Category Archives: General

Prehistoric Badass

Looks like BillyBob got a little too close to the mammoth.

Looks like Ugg got a little too close to the mammoth.

I was visiting my favorite place in the world not too long ago, and toured through the new Hall of Paleontology, (which is awesome!) and took a snap of this poor guy getting batted around like a soccer ball by a couple of mammoths. Ah, life — and catastrophic boo boos — in the Stone Age.

Really big teeth

Really big teeth

As usual, I wasn’t reading all the labels, so I don’t remember for sure, but think this is some kind of giant crocodilian, cruising around, waiting for Ugg to fall in the water. I think the effect of the shadows looks cool.

A Pterydactyl, about the size of a robin.

A Pterydactyl, about the size of a robin.

I always thought the little fliers were cool — about the size of a “pocket dragon.”

Hey, how'd you get in here?

Hey, how’d you get in here?

 

How I spent my summer Part 2

I went to summer school. Yes, I know I said I was done with taking classes, notes, tests, etc., etc., but I took a class in the spring semester to finish up the mediation certificate course, and found I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to take some more. Just a glutton for punishment, I guess.

Or it might be that the course instructor has a large impact on whether or not the class is engaging. That probably varies from student to student, too. Someone I think is brilliant may bore someone else to tears.

The instructor for the civil litigation class was a smart, high energy, sassy woman lawyer who knew her stuff. And she thought some of my offbeat comments on the legalese in the textbook (we had to turn in a “what I learned vs. what I had trouble with” page every week) were hilarious. And then I made 100 on the first test. And on the third test. Of course I would end up liking the class.

Getting that A went straight to my head. I figured I should go back to grad school and get my doctorate. It would be a snap. As long as I stayed away from math and chemistry (there’s goes the doctorate in any kind of biology). Hmmm. I thought hey, maybe political science, and I could be a lobbyist or something. So I looked for some classes to lead in that direction.

I signed up for two classes in the summer: online Cultural Anthropology for the first term, and Social Psychology for the second. The anthropology class was interesting, but I found I missed the face to face interaction with the instructor. At the beginning of the second term, I found out the psychology class had been cancelled, so I opted for a Texas Government class in the same time period. That instructor was another high energy soul who didn’t take himself too seriously, and I got a lot out of the class. Including a couple of perfect test scores.

I also had a chat with him about my idea for a PhD in political science. Turns out all they do, at least at the local university, is run statistical analyses on stuff. Ugh. Isn’t that math? Yes, it is. But Prof suggested that since I seem to be more interested in the stories, that maybe history would be a better fit. Which it might be. Except that at the same local university, you don’t just have to have a bachelor’s degree (in anything) to get into their grad program, you have to have 24 undergrad hours of History, and then get the M.A. degree, and then you could go for the doctorate. Huh! It would be easier to just get books from the library and teach myself.

I’ll let y’all know when to start calling me Doctor Crazybasenji.

The Long, Hot, Summer of the Soul

There are times when you just have to step back, you know? Take a break, reassess, get grounded, or (insert your favorite catch phrase here)whatever, and hope that when you get back to the grind, something will have clicked into place, and life will progress more or less smoothly, and generally in a “forward” direction. Sometimes, there’s no noticeable click, but you realize you have to drag yourself back into the Twilight Zone (some prefer to call it reality), whether you’re comfortable there, or not.

And then there are times when you go walkabout and just get lost…

Or I could spin this past year as a sabbatical, and that I was doing serious research… yeah, maybe not.

What started off last summer as a break to “get off the planet” as it were, and immerse myself in rereading all the books in the Foreigner Series, by C.J. Cherryh, turned into one delay after another in getting back to work on my writing, and all the other stuff I put on this blog. But, oh, well, these things happen. Instead of boring you with all the details in one long blurt, I’ll just proceed like I’ve only been gone a week, instead of a year. That okay with everybody?

The biggest change to the Crazybasenji household is the addition of a non-basenji canine. I know. What a shock. She qualifies as completely crazy, though, so that should count for something. Darby is a Spinone Italiano, an Italian Pointer (or Setter, depending on how loosely you translate). She’s a big, shaggy thing, and goofy as hell. And if there’s one thing I do love, it’s a goofy dog.

