Who Was the New Authority

What? You don't have a vintage Spice Girls gift bag?

Our housemate is moving out a little at a time between last weekend and the end of this month, so our quiet casa is in chaos. He’s complaining, which makes his impending absence a cheery thought. For our parts, Pete and I are looking forward to being able to work on the house again without worrying about our resident worrywart. We have a bunch of summer projects lined up, like fixing up a downstairs wrecked room, putting up a ceiling and repainting what is soon to be empty. When these projects came up, our hopes for going to rowing camp flew out the window, but that’s okay. Effort invested now will make our winter wonderful. And speaking of winter, stray cats will need blankets so I’ve started knitting. On Facebook, I asked friends to give or send spare yarn and I’d knit it into blankets for cats, which I’ve done before. Within days, a friend brought me a bag of yarn and fabric scraps, and as you can see, this project is a go. I expect to knit all summer, because no matter how balmy this day, cold nights are coming.

My Heart On the Dance Floor

A few months ago, I lost my patience and Pete found me attacking the upstairs TV remote with a sharpened paper clip. I couldn’t take it apart and fix the stuck buttons, so the TV became a statue of a TV until we bought and hooked up a DVR player; we didn’t bother buying a universal remote because antenna service is like watching radio stuck between stations. Anyhoo, DVDs of Red Dwarf proved too tough to hear clearly over the stationary bike or the rowing machine, so I resorted to watching exercise videos until Pete told me the sound of Denise Austin’s voice was putting a permanent wave in his EEG. It turned out episodes of Nero Wolfe form a box set Siobhan gave me a zillion years ago in 2005 made exercise time fly by, and for months, I’ve been working my way through the series, which is now at an end. With just a couple of bonus features to watch, I’m asking for advice. What should I pick up?

Movies are no good. I spend about 20-30 minutes on the machines at a time, then stretch, so I need eight or nine DVDs of something smart, funny and stylish because I’m shallow that way. The series should also be complete, since I don’t need a new hobby. Siobhan recommended Pushing Daisies and I’ll give that a try, but the series didn’t last long and I’m thinking ahead. Whaddya think?

Not Even A Cold War

Step 1: Fall in love. Step 2: Buy a Vespa. Step 3: Profit!

In 1977, my grandparents and I stepped out of a train station and into daylight in Italy. To my eye, the roads came from wild directions and led away crazily. Just then, a woman in a full wedding gown drove by on a Vespa. This was the first time I knew that things happened because I was there to see them.

The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico signals the end of cheap oil-based American prosperity. It may take a few years for the full horror to dawn on us all along the Gulf Stream on both sides of the Atlantic, but it will because it’s all in motion. In the same way we look back and see how life was radically different during the recession and energy crisis of the early seventies than it is now, we will look back and see this disaster as a turning point. It’s over. If I’m going to learn how to ride a Vespa, now’s the time.

In a few weeks, there’s a class, and I already own a bridal veil and a helmet.

One Notices the Contrast Of White On White

Quick! Press pause on the video below. We’ve got to TAWK.

I have been watching the ABC soaps for decades with love and loathing. Sometimes they’ve truly sucked out loud, but there have also been moments of genius. This is not one of those.

Last week, this video prefaced each of the ABCsoaps on Soapnet for at least two days, and it was hyped for at least a week in advance. One Life to Live recently ran an often accidentally hilarious three-day musical extravaganza that highlighted one of life’s painful truths: a lot more people think they can sing than can. Trouble is always afoot, however, when people around the can’t-singers quit blabbing the truth and someone strikes up the autotune.

Go ahead. Press play on that video now, because there’s more to talk about besides your rattling dentalwork.

See, I don’t care if someone else can’t sing, but I care a great deal when someone’s made assumptions about me. This video assumes that when I look at people, I expect to see white faces. In this video, with a cast of about a dozen and a half, there’s one Latino and not a single Black person. Wait, what? Don’t the casts of those three shows include people of color? They often do. Sometimes. If you’re paying attention you can tell the writers lose interest in Black characters on a regular basis, but to set up this video and fail to include even a single Black cast member cannot be an accident.

