Some colors

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It caught my eye Sunday–a latte-colored station wagon crossing Sidney Baker toward Lowe’s. Good thing we were headed that way anyway, because I was intent on seeing it up close.

It pulled in to the lot, and I pulled around near it to park. That is, I circled the entire lot until an SUV next to it pulled away so I could park right here.

“Is this creepy?” I asked the person riding shotgun. There was an inaudible reply.

She–Inaudible Shotgun Person–went into Lowe’s to do some actual good for the homestead, while I took a photo of the vehicle, a Chevy Nova wagon, white roof and a rain gutter, which would be perfect to affix surf racks onto except that I wouldn’t want to lessen its sleekness. (A Chevy Nova…”sleek”? Yes, sleek.)

A bumper sticker read, “RIDE OLD BIKES.”

The glass was flat and had a Mediterranean blue-green clarity to it. I half-expected the driver to be a sea turtle.

teal wagon

I saw a car today on Bandera Highway heading in the opposite direction, so instead of trying to take a photo out the driver’s side window doing an apparent speed of 90mph away from me–that’s not advisable, right?–I found online what was roughly the color of it.

Some colors should be kept around simply because they’re cool.

Yet tolerable

The forecast today in Kerrville is 106°.

(I know…are we seriously gonna talk about the weather?!)

This is not just about the weather. I’m finding that I’d rather live through a hot summer, as I’m told we are having here, than a cold winter in New York City or even Massachusetts.

So long as the Freon hasn’t run out in your 1980 Ford truck, as it has for my oldest son, the heat can be combatted with that miracle gas almost anywhere. (Of course, my perspicacious wife noticed the odd stench of leaking or bad Freon at the casita a couple days ago and called the property manager to come have it fixed.)

Aside from having no Freon in your truck when coming home from your fast food job at 11pm–which these days doesn’t apply to me–what’s the worry about a little heat?

Sure, burn ban. (I’ll try to abstain.) Sure, scorpions and snakes. (Exterminators and shovels.)

In Massachusetts one winter, I was traveling for work often and missed shoveling the driveway once or twice after back to back snowfalls. The ice built up so much that we had to hire someone with a mini bulldozer to loosen the layer of frozenness so I could shovel it. And two hours of shoveling out a car path after a 36-inch snowfall another time before going to work at 8am is not my my idea of fun.

I’m sitting on the back porch, watching the sky lighten until the sun rises at 6:49am. Ten minutes from now.

The mourning doves coo, and the mosquitoes are yet tolerable.

Popping pick-ups and paywalls

Saturday morning round-up of Things That Don’t Really Deserve A Separate Post But Which I Wanted To Mention.

Each has the import of a sentence of mostly initial capital letters.

First there is this photo of a red pick-up truck, which I converted to black and white, since a photographer once told me that the color red can really pop when seen in BxW.

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Red pick-up in front of “Olympic” pool on Singing Wind Drive.

Doesn’t that “color” really pop? Very cool.

Speaking of color, the bush out front of our house–which I learned was a sage bush–not our house, that is, but the bush (thank you, dangling modifiers)–sprung into summer action after the rain the other day.

It bloomed a few days later:

Photo taken with Focos
Detail of sage bloom. Busy bee at work.

Y’all know that this blog tries to keep to BxW photos (or sepia, silvertone, etc.), but that bloom was vibrant. I forgot to take a comparative photo last night, when the fuchsia had turned lavender or muted purple. Suffice to say, that the bloom had gone off the bush; the bees had returned to their Queen.

Back to black and white.

For those who really wanted to see the broken down drunk grandfather of a shed, sitting in his yellowing boxers in the living room chair:

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You have to admit–well, I’d like you to admit with me–that it kinda belongs there now. Let him sleep it off. He’s sitting off Friendship Lane on the south side, just west of Walmart.

And last, but certainly not least, there was the article that appeared today in the Kerrville Daily Times about Karen and her art, but it’s behind a paywall. (How I hate paywalls. They are evil. Make the content free and pay for it with ad revenue; people don’t subscribe to diddly squat anymore. If I put this blog behind a paywall, how many of you 8 readers would pay?! See?)

Go to my Facebook to read the article and see the photos.

Y’all come back.

Better sleep “in” it

Transportation in New York generally requires only a MetroCard and a pair of shoes that don’t have holes in the soles. (That way, one can navigate a rainy day with minimized discomfort. Holey soles wouldn’t necessarily bother me in a drier climate.)

Here, however, transportation requires that I not only know what an alternator does, but also accept that when it gets replaced on a car run by a computer, the part must “re-learn”–the mechanic’s word–how to interact with the engine through multiple “drive cycles,” so that it doesn’t stall out when the RPMs drop too low at stoplights or turns or when idling in our driveway or when I look at it the wrong way. In other words, this car has a mind of its own, when it has absolutely no right to.