Darby belonged to a man who was going through chemo and radiation therapy and just didn’t have the energy to care for her and his other big dogs any more. She came to live with me on a trial basis at first. I wasn’t sure if Ramses would warm up to her. He’d been getting peculiar around strange dogs on our walks, and I was hoping that constant exposure to a very different dog would be good for him. Turned out I was right – at least as far as Darby is concerned. She’s so mellow, that even when he’d snarl at her in the beginning, she’d just stand still – very non-threatening – until he chilled.

Now they’re fine together, and the different energy levels keep things interesting.Image

So I can get back to doing more writing, and painting, and spend less time enabling a spoiled rotten only-dog. Maybe…

Changes coming to Crazybasenji

Although I’ve been a little reluctant to cede the place of honor in the header from Boomer — the original Crazy Basenji — to his heir and great nephew, Ramses (The Puppy), I finally did so. For one thing, the photo of Ramses was of a size that allowed me to crop a section that would fill the whole space without chopping off most of the dog…well, except for his legs. He doesn’t need those, though, he’s not going anywhere. I also discovered a way to change the layout of the page that would let me use the photo of Boomer as “featured content” in a larger size than what I could fit into the banner. Yes, I’m a little obsessive about that photo. Is that a problem?

I started this blog under the whole “Pro-blogging” explosion a few years ago, and I actually had a plan for what I was going to write about, and when, and how it would all eventually make some kind of income for me. Then I got sidetracked thinking I was going to find a “real job,” because I found some postings for positions that I was super qualified for and I applied. And then waited to hear. And waited to hear. And waited…and in the meantime my blogging plans sort of went south. I repeated this cycle several more times, and eventually I did get a “real job” — part time. Which didn’t do a lot for my self esteem, my bottom line, or my incentive to write. I didn’t want to write from that place of day to day sheer panic. So my blogging frequency suffered some more. And the topics I chose weren’t always cutting edge or of interest to anyone besides me and a few close friends who might just want to keep up with what I was doing.

The things that kept me going — and still do — are my dog(s), and books. And I discovered I could write decent book reviews, and could even get some of them published on a site dedicated to “reviewing books by, for, and about women.” Not long ago, my review of a book about the woman who mapped the ocean floor was chosen as review of the month.

For a while I’ve been thinking of branching out and writing a more specialized blog about books and other writerly things. I’m sure I’ll keep blogging at this site — for my four or five readers — but I’ll concentrate on only a few topics, such as basenjis, and art, and odds and ends of a personal nature. Crazybasenji is my “brand,” if you will, for good or bad, although I discovered that having the word “crazy” at the beginning of anything pretty much flags the site for a certain type of “interest,” shall we say? I won’t elaborate. Use your imagination and I doubt if you’ll come up with anything more bizarre or inappropriate than what I’ve seen in (deleted) comments.

I know I’ve hinted around before now about changing things up around here, which usually consists of finding a new theme. This time, I’ll be moving some of the content to the new site. All the book reviews — the whole category — will be moved. I’m not quite ready to launch the site yet, but it will be located at JudyKingWrites.com. One of the drawbacks to having a fairly common name is that the domain judyking.com is already taken, as is judyking.org, judy-king.com, etc. Since my name isn’t that difficult to spell, I figured it wouldn’t be that big a deal to tack “writes” at the end, which is also not difficult to spell.

Writing on two blogs is going to be more of a challenge. I’ve already tried it, with my Linux blog, which went nowhere. I also started what would have been a biology blog, when I thought I would be teaching biology at the local junior college. When the teaching gig fell through because my actual graduate hours in actual biology courses came up short, I lost all my forward momentum on the blog, as well.

I’ve made a few decisions since then. I’ve decided not to pursue the teaching, which would mean taking only one more graduate level class. I chose to view the cancellation of the offer as a message from the universe. Teaching is not for me. Or, at least, teaching in a classroom in a “traditional” school setting is not. Never been a big fan of traditional anyway. Never felt the “fire in my belly” about teaching, although I always thought I would enjoy engaging with young people interested in learning. My actual experience was more along the lines of trying to engage with young people interested in getting “A’s” without doing much real work. (They’re not all like that, let me be quick to point out. I just seemed to end up with a significant portion of them in my classes, the few semesters I did teach many years ago.)

