Wet Feet

July 25, 2019

Photo Credit: A Photographer

It seems like I never spot an MG Midget (no disrespect to any people of small stature) on the road these days. You know, the tiny open-top convertible from Britain that looked like something a James Bond want-to-be would drive if he couldn’t afford an Aston Martin. When I was a kid I saw them quite often. They were usually a deep maroon, hunter green, sky blue or vivid orange color, and the top was always off.

They weren’t usually in great condition. In fact, my recollection is that many of them needed some work. Most had plenty of dents and scratches, with rust creeping through in the usual places. But it didn’t matter. To me, they were unique and cool. The guys driving them always wore sunglasses and smoked cigarettes. They’re probably French dudes who date models, I’d think.

I knew a guy who drove one. Well, I didn’t really know him — he was the father of a “friend” of mine. I use the term friend loosely, because he was a kid from church, so I kind of had to be nice to him. You know, trying to be Christianly, and all. Regardless, this guy’s dad had a motorcycle, too, doubling-down on the coolness factor in my young eyes. Coming from a family that only drove reliable and economical Japanese sedans, owning a roadster AND a motorcycle seemed like the pinnacle of rebellious bad-assery.

The problem was that that my friend’s old man wore eyeglasses instead of sunglasses, he didn’t smoke, and if he spoke French he never showed it off or bragged about it — something I, as a seventh-grader taking a French class, assumed anyone with the ability would most certainly flaunt. Plus, he was a portly fellow who commonly wore sweaters — really the epitome of uncool in the mind of a middle school kid — thus putting a deep door ding in my theory about MG drivers.

My first car was a 1982 Volkswagen Jetta. Despite being European and a little unique, it completely lacked any female (let alone model) attracting coolness. In retrospect, it was really awful in most regards, but it served its purpose, which was simply to to get me around. Regardless, I loved it. No matter how bad it might have been, I think everyone has some odd fondness for their first car.

Yes, my Jetta certainly had a few problems. The major issue, at least in my teenage mind, was that the stereo totally sucked. All of my friends had awesome stereos that caused permanent hearing loss. If I was expecting a friend to pick me up, I didn’t have to watch, I simply listened. But mine just crackled, gurgled, and spat. It had a cassette player, but it ate tapes better than it played them. It was a total bummer during an era when guitar solos needed to be cranked up.

There were some minor issues as well. For example, the driver’s window wouldn’t roll up or stay up. I had to use both hands to grab about a 1/4″ sliver of exposed glass, pull up carefully as far as I could, put my forearms on the window to hold it, then use my fingers and palms to simultaneously push outward and upward until the window was all the way up. I had some duct tape around the top of the door/window frame (on the inside, of course, to avoid looking trashy), and at this point would press the tape firmly against the window to hold it in place. I’d have to replace the tape every couple of weeks when it would lose its tackiness and the window would start dropping down on its own as I drove. Not a big deal.

The second minor issue was that the car didn’t hold oil. Literally. My oil light was constantly on. I put a quart in every other morning — enough that you could see a tiny drop on the dipstick if the lighting was perfect. This routine went on for about a year. I thought I was being frugal by living with this problem, rather than getting it fixed. However one day I did some math, and accepted the fact that I had spent far too much on oil, so I finally took it to a mechanic. I distinctly remember him looking at me like I was the dumbest kid ever. “I’m surprised the EPA isn’t after you,” he scoffed, pointing a greasy fingernail at the bottom of my hoisted car. It was caked with oil that had been seeping from a myriad of places. I did (and still do) feel truly guilty about being a rolling oil spill. But, as a grown man looking back, I’m mostly just amazed by the German engineering that allowed a car to run for so long with no oil.

The final minor issue worth noting was that there were some holes in the floorboard by the back seat. As a result, when it was raining and I drove through a deep puddle, water would rush in, filling up small indentions that were meant for the rear passengers’ feet. I could never pinpoint where the water was entering, and it was strange how it came in so quickly and easily, yet it took so long to drain out.

Sometimes, on really stormy days, it would fill these feet areas completely. Then, when driving down hill, the water would crest and come rushing into the front of the car. I would go up a hill and it would slosh into the back again. This could go on all day. There was sometimes enough water that it would cause my shoes to become saturated, eventually leading to wet socks and wet feet. Looking back, I realize this was pretty gross, but I always thought my shoes would have been even wetter (and probably muddy) if I had been walking through the rain on these days. And driving was better than walking.

(Side Note: In the winter, the water would often freeze, leaving blocks of ice that could last for weeks or even months.)

My cars today have decent stereos, the windows work, and they don’t seep oil or have large puddles of water inside of them. But their main purpose is still just to safely get me and my family from point A to point B. That’s good enough for me. Somewhere, however, in the back of my mind, where practicality is forbidden to enter, as I sit firmly entrenched in middle age, I think about it. I think about how much fun it would be to fly down the open road, sunglasses on, the wind rushing past me, in a little MG. Maybe one day.

Un jour. Oui, oui.

