Archive for September 2004

September 30th, 2004

Champagne, Supernova?

So I spent all day Saturday changing the struts on my car. 11 straight hours of sweating and swearing and trying to break bolts loose with Dad. I can’t think of a better weekend activity. Seriously. Working with Dad is always interesting. He’s accumulated a wealth of mechanical knowledge over many, many years of being too cheap to take his car to someone who knows what he’s doing.

Dad’s a good guy to know when you drive an ’88 Chevy Nova. A car which, even when it was brand new, was not a high-performance machine. And now it’s 16 years old with 160,000 miles on it. We keep it running, though, and that’s all that matters to me. As far as I’m concerned, a car is just a way to get from point A, to the side of the road to figure out why it’s making a weird noise, to point B. The Nova does this beautifully.

Recently I’ve taken some flack for my ride. Of course, when you drive an old car, you have to have a sense of humor about it (“Hmm…when I stepped on the gas my car seems to have rolled out into this busy intersection and shut off. Now it won’t start. Ha ha! Boy, this is funny!”). So I’m well-equipped to laugh off the teasing and sarcasm good-naturedly…while secretly keeping the list of the people I will destroy one day….

The guy at the tire shop is up there on my list. I went in last week, because of the highly audible squeak in the car’s right front area and all I wanted them to do was answer this question: is my wheel going to fall off in the foreseeable future? Instead they ran it through their 86-point, $25 diagnostic service where they found all kinds of “problems,” the major one being: my struts were shot. The quote for replacing them was $1100. So I’m in the process of asking the guy how soon I should get this done and which item on the long list they’ve given me I fix first and he looks at me and says: “Do you think your car is worth $1100? (Smug chuckle).”

Whoa there, Mr. Goodwrench. Who said I was going to pay you anything to fix my car? I mean, I might have appreciated the unsolicited financial advice, but you were being a total jack-ass about it. And by the way, we got the struts done for just under $100. I’ll have to crunch some numbers there, but I’m pretty sure that’s cheaper than buying a new car.

Speaking of which, this is another trend that I find unsettling. One by one, I’m seeing all these people that I know, in my age-group, zipping around behind the wheel of something straight off a showroom floor. These are all people who used to drive crappy used cars like mine… I know a new car is supposed to be an exciting idea, but I just can’t get into it yet. It’s a sentimental thing, I suppose. The Nova is the only car I’ve ever had. I got it my senior year of high school for $1000. I’ve put it through a lot and it’s stuck with me.

And on a more pragmatic level, I feel like there a lot of advantages to it. Being a relatively simple vehicle, compared to what they’re making today (Computers? Not in the Nova. Fuel-injectors? Nope. Power windows? Power what-now?) it is much less intimidating to attempt do-it-yourself repairs.

Or not. When things do break, there’s not necessarily any rush to fix them. You can just say “Well, it’s an old clunker” and move on with your life. Sure, you may break down on the side of the road at some point. But chances are you’ll be headed some place you really didn’t want to go in the first place. Plus this is when adventures happen. You’ll have a story to tell when someone asks you what you did yesterday. For added excitement make sure you let that cell phone battery go dead. Or better yet, just leave it at home. Cell phones are the enemy of adventure.

So perhaps I’ve convinced you that you need an rickety, old beater. Maybe I could interest you in an ’88 Chevy Nova? It’s priced to move.

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September 22nd, 2004

Moving Stuff Around

When I was in school I remember learning about nomadic tribes where a person was only allowed to have as many possessions as they could carry around on their backs.

They probably have the right idea. Unfortunately I’m pretty much the opposite of them. I like stuff. More specifically, stuff that I’ve found at a yard sale or sitting on the side of the road somewhere.

I think I’ve moved an average of three times a year for the past five years — to school, back home, somewhere else for a summer job, across campus to a different dorm, into an apartment. I’ve tried to throw things away each time, but it never works. Sometimes I can even get as far as tying up the trash bag. Then I think “I can’t throw these old issues of Rolling Stone away! Sure they’re a little wrinkled, but I spent all that time looking at the illustrations. And what if they’re worth a lot of money some day. I’ve already saved them this long… Wait! None of that! Must get rid of junk…must…be…strong….”

Then, on the way out to the dumpster, the magazines actually start to whimper from inside the bag. It sounds ridiculous, but I can hear them. That’s when I go back inside and put them back into piles on my floor, where they can continue to collect dust.

I guess I find all the clutter comforting. Like a great, big, impractical security blanket. (“Oh, junk-I’m-never-going-to-do-anything-with, it’s scary in this new place, but I feel so safe and warm with you around.”) Still I know it would be easier if I’d just consolidate and simplify. I wouldn’t have to borrow the family van for every move, or make all those trips back and forth… Or bug anyone for help.

The nomadic tribesmen who were friends with someone like me, they’re the ones who invented that whole limiting-of-personal-possessions thing.

Nomad 1: “I am so tired of schlucking all of Eric’s shit around. This is ridiculous.”

Nomad 2: “He’s saved every letter every old girlfriend has ever written him. There must be 10 cardboard boxes full of them.”

Nomad 3: “I nearly threw my back out hauling his record collection up three flights of stairs. Why does he need all that vinyl? He’s got all of that stuff on CD.”

Nomad 4: “Hey, what if we make a rule? A rule that says each person is solely responsible for getting their stuff to wherever we go next. Then…we won’t have to help him move anymore!”

All Nomads: “Yeah!”

And as bad as I am about accumulating and saving junk, my girlfriend, Stuff-a-nie Statham, is even worse.

And as much as I’ve moved, Stuffanie has had to move even more. We’re moving her into a new apartment in downtown Raleigh this week. All I can say is we’re lucky to have friends and family around to help us. They’d be off making rules about how much useless crap she was allowed to have right now, if most of them weren’t packrats too.

On a side note, Stuff’s new place is great. The only problem is her bedroom seems to be located up in the Arctic Circle. It’s not cold, but it never gets dark in there. Even at 11:00 at night, with all the lights off and the blinds pulled, you’d think it was mid-afternoon. This might make it kind of hard to sleep in there…

Or it would…

If we weren’t exhausted from moving all that junk.

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September 16th, 2004

Adulthood!

Wow, um…how’s it going, adulthood? Weird that I’d run into you today. I was jus…. Hey, what’s that over there!

(Sound of me running away as fast as I can.)

(Sound of adulthood tackling me to the ground.)

Adulthood: “Nice try, pal. You’ve got Jury Duty on September 17th. Report to the Courthouse at 9 am. Parking is available at the corner of Salisbury and Martin. Have a nice day.”

That’s right. I’ve got jury duty tomorrow.

Man. Adulthood is such a jerk.

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