Monday, June 29, 2009

Why, my MOTHER'S name was Prizm!

If you want to feel like Scarlett at the barbecue, walk into a GM dealership on June 28 and tell them you have cash.

The fellas at my Chevy (where I have my own office and coffee machine), the sales-joes were pacing. Eagle-eyed, sales-psyched, trying not to look desperate. Hot horns played as I walked in out of the rain.

GM TIP: Your dealer is open.
well, maybe not yours. But mine.

In a showroom of Corvettes, Camaros, and Caddies standing behind the gym cupping cigarettes in their hands, the Cobalt is the square plain girl who hangs back, not even wise-cracking to fit in. That might be the Malibu, or her less-cute sidekick the Impala. The Cobalt can't even bother to come in a color.

I had dropped by on the day before and driven an 08 with 600 miles on it, then left them wanting more in a "I gotta be somewhere, but I'll call you Monday" slam-bam.

Now my Sales-Joe is with other customers -- sputter! what?! Big cool senior sales guys are calling him the Cobalt King, and swarm me to see what on earth they can do to make my stay here more comfortable. We did a musical number.

My man is with a mother- teen daughter combination. You can see she wants the Camaro by the way she runs her chain across her bottom lip. She probably really wants aMustang, but there are silver Cobalts lined up like Rats at Ring Figure. And that's what she'll take.

I drove them all. Another 08 with 25K that had been a rental and smelled like it. An 09 with spoiler. I didn't like it immediately, though there was no difference between the 2 except the spoiler and the weird OnStar mirror that I found distracting.

GM Tip: OnStar is still in business

Here comes another alarm system I will never properly use. I think if OnStar calls me when I have had a rollover, it had better be to sing "Softly and Tenderly."

I was about to go with the 08 just because that crazy mirror was so irritating. Tammy says she can't wear glasses because she can't stop looking at the frames. This is not a problem I have ever had, but I now understand it completely. Joe is worried: I am flaking, and the Big Boys are not keeping me entertained enough in spite of all their tricks.

Every one of them claimed to have owned a Prizm. This is like claiming you watch PBS: the ratings do not back up this data. They claimed to have loved (with wistful sighs from the more experienced) the Citation, both of which I had named as my previous Chevys. They claimed to know people at my company (SMALL WORLD!). To have relatives in my town (You don't say).

At his little round table, Sales-Joe is trying not to lose one deal for the other -- he is Cobalt KING after all. They send me out in another 09 with no spoiler. I drove the low-mileage 08 again. I pulled into parking lots, made crazy New England style lefts, hopped the highway, got cut off and turned on the console info instead of the horn.
GM Tip: XM radio has Canadian sports.
in French. Which in Vermont we just call...AM radio.

Joe and I sit side-by-side with the invoices from the 08 and 09. You got curtain airbags? Yep - you got traction control? Yep. Here's the thing though. GM will give me a slash on the 09 enough to make it less than the 08, which has the aforementioned spoiler AND a big crease in the front bumper.

I drove the 09 again.
If you think this is taking long for you, think how it feels in real time.

All right, here's the outcome. The 09 - no spoiler - silver. Looks like a Matchbox car. Or a line drawing of a prototype of a car. It is not sporty, or racy, or sexy. But then 60% of you surveyed compared me to a type of health cereal - a split vote on oatmeal vs granola. So you shouldn't be surprised. Here then, is my wallet fold-out:

I call them Snap, Crackle and Pop.

You know how to pop the hood, don't you Steve....?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just one more service we provide

A report from the Society of Independent Newage Gals & Life Enhancers. That is a cheap acronym, but this is what happens when you pressure me to blog.

In fact, to show you how far behind I am, I am going to tell you about something that happened months ago. But I have been very busy. Helping you live the dream.

My buddy Jason contacts me -- we bachelor girls say "buddy," because while we can say "girlfriend" with impunity, "boyfriend" about another woman's husband is fightin' woids. He says "How would you like to stand in line at the bookstore for me to get Bill Russell's autograph?"

People I have stood in book signing lines for:
Jimmy Carter
Amy Tan
Barry Williams (you heard me)

People I have marched right up to because we are Hollins sisters:
Annie Dillard
Lee Smith
Jill McCorkle
Jeanne Larsen.. well, I actually do know her. I might have been standing in line for to ask for an extension.

Extenuating circumstances of this request:
Jason lives in New Hampshire; the bookstore is in the town next to where I work -- decidedly not in New Hampshire.

