February 21, 2004
I Have Seen the Manatee

B&W is on vacation, visiting family and the manatee.

Back on or about March 2.

Posted at 09:03 AM
February 10, 2004
Naked in America

Things to do (or not) when the car doesn't start for the second time in a week, and it's 10 above zero and everything's covered with snow:

1. Kick tires.
My relationship with my cars has always been a little schizophrenic. I drove my 1981 Chevette well into 1992, when its myriad problems drove me to despair. I then bought a 1990 Accord, which seemed to me the Cadillac of Hondas, although it was already far from new. The Accord has been a highly reliable and happy car, but now the signs are telling me the end is in sight. The creeping rust keeps creeping; the radio's shorting out, and this battery thing is a continual worry.

2. Talk pleadingly to car, directing pleas to dashboard.
So now I am thinking wild, crazy thoughts. Like what if I just didn't have a car? It doesn't sound so crazy until I remember that I am an American, living in America, and outside of a few select areas, Americans have cars, mostly because most places they live are set up so that they can't go anywhere if they don't drive.

3. Kick dashboard.
But I live in a major city, right next to public transit. Not only that, we have sidewalks and taxis and real neighborhoods. So what if...I just got rid of the car and pitched my lot in with all of these things?

4. Look for jumper cables. Discover they have been stolen.
What if we just didn't have a car?

5. Call AAA and wait on hold for 20 minutes without ever talking to a real person. Listen endlessly to tape-recorded messages trying to sell you things. Wonder, "If this was an actual emergency, would I be dead of hypothermia yet?" Get mad. Hang up.
I would miss my car; I've always liked it. I would not, however, miss:
-paying for insurance, license plates, city stickers, parking permit, and so on
-the eternal bait-and-switch that is dealing with auto repair and maintenance
-car payments, when the Accord finally gives up. To buy another car that will eventually give up, too.

6. Go around the corner to auto parts store. Buy new cables.
So...what if?

7. Call neighbor and ask for jump.
Learning to live without a car would require some life recalibration. Visiting friends in the suburbs would be problematic. Road trips would take some more planning and car rental would cost us. It's been reassuring to know the car is there in an emergency, in case the cats get sick, for example. Grocery shopping for certain items (kitty litter, for instance) would be tricky.

8. While waiting for neighbor, kick tires one more time, just for spite.
But...what if?

9. Contemplate selling the whole damn thing.
But we take taxis and fly most places anyway, and it's my sense that what we save in insurance, etc., would offset the cost of this. I need to run some numbers and think some more. Living without a car would be strange for a while; it would be like being naked, in America, without our armor of steel. We would, in a sense, be walking--literally--away from the American Dream. But we might also be free.

Posted at 07:02 PM
February 09, 2004
Frances and James

Sad to see the news of the death of Frances Partridge, who died last week. Until her death at 103, she had been one of the last links to the Bloomsbury group.

Fittingly, then, she had always had a lot to say about friendship. Here, she wrote in Love in Bloomsbury:

Why, I wonder, have writers paid so little honour to friendship?....The exciting truth about friendship is it is founded on choice; its possibilities of growth and change are manifold. It fertilises the soil of one's life, sends up fresh shoots, encourages cross-pollination and the creation of new species.

I've always felt much the same way.

Not all of the links to Bloomsbury are gone, of course. There's always Angelica Garnett, who pulled the uber-Bloomsbury stunt by marrying her father's old boyfriend (unbeknownst to her). (Here's a fascinating interview.)

In more respectable news, good old Jimmy Carter is touring Africa and keeping a blog. A traditionalist, he refers to his posts as "Web logs" (and making me think of that old James Thurber line about confusing "the thinger for the thing contained").

He is complete and rather scholarly ("We were honored and entertained by national and local political leaders, with surprisingly delicious meals of local fish, chicken, whole roasted lambs, and local fruits,") and suitably serious and concerned, especially in his awful stories about guinea worms. Every now and then, though, the diplomatic mask slips:

There were also interminable dances, with drums and flutes.


Posted at 08:54 PM
February 08, 2004
Deep Freeze

Looks like we won't be using the back steps for some time.

In other news, a new camera arrived this week. Hooray!

Posted at 01:40 PM