As everyone knows, shoes have no minds, and their souls are only of the material kind. And, therefore, they are easy companions. They are like dogs, cars are like cats. Or something like that.

We had to replace the alternator two days ago, and it took a day and a half of remedial lessons for Karen and me to teach the part how to do its job and to play nice with the rest of the car. This meant we had to treat the automatic transmission like a 5-speed manual. On Bandera Highway, I could drive it in 4th gear or “D,” but coming up to a red light at Loop 534, I’d down shift to third, then second, and then, if the light hadn’t changed, I’d either put it into neutral and rev the engine while slightly coasting toward the car twenty feet ahead of me–it’s basically zero grade road there–or if stopped, I’d have to keep the brake applied with my left foot and rev the accelerator with my right. Keeping RPMs above 1000.

The greatest test of my mettle was dealing with Hill Country Dry Clean Super Center yesterday on Sidney Baker.

The store is sunken about 15 feet below street level, which means that the in and out ramps are just that: ramps. Ramps are college level. We are dealing with a pre-K after a new alternator.

I had choreographed my day so that I’d work at Pint and Plow and drop my shirts to be cleaned on the way home, so that my turn into the small lot was with the flow of traffic and not across it, and my exit would be likewise, when I’d continue on down to Loop 534 near the YO. As I was approaching the store headed northeast on Sidney Baker, two pickup trucks with perfectly good alternators had partially blocked the exit ramp leading out from the all-too-small parking lot. I gently made the right turn in but had to slow to a point where my power went out–the alternator’s amps dropped below 15, which shut off the battery and thus the car (at least that’s how I understand it; I’m still working on how to get a good shine on my instep). I then coasted in, and since it was downhill, I turned left into the lot and right into a parking spot, made all the more difficult since the power steering was out now, so I had to man-handle the car like it was my 1998 Ford Contour, whose only asset was that it, like the two pickup trucks now delightfully on their way, had a working alternator.

After dropping my shirts–which, at $2.75 per shirt here compared with $2.25 in New York City, will cost me over the year as much as a new alternator–I then had the task of getting out of this pseudo-ditch. The task presented itself like running up a muddy hill wearing plastic bags over your shoes. The trick first is to start the car, rev the engine while in park, and then throw it into reverse and back up past the blind spot created by the large white pick-up to my right without hitting another customer coming in from behind me.

Did that.

Then, throw it into second to keep the RPMs up and head up the ramp on the left to get back onto Sidney Baker.

At the top, stalled out.

Wait for traffic with the engine off. Traffic stops at the red light by Tractor Supply Company. I start the engine, rev it, throw it into second and step on the gas. My back tires bark as I practically fishtail out onto Sidney Baker headed northeast. I follow these practices successfully all the way home.

A few months ago, my brother-in-law kindly replaced the car’s starter after it had gone out when Karen was at the small H-E-B. He did this there in the parking lot, in a slight drizzle, while I sat inside, pretending to be of moral support. Because, seriously, I know about shoes, ok?

Karen knows more about cars, and yet, when purchasing this one, she unwittingly texted the previous owner what should have been the key attribute we’d look for in a car…

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She wrote to the owner that she wanted to sleep “in” it before buying.

This is wise.

Because while it is always good to make a decision after sleeping on it, it is even better to sleep in a car before buying it, because you never know whether that is exactly what you’ll be doing when a part fails and the car subsequently refuses to learn its job.

The passing of time

Driving from Kerrville through Fredericksburg (to Austin, for work yesterday), there’s a shed that’s fallen in on itself on the south side of Friendship Lane, about a hundred yards shy of the First Baptist Church, followed by the Walmart, both on the left.

The shed looks like a sleeping drunk grandfather on a late Saturday morning: his A-shaped tin roof, rusted auburn, hinting at a once-glorious head of hair; his siding, like teeth, missing every other slat, letting the horizontal 2×4″ beams show; and a rusted metal mesh across the front that reminds me of a bathrobe whose sash has come loose and exposed yellowing boxers and thinning legs.

Yet with its all its weakness, this barn now belongs right there, at that roadside settled within a brief stand of trees that serves as an old leather armchair. It’s bothering no one and, obviously, no one’s bothered it for some time. It’s been ignored to “sleep it off.” It would seem almost wrong for a work crew to show up now and start dismantling the mesh, siding and roof.

He will return to his ancestors soon enough.

Peacefully.

There is a realtor’s sign not fifteen feet to the left, however.

An unwelcome alarm clock.

