Thursday, July 21, 2011

Alex becomes a man

#34 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.  

I file this as a 70s memory because it exists in a  prime-time sit-com universe that the Reagans would shut down in short measureIn October, 1982 -- the fourth episode of Family Ties -- 17 year old Alex P. Keaton had his first sexual encounter, and with a college senior.  It would be another 2 seasons before he became the companion to a 40 year old single mother (she's French!) and by that time, it was very clear that theirs was a purely spiritual intimacy.

The storyline:
While delivering groceries, Alex meets Stephanie, an Econ major who shares his fascination with Milton Friedman, who just so happens to speaking in town this week, and won't Alex go with her?  (Mallory is jealous that he might be going to the Barry Manilow concert.  ouch).  Elise and Stephan debate the "few years" between high school and college depending on whether the older party (Meredith Baxter pronounces it "ma-choo-er") is male or female.  Double standards?  You know who we need at this party..... 

Alex insists they are not "romanticaly involved," but after the lecture.... ooh, lala.
Remember - they met yesterday.  He is 17.
She pours the wine and tell him she senses "something special" about him.  "Really [pause pause] Special."

Alex sweetly and shamelessly explains that he has no experience.

Stephanie likes that even better.

Cut to:
Next day at home.  Alex did indeed spend the night (not that anyone noticed he didn't come home) and wastes no time establishing his manhood around the house, reminiscing about "the most pivotal night of [his] life thus far."  As he goes on and on about it, his Free Love parents don't really get it.  Meredith Baxter is no better at scolding Alex for coming home late than she was on Family, telling Timmy to pick up his toys.  (That was just a blatant plug for my Family post, and to celebrate how in under 10 years, MB-B went from wasted-her-life daughter on Family to Latent MILF on Family Ties.  What would you do, baby... without us?)

Fortunately for the TV line-up, Stephanie breaks his heart by Day 3, revealing herself to be a girl who likes boys... often.  Alex reacts with breathless Michael J Fox stammer, the most insulted delivery boy in a Penhouse Forum plot.  "I feel so cheap," he says on exit, to big canned laugh.

Later, Father and Son share a moment where Stephen finally understands what's happened.  He gives a purely 70s Feminist Man speech, with the benefit of Alan Alda's haircut, and pours the juice.  Count on the Keatons to seal the deal with their juice pitcher and matching glasses.


How you know the 70s are still hanging on:
- no talk of contraception, or condoms.
- she can bring home the bacon (nudge nudge) and her prairie shirt does not hold her back
- Elise and the girls duck out to catch R-rated Endless Love and leave the menfolk home to talk.  We have established Mallory as 15, making Jennifer between 10 and 12, but not yet "bloomed."  (You'll recall Tina Y would bloom somethin' fierce just a few years later)
- arguments about Feminism
- Stephanie's typewriter
- paper grocery bags  (don't kid yourself.  They made us use plastic, then they tried to make us feel bad about it)
- the show wasn't very funny yet.  Jump forward to 85, 86, when Justine Bateman hits her stride, and Fox finds his droll.  And new stage business for pouring juice.
That's some 80s family TV

Monday, July 18, 2011

A great idea everybody had


thoreau GPS

“Let’s meet at Walden at one,” Amanda had said.  Oh, how nice… It wasn’t the first sunny day we have had, or even the hottest, it wasn’t even the first nice-ish Sunday.  But it might have been the first hot sunny Sunday that wasn’t also a holiday weekend.  Whatever message was in the air, we all got it.  And there was no getting to Walden at 1.


walden pond closed

  The sign originally said “re-open at 1:30.”  What really closes first is the painfully small parking lot.  For a while, they will look the other way at pedestrians and bikers who step over the non-barrier barrier fence.  But even after a time, the crowd is just to big to manage safely, and they will cap it at 1000 at a time as best they can.


You heard me.   

When you picture Walden, leave off Thoreau’s Walden – far from town, and all to one’s self.  Today it sits off our smallest east/west “artery,” which you could hear from the shore if it weren’t for the screaming  children.