Starting a new career — as in going back to school and learning a new “trade” is also not in the stars for me. I’ve taken a few classes recently, and finally decided I’m tired of school. I don’t want to take any more classes, do any more homework, take any more tests. I’m done. The only exception might be to get a fine arts degree, and probably then only if someone paid all my expenses and I could go someplace other than the schools available in the immediate area. Which is bloody unlikely to happen.

The upshot of all this nattering on is that I’m going to go with what I know, which is some writing, some art work, and what I can extract from my part-time employment to pay my bills and keep doing those other things. I don’t want to descend into writing about things I regret. It’s largely for that reason that I’ve let updates to my blog lapse a few times. I figure no one wants to read about all the things I wish I had done when I was younger, or would do if I could afford it. There’s no sense dwelling on those things, but in my private mind, I sometimes do, and it may keep me absent from time to time.

I’m hoping that doing more of what I truly enjoy will reduce the amount of time I spend imagining the worst and will increase the amount of time I’ll spend being creative and remarkable. We’ll see.

Getting back to weird, with occasional forays into normal

Ever since January – when I learned the results of my most recent back x-rays and was waiting to see what the MRIs would reveal, and after that was waiting on the appointment with the neurosurgeon – I’ve been a little preoccupied, to say the least.

I came home from Dallas on Friday feeling a sense of relief, like my life could start to get back to normal now. Only. What the heck is normal, anyway? For me, normal includes pain and stiffness, frequent reminders that all is not right with my back. The ability to move freely and carelessly is something I had to give up so long ago that I don’t even have a good working memory of it. Other people in my age group may be experiencing the same thing, but many of them won’t have to deal with that loss for years, yet.

Then there’s my household. I live with my brother. Who would have seen that coming – ever? It’s not so unusual in this economy for grown kids to still be living at home with their parents, or to move back home when they finish college. But this just seems a little odd. Of course, the circumstances aren’t that bizarre. My (divorced) brother was living with my dad after our mom died, taking care of him, and I (after my husband dumped me) moved back home to help him out. Daddy died right before the economy tanked – well, he actually died the week Hurricane Ike moved in, but right after that, everyone was broke. In light of all that, continuing to live in the same house as my brother makes sense.

And last, but oh, SO not least, I have a Basenji. In fact, I’ve had five Basenjis. Basenjis are not normal dogs. In fact, to think “normal” and “Basenji” at more or less the same time, puts considerable strain on one’s brain. I’ve had to stop several times while typing these sentences, to decompress. I’ve broken out in a sweat.

So I guess I can’t really expect “normal” to stop by here that often. But that’s okay, I think weird can be the new normal.

A Special Centennial

Just about one hundred years ago, in a little farmhouse in Oklahoma, my dad was born. Well. He wasn’t my dad then; that came later.

Long about his ninetieth birthday, he thought it would be cool to live to see his one hundredth birthday. He didn’t quite make it, checking out shortly before he reached 97. But he was already telling people he was “almost a hundred years old.” He was always of the opinion that, as soon as he reached his actual birthday, he could claim the year he was starting, not the one he just finished, as his real age. So, yesterday, if he had been around to turn one hundred years old, he would have started telling people he was really already one hundred and one. (I also suspect he would add another year on January first, because, after all, he had another birthday coming up eleven short months later.) Fortunately, for most of his life, he would reconcile all those numbers to something approaching his real age sometime between January and December, otherwise he would have racked up something in the neighborhood of 200 “invented” years of age during his 96 year life-span.

My dad spent 45 plus years as an accountant, and he never got that creative with “the books,” so how he came up with the math for calculating his age demonstrated an imagination that I didn’t always give him credit for. I think the times he grew up in, and the way his family and early environment shaped him, kept him from being able to express his real creativity and sensitivity. I’m not going to dwell on what he might have become “if only.” It’s counter-productive for me to do that for myself, and there’s no point in doing it for someone who’s no longer with us.

What I wanted to do, instead, was look back at what was happening the year my dad was born, and his first year of life, and contemplate the gulf of history he lived through. For instance, World War I started and ended before he turned seven. On the day he was born, December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen’s expedition reached the South Pole.

Butterfly McQueen was born that year, as was Ronald Reagan, Jack Ruby, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Czeslaw Milosz, Ginger Rogers, and Lucille Ball.