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Book Ideas List

October 21, 2018

I’ve been busy lately and haven’t had much time to write. Truthfully, I’ve also felt rundown and tired. I’ve lacked all confidence and motivation. Social interaction has been a struggle. I feel old. My son started high school this year! I look in the mirror and see this aging man who was once full of life. Anyway, I don’t mean to be a downer. I know I’ll bounce out of this lull, and will soon be ready to write with a renewed sense of vigor. In the meantime, and as a way to stay productive, I’ve been compiling a list of possible future book/article ideas:

Ever-Fleeting Joy

How Gaming Ruined My Son and Tore My Family Apart

99 Ways to Fail Gracefully

99 Ways to Fail Gracefully in Business

99 Ways to Fail Gracefully at Exercise (The “Fail Gracefully” motif would go on and on to maybe be a really big hit series of books. Doubtful though, if I’m being honest…)

99 Easy Ways to Make Your Teenage Son Hate You

99 Ways to Annoy Your Family and Friends

A Man’s Guide to Sleeping on the Couch

99 Ways to Avoid Confrontation

Popularity is Overrated, but how Would I Know

99 Ways to Avoid Talking to People

How to Avert Attention in Awkward Situations

Fond Memories: My Sex Life Before Having Children

Growing Up Ugly: A Memoir

99 Ways to Conceal a Receding Hairline

A Man’s Guide to Suffering

Two Decent Sex Positions for Men with Small Penises (This is more of a short story.)

The Many Benefits of the AARP

Black Actually Isn’t as Slimming as You Think

Life in the Fast Lane: A Self Help Book for Slow People

You’ll Never Really Conquer Your Fears so Just Accept It

Sports You’ll Never be Great At (This is just a basic sports reference book.)

Everyone Dies and it Could Happen Today

Why are Your Children so Embarrassed by You?

There’s Hair in my Ears!

It’s Okay to Weep Uncontrollably

Men Are From Mars, Women Now Find You Repulsive

99 More Easy Ways to Make Your Teenage Son Hate You

Sex and Sleep Apnea Machines

Ever-Fleeting Joy, Part II

The Racers

August 21, 2018

as mothers hollered

and moths collided

the sweaty, mashed-hair kids

raced once more

through the streetlights’ fresh dots

then said their goodbyes

and pedaled slowly home

not yet understanding

how quickly summers go

Old Photo Albums

December 5, 2017

Thumbing through old photo albums

I see monochrome ghosts in the prime of their lives

Smiling

Laughing

A gleam in their eyes

Soon to be memories in a dusty book

The Balloon

November 28, 2017

against the poorly folded violet sky

a single balloon floats up toward night

another childhood dream let go of

The Ignorance of Youth

November 17, 2017

when you start catching glimpses of your father’s face

reflected in the mucky shop windows you pass each day downtown

— and if you haven’t yet, you will —

Mortality is suddenly that annoying frat brother from college

not so long ago

getting his ever-pubescent jollies

by razzing you about the ignorance of Youth

unaware that

if nothing more

Youth was your one true friend

The Table

November 15, 2017

“This old table has got to go,” my wife declared today

Old, indeed

And, admittedly, not very attractive

Well, really not at all

A hand me down from my wife’s father when we were married long ago

It bows a little in the middle

And wobbles a little more

The leaves slowly push themselves apart

Aging lovers tiring of each other’s charm

I sit silently in my weary, matching chair

Looking hard

Looking deep

The maple has darkened over time

The protective shine has worn away in many places

Allowing exposed grain to suck life in

Dust

Dirt

Greasy fingerprints of childhood ghosts

Flecks of cheap paint used for rainy-day art projects

And tiny, crushed-in cake crumbs from birthdays long forgotten

This is where we were

When life seemed like it would last forever

Of course we’ve since learned it doesn’t

This wooden slab served best friends

Close family

Neighborhood children

But, most days, just us

That was probably our preference

We ate big country breakfasts

Strange casseroles that were barely touched

Great-grandma’s homemade spaghetti recipe

Hotdogs and beans when times were tough

Grilled steak on summer Sundays

And carry out pizza for Friday fun

God, Fridays were fun

Game night

We just played Risk, I swear

Eating meals around the board for three days straight

So cautious not to disturb our patient armies

My wife was pissed, until she ended up winning

This is where we did homework together

Wrote letters to far-away people

Assembled toys on Christmas morning

Paid bills, and bills, and bills

Pieced together jigsaw puzzles in the dead of winter

And made important family decisions

I drank coffee here every Saturday morning

While loved ones faintly snored upstairs

The feeling of true contentment

This is where my babies sat

Being fed with little spoons

As they grew we only cut their food

Made them eat their vegetables

And finish their milk

When it wasn’t spilt

No use crying, but we sometimes shed a tear

Still, laughter was heard daily

And even an occasional prayer

Looking back now I realize many prayers were answered

Right here in our favorite spot.

The kids still come by every now and then

Though not too often, these days

Missed sorely, but never forgotten

“Suppose you’re right,” I finally reply

Running my wrinkled hand across our kitchen table.