Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why I didn't write

Why I didn’t write Friday, even though I have committed to work on my novel rewrite every day until it's done.

I had a plan. I was going to write for at least two hours. Even though I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, I was still invigorated from the storytelling and music at the Arlo Guthrie concert Thursday night.

The body shop called in the morning to tell me that they’d finished the $7,000 worth of repairs and I could pick up my Toyota Echo. The one that was rear-ended on the freeway almost a month ago now (October 6th), with me in it. Happiness! Joy! Better gas mileage than the rental Honda! I love this car and I am glad glad glad that it was not totaled.

The rental car people drove me to the body shop after I dropped off the Honda. I transferred my books and stuff into it happily and took off under instructions to drive it over the weekend and see how it handled. There should be no problems, but the work is guaranteed as long as I own the car. Great.

I take off and I hear a weird repetitive noise coming from the right front of the car. I pull into a gas station a few miles from the body shop, get out and check out the area, and find a big piece of tape on the tire that was flopping against the wheel well. Whew. I notice that there’s something strange about the remote door locks. The car beeps every time I push a button. Oh, no. I do not like that. I go back to the body shop, but that’s something the dealer needs to deal with. Okiedokie.

I get onto the 5 freeway. It’s about 4pm and rush hour has already started. I’m buzzing along talking to my sister on my cell phone (with an ear bud, both hands on the wheel, thank you very much) when I realize I have NO POWER. I coast to a stop in the middle of five northbound lanes. Everyone else is going 40 miles an hour.

I probably would have experienced déjà vu from the accident, except that this time the SUV behind me is paying attention and I don’t get rear-ended. I do however, feel a huge rush of fear as I find that not even my flashers are working. The guy who was behind me has eased into another lane, and now I’m vulnerable to anyone who’s less attentive, and I have no way to warn them.

The 911 line has rung at least 8 times with no answer when suddenly power comes back! Momentary YAY! I get off the freeway in what I think is probably Pacoima. One of about 5 exits along my drive that I have never used before. Of course. I start heading south and west, judging by the sun. I call my husband, D. I call the body shop. They tell me to take it to a Toyota dealership that’s closer than they are at this point. It probably has something to do with the door lock system. Grr. Okay.

I get to the dealership in Van Nuys around 4:30, I guess. The car lost power once on the way there, on a side street. RG, the service department guy I talk to has to tell me that he can’t do anything, not even diagnostics, until Monday. I am 35 miles from home and 10 miles from work. I just turned in my rental car. I would like to let out one, maybe two little sobs, but I don’t. He takes a look under the hood to see if any wires were pinched when the body shop changed out the headlight brackets, and sees that there is a part missing from my car. The air flower controller just isn’t there. And the hose that goes into it is just dangling.

When I go to move the car a few feet into the entrance of the service area, it dies again. Good car. It’s trying to cooperate and not just act like it’s okay when the mechanic is there. It’s willing to have symptoms in front of other people. I love this car. I have not had a lick of trouble with it in two years and 49,000 miles.

I call D to come pick me up. Poor, sweet, D, who just worked his usual 48 hour week, stayed up as late as I did the night before, and was probably enjoying the one workday each week he gets home before dark. He doesn’t even sound grumpy about it.

I go to the waiting room and call the insurance company. No one answers, but I leave a message. I call the body shop and tell them they sent me off onto the freeway in rush hour traffic with a part missing from my car and I could have been damaged very badly. I keep my voice low because I’m in a public place and… I just am not much of a yeller.

When I hang up, the lady sitting kitty-corner from me asks, curiously but not unkindly, “What happened?” I open my mouth, and then I close it and start to cry.

Just then, RG, the service department guy, comes in and says, “We figured it out! You can take your car!” He sees my face. Asks if I’m okay, did I get any coffee, do I want some, etc. Very, very nice. He has me sit in his office while he brings the car and a mechanic back to the front. I can tell he’s excited that they figured it out.

Turns out that aside from the part that’s missing from my car, when the body shop re-attached the ground wire from the engine to the headlight bracket area, they didn’t notice that they’d painted over the contact. Hence the ground-wire overheated and the car turned itself off rather than oh, say, burst into flame.

We’ve established that I love this car. Now we have established that this car also loves me. It wants to keep me alive, even if it has to turn itself off. (Kind of like Hal in 2003: A Space Odyssey, right? Although that was after lots of terror and stuff, so it’s maybe not a perfect analogy.)

So they filed the paint off the contact, and the air flow controller needs to be taken care of, but I can drive home. D is already more than half way there and I am really in the mood to be followed home at this point, no matter what all my new mechanically inclined friends say, so we decide to meet at a restaurant to wait out rush hour and have dinner.

I thank RG and tell his manager how terrific he was. They aren’t even charging me the $85.00 they said they’d have to charge for diagnostics if I didn’t have the work done there. I am going to write to RG and to his bosses and tell them how great he was, because that’s one of the ways the world stays a great place to live in.

D and I had dinner. He drove the Echo and I followed in the Tahoe. I opened a bottle of champagne when we got home around 7:30. We’d left the house around 5:15 that morning.

So that’s why, in spite of my fierce desire to honor my commitment to write every day until my novel rewrite is complete, I didn’t last night.

Bird Cabin


Spent most of the day at my computer, writing. Went out looking for something photo-worthy because I did not really want to post a photo of my computer, nice as it may be. This silly little bird house is on my front porch. That’s star jasmine twining around it.

