Saturday, February 6, 2010

You are Listening to Las Colinas

Your Cadillac breathes 400 horses over blue lines You are going to Recita to make love To a model from Ohio whose real name you don’t know You spin Like your Cadillac was overturning down a cliff On televison And the radio is on And the radio man is speaking And the radio man says “women were a curse” So men built Paramount Studios And men built Columbia Studios And men built Los Angeles It is five am and you are listening To Los Angeles --Soul Coughing, “Screenwriter’s Blues” So I’m seriously considering buying a new car. The funny thing about that isn’t the “considering” part. It’s the “seriously” part. I’m always thinking of buying a new car. There are a lot of cars out there and I’ve never owned the car I really wanted to own. No, check that. I once owned the car that I really wanted to own. It was a 1996 Chrysler Concorde. The car was beautiful. It was burgundy with gold highlights, aluminum rims, and a tan leather interior. It had an Infinity Premium audio system and all the options you could have hoped for on a car before the advent of built-in nav systems on cars priced for anyone. But there was one problem with that burgundy 1996 Chrysler Concorde. It was a pile of shit. Every six months something new would go horribly, horribly wrong and it would cost me a thousand or fifteen hundred to fix. I finally gave up on it after it sucked a rod and needed a new engine. It wasn’t worth it to me to fix the damn thing even though I still had a year’s worth of payments to go. So I bought a brand-new 2004 Chevy Cavalier. It was a bare bones model with the weirdest quirk I’ve ever seen: remote keyless entry and crank windows. Where else will that combination appear? When I bought the Cavalier what I really wanted was a Mazda 3. What convinced me to buy the Cavalier instead was the 0% financing. I knew I’d have to roll the cost of the Concorde in to the cost of the Cavalier, so for five years I paid for the Cavalier I was driving and the Concorde I no longer had every month. In all honesty, I’ve come to like that little Cavalier. It’s been a good car. In the five and a half years I’ve had it it’s been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. Other than the fact that I had to replace the factory tires at 33,000 miles and the damn thing goes through a set of front brakes every 24,000 miles or so I can’t think of any problems I’ve had. It needs a new front bumper, but that’s not exactly the car’s fault. And even at 113,000 miles the only mechanical repairs it needs are new front sway bar links, a new muffler strap, and a tune-up. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for more and if I needed to I can see driving that car for another two years with minimal problems and two or three years after that with problems that amount to far less than the purchase price of a new car. That car got me through Western Illinois University. It witnessed countless nights with Her. Last October I put something like thirteen hundred miles on it to see Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Mike Doughty, and Jessie and Sarah in random places. The first weekend in December when the whole negotiation process was just more than I could handle I got in to that car and drove it to Indianapolis. A month ago I loaded it full of my shit and drove it to Dallas. On some level it’s been the only constant in my life over the past five and a half years. And although I don’t necessarily think I have an emotional attachment to the car itself, I have an attachment to all the things it means to me. It’s a crappy, base model 2004 Chevy Cavalier, but it’s my crappy, base model 2004 Chevy Cavalier. And purchasing it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The harder I fight the stronger it’s a comin’ I wipe the tears from my eyes and keep on strummin’ Baby I ain’t runnin’ away I’m tryin’ to find you something better inside me --RCPM, “Your Name on a Grain of Rice” I’ve been in Dallas for about a month and on a deeply visceral level I hate this place. It feels like a giant strip mall. I practically have to get on the expressway to buy my groceries. And there’s no such thing as a neighborhood bar. I’d kill to have a Brixie’s or Slager’s down the street. On some level I wish I’d never come. But I also realize that my hand was forced. It was unemployed in Chicago or well employed in Dallas. I made the choice I had to make. And I think that’s part of the reason I wish I wasn’t here. Well I been burning up and spinning my wheels I guess it’s adding up after all these years There’s gotta be something more for me to find So I’m laying off the brake and leaning on the gas There ain’t no way I’m ever gonna go back I’m too far gone to ever turn around this time --Jessie Lynn, “Someday Soon” I’m losing my hair. I’ve known it for a year and a half, but I haven’t exactly been keen on admitting it. I leave hair everywhere I go these days. There’s a lot less hair on the top of my head then there used to be and that hair is physically thinner than the hair on the sides and back. It’s not as bad as it could be. Hell, one of my friends who’s my age has way less hair than I do. Still, I got a good look at the back of my head yesterday for the first time in a good long while thanks to a co-worker who was playing with a video camera. Something looked…wrong. I realized I was developing a bald spot. That kind of freaked me out. I realized that it wasn’t as bad as it looked, since my “hairstyle” pretty much guaranteed a bald spot. One of the women I worked with also took the opportunity to point out that it looked like I was going for a comb-over. This is not so much what I was going for. Both problems were easy enough to fix. I needed a haircut, anyway, so I bit the bullet and found a place and after a short conversation and a little work I no longer had a bald spot and weird, kinda comb-over. But, in the process, I had to admit that there’s a lot less hair on the top of my head than there used to be. I knew, intellectually, that this would happen. It happens to all guys. My dad has a lot less hair than he used to, but still has a lot more than most men his age, so I’ll probably be in pretty good shape. Still, I’d planned on keeping my hair until I turned thirty. Forty, even. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m less than a year and a half from my thirtieth birthday. What I’m not coming to terms with is the idea that I’m not a kid any more. I’m fine This time To me it makes no nevermind Yearbook It took Just one thousand tear stained looks See you Bleed through The gauzy haze I sink in to Phone call Fuck all You’re just one part of my free fall This part of me will never close --Local H, “P.J. Soles” If I could have any car in the world I’d probably pick a Hyundai Genesis Sedan. It’s one of the prettiest damned cars on the planet. And, honestly, I don’t ask for much in a car. I don’t care about badges, I just care about what I want. And there’s a short, short list of cars I really want. The Genesis is at the very top of that list. And the damndest thing about it is that I can totally afford a Genesis Sedan, but I can’t justify it. $38,000 is more than I’m comfortable spending on a car right now. Hell, it might be more than I’m comfortable spending on a car ever. I had to write a check for $368.22 every month for my Cavalier for five years. I did it when I was barely scraping by in college. I did it when I was making twelve bucks an hour. I did it when I was making pretty damn good money. Now it’s my baseline. $370/month is affordable. I can manage it without too much difficulty. I know this because I’ve done it before. The evidence is parked outside; the title that represents proof is in a backpack in my closet. That gives me a car worth about $25,000 with a down payment-trade in-rebate combo of about four grand and an APR of about 3%. And, yes, I have good enough credit to manage that last bit. It happens when you spend nearly three decades making the safe choice. Honestly, I think that’s why car insurance rates partially depend on credit scores these days. It’s not about ability to pay so much as it’s about ability to make sensible choices. Of course, credit scores aren’t just about good choices. There’s a lot of circumstance involved. But, at the very least, I can see a certain justification as long as we work from the assumption that people have complete control over their credit rating. So in a perfect world it’s a useful metric. When we live in a perfect world I’ll make sure to write up a quick post to inform everyone. $25,000 is an interesting number. For $25,000 you can get a lot of different cars. That’s roughly what it would take for a brand-new Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Subaru Legacy, or Hyundai Sonata. That’s a brand-new Hyundai Genesis Coupe. It’s also a decent used BMW 3-series, Acura TL, or Cadillac CTS. There are a lot of options in my price range. For the sake of simplicity let’s say it’s between a new Hyundai Sonata and a new Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The Sonata is a fine car. The Genesis Coupe is a sweet two seat sports car.* I like Hyundais (obviously). I like them a lot. The problem is that they’re all compromises. I can get new, but not everything I want. I can get luxury and performance, but it’d be a couple years old and have at least 20,000 miles. In the new car’s there’s a bigger, but sneakier problem. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a deeply, deeply impractical car. But the place where it’s the most impractical is probably the place where most people wouldn’t notice: it’s a rear wheel drive sports car. So if I buy one it’s an admission I won’t be going back to Chicago any time soon. The Sonata is a mid-size family sedan. It’s the safe, practical choice. It’s also the choice of a guy who’s expecting to have to haul stuff around. It’s the car you buy when you know you’re too old for that sports car, but too young for that mid-life crisis. You don’t feel you could love me But I feel you could --Paul Simon, “Gumboots” Last Saturday marked the first ever meeting of the Accidental Historian Appreciation Society: Dallas Area Chapter. At one point I made a reference to Her, but I used her real name. Big A found it necessary to point out that I was referring to Her. Mr. Michael Mock had a response to the mention that I would have never expected. “She seems like a really unpleasant person,” he told me. And, as it turns out, Fake Al Gore agreed. Hell, I agreed. She is an unpleasant person. I honestly never thought I was painting her as such. For that matter, I thought I was being overly generous when I referred to Her. At the very least, I realize that I was trying to make it seem like I hadn’t wasted my time in sticking around even though I really, really had. This brings up an interesting question. Why the hell did I bother spending over a year attempting to figure out how to make things work between us? What insanity drove me? The answer is simple: I lacked faith. And I’ll take this wheel at ten and two And grip it with all my might And on the dash a picture of you And I’ll drive you out of my life I’ll take you to the end with me And leave you in the dust Drive you out until I free this old heart Of memories and rust --Lost Immigrant, “Memories and Rust” I’ve made a life based on the safe choices. The Cavalier was the safe choice after the Concorde finally broke down beyond what I could afford. She was the safe choice in that I never really had to commit but I never really had to admit that I needed to find someone else. Dallas was the safe choice in that it was a guaranteed job with a good company and it cost me nothing to move. I cannot tell you how fucking tired I am of the safe choice. It’s left me single in a city that resembles nothing so much as the world’s biggest strip mall while I’m losing my hair and wondering what the fuck is really justifying my existence. There are a thousand ways that making the impractical decision can come back and bite me in the ass. Hell, there are a thousand ways that making the practical decision can do that, too. Honestly, at times like this the old “pray and let god tell you what to do” approach seems pretty good. Isn’t that what religion is all about, anyway? Who doesn’t want the consequences of the tough decisions filled with uncertainty taken out of their hands? It beats the shit out of angst, that’s for damn sure… ---------------------------- *Technically it has a back seat. Technically.

1 comment:

Michael Mock said...

"Mr. Michael Mock had a response to the mention that I would have never expected. “She seems like a really unpleasant person,” he told me. And, as it turns out, Fake Al Gore agreed. Hell, I agreed. She is an unpleasant person. I honestly never thought I was painting her as such."

You weren't painting her as such; your phrasing was actually pretty generous. It's just that some of us are aware of this curious concept known as 'subtext'. Well, that and the fact that no matter how sympathetically you describe certain behaviors, they still come across as unpleasant (c.f. significant chunks of the Left Behind books).

For the love of all that's holy, please don't refer to me as "Mr." Michael Mock. I feel old enough as it is. {g}