Is it really September? While running this morning, I came upon a walker who’s a high school teacher. I asked her when the first day of school was, and she said “Tomorrow.” Having been there and done that as a teacher, I quipped “I’m sorry.” Her response? “It had to happen some day.
I guess I should take that to heart. I succeeded in wringing every moment out of summer but now that it’s labor Day + 2, I have to agree with her. It happened. Summer’s over, and to add insult to injury, I’d been really banking on spending the whole 3-day weekend at the lake, but @#!&* !! it was a rainy weekend .
It gets worse, today was the type of day I’d been waiting for in vain all summer – 90 degrees and extremely humid. And I had to work! So I’m finding solace remembering a day at Jones Beach a couple of weeks ago ————–
I decided to take a break from baking in the sun so I excused myself from friends to take a solitary walk and be with myself. That was all self needed to ramble on. Being a captive audience I had no choice but to listen.
First thing we came upon was a flag up by the bath house. In some kind of weird synapse intersection my mind said “Where’s the bear?”
I realized a deja vu moment had collided with reality, and for a moment I was seeing the district office of Oak Grove School District in San Jose where I used to teach, and where the state flag of California was always waving in the breeze.
The shapes of the buildings were similar, as were the colors plus the flat landscape……. then my focus popped into gear and I wondered if the connection wasn’t even more circuitous …
This is the flag that started it all. It’s flying over the First Aid station. Put a hyphen in the middle and you get Medi-Cal which is California’s state Medicaid program.
(No one ever said my mind works like other people’s – especially where words are involved.)
Now that the California state flag was on my mind I wondered “Where the heck is the New York state flag – after all, this is a New York State Park”
I set off in search. I decided to walk along the boardwalk. I used to walk on it with my family many moons ago but back then it was a soft wood board walk – as in SPLINTERS, and it gave off a damp tar-like smell
But between Superstorm Sandy and medical research, the nostalgic feel of the boardwalk and the smell live only in my memory. Sandy demolished most of the boardwalk, and creosote, the wood preservative substance responsible for the smell, was found to be cancerous. So the new boardwalk built last year is made of ipe bethebera, a Brazilian hardwood that is so hard, nails will not penetrate. The boards have to be screwed in
(Editorial commeny: Speaking of screwed. Brazilian hardwood? Is New York screwing up the rainforest !)
Deciding to visit the bathroom as long as I was here, I came upon this sign.
Is this term a blast from the past or what? But I guess it says it all, doesn’t it?
With all the free-form rambling my mind was doing, it forgot what it was looking for in the first place, but my eyes find it – the New York State flag!
But then, as I head back to my friends on the beach, my eyes find something I wish they didn’t.
At the bleep bleep beach? what the bleep?
Since this blog is rated PG, my mind’s ramblings had to be cut by the censor!
Did you ever look at reality and relativity? If it weren’t for two letters, the v and the second i, they’d be the same word.
Speaking of letters, when one arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago it got me to thinking about reality and relativity. Actually it was a card, not a letter, and it was from my friend Connie
I first met Connie the year after I moved to San Jose – at a 10K race. It was the era when running was in its heyday. We began participating in races all over San Jose, joking that the only reason we raced was so we could go out to breakfast afterward. And you know what? The jury is still out on that.
Connie and I had other things in common besides a passion for running and a fondness of food. We were both East Coast ex-pats, she being from New Jersey. And here’s where relativity comes in. Connie was nine years older than me, but since she and her husband, Jerry had started their family very early, and my parents, fairly late, my youngest brother was only a year older than her oldest son, so in a way, I fell between the generations. Whenever I wasn’t journeying back to New York for the holidays, I had a standing invitation to spend them with her and her family. I used to say Connie adopted me.
The one holiday I never missed was Easter, and her Polish brunch, a somewhat raucous event with Easter Egg fights (rules available upon request), ham, kielbasa, potatoes, and bottomless glasses of champagne to wash it all down. When I saw how she signed the Easter card, I assumed she was referring to those days.
But then, this fell out
Early on in our friendship we’d driven up to San Francisco to run in a 10K on the beach. Yes on the beach, as in on the sand…… in clunky running shoes.
When I looked at the results page, I was taken back.
It wasn’t the hyphenated name I haven’t used in nearly twenty-five years.
Nor was it my time; 45 minutes was a little slower than my normal pace, but .. did I mention it was 10,000 meters ….. in the sand? Actually I was surprised I’d come in second in my age group. But that was it – the age group. looking back from the high peak of today, it seemed so young
That settled it, I had to call Connie. I checked my watch, something I always do when calling the west coast. She’s still out there, but now up in Washington. It was great to hear Jerry’s familiar singing of hello, “then the same old “Connie, it’s Ginny,” as if I were still just across town.
Connie knew me well. She was expecting my call, but was surprised when I admitted it had taken me a while to remember this particular race.
“You didn’t remember that old guy changing his clothes right in front of us?”
She was exaggerating. He changed out of his running shorts behind his car.I picked up the results sheet and turned the page, searching for his name “Here he is, Walt Stack. He finished nine seconds ahead of you.”