I honestly had no other plans.

Here is the thing about spinsters: we are either available or we are not. You think we are sitting home balling yarn or pressing flowers, and sometimes we are. But if we are, we are not really busy. If we are off to the theatre, driving to the airport, or helping Janice stencil the baby's room, we are busy, and we will tell you so. (And if we don't want to do your crazy errand, we will tell you we are stencilling the baby's room, so just keep that in mind.)

For me, I can sit around the bookstore reading The Economist as easily as I can sit in my house doing the same thing. So I said sure.

Jason's wife was mortified. But these are the things that only bachelors and the elderly can do -- the crazy screw-you-I-am-single self-serving tasks you would do if you could but you can't. Similarly, you are tolerating in-laws, which I just never...get.. to do.... (Church lady voice).

If you look hard enough in America's small towns, you will still find independent booksellers, and this is one area where they shine, because it is an "everybody wins" situation: draws traffic, raises sales, builds community. Wrecks traffic, clogs parking, loses sales. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The schedule had Russell arriving at 7pm. Patrons would be issued a line number when they bought their books, then group numbers would be called like airplane boarding. Until then, said the signs, "relax in our coffee shop."

So I went to the bookstore straight after work, bought the book, received number (brace) 548 and best wishes. Went to a fine dinner of Indian food, came back at 6:30 to get a good wingback chair. I really could have gone to a movie, but i already had prime parking, and if I moved my car I would never get back in, so I stayed where I was, and headed in.

There were a lot of rules. You know I love me some requirements.

Mr Russell is not signing anything but THIS book
Mr Russell is not posing for photos
Mr Russell can not chat
Do not taunt Mr Russell

In order to get through 700 signatures (or however many it was), we needed to observe these rules, or


No one was ruffled. It was a store full of people who just wanted to talk about old Celtics games and how Boston used to be, and how the game has changed because they are all hotshots now and no one plays team ball.

There were not enough wingbacks to go around, and too many old guys to give this middle-aged lady a seat. I had forgotten that most of the crowd would be old -- at least as old as Bill Russell. I had this same revelation standing graveside at Graceland. I pictured us 30 years from now going to hear Pat Benetar at Foxwoods. (or now, even) I wandered through the stacks listening to people's conversations, and made about 3 circuits before I was bored of that.

I knew that if this were Judy Blume, Jodie Foster, maybe even Tai and Randy, I would stay the night. Jason would stay the night. And tonight I am Jason's surrogate.

The groups being called by 100 began to slow to 50, then to 25, as people (with the collusion of Bill Russell) broke every rule. But what are you to do when an old red-faced Irish man clutches the big man's hand and gets teary-eyed talking about Johnny Most? Or the teenager, in his high school team jersey AND knee-brace tells him he was his inspiration.

So the night went on.

And now I am thinking, certainly this is more tiring to Bill Russell than it is to me. All I have to do is sit here.

The store officially closes to everyone but book holders. The coffee shop runs out of cookies, but keeps pumping coffee. Kids begin to fall asleep. Teens go out to the parking lot to throw a ball around. A rumor spreads that Russell is down to just scrawling "BR." At 10:30 I promise myself another 30 minutes, but we are only on #400 and I know it will not happen.

The cashier refunds my charge without protest and says (sincerely and very wearily) "I'm so sorry." And I assure her (not at all bitchy) that "it's really ok. I mean, I am coming out even."

I know Jason would have stayed. But only in a bachelor life he no longer inhabits. He might have been happy enough, as many of the men there were, to see the man up close and to talk about Larry Bird and replay every banner game as the hours unfolded slowly in front of them. Livin' the dream.

Living it for you. Just one more service we provide.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts on wind farming from the nineteenth century

Dear Almira, It has been too long since I have written you. I was for a time out of good note paper, then there was a dearth of stamps to be had. But this morning I find I have all of the necessary supplies at the ready and can tell you of the scuffle going on in and around the country regarding the plan for telegraph poles.

In the kind of absurd civic engineering idea that only builders of bridges where there are ferries and canals where there are footbridges can concoct, the telegraph office proposes to erect a chain of wire-poles from here to Boston, in order to facilitate Mr Lowell's business correspondence. A rendering of the entire network was unveiled last night at the lyceum to equal parts applause and outrage.

