Archive for June, 1996

Gravel, superficiality, and vital information

27 June 1996 at 11:42 pm
by Jonah

I took King’s X out of the CD player and am now listening to Bach. Let’s see, it’s Concerto for Two Violins. Before I left to come to Virginia, I ransacked my family’s collection of CDs on a whim for everything there by Bach. Which evidently was two CDs, because that’s all I found when I went searching through the box I brought them in just now.

I’m listening to Bach, instead of George Winston, Matthew Sweet, or King’s X, for a specific reason. Today was Thursday and so staff dinner night. Bart, the other intern, gave an “oral report” on Brahms this evening. In discussing the composer, he played a few seconds of Bach, a classical composer who’s name starts with S (and which, obviously, escapes me), and then some Wagner. Then we listened to a string quartet thing and Brahms’ 4th symphony. I’ve never had any formal training in classical music, so this was a real learning experience for me. Now I possess a big mental hook on which to hang the name “Brahms”.

Bart usually comes over on Thursdays for the whole day. Today, Jenna came with him to do some audio editing for Ken. Yours truly completed labelling THE LAST book today (yes, thank you, that’s quite enough applause) and, in fact, ran out of things to do. Ken remedied that by assigning me the packing of the books into boxes.

But because so many staff personell were here in this corner of Virginia today, Ken took us out to lunch. Actually, he took Jenna to get the mail on the way to the place we were going to eat and instructed Bart to take me in a few minutes to Cajos in Flatrock, basically a single stoplight between where he lives and where I live.

I was entering the lastfew books into the computer when Bart finally said, “Uh, we were supposed to have left five minutes ago.” So we got in his vehicle and rolled slowly down the driveway. “Ugh,” groaned Bart, “Gravel. I hate gravel.”

“What’s this?” I asked, “Here you are driving a quasi all-terrain vehicle,” my eyes searched and came to rest on the word “Jeep” emblazoned on the glove compartment door, “a Jeep, in fact, and you’re complaining about a non paved road?”

By now we’d reached the end of the driveway and were picking up speed down highway 60. “Well, you see,” Bart replied, “I have these new tires with deep grooves, and just about now all the gravel that’s gotten stuck in them is getting kicked up…” Metallic clinks resounded from the base of the jeep. “…and chipping the paint.”

“So you have a Jeep and yet you don’t like to drive on anything other than pavement,” I surmised. “How superficial! What a reflection of your identity!”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Sometimes, it’s fun to take it out and get it dirty. But gravel’s not good. Mud good. Gravel bad.”

“So, we’re going to Flatrock?”

“Huh? I don’t know.” He paused before admitting, “I have a tendency not to listen when people are giving me directions. I’ll just automatically nod and say ‘uh huh’ as if they’re telling me about theirdaughter getting braces, when actually they’re giving me vital information.”

“So you don’t know where we’re going?”

“Some restaurant?”


“Yeah, that’s it!” He looked around. “There’s supposed to be a stoplight up here somewhere.”

“Yeah, it’s coming up.”

“Is there a McDonalds there?”

“Uh huh. Do you just remember key words like ‘light’ and ‘McDonalds’?”

“And ‘left’,” he answered, changing lanes. “Are they here yet?” he asked as we pulled up into the parking lot. Ken was standing on the front porch. Bart got out and immediately blamed me for something. I never did find out what.

Mouthwash, alarm clocks, and uncomfortable silences

26 June 1996 at 9:42 pm
by Jonah

As I was replying to a message from one of you lucky corresponders last
night, my hostess came and tapped me on the shoulder. She had to perform
this motion because I had my earphones on listening to George Winston at a
rather high volume because there was some “light” jazz junk on in the room
and I hate “light” junk. Perhaps because it reminds me of waiting in waiting
rooms to see doctors or dentists. Not that I don’t like doctors or dentists,
I just don’t enjoy the inevitable wait for them.

So as George Winston was drowning out whatever “light” junk that happened to
be playing, I felt my hostess try to convey something to me. Removing my
earphones, I heard her say, “Alice isn’t home yet, so don’t turn out the
lights or lock the door or anything.”

“Okay,” I said as I put the headphones back on. I hadn’t been planning on
locking the door anyway, but now I’d be sure NOT to. Alice, btw, is my
floormate. She has a bedroom at the opposite end of the upstairs. We see
each other occasionally, but not too much. Alice seems like a very sweet
person, which makes me very uncomfortable. For some reason, obnoxious people
appeal to me much more, until I get to know them and learn to hate their
guts. “Nice” people make me ill at ease. I’m constantly worried I’m going
to say something insensitive or rude or offend them in some way. I can hold
my own at insults, cutting wit, or perverting statements, but be nice back?

Alice also has this really sweet voice, which makes me laugh whenever I
overhear her saying “Oh, dammit!” though I doubt she knows I’m in earshot.
During most of the conversations we have, she’ll just be polite. “How are
you?” she’ll ask. “Fine,” I say, since I’m afraid anything unorthodox will
cause offense somehow. Then there will be an uncomfortable silence in which
I’ll smile and leave or just stand there until Alice says something like,
“Wow.” She has a tendency to say that whenever words run out. And since I’m
not exactly a conversation wiz, she has the opportunity to say it a lot.

By the time I was getting ready for bed last night, she still hadn’t returned
home. Not that I was concerned. She comes home late from time to time, and
I greet her if I see her. In the meantime I brushed my teeth and put in my
retainer and TMJ splint. Then I dumped some mouthwash in and went to change
into my pj’s, swishing the stuff around in my mouth.