Left turn onto Thompson Drive

My last post was depressing to write and, what’s worse, it rambled and contained various non sequiturs. It read back to me like a 7-year-old explaining how a car engine works. Starting with simple observation and ending with the entrance of a superhero. Or something like that.

Speaking of which: defective headlights and Kerrville Police.

Last night, I got pulled over twice in the span of 20 minutes for a unbeknownst-to-me defective headlight (‘knownst to me, of course, after the first stop). The previous time I’d been pulled over was in May 1994, when I was speeding at 2am somewhere in North Carolina heading back to Atlanta after my friend’s wedding in Philadelphia.

But last night, we were picking up our middle son after he had dinner with his girlfriend at Chinatown. They were going for a walk in Louise Hays Park, and coming from the west, I was making the left off Sidney Baker South to Thompson. I was in the middle of the intersection and the light turned yellow, which is when I usually take the left, but a car that should have stopped at the opposing red ran it instead. (After multiple morally-gray turns like mine, I’m pretty sure the lights turn red simultaneously. Maybe this instance was different.) I made the left on red. A police cruiser who had stopped opposite me–and who I thought for sure would go after the absolutely morally corrupt red-light-runner instead turned behind me. On came the blue and red flashing lights. I was certain he had tagged me for the left turn; this seemed inescapable.

“Where do I pull over?” I asked my passenger, who is a native of these parts and yet was as stunned as I.

“Go down into the park.” Since we were heading there anyway.

I did, and pulled into the Loading Zone near the fountains. At this point, I kind of wished cars had the ability that dogs do: to roll over on their backs in submission to a Bigger Dog.

“What do I do?” I asked The Passenger. Meaning: do I put my hands on the steering wheel like in the cop shows, so that I don’t get shot or tased. I mean, really, last time I got stopped, I was 31, still drunk off the fumes of a weekend wedding celebration, and carefree. In 1994, I was trying to see what my red cape looked like when flying behind me at 75 mph. Last night, I didn’t know the protocol. The dance. Do I roll down my window first or wait for him to tell me to? Important moves like that.

The Passenger intoned: “Put the car into park and roll down the window.” We’re talking Violation Primer here. I shut off the engine.

Long story short: it was a defective headlight, and we got off with a written warning. After the paperwork and the apparently necessary confirmation of my weight–“Um…187. No, wait, 188.”–we were on our way.

With our son now in tow and telling him that story, we turned once more to Sidney Baker South headed toward Bandera Highway. Round about the top of that hill by Rio Robles, we had yet another Lit Up Police Cruiser behind us.

Again, my question, this time more annoyed than stunned: “Where should I pull over?” She indicated a small parking lot to the right.

I pulled in and put the car into park, ignition off, window down. I was Level 2 now, about to level up.

The officer approached, and I noticed he was a different person from the first officer who came to my window in Louise Hays. I looked back at him, hands still on the steering wheel. (I’m telling you: I’m not jeopardizing my Level 3 status with lazy dance moves.)

He smiled. “You already got pulled over tonight for this, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yeah. My colleague just told me. No worries. Y’all have a good night.”

Just like that.

The lesson?

Level 3 is easy.

It’s Level 2 that’s the bitch.

 

Burn Ban

The rain was slow at the start, and in the window of Hometown Crafts the poster–a woman and man wearing a T-shirt saying “STRONG TO THE FINISH” and the words below the figures, obscured, “Jesus said, ‘Go Into All The…'”–became abstracted as I let the windshield wipers rest.

Fact is, we needed rain.

That’s something you’d never hear me say in the city. The weather doesn’t matter much there. There, the elements are considered like so many commodities on Wall Street. Welcomed and forgotten within the hour. Maybe greeted with a shrug of the shoulder and an “Aw, hell” when heading out the door after forgetting the umbrella. Whether an act of God or man, little interrupts commerce there. Terrorists can take down the two tallest buildings on one day, and real estate prices turn over in five years with a capital gain for those who bought on September 10. A little drought certainly won’t hurt anybody.

But Kerrville needed the rain.

Hill Country Breaking News announced yesterday that the burn ban had been lifted for Precinct 2 of Kerr County. I just navigated over to see whether I live in Precinct 2–just in case I want to burn something–and though I couldn’t readily determine it, one click led to another and I did register to vote. So that’s done. The West Kerr Current reminded us today that the ban was back in effect for Precinct 4, their area of news coverage. Though we live on a golf course–we rent, mind you; the pool and health club membership alone is like renting a NYC studio apartment–and though the sprinkler activity is prodigious here and quite treacherous if you are a deer grazing at dusk, and though everything seems green, I’m not blind to seeing that the elements here treat a body differently.