She laughed. “But I wasn’t last!” Connie always ran with the fear of being the last one to finish a race.
We were so young,” I moaned. “Do you realize my niece is the same age as I was then.”
Connie came right back at me with a more alarming reality check.
“Do you realize Lori is a year older than I was!”
Until that moment my mind had preserved Lori, her youngest daughter, in the whirling drama of high school. In a flash, reality set her free.
Having thoroughly depressed each other with the relative reality of our “happy” memory, we ended the conversation with promises to keep in touch.
I did leave out one relative point, though. That old guy? The one was nine seconds faster than Connie? The one with no inhibitions about changing out of his running shorts? Connie is now a year older than he was.
But I don’t think she’d have wanted to hear that, do you?
I said Adios to my beloved Truckito, today. For ten years I never had to worry about getting anything home – lawn mowers, power washers, furniture, peat moss, he could handle it. He faced wintry weather with sure-footed confidence. No matter how much snow awaited on the driveway from hell, his sturdy four wheels cut through it like a knife through butter. But he’d developed very expensive ills and no matter how much my heart tried to finagle my head, I just couldn’t see spending $4,000 on repairs.
I find comfort in imagining his soul going on to that great driveway in the sky where he’ll be initiated into the Fraternal Order of Beloved Cars Virginia Used to Drive. And since it is my fantasy, I’ll go with him to make the introductions.
Truckito, 2002 Nissan Frontier
Years of Service” – December 30, 2002 – May 1, 2012
FOOBCVUTD is very exclusive. It has but three members. Ziegfried is the grand poobah. After graduation, my dad gave me the $330 left over from the money he’d saved for my college education. I promptly handed it over to Avoxe Volkswagen of the Bronx as a down-payment.
Ziegfried, 1969 Volkswagen Bug
Years of service: September 1968 – May 1977.
Zig: “Hello Truckito, I taught V all she knows about driving”
That’s not true. I’d been driving my dad’s cars since I was seventeen.
Zig: “Automatic, not stick.”
I took a lesson before I picked you up.
Z: “One lesson and it didn’t include driving on hills. Truckito, the only way home was up E.236th Street. Ever been to San Francisco? Seen those hills? That’s what E.236 Street is like.
“When we got to the first light, just my luck, it turned red, and when it turned green, she was so slow getting her foot to my gas pedal I had to roll back. Then she stomped on my brake and when she tried to go forward again, I had to stall. Of course I rolled back some more. Well, to make a long ugly story short but not pretty, she soon had a whole line of cars rolling back behind me. “
That was one day. We went on to have good times; summers at the Jersey Shore, Skiing in Vermont. We even mastered driving in the snow.
Zig: “Mastered!? Mastered?! Define mastered. How many times did you crash me in Vermont?”
I had two accidents.
Zig:” And which one caused me to develop tremors in my left wheel? Tremors you ignored until my wheel fell off?”
That was the first one. The second one wasn’t in Vermont, it was in upstate NY. And it only did a bit of cosmetic damage.
Zig: “Speaking of cosmetics, all my friends had flower decals and peace signs, you had to cover me with snowflakes.”
Ah, the days of flower power. Everyone had flowers. Snowflakes were different. And you did have a peace symbol – in the back window.
Zig: Now that I look back, those days were fun. But after you moved into your own apartment , all your money went for rent. I only went to work and to the city on Friday nights. Bo-r-r-ring
That speeding caper you pulled on the Throg’s Neck Bridge, was that to relieve your boredom?
Zig: “What speeding caper?”
I was coming back from Queens and the next thing I knew you were going 80 miles an hour. Luckily it was a Sunday night with light traffic. I almost had to stand up on the brake to stop at the toll booth. And then you shot out of there like a cannonball. I pulled off at the first exit and called AAA . But of course when they got there, you purred like a kitten.
Truckito, I never quite trusted Ziggy after that. And when he refused to start anytime I parked him on a hill, I took him to my mechanic. Pat found gas in his oil, oil in his gas, and no compression. He shut Zig down to two cylinders and wouldn’t take any money for his time, as long as I promised never bring him back.
And now I’d like you to meet
Screaming Yellow Zonker, 1977 Datsun B210 Hatchback
Years of Service, May 1977 – October, 1989
Zonk: “ Hi Truckito, I didn’t have any problems with her driving skills but she tended to abandon me from time to time.”
I never abandoned you.
Zonk: “You left me out to be stolen on Bronx River Rd
I’d been parking Ziggy out there and never had a problem.
Zonk: “Ziggy wasn’t my sunny shade of yellow.”
I still get mad when I think of that night, Truckito. The police were there, hiding in the bushes, waiting for thieves to come along and this was their lucky night. They watched the two guys pry the passenger side lock out of the door, leaving a jagged hole in three-week old Zonker. Then they waited until they’d popped the ignition out of the steering column. They didn’t swoop in until the car moved because if they’d stopped them after punching the hole they’d only have a breaking and entering case but when they moved the car, they had a genuine auto theft collar. One of the cops had to teach me to hotwire the car so I could get it to a body shop.
