Tuesday, March 12, 2013


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.


quinn the eskimo said...

-41 here tonight, Billy. Celsius & Fahrenheit meet at -40. So however you count it, it's cold.

I've been Walkabout. Had to. Too much coming in from the world. The denial was overwhelming me. Then, this week, the wall of denial sprang leaks. And now the cold water's everywhere. At work, in e-mails, blogs. Unemployment. That hits us personally. We all feel, and fear, the cold now.

This happened while I was Walking. New question, rising fast now. What do we feel, in our guts, is happening? This isn't policy anymore. Not about incremental policy adjustments. It's - Is this a 30's Depression like Granddad's? Do I aim for more self-sufficiency? Are we headed to stones & huts? This is why I stopped arguing analysis a while back. Analysis has no power to covert Denial. But even now that it's cracked... it's still secondary.

Because the WAVES of change coming on now are cultural. Psychic. Shaped by what we see, dream, remember.... If we want to believe policy can overcome the psychic stuff, well... just shows we know nothing about history.

So... I'd gone Walkabout, came back. Wrote a (long) goof on this, at the other place, hinting. Story about an old lady Shaman, 12,000 years ago, and what she must've seen, dealt with. All I really wanted to say was... we need to feel at those levels. Listen.

And then, a funny thought crept in. I put it in a comment. "No more Katrina's. This time, no one drowns. NO one." That's all. That was all I'd learned on my Walk.

And then I come here to Billy's Island, and what do I see? "No tricks, tips, or advice on beating the crowd, just unity."

Good that there'll be company.

gasket said...

The first line from Alone in the Wilderness: The Story of Dick Proenneke is:

"It was good to be back in the wilderness again, where everything seems at peace."

The local PBS station aired Alone in the Wilderness during a recent fund drive because it is wildly popular. I had never seen it before, but I was so completely mesmerized that I watched it twice.

When I was a kid, I loved survival novels like Hills End. Not to sound overly dramatic, but it's probably because I had to figure out how to make it through childhood alive. Turns out the author of Hills End, Ivan Southall, died only last month at the age of 87.

At this point in my life, I find myself drawn to these survival stories again. They comfort me. So does the yellow-bellied sapsucker intently jackhammering away at the tree outside my window, not paying me any mind.