In the early months of 1912, before my dad was even eating solid food, the Republic of China was established, New Mexico and Arizona were admitted as the 47th and 48th states (respectively). Thirty thousand workers walked out of textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts in what would become the most dramatic and successful labor strike in American labor history — the Bread and Roses Strike. A man named Albert Berry jumped out of a perfectly good airplane in flight, wearing a parachute, to prove it could be done (and now my brother does the same thing every chance he gets).

During the first year of my dad’s life, two notable ships sailed for the first time. RMS Titanic. No elaboration needed on that one. USS Texas (BB-35). The Texas is still afloat, permanently anchored in Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel near Houston, Texas. The Battleship Texas was the first battleship memorial in the U.S.

Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium both opened in 1912, and have lived large in the history of American baseball.

Women did not yet have the right to vote, but the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. was founded that year, and American Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

Woodrow Wilson was elected President in November, 1912, after Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican party by founding a party of his own — the Bull Moose party — when he was not nominated over the incumbent, William Howard Taft.

And since science is my main thing, I have to mention Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, and Alfred Wegener’s proposal of a fully formulated theory of continental drift in 1912. No one bought it then, but he’d be having the last laugh today.

History. We all live through some of it, without even knowing whether the things that seem huge to us will be remembered at all (even by us) when we’re older, or after we’re gone. My dad served in the Army during WWII, and landed on the Philippine island of Leyte on the day the Japanese decided to try and take it back. He told a story to me and my brother about how the Japanese fighter aircraft started shooting up the beach just as he and his unit finished off-loading from their landing craft, and how he dove beneath a pile of duffle bags for cover. When he crawled back out he saw a crater where he had been standing, where one of the  Japanese shells had hit. My brother and I just looked at each other with our mouths hanging open. This was during his final year of life, and we had never heard that story before. My brother just happened to be watching a show about WWII on the History Channel, and, of course, my dad would watch almost anything on TV. It was just kind of an “oh, yeah, I remember when that happened” sort of story, but I imagine the memory was terrifying enough for all those years that he didn’t want to relive it by telling it.

You just never know.

My dad and his Army tent

My dad and his Army tent

The Ongoing Automotive Adventures of Sally the Subaru

I have written elsewhere about my cars and the adventures I’ve had with some of them. 

But the fun hasn’t stopped yet.

Yesterday I was on my way to a local event when my alternator went out as I was crossing an intersection. I’ve had my share of hairy situations in cars. I would just as soon do without those, thank you very much. I was able to coast into the parking lot of a large service station and into a parking space on the little momentum I had left. I tried to start it again. No juice. I couldn’t even get my handy electric windows rolled up. Good thing we’re in an exceptional drought. Nothing likely to get wet.

I called my brother. He’d been out running errands, so might still be in town somewhere. Fortunately, he wasn’t far away. But it was Game Day for the local university football team, and a home game. Traffic was already waxing horrible. My brother suggested I go inside the service station store and get something to drink – it would probably take him a while to get through the traffic to get back to where I was.

It’s not like the alternator going out was completely unexpected. The car had recently started making a “new” noise and my brother had said he thought it was coming from the alternator. He said it might be about to go out in a matter of days or weeks, or it could run like that – making that noise – for months. It was weeks.

Well, so my plans for the morning were shot, as well as for most of the afternoon. When my brother picked me up, we first tried to get the car running again so I could try to drive it home. Didn’t happen. The next option was to go get a new alternator and bring it back and replace it in the parking lot. Thankfully, Subaru, knowing things like alternators tend to crap out on a regular basis, put parts like that in easily accessible locations on their engines. It only took a couple of different sized wrenches to get the old one off and the new one on, and without skinned-up knuckles to show for it.

And that should be the whole story, right? We got the car started, I drove it home. It will probably continue to run – albeit in fits and starts – for another 100,000 miles (it only has 194,000 on it now). But there’s more to this car, of course, so there’s more to the story. Along about the time I wrote the original “Karma” story, I’d been having issues with the tail-lights – namely that they weren’t working. That’s kind of a big deal when one works until 9:30 at night.