And this is how our day turned into a quest for more pond.

I had to drive well past the entrance just to turn around (forcing me to wonder, as I often do when making this turn-around at a closed Walden, at least once a summer, “why don’t I ever tour the Gropius House?”  But I had people waiting for me in the prison rotary, so I pressed on.  We reconvened at the bakery – Amanda, Mark, and I.  They had already eaten, but since we didn’t know where our next meal might take place, I had a sammich and we sat by the creek and waited for the 1:30 re-opening, even though we had already seen the line of cars waiting to be let in, and no sign of people leaving the pond.

Back to the road we go.  But I’ve already spoiled the 2nd act by showing you that the pond is now closed until 4.  Mark cuts a U-turn right in front of the kid in khaki, who is some kind of state grounds keeper, but not a Ranger, so… screw ‘im.  I try the same move, and he steps in front of me, “Actually…?”  he asks, like a teenaged girl, “You can’t really make a U-Turn here.  People have had accidents and stuff.”

Son….?  They gave you a little hat and a whistle.  Why don’t you exercise your ersatz authority by directing this here traffic on a 2 lane farm road, where bare foot kids are tripping over towels from one side toi another, and you have left NO turn-off except for me to drive the GROPIUS House – this is a racket you’re running with them, isn’t?burn

Know why I said instead?  “Ok… like… put up a sign.”  burn.

MCI Concord’s parking lot turns out to be a very convenient place to meet people.  We reconvened and through out ideas.  I volunteered that I have a pool at my condo, but it is in Clinton, (as if we are not about to drive halfway there to the Hopkinton State Park). 

Listen, it may not be a 100 ft deep kettle hole, but it was warm and clean, and the crowds were spread much farther out.  We stood in water up to our necks and gabbed for an hour like we were on a patio drinking beer.  mmm. beeeeer…..

The ice cream truck played the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  In little tinkly bells that melded into America the Beautiful, and I did feel it was my Gawd Givin Right to have me a Richie’s Italian ice.  If this were a “Why Mass is Pissah” blog, this paragraph would just be about Richies, but instead it is about the wonder that where I come from, the ice cream truck would never play this song. 

A soak, a dig in the sand, and Italian ice, an argument about were we’re gonna eat afta’ –  the Sunday you wait for and can never really plan, but you can find if you just try hard enough.

Hope your summer is progressing the same.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The kindness of strangers

How modern technology, old friends,  and the car repair community turned Thursday night into this blogpost.  Settle in.  I just may tell this in real time.

The Groupon always sounds good when you are buying it.  That's how they make their money.   $20 for $50 dollars off your bill (small print: alcohol not included) at the Millenium Hotel Bar, Boston, MA.  And it's good for a year!  And I'm in Boston "all the time."   As the deadline loomed,  I looked for dates to burn through it, and the Tarletons were spontaneously available on a Thursday night.  How adult.

I pulled into a prime metered space with only 30 mins left to pay, around the corner from their place, and... the car won't shut off.  Blink and read that again.  Because that's me trying to move the key from its familiar "on" position to its even more familiar Off position.  It will not move and the key will not come out.  I can switch gears; I can drive.  I can not stop.  It's like something you would dream, isn't it?  Or something I would dream, where I have a recurring scene that I am trying to steer a very fast moving car on a busy street from the passenger's seat.  Jesus, take the wheel, already.

But this is no dream, this is real.  Nick comes out to help, and I am sure this is one of my moments of crazy, where I can't remember what the word "lettuce" means or I look for my glasses for an hour only to find them on my head.  He'll snap it off and say in his gentle voice, "what's your problem?" and we'll go have $50 worth of bar snacks.  But he doesn't.  Instead he finally says, "can we move this to a safer spot?" and we drive around the corner to the Boston MWRA Pump Station.  This will be important later, as it is an absolute landmark of the neighborhood, but nobody knows what it is.

