Thursday, April 5, 2007

Car talk

Here it's Thursday and I haven't blogged a thing since Sunday. The pressure to produce ever greater blogs is intense. I'm really not up to it. Even Tolstoy thought he could have done better. the trouble with blogs is that they demand time. If I could change my work/leisure ration from 5/2 to 2/5, I would feel more my own man.
Another problem is that there is so much to blog about. The perfect blog would be a transcript of my stream-of-consciousness. But who could bear to read it? All kidding aside, all of my waking thoughts and many of my dreams are worth a blog. This would have to be properly done of course. Who can I trust? Just these past seven days, I've been to "A Night in Italy," have hauled an '89 Honda Accord with no brakes from it's resting spot in a swamp up onto dry land and into town for a face lift, and have done one other interesting thing which I can't recall now.
The hauling of the Honda is the most accessible, yet it too has numerous spurs and tangents. But since I can see the Honda out the window, I shall go there.
This car belonged to my parents. The transmission went out one Sunday afternoon on their way back from Maine. My father was able to nurse the vehicle home to his retreat on Boston's south shore. The engine was overheating also, but he controlled that by turning on the heater full blast. My mother was not amused. This was in 1999. My mother said they were going to junk the Accord. She never had liked the low-slung seats and wanted something in taupe. I am a lifetime admirer of the Honda Corporation and told her I would givethem $900 for the car.. They shipped it over to the transmission place where it was discovered the alternator was kaput. Once the transmissionwas fixed, they sent it across the street to the Asian Car shop for a new alternator. The owner of this shop, a Japanese, said he had trouble getting the car started. I was starting to understand how the mind of gambling addiction worked.
Worst case scenario, I was getting a trip out of all this to the gorgeous coast of Massachusetts. In addition I was able to convince my friend Steve to join me on this excursion. This was really ridiculous because I would be bringing all three of my sons back to Wannaska on this trip. One of the sons was to picked up at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport. Steve realized the follly of this and opted to jump ship in Wisconsin on the way back.
The car, when I picked it up, did refuse to start at first. On the drive back I did not dare to shut it off. Also, you could not put in Park. Who needs Park? Put it in Neutral with a rock under the tire.
Anyway, we made it back to Minnesota. I got the shifter cable replaced, and got the starting problem fixed (starter relay under the dash) and I drove the car to work a couple of years until Joey needed a car to work in Boston. Joey drove the car back to college. At one point he ( a friend was driving) slid down a hill in a blizzard in Duluth and bent important front end components. Funnily enough, I had collision insurance on the car. It was totalled at $1,000. I was able to buy the car at salvage for $50. Repairs cost $900, so we made $50 on the deal.
I convinced Joey that if he didn't have a job while at college, he didn't need a car. He agreed. The car sat in the grass next to the garage at home for 18 months. In good weather I would take it out for a run. I could tell the car was slowly deteriorating, but why spend money when uncalled for.
Joey called last week and said he was getting a job and could we please have the Accord in running trim by Easter.
The grassy area around the car was wet and muddy. I made an appointment with the alignment shop to make the car roadworthy. My greatest fear is that a wheel will fall of the car at 65 mph, possibly reducing the McDonnell and other lineages.
I looked over the terrain surrounding the Accord last week. It was soggy but drying nicely. The forecast was for drying conditions. I would do nothing. Sadly it rained on Sat, which turned to snow of the wet heavy kind on Sunday. My appointment in town was for Weds. So on Mon. I came home from work and got the little two wheel drive Toyota parked in front of the Accord out of the way.
My true mission was with the Accord, lonely amidst the puddles of slush. I turned the ignition key, and... nothing. If only I could pull my good car up and give it a jump. But that was too risky, so I put my little six amp charger on and also plugged in the block heater for what that was worth. Meanwhile, I jacked up the front tires and slipped in eight foot planks. All this time a cold north wind was blowing and the bloody snow was wet and cold. Once everything was accomplished I went in the house and took a shower. I also washed up a few dishes. I was dying to get out there and fire up the old Accord, but I knew I had to give the charger time to do its work. As the sun was setting, I went out and turned the key. The starter spun over and the engine sputtered on 18 month old gas. I let off on the key at just the right moment and there was just enough momentum to keep the engine running. "God is good." Old Bess crawled up on the planks and, gaining speed, splashed through the mud holes and onto high ground.
I won't bore you with additional details, but I did get Joey's car to the tire shop Wednesday and it had to sit an extra day while parts were ordered, but it is running like adream now and I almost wish I could keep it for myself.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Go Jimmy

One reason we signed up for Netflix was to be able to watch the classics everyone is raving about, Hitchcock, John Ford, and so forth. Well I've been terribly disappointed. I've watched several of the classics, and they're like looking the wares at a flea market.
Last night we watched The Shop Around the Corner. This was supposed to be one of Jimmy Stewart's best films. And he is very good in it, but overall it's a stale Hungarian confection. There was probably a good reason for setting the story in Budapest. Someone lovingly wrote "mens room" in Hungarian in the right places, but it had "Hollywood" written just below the surface. The film came out in 1940. Hungary was allied with the Nazis by this time and was about to undergo fifty years of subjugation. There is no hint of this in the movie. Yet the movie takes place in a shop that sells suitcases. The subtle message is "get out now."
The plot of the movie is simplistic. "You've Got Mail" was based on it. Jimmy Stewart has a pen pal he falls in love with. She comes to work at the shop and they can't stand each other. Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz, is the shops money grubbing owner who turns out to have a heart of gold.
The camera work is modernistic. It jumps around the shop mostly following Jimmy Stewart. The heroine's personality is unattractive until she realizes it is her fate to wed the hero.
I should give the movie some slack, it's 67 years old. But Jane Austen doesn't need any slack, or Vincent or Michelangelo. Why do films hold up so poorly? Will the movies of our day bear watching in 50 years?