It wasn’t burned out bulbs or a bad fuse. My brother improvised a “patch” of sorts across a couple of fuses that made the lights work again. Excellent. Except when a few days later I couldn’t start my car. It started from a jump okay, so I went to work. It was winter then, and that night it got down to about 20 degrees with a wind chill down around 5. My car wouldn’t start. I got out, quickly propped up the hood, and got my mile-long jumper cables out of the back. I stood by my car, holding my jumper cables, and watched EVERY other car in the parking lot drive past me. Somebody could have stopped to help. Somebody could have paused, rolled down their window, and ASKED if I needed help. Apparently, I looked so self-sufficient, standing there with my jumper cables, that they ALL assumed I didn’t need any help. Like I’m going to jump-start my car without another car. (Obviously, this still pisses me off just a teensy bit.)

I had to call my brother, then wait the twenty minutes it takes to get from home to the junior college campus where I work. Fortunately, I was able to go back inside a building to wait where I wouldn’t freeze my ass, and everything attached to it, off.

After I finally got home, I took The Puppy out for a pre-bedtime potty break, and noticed that my parking lights were on. I thought, “what the hell?” Indeed. I don’t know if it’s true of all Subarus, but the two that I’ve had have had light switches connected to the ignition switch. If the key is turned off, the lights are off, even if the switch is on. I couldn’t remember leaving the key in the ignition switch when I got out. I pointed it out to my brother, who came up with the solution I’m using to this day. Whenever I park my car, I disconnect one of the battery cables. When I get ready to get back in and drive, I hook the cable back up. For short stops, like to put gas in it, I don’t need to disconnect the cable, but for anything longer than five or ten minutes, I do. Just to be on the safe side. It’s a pain in the ass. Good thing we’re in an exceptional drought. I’ve gotten slightly damp a couple of times having to stand in a brief shower while I tinker around under the hood of my car. How inconvenient it would be if we were actually getting rain on a normal basis.*

And that’s not all. I began to notice other oddities about the lights. Since I drive after dark, it’s hard not to have these things called to my attention. When I turn right, my dome light flashes on and off. The first time it happened, I thought I was seeing lightening in my rear view mirror. Then one night I was actually looking at the mirror when it happened and saw the light come on. Now sometimes one or another of the “door ajar” lights also flashes when I turn right. Another night as I was driving home, when I flipped on my high beams, the seat-belt light started flashing. It stopped when I dimmed my lights, and didn’t start again when I turned them back up, but – bizarre. My brother thinks we need to hire an exorcist. He may have a point.

*Being facetious, here. Obviously, I’d rather get soaked or have to wait a while before I go anywhere rather than have the horrible conditions we’re in this year continue another day.

Possessed?

Spring Cleaning

Not a concept I’m particularly fond of. When I “clean” things, I end up not knowing anymore where anything is. On top of which, there are no drains in the floors in my house; the walls and carpets would most likely not take to being hosed down. My brother often offers me the use of his pressure washer, whenever I mention that the Puppy needs a bath. A pressure washer is just about what I’d want to use to do my spring cleaning with. I got spoiled when I was working at the zoo.

For a short time when I was fresh out of the Houston Community College’s Animal Medical Technology training program, I worked at the Houston Zoo in their newish (this was 1974) Gorilla Habitat. I had spent several weeks the previous summer working in various departments at the zoo as part of my “on-the-job-training” portion of the course. Then I managed to land an “assistant” keeper position working with the gorillas. Very cool.

Once a week, while the two young gorillas, Vanilla and Je-Je (yay-yay), were out in their exhibit entertaining the public – or hurling excrement at them – I was in their sleeping quarters with the pressure washer sanitizing everything. It was a whiz-bang of a machine, with adjustable pressure settings, selections for hot or cold water, and soap and rinse settings. This is what I really want to use on my house. I just don’t understand why houses – at least the bathrooms – can’t be built with the ability to just be hosed down and scrubbed. Geez. Oh, well.

Now that I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about those gorillas, I wonder what would have happened if I had kept that job. Not much point speculating – I had a lot more growing up to do before I could handle doing work I loved, in a place I loved, with people who drove me crazy. I expected I would eventually find a place where I would love all three of those things. Silly me. That job put me onto a quest for something I would be chasing after for another 30 years.

