Monthly Archives: July 2012

Zero to Sixty in About Five Minutes

I have a co-worker who is crazy about cars. His screensaver is a never-ending succession of fancy cars whose names are never mentioned by the fast-talking salesmen on our local car dealer commercials. He probably dreams of owning one, but I look at them and think, “How safe is that little thing?” and “I’ll bet that costs a fortune to repair.”

My own chariot of fire is a 2007 PT Cruiser. I love it. It’s that special gray paint that turns silvery purple in a certain light. My license plate tells people to read books, as every librarian’s should. It is roomy and practical, and can zoom from zero to sixty in about five minutes, which makes passing other cars a real adrenaline rush. We bought it from a car restorer who had purchased it, wrecked, from a junk dealer. I kid you not. My husband is really good with cars, so he inspected it thoroughly before we bought it. I mean, we were there for hours, and I thought the guy was going to throw us out. With a few tweaks, it’s done pretty well. I just turn the music up really loud to cover up any squeaks.

Today, my little car failed me. We lost a belt that ran the air conditioner, which we knew had been fraying for a while. We were leaving church and turning onto a very busy two-lane road in Apex, NC– which has grown exponentially faster than the civil engineers ever thought it would, so the traffic is a nightmare. Waiting at the stop sign, I said to my husband, “I think that air is hot.” He replies, “Oh, no. I’m sure it will cool off as we get going.” Just then, I saw a tiny opening and jumped into it, screaming, “I have no power steering!!” I’m serious, y’all. I could hardly get the car into the lane. David casually says, “Huh. Must be the belt, then.” He had neglected to mention that this belt controlled the power steering pump, too. Several hours and much grunge later, David has it all installed except for a couple of “flat terminals.” I don’t know what that means, but apparently, it will take no time at all once David has visited the flat terminal shop tomorrow.

Here’s a strange by-product of this episode: the driver’s airbag light, which has been on for two months, is now out. We’ve been wanting to get it fixed the next time David sold a house, but it went out by itself today! So here’s the latest tip from this auto non-expert: the next time your airbag light comes on, change your a/c belt. Or maybe check the power steering.

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Looking for New Music

What’s a 54-year-old Switchfoot fan to do when she’s listened to Vice Verses 7,000 times? Occasionally, just for a change-up, I’ve listened to Hello, Hurricane a few times, but since last Christmas, that’s been a fairly daily diet.

I must say that I did discover Needtobreathe last year (thank you, Amazon) and received two of their CDs for Christmas, too. They are excellent, and I have listened to both of the CDs way too often for my son’s comfort, since they are more country than my usual taste. Of course they are! Those boys are from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, so you know they’re country. But not too much. They’ve got some rock and roll in them, too, and the lead singer reminds me of Randy Newman. They range from serious (“White Fences”) to fun (“Girl Named Tennessee”). Altogether, their sound is all their own, and I’m glad they’re touring all over the world now.

I’ll listen to early ‘70s rock (no disco!) and folk music, and almost any kind of good music out there. For Christian music, I’ve loved DC Talk, Jars of Clay, and many other Christian rock bands. I do like some worship music, but you know how it goes. Most of the time, you get the acoustic guitar that’s just strumming– nothing fancy– and either the strong baritone or the suburban-mom soprano. It’s oh-so-respectable and bland. This must be what the Christian radio stations call “family friendly.” How in the world did we come to believe that the gospel is supposed to be innocuous? Did these people ever read the Bible?

Anyhow, on the other end of the spectrum in Christian music, you’ve got the unintelligible Skillet and a host of others who are even now queuing up to have polyps removed from their vocal chords. I once told my son that his metal bands sounded as if they were vomiting into the microphone. Not my cup of tea. (Ew. Sorry about that image.)

No other band that I know comes up to the level of Switchfoot. I totally love that they can run several songs with awesome dirty guitar licks, and then follow up with a ballad that will break your heart. Who else but Jon Foreman writes songs about Soren Kierkegaard or gets me to read John M. Perkins’ memoir, Let Justice Roll Down? “The Sound,” by the way, is as close to a perfect rock song as has ever been written. It’s not just the absolutely fabulous music, it’s that they actually have something substantive to say. Even my son, who is not a believer, calls it “intelligent people’s music.” We own every album they’ve ever made, and they get better every time.

A couple of days ago, I spent over an hour online searching for some new music. There are some interesting groups out there, but I don’t feel as if I’ve uncovered any gems or made great discoveries. Of course, we don’t have a local Christian radio station to keep me up to date, either, since Raleigh—in a county of almost one million—does not seem to be able to support a Christian radio station with a radius of more than five miles. We have to switch stations halfway when we drive across Wake County, so we end up listening to the local pop station or CDs. Oh, well. They probably only play “family friendly” music, anyway.

Maybe what I really need is a new Switchfoot album. Write faster, Jon!

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Of Gardens and Guns

My reigning favorite magazine is Garden & Gun, particularly when I see the reaction I get when I say the title. People are so eager to be offended these days! It’s hilarious. I think that it must be fashionable to be offended by anything that could possibly be politically incorrect, and guns are certainly so. However, G&G is a glossy, beautiful, and engrossing read for anyone who lives in the South or wishes to live here. I do sometimes feel that I should have more money before being allowed to read it, since they talk about art and equestrian vacations and such, but at least I can know about such things. One knife-maker, for example, creates exquisite chef’s knives for $600 a pop, and I found out in the latest issue’s article on Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that it costs $45 – $60 a glass at a bar– when you’re lucky enough to find it.