ABC, you suck. I don’t know where you live, but where I live, I expect to look up from a bento box in a public place and see a sea of faces ranging from palest white to darkest brown and that’s normal. I notice shit like this. You assumed I believe whiteness is normal. Screw you, by the way, for thinking so little of me.

Plus, seriously, in this video, even the people who can sing can’t sing. Nothing gets out of production without committees signing off. How did you not notice?

And Let Me Do My Stuff

Meanwhile, in potato news: all plants topped their towers. The Yukon Golds grow like bossy show-offs, while the Blues hang back a bit. The experiment is still exciting every day.

The ham on the left is Yukon Gold; Blue, right, shows more reserve.

Blue's on first, Gold's on second, Sage's on third.

Eyes You’ve Not Used Yet

Dear American Auto Makers:

How are you? I’m fine, thank you. Have a brand new grandbaby, which made me think of you. Remember when I bought my first car? It was a 1979 Pinto Station Wagon and the color was to baby blue what Pepto Bismal is to pink. The thing could do 90 without flinching, which I know because doing 91 make it shimmy like teenage go-go dancer. I loved that tragic fashion victim of a car, with its AM radio and manual steering. When Miss Sasha was an infant, she sat in a car seat in the back and we sang along to Elvis Costello playing on a cassette player propped on the front seat. We drove thousands of miles with the windows open and the wind in our hair. I still hate air conditioning.

Speaking of our past, perhaps you’ve recently seen this.

Last night, my dude Pete showed me a picture of a 1959 Mercedes 190D that exceeded 35 mpg, and you’re absolutely right that it’s diesel. After the gas crisis of the 1970s, which made my mother cry and left a pretty big impression on young me, I thought you’d wise up about a few things, but instead you lost your minds.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the average gas mileage for new vehicles sold in the United States has gone from 23.1 miles per gallon (mpg) in 1980 to 24.7 mpg in 2004. This represents a paltry increase of slightly less than 7% over the 25 year period.

Dudes, you fucked up. It’s like you and the oil industry went to Vegas, spent everything in your pockets, maxed out your credit cards, tossed your mortgages on the roulette table, left your kids at the cashier’s office and called your long-suffering wives for loans. No wonder Toyota spent all that time in a Speedo, skimming your pool.

Listen: we could argue for a decade about what kind of future we might have together, but for me, the question is now if we have one. I’m not sure we do after this.

Yes, that’s right. There’s no going back after this. In fact, if God Herself parted the clouds and thundered, Princess, trust Detroit, I still wouldn’t give you a second look while you’re trying to convince us all SUVs are a brilliant idea, because I see with my own eyes and think my own thoughts. Here’s one now: you have been given a golden opportunity to think outside the oil-soaked box. The days of ruthlessly exploiting apparently limitless natural resources are over, and they’re not coming back. You can now cling to our failed past or you can open yourself up to a wild new future. I’ll even tell you what would bring me back home to you.

  • Union-made. Straight up: I’ll never buy a new car out of a non-union factory.
  • Small. Smaller than that. No. When I say small, I mean that Smart Cars are too big for everything but pre-holiday grocery shopping.
  • Interesting-looking. I am so sick of seeing the same uninspired lines and hearing about innovation. Geez, having a new idea wouldn’t kill you.
  • Mechanically, it should actually run for 20 years and financially, I should be able to afford it without scraping pesky plans for food and shelter. I flatly am not going into debt for a car when a bus stops at the end of my street.

And this is a deal-breaker:

  • Gas mileage must exceed 100 mph city, if it must use gas, and it must be convertible to french fry power. Other power sources now exist. Try them.

In the past, you might have waited out my moods, but those days too are over. Since I care about the birdies my granddaughter may or may never see with her granddaughter and my grandfather is still alive, our future is more than a greasy possibility. Our future is what we make right now, and if you have no plans to change, then you have already agreed that we have nothing else to say.

What’s it going to be, American Auto Makers? Ten years from now, will I be driving a car or will I walk, bicycle or take the train?

Princess Ta