It’s what led me to join the Air Force – looking for that ticket out of the nest that came with educational funding. Oh, and did I do some growing up then…

I remember one miserable weekend while I was in Basic Training in San Antonio when I had landed myself in a place called “Med-Hold.” I had gotten a blister on my foot that got infected and required medical intervention – on a Friday. I was put on a marching waiver, and immediately told to walk to the other side of the base and report to this “Med-Hold” place, in shower shoes (we called them flip-flops, but they were not the ones with the little piece that goes between the toes). Yeah, really. This was supposed to be so that my condition could be monitored all weekend – something that apparently could not be trusted to my own training instructors. Or it was just the Air Force playing its little mind games – trying to see how much horsedoo we could take before we snapped.

I’d been there most of Friday afternoon, in one of the older dorms, with no air-conditioning, in August (and did I mention this was in San Antonio?), getting to know some of the other unfortunates that I would be spending the weekend with, when I was summoned to the dorm entrance. There stood my assistant training instructor with a bundle of my belongings, and what looked like a letter. She said she had only just found out I’d been sent over here straight from sick call, so she had told a couple of my bunk mates to gather up some things I’d need for an overnight – like my toothbrush – and since I’d received a letter at mail call, she brought that, too. She gave me a searching look – probably looking for chinks in the wall – and asked, “you gonna be okay?” At least I think I remember her saying something like that.

I nodded. I was actually a little choked up. Somebody remembered me? And she brought my mail! I took everything inside to my temporary bunk and sat down and opened my letter. It was from my dad. He had seen an article in the paper and thought I would like it, so he clipped it out and sent it to me with a short note. I unfolded the clipping and started blubbering. There was a photo of Je-Je with Vanilla and part of the exhibit in the background. I couldn’t even read the article for a few minutes. All the other girls gathered around solicitously to see what horrible thing had befallen me. I just held up the news photo and said, “my babies. These are my babies. I used to take care of them.” A few of them got out their looks of disbelief. And that still didn’t explain why I was crying. It was no big deal. The story was about how Je-Je had gone off his food, and they had discovered he had a broken tooth that had become abscessed. The zoo had called in a human dentist to do a root canal and install some kind of crown. It made the news.

All the weeks I had already spent away from home without a single quiver of homesickness, only to be brought low by a story about a job I could never go back to. The human mind is a bizarre place. The memory of that weekend, and of opening that letter, still has the power to make me weepy. Je-Je and Vanilla are long gone, and I think their habitat was torn down and replaced with something else, but I’ll always have those few months when I got nose to nose with a couple of gorillas every day.

Sometimes spring cleaning unearths things – right when we need them most.

 

Me and Cars and Karma and WTF?!

It all started with the Vega. It was late 1974 – early 1975, and my dad bought a very slightly used Chevy Vega from a young man who worked in his building and was buying a bigger car to use in his car pool. At last, I had my own car. The fact that Vegas were already starting to look like one of Chevrolet’s monumental disasters didn’t mar its shiny blue paint not one bit. One of the things I liked best about it was that I could put my Great Dane in the passenger seat (after I slid it back as far as it would go and tilted the seat back almost flat) and go driving around and get all kinds of weird looks. The dog took up the whole right side of the car, got drool all over the windshield and dashboard — fun stuff like that. I just loved that little car. And it was good to me, too, for a while.

It started getting some hoo-doo in its voo-doo during the summer of ’75, shortly before I packed up and flew off to San Antonio for Air Force Basic Training. My mom and I decided to take a “grand tour” up to Oklahoma to visit relatives before I got myself sequestered in the military life, and we took off in that Vega. Somewhere north of Dallas, on the return trip, we were cruising along — I was driving because we had decided that I was better at driving through the cities in my “fearless indestructable youth” phase (plus I had quicker reflexes than my mom on her best days), when all of a sudden the bottom dropped out of the power. The engine just stopped. We were coasting. I pulled off on the shoulder and stopped. Tried to start it again. Nothing. My mom and I gave each other the “what the hell?’ look, and then we sat there for a bit trying to work out what could have happened. It was hard not to panic, after all, we couldn’t just call someone. C’mon. Phones in cars were expensive. This was a Chevy. Not a Rolls Royce.