If you like them on Facebook, you can see the results of their Good Dog photo contest (Awww!), and you even get playlists of recording artists they are featuring. Best of all, we found a recipe for what turned out to be our favorite fall cocktail last year, just in time for football season! It was so good I almost didn’t mind hand-grating the fresh ginger.

Their subtitle is “The Soul of the South,” and they are really on top of things. I read an interview with Kathryn Stockett a couple of years ago, before The Help became a huge hit or there was even a hint of a movie. I also found out recently that the wonderful Norah Jones (My husband calls her Snorah Jones) had a new album out before anyone else was talking about it. Then they posted several sample songs on Facebook. Plus, they have a few famous Southern authors with regular columns.

My husband loves the magazine as much as I do, and not just for the bourbon. There are hilarious and brilliant articles on frog hunting, great barbecue, and where to find the most beautiful etched guns. See, there really are guns. As for gardens, they had a large feature on Eudora Welty’s gardens a while back, and they also had an issue devoted to land conservation efforts in the South. The photographs are always stunning.

So, at the risk of sounding like Garden & Gun’s marketing department, you really need to get you some. It’s not expensive, and my only regret is that it only comes out six times per year. Or at least go on their website and look at all the sweet dog pictures.

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Saturday Afternoons with Allan

Every Saturday afternoon, starting somewhere between one and two, you will find me sitting on my living room sofa, red-faced and stressed out. I’m talking to my brother, Allan. We talk for a couple of hours, once a week, about all sorts of things that we don’t have an opportunity to discuss with anyone else. We are both readers, so of course we talk books constantly. Allan is ten years my senior, and was in graduate school when I was a young teenager, so he influenced my taste in books, music, and history greatly. Now, he is still a reader, and I am a librarian, so I’m also recommending books to him. We can also agree completely, and at great length, that civilization as we know it is crumbling before our eyes and everyone would be much better off if they modeled themselves after us.

After that, things get sketchy. He is a liberal and I am a conservative. I am a Christian and he is agnostic, tending more toward atheism as he gets older. He is convinced that all evil comes from corporations and greedy rich people, and I am more likely to think that “we have met the enemy, and it is us.” He lives in the north, and I live in the South. (Yes, only the South gets capitalized.) So, as you can imagine, our discussions of current events can get lively. But I wouldn’t miss our conversations for the world. It is so difficult in life to find someone with whom you can be completely honest, even when you know that they’ll disagree with you and be just as honest right back. Of course, we have lots of nice, pleasant conversations, too, especially about family and memories and things like that. There are also times when he will insist on telling me about the Mets, during which times I say “uh-huh” at what seem like appropriate intervals.

The greatest thing, though, is at the end of the phone call, no matter what was said, I know we’ll always end with: “Talk to you next week.” “Okay. I love you.” “I love you, too.” And that, Charlie Brown, is what family is all about.

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Requiem for an Appliance

My dryer died tonight. The first time I found the clothes cold and wet, I thought I’d had a senior moment and forgotten to start it. But, no. I sat right here and listened to it toss those clothes around for an hour, and they were still just as cold and just as wet.

It was a good 32 years. My faithful, banged-up, Harvest Gold Kenmore dryer gave its all for the cause. I received it as a gift from my husband– probably on a Sears credit card– for our first Christmas in 1980. The matching washer conked out about 15 years ago. Still not bad, really. The next one only lasted five years.

When I went upstairs to break the bad news to my husband and son, my son pointed to the floor and said, “Good thing we’ve got another one.” I looked carefully at the floor, but could not find a dryer. He said, “In the garage!” Oh, yes! When Michael moved back in with us to go to graduate school, he packed his entire two-bedroom apartment into our garage, including his almost-new washer and dryer. It’s like the auto insurance commercials where the guy pulls a new car out of his smashed-up wreck.

So goodbye, dear dryer, and thanks for all the fluffy towels.

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The Girl Who Has Books with Really Long Names

I just finished Catherynne Valente’s exquisite second YA  novel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, which is the sequel to the also breathtaking (in more than one way) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. As far as I can tell, Valente is not British, just plain ol’ American, but she puts me in mind of all sorts of quintessentially British authors, such as E. Nesbit, Lewis Carroll, Douglass Adams, and Jasper Fforde. Her use of language is what makes her work so distinctive, and when combined with her brilliant wit, reading is a joy.

In both of the novels, our heroine, September, is swept into Fairyland, where she uses her pluck and good sense to save entire civilizations of creatures she’s never met before and still gets home in time for dinner. As usual. However, it is not as usual at all. Valente’s creatures are original and her world-building is convincing. We love September and are proud of her courage. Although September is twelve in the first novel and thirteen in the second, Valente’s humor will please adults at age, well, fifty-four, as well.

I can highly recommend these two books to fantasy-lovers from a precocious ten to a young-at-heart one hundred.

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My very first post!

I am eager to see what this will look like on my website. Good thing I have an excellent webmaster.

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