The miracle, though, is that it is an open parking lot, one block from their house, 2 blocks off the highway, and it is the most gorgeous night in a year.  We hammer at everything in reach, and read the manual.  Because I am a big one for reading the manual.    Alyssa thought I was holding an ultrasound.  I think we are all glad to know I am not -- even if sponsored by Chevy.  The manual claims there is a "plunger" under the steering wheel to release the key in such a situation.  We find the panel it lives behind, but not the thing itself.  We predict that the airbag will deploy and kill us both.  Then we catch up on each other's news.

Jay comes home on his walking commute from his job, and tries his hand at it, with no more luck than we have had, and before long, we are just 3 people sitting in a running car like it's Modesto in 1962.  He says, "You know this is a f***ing Known issue.  And it sounds expensive."

When you call AAA in Boston at 5pm on a weeknight, you are in for a long wait, but you have some leverage if a) you are in an accident, b) you are literally roadside, or c) the car is running.  Which I only mentioned because I suggested he could bring a can of gas too if they wanted a two-fer.  And we wait.

  Minus the cocktails, this is the same night we would have been having anyway, so we relax and hang out.  When Perry from AAA arrives (after being unable to find Malden St), he has been told by dispatch that we need a jump (because who would voluntary take this crazy call).  "Quite the opposite," we say.  Perry takes his turn at finding the plunger, slamming the gear shift, jiggling the key, and viewing things through the help of Jay's iPhone flashlight.  It's a Smartphone, but not a Genius phone.  It did what it could.

Perry admits defeat.  He offers to disconnect the battery to stop the car. He's got nothing, but he'll call a locksmith and see what that can do.  What else do I have?

And I start to remember that there is a Chevy roadside assistance... USACHEVY, or CHEVYUSA, or HAHASCREWU,.... hours later I will discover the number is written on my keychain.  Jay works the Smartphone, and Nick finds it in the manual.  "Look at you, all Old School," Jay says with affection.   Locksmith recommends that I drive home and he meet me there, just to save the cost of the tow and I say I live 40 miles from here, and I only earn money to throw it at my problems.  So bring it on.   I try to explain Malden St.

Jay suggests that I drive it to my dealer and have the locksmith meet me there, and I remind him I am nearly out of gas.  He says there's a station on Albany St and I remind him priggishly that you can't pump gas into a running car.  "You're a rule-follower, aren't you?" he says tenderly, a hand on my skirted knee.

Chevy Roadside says, "we can pinpoint your location from your phone.  Is that all right?"  If you would not use the word "pinpoint" it would be less disturbing, but sure, go ahead.  And answer my emails while you are in there, would you? 

Chris the Locksmith.
Enter in slow motion...with big smile, tan hands, muscular legs.... his own flashlight.  We open the door for him.  We offer him Sun Chips.  We are never, never, letting him go.

He says he's seen this before, with GM cars.  (you bastards, I was there for you!) Though usually, the car turns off and only the key is stuck.  He slams the gear shift into Park: "See how I did that real ha'd like that?"  "Oh yes," I say, "We've enjoyed doing that ourselves.  Don't get cocky." I flirt badly.

We re-visit the battery idea, and stare under the hood for the while.  Nick, never far from the manual, advises that the battery is in the trunk.  "Like a BMW," says Chris.   "In so many ways," I agree.  Everything out of the trunk and onto the street, battery unhooked, exhaust still burning holes in our legs.  We all recall at the same moment that batteries start cars.  Alternators keep them running.  Oh.... riiiight.  Rehook, refill trunk.

Casey's towing arrives, and though that is not Casey driving, I do not catch his name.  He moves us aside, and becomes the sixth person to show us how it's done.  He says he can tow me whereever - Chevy pays the first 20 miles and I pay the rest.  I remind him the car is still running.  "I can tow it anyway," he says.  He does not put his hand on my knee.  But it feels like he did.   Chris is very concerned that I am going to leave a running car, with keys in ignition, in a car dealership overnight, and insists (in a deep throated tone I rather like) that I have "a better plan"

Towman suggests the battery; he pops the hood before we can stop him.  What he finds there instead  is the fuse box and yanks one out.  The car stops immediately. "What did you pull?!" cries Chris in consternation.  TowMan squints at it.  "Start."