Eventually, the car started again, and we drove on. And it stalled again. We made it to my aunt’s house in Irving finally, and phoned the popster. He was as mystified as we were, but told us to just take our time on the way back to Houston. As long as it was starting again after it “rested” a bit, he would rather have us bring it home than take it to a repair shop in the Dallas area. And that was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the Vega. It had developed a chronic tendency to vapor-lock when traveling in hot weather. Something happened when the gasoline heated up in the gas lines in the engine compartment. It turned to vapor and the engine ran out of fuel momentarily. Always in traffic on a busy expressway. Gahh!

I had a few decent cars during the years I was in the Air Force and for a while afterwards, mainly because my first ex-husband was a car-swapping fool. Every couple of years we’d get a new, or newer, car, or truck. Then in 1984 I got the Plymouth. I should have known that another car that resembled the Vega would be equally cursed.

Also borrowed from Wikipedia

I admit the fondness for vaguely sporty looking little hatchback cars was a weakness I had. Obviously the same poor judgment I showed in choosing husbands was probably at work here. I hadn’t had the thing a full year before the clutch went out, for the first but not last time. Still, I loved driving it. I drove it back and forth from Kentucky after I moved up there in 1988. I enjoyed the freedom of finally having a car that was paid off. For a few years. Before the expensive breakdowns started occurring with increasing frequency. My second ex-husband replaced or rebuilt the carburetor several times over the span of a couple of years. Then it went through a timing belt breaking phase, and he replaced the timing belt about every six months for a couple of years. And we had to replace the catalytic converter, etc,etc,etc. But since he was an incredibly thoughtless spender, we never had money to actually replace the car with something better. I was only lucky that he was able to at least work on, if not completely fix, all the glitches it developed. But finally it reached a point where even he couldn’t track down the problem with the vacuum leaks that caused it to start stalling out every time I took my foot off the gas. I had to learn to stop by down-shifting once or twice, and then, keeping my foot on the gas while clutching with my other foot, I had to use the handbrake to come to a full stop. This was brutally stressful in traffic situations. Fortunately I was living in a rural area and working in Frankfort, Kentucky at the time, and traffic there was almost non-existent by comparison to where I live now. I can’t imagine trying to drive that heap around here in that condition.

After the Turismo I had a couple of cheap used cars that basically fell apart within very short periods of time. When I came back to Texas on the last legs of a 1984 Jeep Cherokee, my dad graciously turned over the keys to his 1985 Chevy Cavalier. “The air conditioner doesn’t work any more, but it still runs just great!” Yeah, that’s right. No air conditioning. In Central Texas. I was overwhelmed with emotion. And it wasn’t joy. I started looking for something I could convince my dad to buy for me. It wouldn’t be easy. He had a lot of the Scott in him. Pinched pennies till they shrieked in pain. But I found something. One of my previous junker cars had been a Subaru wagon, which, along with all that was wrong with it, was actually a comfortable ride for me. It fit me. I found another one.

My current car. Lovely, isn’t it?

It was already 16 years old, but the previous owner had maintained it well and had it detailed before he traded it in. The engine compartment looked like that of a brand new car. We took it. It even matched my dad’s pickup and my brother’s work van. (It used to have a complete paint job. The photo is of it in its current sorry state.) The air conditioner worked! It had an automatic transmission, which I found much preferable to manual shifting since I started having more back pain. It ran like a Timex for the fist three or so years, and then the air conditioner started ejecting coolant almost as fast as the service shop replaced it. The original owner had retro-fitted the A/C to use the new less-environmentally-damaging coolant, fortunately, because none of it was staying in the compressor. Then I started having over-heating problems. Running — or trying to run — the air conditioner just exacerbated the over-heating issue. The repair shop replaced hoses, radiator, clamps, etc, and ran gallons of Blue Devil through the thing, with only temporary abatement of the problem. Gahhh!! I can’t go anywhere in hot weather, especially if I want to arrive relatively dry (if I arrive at all). Again, I can’t afford to replace the car, and can only afford band-aid repairs at this point. The irony is, I love to drive. I drove this wagon to North Carolina in 2005 to get The Old Guy and bring him home. I had Her Royal Highness with me, and we had a wonderful trip. Or I did. The dogs didn’t complain. I’d like nothing better than to be able to take a nice long road trip like that every year or so. I’d love to drive out to California to visit my cousin in Bishop over the Memorial Day holiday and go to Mule Days. Ah, well. At least I have a dream.