about the size of a small microwave oven, and has been in regular use since Joseph was born. I regularly put on some old doo-whop music or Big Band and two-step the little chap around the front room. He seems to find it soothing. But today, I thought that it would be amusing to dig into the archives.

If you were to make a guess as to my schoolgirl appearance based on the contents of this box of cassettes, you’d be forgiven for assuming that I’d worn a whole lot of black mascara, skintight acid wash jeans, band tee-shirts, and my boyfriend’s motorcycle jacket. There’s an awful lot of cheesy, sexual-innuendo-laden buttrock in that box, is what I’m saying. I never was that cool, though. And I certainly lacked the levels of commitment necessary to transform myself into a badass rocker chick. I was vaguely aware that deep down, my musical tastes were substandard, even by early 1990s benchmarks, and that when pressed I’d be unable to stand up to the usual type of record-store-clerk musical obscurity pissing match. So, I didn’t wear my musical heart on my sleeve and looked like a generically dorky Midwestern schoolgirl.
Me1994

All the same, the music that spoke to me mostly talked dirty:

I’ve lived a life largely unfettered by good taste and now that I’m well into my 30s, I am thoroughly unabashed about enjoying the dumb crap I enjoy. Buttrock, JPop, Sousa marches, noise, basically whatever foolishness crosses my ears and and sparks a little flurry in my depraved hippocampus. A lot of the music I love best certainly pre-dates the heyday of my own youth; hell, some of it outright pre-dates me. The bulk of Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue was wailed out well before 1977. AC/DC was well on their way to rock-n-roll world domination by the time I got a look-in. I just plain love big, noisy, simple rock. Slade, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, pretty much anything that caused parents distress in the 1970s has been causing me great joy since ever I was aware that I liked certain types of music better than others.

All this should be considered a guilty pleasure, I suppose, but I simply cannot muster up a whit of guilt over my sketchy but enthusiastic enjoyment of naff old guitar-driven party music. Soz, not sorry.

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