Monday, February 22, 2010

In the Snow, Man

I learned to drive in a 1962 Ford Falcon station wagon with a straight-six engine that got swapped for a rebuilt block a while after the car had passed 100,000 miles.

The Falcon, for those who don’t know the car, was a predecessor to the more famous Mustang. The Falcon was a great family car. We even had two seatbelts—one for the driver, one for the shotgun seat.

The Falcon I grew up in got a new home this weekend, hitching a ride north to my sister’s house.

Our particular Falcon got its start on the East Coast, as did I and two of my sisters. Dad was transferred to New York for four years mid-career, with the promise that he could return to the West Coast office when Mom had her fill of historical tours in New England. This is Gertie’s old parking sticker from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where we lived when Mom and Dad bought the car.

I was not the only one who learned to drive in this car.

It came with all the features. The radio had five presets for stations you really liked. Once it warmed up, it had excellent sound. Some stations had news. Others had music. Some had classical music. On the weekend you might pick up a ball game. All bases were covered.

Nowadays in cars that have fuel injection systems there’s no such thing as a choke. I learned to drive with a manual choke on an engine where fuel mixed with air in the carburetor before being delivered to the firing cylinders. And I learned that I could almost always set the choke better than any of the automatic chokes on later model cars. This was great in situations like starting the car at any great elevation, or in cold weather.

Note the defrost knob, next to the choke.

To get the defrost working—to keep condensation from fogging the inside of your windshield—you pull out the defrost knob, and you also pull out the knob marked “PULL FOR TEMP.” That brings in hot air from the engine block and routes it up to the vent below the windshield.

For heat for the passengers, you pull out the next knob over, and then you reach under the dash and open up the boxes that serve as vents into the cabin. If you turn this knob, a fan will go on to blow the hot air in a little faster. This was a warm car on a cold, rainy day. Five high-schoolers in wet clothes were enough to overpower the windshield defroster, but you could usually roll down a window and solve that problem.

Rounding out the instrument cluster were a cigarette lighter, designed to light cigarettes, and an add-on Dad installed: a genuine moo-cow horn. We always had a great time driving in farm country.

Factory air.

We put the car on a trailer headed north, and a day later my sister drove north to catch it at the other end.

Gertie in her new home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Room With a View

Monday afternoon I was cooped up in a very small office (not even enough room to stand upright), but the view out the window made it livable.

There’s no cell reception here.

After dark, the stars are incredible.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

So’s Your Grammar

Yup, grammar can be fun. Or it can kill you. The picture of a dead guy on the cover yells fun.

(signed in person!)

There’s a fine line between being able to draw simple, witty pictures that will appeal to children and not being able to draw at all.

Actually, I’m lying. It’s not a fine line at all. It’s a big, wide gulf.

Are so.

Bobble heads are cool.

Yeah, I’d totally rather look like one of the pencil necks. Except maybe the one on the left. He’s got kinda a ska sensibility to him.

Yeah. Just yeah.

(Cultural sensitivity teaching moment #1)

Did I mention yet the attention and detail that went into the illustrations here? When you consider the entire book, I bet the drawings took at least 15 minutes to complete.

Extra points for G’s goatee.

I get it that May is a little girl with a scary vacant eyes and a flaming red fright wig.

But is Can facing forward or backward?

In other words, I can see that Can is an ass. But are we looking at Can’s can?

You will probably get what you want more quickly if you are a cheerleader named Wanna, but I’m skipping back to an earlier lesson. Let’s keep moving forward.

(Cultural sensitivity teaching moment #2)

I am concerned that we are about to cross into a section of the book that may not be appropriate for children.

Oh. Never mind. I misunderstood.

Notice that phrase that gets used here? The phrase is “mixed up.” Remember that for a moment. We’ll use it further down.

I say I hope his singing is better than his drawing.

Or “Water got drunk.”

Who’s arithmetic?

There’s that “mixed up” phrase again. Keep watching.

Did I mention my concerns that some of this grammar could be too risqué for some younger minds?

Hey! What happened to “up” in the phrase “mixed up”? You mean that if the phrase comes at the end of the sentence, you can’t include that tiny little two-letter word? Just because it would be the last word in the sentence? Because, even though it’s not a preposition, it looks just like a word that is?

As Winston Churchill said, “This is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

Getting mixed is what happens to cake batter.

(Incidentally, nice mnemonic for helping us all remember the difference between “lie” and “lay.” To remember the difference, all you have to remember is: the difference.)

How about “I feel self-righteous”? Or “I feel sanctimonious”?

My mother never made any mistakes.