When I was a kid, I used to love thunderstorms. Listen to them outside our pre-war building. Perhaps a part of me knew that the thunder and lightning and rain couldn’t get to me. After all, superheroes are born and raised in the city: Batman, Spiderman, Luke Cage (Harlem’s own; if you don’t know him, watch it on Netflix.) (Superman doesn’t count; being born on another planet is cheating.) And so many of them, maybe every one of them, become superheroes through suffering. Murder of one’s parents…spider bite (right up there next to snakes)…a scientist’s experiment gone wrong.

The city. Suffering. Impervious to the elements. Enter the superhero.

That’s the stuff of comic books.

I know Superman was ostensibly raised on a farm in the rural midwest, perhaps where there was a burn ban in effect from time to time. Certainly there was suffering.

Maybe the emergence of being a superhero–especially in a place like Kansas–is less literal than it is a state of mind. A journey that starts with a tornado, getting swept into a land of witches and flying monkeys, encountering old friends in new forms. Perhaps, like Eliot penned, and like Odysseus lived, we each must travel the same road again and again and finally reach the place at which we began, and recognize it for the first time. Perhaps, like Eliot said, we can find the “condition of complete simplicity.” Where, somehow, “the fire and the rose are one.”

Yet, he warns us, that simplicity costs us “not less than everything.”

Timpani rhythm on a rain gutter

[To readers: apparently, WordPress’s mobile app doesn’t like paragraph breaks, and as I was not in the mood at 4:30am to keep fiddling with it, nor do I have the time today to correct it, enjoy the “free verse prose poem” that the post offers you today.]

Also outside Pint & Plow yesterday

At nighttime, it’s dark. That might seem obvious to many of you. But to those of us from the city, night means more than darkness. To many in the city, “night-” is followed by “-life.” Which Kerrville decidedly has not. Maybe at The Ol’ Watering Hole, which stays open till 2am and which caters to those who forgot to take their Benadryl as I did but who also drink. (And drive. Because let’s face it: in a town with no Uber and barely a taxi service, gonna be a lot of people getting watered and then driving. My 17-year-old confirms with me that his driving friends say this is common.) I came out to the living room, as quiet as a mouse, only to find the other adult mouse there already, since she couldn’t sleep. She went back to bed ten minutes ago. Then the (blesséd) rain started up. And I do mean blesséd. As late as early evening last night, Kerrville Breaking News had headlines that the planned July 4th fireworks were still happening. (Because it had been raining. But before it was raining, it really wasn’t raining. Wasn’t at all, for a long time.) I came out onto the porch to experience dark and rain together, which I don’t know that I have before in Kerrville. It’s peaceful. I’m glad I have a house with a roof. I think I sometimes confuse inner peace with creature comfort. Street lamps don’t really exist away from downtown. Not on Bandera Highway near us–very dark, with only deer eyes glinting back. Not on the roads inside Comanche Trace, for who wants street lamp light bearing into their bedroom? A few years back, some residents at Manhattan’s famous Ansonia Hotel (now a residence) on Broadway on 73rd Street complained at a Community Board 7 meeting that the Beacon Theater’s flashing neon lights across the street were a public nuisance and kept them awake at night, etc., “Couldn’t something be done at night to shut them off?!” You’d think. But I don’t recall there being any change. New York City’s lights drive commerce. And drive people to commerce. As does Uber (drive people to commerce). Night and light is commerce in New York City. It’s 4:36am here. The mosquitoes are not attacking me yet. On a normal morning by 7:15 in the increasing light, I’d have several bites, and only then would I decide to spray some repellent on.

Informants

From our back porch, I look north and west. A cardinal stabs the silence with its sharp staccato song, and its red frame sits on the dark green leaves of the oak tree like a Christmas ornament. The oaks across the fairway slowly betray the sun’s arrival. It’s almost as if they wink at me as their trunks and leaves’ undersides turn golden brown. If I turned around, the star itself would still be hidden behind our and other houses.”Trust us,” the trees coo. “It’s there. Look at us and rest assured.”Purple martins have been scrambling for breakfast back and forth and sideways just above my head, and a hummingbird earlier hovered three feet in front of my face, regarded me for as long as it deemed necessary, and moved on.The oaks across from me, muted for the past ten minutes, again sing to me of morning’s arrival.Deer have been walking west to east alongside the fairway like nomads in the Sahara. Pilgrims headed to Mecca. Or like reluctant soldiers. Four of them take off galloping toward the northeast, a small flock of purple martins in the lead, the cavalry advancing in front of the infantry. A group from among the nomads seeing an oasis.The houses to the northwest, atop the hill, are now a soft brown, lit up by the sun, as if they paid a premium for early admission to the new day.My back is still to the star.But informants have confirmed that it’s taking its diurnal stroll. Not a minute too soon. Not a second too late.