So he wenches up.    I have also by now called my friends The Troys, who live near my dealership, and are considered "A List" friends.  You may remember them from such disasters as the 2008 ice storm.  The plan now that the car if off is to tow to the dealer, have Kit pick me up there.

"Ever ridden in a tow truck before?"  he says.  On the long drive to the suburbs, I learn a lot about the Towman, a young dreamer and hustler with tow truck stories to tell, and a life history you can tell in a 20 mile ride, but still seems like a life fully lived.  We share tells of life in Chelsea, where I lvied the year he was born.  {sigh} Thanks to the all-powerful Net, Chevy already knows we are coming, and Casey's Towing already knows where to park it.

My ride comes.  She is already expecting I will stay the night with them, and ride in to work with her in the morning, but offers to take me home first for a change of clothes.  And this is where I know we really are A-List friends -- because she offers this, and I can say without shame, "No, because if we go there, something else will be wrong -- like it burned down, or something.  And I can't take one more thing tonight."  We go to the house.  These people form one of the nicest healthiest families I know.  (she is expecting me to add here, "but the dog has to go."  So I will.  love you )

Lesson One: Membership has its privileges.
Locksmith - $35
Tow overage - $25
Car repair is covered under extended warranty with a $50 deductible.
They replaced the lock cylinder, and acted unsurprised by the whole thing, which may be explained by your Internet search of "key stuck in ignition."  Chris was not kidding.  This does happen all the time.  And if it really does happen all the could likely happen again.  But try arguing with your service team when they are charging you deductible.  They have never heard of any "plunger" under the steering wheel, but I noticed their mechanic replaced the panel we had removed to find it.

I could consider trading it in to them, as long as they are denying it exists.  But I want an exchange - not to buy another car, so I will hold my faith that it is fixed and that Robert and Jeff, whose jobs were saved by the loyalty of customers like me, would not lie to my face.

Lesson Two: Friendship has its rewards.
My friends do not want to hear my Witness of the powerful love I hold for them and our bond.  It makes them a little squeamish for me to go Christian on them, especially when I am dressed in white blouse and black skirt.  They say "that's what friends do," and they are right, of course.  They know I would do the same for them, and that it takes years of therapy and all my effort to ask it of them.  Thanks be to God for the humility to do so, and the serenity to find humor and fellowship in what could have been a miserable experience, but instead is an entertaining gift I give to you.

August 2012
An update:  for people search the google-webs for this issue.  From Chevy themselves.

2009 chevrolet cobalt recall
Item affected: power train:automatic transmission:lever and linkage:column shift
date announced: 3/6/2009

description of recall:
general motors is recalling 276,729 my 2009 buick enclave, chevrolet cobalt, hhr, malibu, traverse, gmc acadia, pontiac g5, g6 and saturn aura and outlook passenger vehicles. These vehicles fail to comply with federal motor vehicles safety standard 102, "transmission shift position sequence, starter interlock, and transmission braking effect", and fmvss 114, "theft protection and rollaway prevention". On some of these vehicles, the transmission shift cable adjustment clip may not be fully engaged. If the clip is not fully engaged, the shift lever and the actual position of the transmission gear may not match. With this condition, the drive could move the shifter to "park" and remove the ignition key, but the transmission gear may not be in "park".

Action needed to fix it:
dealers will inspect and ensure that the shift cable adjustment clip is fully engaged. In the event that the clip does not engage, the shift cable will be replaced free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on or before march 24, 2009. Owners may contact buick at 1-866-608-8080, chevrolet at 1-800-630-2438, gmc at 1-866-996-9463, pontiac at 1-800-620-7668 and saturn at 1-800-972-8876 or at