Can you imagine it: a train of wooden poles, fashioned from trees which have been cut down from one place, their ends lopped off, carted to another place and replanted in holes left by the original trees that had oncebeen there. They are 20 or 30 feet tall, and as many feet apart, planted like pickets with no fence. From one end of town to another, down the post road and on until the State House -- a vertical stand of railroad ties -- all to carry wire to the exchange.

The local Transcendentalists walked out barking scripture or poetry, no one was sure which. Mr Martin drilled his walking stick into the floor with each step, attempting to drown out the Telegraph men and Mr Lowell's toady. Some of the society ladies leaned forward expectantly, certain there must be more to the plan than 30 miles of bare totems. The blue-stocking girls leaned mannishly on the backs of chairs, having already refused seats to some elderly gentlemen from the seminary. They found camaraderie between themselves in a muttering group, which formed a salon of its own in the back of the room.

The chairman from the Telegraph office waved his hands like a conjurer, setting the charcoal renderings side-by-side across the edge of the stage. He touched sections of the drawings as he presented them -- one single finger lightly skimming the drawings as if they were made of water.

I did not know what to think, and I am aghast at the outpouring of support our local barons of industry gave for this blight on our pastoral landscape. How could such an endeavor possibly come to fruition? Certainly, in the harsh light of even a Massachusetts winter's day, one can see that the gash is not worth the gain.

"What of my livery business?" called Samuel Lorimar, from the piano bench he had set to the side after coming in late. "What about my courier boys?"

And it was a fair question, for wiry mill boys who can't endure the heavy loads count on Mr Lorimar to employ them for deliveries to Boston. A top-hatted man with a monocle, unknown to any in my hearing, threw back his head and said Mr Lorimar was "thinking small." "Hire them as telegraph boys," he said, letting the monocle drop. "Twice the jobs in half the time. Save you a fortune you can reinvest in pole expansion."

Mr Lorimar slapped his cap against his hand and missed the nearest spittoon.

"That goes right past my drive," the Widow Carr exclaimed. "I will see that ridiculous array from my morning room. I won't permit it."

The chairman smiled gently and said she wouldn't have to. It wasn't necessary. Widow Carr seemed relieved by the answer, not understanding what he'd said, but one of the Holyoke girls understood well enough and laughed out loud.

I have never been one to stand in the way of progress. After all, I owe my livelihood to the wheels of industry and the ingenuity of innovation. But we have come to ruin if these telegraph poles are the footprints innovation leaves behind. I hope I should not have to see it in my lifetime.

Your loving friend, and social reformer,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Damned inconvenient

I have about 20 mins before my next move in today's itinerary and I thought I would take a stab at writing a stream of consciousness entry, in an attempt at breaking the block that has been lingering for a while. By now you know the lists are just a way of appeasing you so my URL doesn't fall out of your browser history. I know you won't come back if it does.

Because I understand it has to be convenient for you.

Blogging is the same way. And blogger's block isn't really writer's block. It is a form of it, of course -- when you have nothing to say or no need to say it.

This is not my situation. You send me ideas all the time . (And sometimes they are even intentional. rim shot) I have no shortage of topics in draft, but it isn't just about the ideas or the typing. Sometimes the modem doesn't hold a signal. The computer takes too long to boot up and I wander away. I schedule my time too tightly, and blogging is not an A or B priority. (mostly because I can do it in my head to solve what I need out of it, and I am a little selfish that way)

I think of that line in Friends with Money when Frances McDormand says she stopped washing her hair because "my arms get tired."

As it is now, I had to write out (the horror) what I was thinking while waiting for the H-P "health check" to tell me to buy a new battery (which I don't believe and I am not gonna) so I didn't lose the train of thought (and all its parentheticals) while the desktop widget queried for the weather.


For inspiration, I have caught up on my own blogroll, not that I want to write about what you are writing about. I think I want to write about what you are NOT writing about. Now I have spent about an hour reading that and the moment may have passed.

My creativity window is notoriously small these days. Sitting in the breeze of your creativity window and making witty commentary is so much easier.

I am so sorry I made you click here to read this. I will try to do better.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What television teaches you

1 If your act is going badly, turn it into a slapstick routine.
2 Offer your visitors a drink.
3 Cousins look exactly alike.
4 Before you hatch a plan, get into a huddle and mumble. Someone should be a lookout.
5 Never take care of your friend's pet.
6 It's not what you think.
7 The cool character is really very lonely
8 Nazis and Romans had British accents.
9 Your third guess is right (see Law & Order, House, CSI)
10 Between 1960 and 1970, everyone was widowed.