Sitting in my wife's car in the garage tonight, lights on, windshield wipers going, it's easy to see how people get depressed. I'm just back from the store, and had to maneuver past my old 4-Runner to get into the one-car garage. I left the truck's lights on when we came back from the PTO pancake breakfast this morning. Thai soup for lunch. I made the soup last night because I went down to the faculty practice at Northwestern by myself Wednesday, and my wife and daughter missed out on lunch at a good Thai restaurant. I had a glass of champagne at lunch today. An ounce of cognac in the champagne. The same grape. And I fell asleep reading Nial Ferguson's The Ascent Of Money. When I woke up, I knew I'd left the lights on and I knew the battery would be dead when I went outside and tried to start the truck.
This is the first winter we've had a one-car garage. We park my wife's VW in the garage and leave the Toyota in the driveway, close to the furnace exhaust where it's a little warmer. The battery is probably finished. I'll jump it in the morning and drive the truck tomorrow, but I'm not hopeful the battery will hold its charge. Getting my daughter to school Monday may be a hassle, I'm thinking, sitting in the warm car, staring at the odds and ends stacked on the shelf at the end of the garage, above the bicycles and the snow-blower. A yellow sprayer I used to spray nematodes on the grubs infesting my yard back in Wisconsin in a futile attempt to avoid chemicals. The "for sale" sign from the lot we bought down by the beach here in Michigan last summer with the address and the outline of the lot on it. When we bought the lot, down near the water where a Jack Nicklaus golf course is under construction, I distinctly remember saying "how can we lose?"
I grew old reading John Updike's books. I read Rabbit, Run the first time in a reading room at the Student Union of the University of Texas in 1960. I think I puzzled over the punctuation of the title for an hour before I started reading the book. Updike is a little older than me, but close enough in age for us to have seen and done some of the same things at the same time. It was Updike's genius to take his time with Harry Angstrom, to let him live, taking him up every ten years or so when the world had changed enough for new things to be important. Updike saw the end of Detroit coming. And he knew it would not be the foreign cars that undid us, but the easy money, the fast deals and cooked books. If I never quite believed Rabbit was real, I always understood him. I could relate to him as he got older and richer, then poorer and, finally, died.
The jump start worked. The battery held its charge. Fat Boy, my 1993 Toyota 4-Runner, is parked in my driveway, charged up and ready to go, icicles hanging from his shiny grill like frozen snot.