Zonk: “I guess you wanted to make it up to me because after that you got me my very own parking space behind the building
Yeah, that added $15 a month to my rent.
“But then the following winter you abandoned me ….in Queens…in a blizzard.”
Why do I feel like I’m on trial here? Okay, no contest. I plead youth and romanticism.
Zonk, “No, plead stupidity. Truckito, she let some guy she was dating, talk her into driving to his place in Queens, this on a day every weather man in the Tri-State area was ecstatic about the coming blizzard of the decade.”
I admitted it was a dumb move. The whole city was paralyzed. I waited a day but Queens being Queens, I figured it would days before the street was plowed. I had work and the cats were home in Yonkers so I took a gazillion subways home , and the following weekend I took a gazillion subways back to get you.
Zonk: “Then you abandoned me again, the very next week.
Was it my fault the super plowed the parking lot, and piled all the snow in your space while you were in Queens
Well maybe, but where else was I to park you when I couldn’t find a spot on the street? It was a Friday night and very late. The supermarket lot was my only choice.
Zonker, “Didn’t you see the sign “Cars left overnight will be towed” ?
I thought it was just a warning. But don’t forget, I paid a lot to get you back – The ticket, the towing fee, the storage charge, the cab fare to the impound lot!
Zonker: “Then I got towed again. But that was OK that time was fun.”
Truckito, When I got married and moved to California, my husband’s company paid to have Zonker shipped on a transport truck.
Zonk: “When I got there, I was her guinea pig.”
I’d have thought you’d have been grateful to get tender loving care.
You see, Truckito, my husband was talented at restoring cars and rebuilding engines. So I learned to change oil, lube, flush radiators, rotate tires. But I couldn’t fix everything.
Zonk: “No, she abandoned me when I had a nervous breakdown.”
Why do you keep saying I abandoned you. We were together for 12 years and five months. And you started it, revving your engine to frightening proportions when I stopped at lights.
Zonk. “I only did it a few times.”
But not for the mechanic or my husband.
Then there was your windshield wiper stunt. I had to drive all the way home from work, across San Jose in a downpour, trying to make out the road through cascading sheets of rain because your windshield wipers wouldn’t work
Zonk – But you did good, we got home safe
I did good! Was that why you started flashing your lights when we finally reached our street. Not the flashers, the head lights! And when I pulled into the driveway and you started honking your horn on and off, on and off. Were you clapping for me?
Zonk, “I never did it again.”
No, Truckito he didn’t but I couldn’t trust him anymore.”
Next we have
My Red Car, 1990 Nissan 240SX
Years of service October 1989 – August 2004,
This car was too beautiful and sophisticated to have a nick name. I had just gotten divorced and his sun-roof, and sleek lines were just what a Bay Area single needed. We had five fantastic care-free years until family matters called me home. I drove my red car home to look for an apartment for me and Fremont. (Regular readers of this blog have already met My Red Car in a previous post.
Red car: ”Unlike my lodge brothers I have nothing ill to say of Virginia, or her driving. ”
See, Truckito , I told you My Red Car had class.
My Red Car: “Our life together did have a rough start, though. Ha-ha. No pun intended.”
Oh my! I’d forgotten that. I picked you up from the dealer on a Saturday, October 1, and on Tuesday, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. All I could think as the house rattled and creaked was oh no, my three-day old car is outside. But luckily, no damage.
My Red Car: “I wasn’t quite so lucky at the end of my life, though.”
Grr! Nearly fifteen years of trouble-free loyalty and you got rear-ended – in a parking lot- by an old lady. And although I could have lived with your caved- in bumper and slightly dented trunk, the insurance adjuster couldn’t see past your age and the 176,000 miles on your odometer. His verdict? Totaled. I was going to protest it but he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, $4,000. I was greedy, I’m sorry.
Zonk: “That’s even worse than abandonment! She sold you down the river!”
Zig: “And you hadn’t done anything.”
My Red Car:“Yes, it was sad. But this isn’t about the three of us, Z & Z it’s about welcoming my old friend, Truckito. “
You and Truckito were driveway mates! That totally slipped my mind.
Ziggy: “They were?”
Zonker. “Red, how come you never told us?”
My Red Car: “I was a rear wheel drive sports car, not the best car for NY snowstorms And although I survived two blizzards, there came that evening rush- hour I negotiated that long sloping curve on the Taconic Parkway at a forty-five degree angle .
In perfect control, Ziggy! ……Go on, My Red Car, sorry for interrupting.
My Red Car: ” It was time for me to semi-retire. Truckito was my relief and for the next two add a half years, we shared driving and hung out at the top of the driveway from hell.”
It’s time for me to go, Truckito. I feel a bit better knowing you have a friend.
Ziggy: “She probably has a date with a new car!”
Ziggy! You too, Zonker, be nice to Truckito. Unlike some members of FOOBCVUTD he never gave me an ounce of trouble.”