Friday, November 04, 2005



Had a tough day.

The flowers have also had it.

Arlo's Bus

Arlo was amazing. So generous! So funny!

He did Alice’s Restaurant, a LONG song. It was like listening to a loved one tell you a favorite bedtime story…except funnier. His comments between—and sometimes during!—the songs were just great. Nice long set.

He also did a couple of his father’s songs. You know, Woody Guthrie. The guy who wrote that song from your third grade songbook: This Land Is Your Land. It was very moving to hear him sing it and to see his son, Abe, on keyboards, singing along and looking at him with love and admiration.

He spoke of the power of each person to be heard. How you may not even know how you impact another person and the progress of the history of the world, but you are doing it. This sounds so much like a philosophy I subscribe to that I wonder if I somehow got it from him while listening to my brother, B's, Arlo albums as a kid. I think it's important to be decent to each other because you just never know when you are going to encounter some one who is making an important decision. If you give her or him a reason to believe in the goodness of humanity, s/he may just make a positive choice.

The photo is of Arlo Guthrie’s tour bus. One anonymous white bus. Gives me to ponder… Are the 12 semi-trucks full of gear the reason I can’t afford to see Sir Paul in concert? Or, maybe they have to charge high prices to keep the place from being mobbed and he feels he should give a good show for the price?

The fabulous Mammals apparently travel in a big multi-seat van. We saw one that looked pretty lived-in and had NY plates. They’re from Woodstock. If you ever liked the sound of a folk fiddle, check them out. Great fiddle, banjo, and a rock beat behind some classics, as well as their own well-crafted songs.

Guitars in waiting

Took the photo of Arlo Guthrie’s guitars on stage before the music started.

It was a wonderful concert, opened by The Mammals, which is headed by Pete Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. Terrific folk and rock group.

I didn’t check my batteries. The dozen or so photos I thought I might have gotten, I didn’t. All sans flash, of course. The photo on the right is the only one that came out very well at all.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tiny Buddha

The Tiny Buddha on the wall was happy to see me last night when I arrived home. What you can’t really tell from this photo is that he was keylit by angled sunlight squeezing through the pine tree.

This statuette came from my husband’s cousin’s yard. She passed away last winter. I’m glad we have this and a few other things from the day we helped clear out her apartment. She was a unique character, always coming up with the most remarkably forward questions. I loved her for the guileless way she’d ask them. Almost like a little kid, even though she was an intelligent adult. I’d like to be better at asking questions like that, that dig a little under the surface of polite conversation. They’re thought provoking and even a little flattering, if you think about it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Party's over but the partying is not

Dodger found candy corn on the counter this morning. A little sugar can’t hurt too much.

He got fed up with all the flash photography before he finished the candy corn. Is nothing sacred? Do we have to have a photo of every little intimate moment?

I fear I am the paparazzi in my bird’s life.

He had a blast last night hearing the kids on the street in front of the house, and me popping up to get the door, etc. He sang, and whistled and talked all evening and then conked out as soon as we turned off the outside lights and settled down around nine.

Monday, October 31, 2005


I had a great time handing out candy. I keep track of how many trick-or-treaters we get each year. I say it’s because I want to have an idea of how much candy to buy. Actually, I seem to really enjoy keeping lists of things. (Any wonder I spend so much time on 43Things?)

So, ahem, 126 including the group of 4 kids who made a repeat visit. I teased them and gave them candy anyway. This is the price of stocking in chocolate. Butterfingers this year.

Probably my favorite was a five-year-old(?) fairy girl who was fascinated with the iron Boston bull that we use as a doorstop. I thought later I should have picked it up and let her touch it. Sigh.

And the kid whose older brother told him he did a good job and rubbed him on the head. The little one said, “I know how to trick or treat!”

Photo is of the pumpkin I carved. I admit it, I used a stencil.

Okay, I'm a big goof

I love Halloween, especially since I moved to a neighborhood where kids actually Trick or Treat. For the past 5 years I’ve been thrilled to hand out chocolate and see the little kids’ costumes, and the expressions on the faces of the littlest ones in particular. Last year a kid fell face first into my living room. He looked pretty shocked, but got over it.

A couple of years ago I bought a big bag of brocolli at Costco and greeted the kids at the door with a collander full of it. I held it out and they were so shocked! My favorite was the 8-year-old who laughed with releif when I brought out the Snickers and said, “OH! That was SCARY!” It was also a lot of fun to hear the kids telling their parents what had happened when they got to the end of our sidewalk.

The sidewalk to our front door is about 40 feet long and very dark, so I hang orange lights all along the front porch and lit up ghosts at both ends. It looks great and we get more and more trick or treaters every year. Over 150 last year, if I remember correctly.

I don’t dress up, usually. I have a skulls and tombstones T-shirt though. I wear that. Well, and sometimes the fabulous witch hat comes out of the closet.

Photo is of the window right next to the front door.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fruits of Our Labors

We probably have more kindling than anyone with gas heating needs, but I just can’t bring myself to throw it all away. We filled three big garbage cans with the leaves and smaller twigs. I always love it when we have a fire in the fire place on a cold February Sunday morning and I can think that it’s due in part to the work we did in the fall.

The kindling will go into the shed to dry and the rest of the wood will go under the bench on the front porch (after Halloween—the bench has to be moved so kids can easily get through) to dry out.