At this point, an alarm clock went off in Alice’s room. Why it was going off
at that time of night, I don’t know, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to
go to sleep with it blaring down the hall. Not that it was that loud, but
there’s just something contrary to the laws of nature when it comes to GOING
to SLEEP while an alarm clock, no matter how far away, if still audible, is
beeping. My alarm clock at home will beep for an hour before shutting up,
and I certainly didn’t want to wait that long. No telling when my fellow
boarder would show up, so I went into her room to shut it off.

I’d never been in her room before. It’s at the head of the stairs, so I’d
ventured a couple of glances inside at her habitually unmade bed from time to
time but never set foot inside. It took me a while to find the clock. I
followed the beeping to the bedside table, but the clock was invisible. I
finally spotted it UNDER the bed, pulled it out, and hit something that
looked like OFF. Just then, I heard the door slam. Alice was home. Her
feet sounded on the stairs. And I was in HER room. It’s not like she’s got
a big sign on the door that reads, “KEEP OUT ON PAIN OF DEATH” or anything
like that, but still, to come home and find someone messing around in your
room… it’s just… well, you know. So I shoved the clock back UNDER the
bed and got to the doorway of the room the same time Alice did. Our eyes
locked. She looked tired and surprised but simply said something like, “Oh,

My mouth was still full of mouthwash, the retainer, and the TMJ splint.
Speaking was quite difficult, but I somehow mananged to get out, “Uh, your
alarm clock went off, so I turned it off.”

“Oh, thanks,” Alice replied. “Wow.”

I stopped in at the bathroom on my way to bed to spit.

Dirt bikes!

26 June 1996 at 8:18 pm
by Jonah

[Ed. Note: While this was written on the date indicated, it’s refering to events much earlier.]

Dr. Berry made it quite clear at the beginning, “late outlines will not be
accepted.” (We used to have to outline each chapter of, freak…what was the
name of that textbook?… So one day, I had Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
in the morning, so I didn’t go to class that day. I still had to turn in the
outline, however, which I had yet to type up. So I went home, typed it up
real quick, and sped to school to try to get it there before 5 pm. I was
stopped at the light at Shelton Beach Rd… CRAIGIE! that’s it. anyway, I
was at Shelton Beach and 45, waiting for the light to turn when all of the
sudden I felt the car lurch and the (ouch) sound of metal crunching. I spun
around to see a truck that had backed into the side of my car. Ouch again.
The black guy who was driving it, stopped and got out to look at the damage
he’d created. “Well,” I said to him after getting out of my own vehicle, “I
wasn’t expecting to bump into you today.” He laughed. He thought it was so
funny that he told it to the cop who finally showed up and my dad who was
nice enough to drive up and be there with me. Hmm.. I just remembered that I
had a wreck on the way home from Cinderella this last year too. My track
record of accidents and plays hasn’t been too good. Anyway, I’ve had so many
accidents that another one didn’t do too much to shake me. It was nice
having dad there, though. The black guy offered to take the car up the road
to “a friend” of his to get it fixed right away. The cop was like, well, if
y’all are going to settle it yourselves, _I_ don’t need to be here. And
left. So we drove up the road, but the place had closed. Dad found out that
this black guy was going to seminary on the side, so he said for the guy not
to worry about it and that he’d pay for the damages and write it off as a
contribution to this guy’s education. So when that was all squared away, I
FINALLY continued on to the school to drop off my outline. But Dr. Berry’s
door was shut and locked.

I appealed to him the next class period. He was quite forgiving. He only
talks tough.

Ever felt like a dipstick?

23 June 1996 at 10:46 pm
by Jonah

Okay, nothing to worry about. It’s all taken care of.

I explained the oil predicament to Joanne as soon as she and Doug got home. “Probably nothing to worry about,” Doug said, “How farabove the safe line is it?” I held up a thumb and forefinger. He shrugged.

“Doug,” said Joanne in that voice all wives have of saying their husbands’ names when they think they ought to do something.

Doug looked up. “What?”

“She’s got too much oil in her car,” Joanne stated the obvious.

“Well, then, she needs to take some out,” answered Doug. He looked at his wife and then back at me. “Come on,” he said, finally, leadingthe way down to the basement. “I’ll show you how.”

We approached the car armed with an old sheet, trouble light, and plastic oil collector. “Get the toolbox out of the back of the Suburban,” Doug instructed me, “I’ll go get an extension cord.” I did as he said and then spread out the sheet beneath the car’s hood. There wasn’t much room. Doug reappeared and then ducked into the bushes in front of the house to plug in the trouble light. “Not much room to spare,” he observed as he slid himself slowly under the engine. Placing the oil collecter beneath the oil pan, he said, “There’s the plug. It looks like it’s leaking a bit. You have to take the plug out and let about a quart drain. Know what a quart looks like?” I nodded and shrugged simultaneously. “If the plug falls out, just pick it up and try to stick it back in. But try to hold onto it. Hand me a five-eighths inch wrench,” he ordered. I dug through the tools on the top tray of the toolbox searching for one. “No, that’s not gonna work. Try a nine-sixteenths. I might as well do it since I’m under here,”he muttered, loosening the screw. Viscous, black liquid slowly oozed from the bottom. Then the plug came out, and oil shot into the container. I guessed that I didn’t really know what a quart looked like with the amount Doug was letting out. “Okay, check it,” he said. I pulled the dipstick out, wiped it, stuck it back in and examined it. Nothing.

“Uh, there’s nothing on there.”

“Are you putting it in all the way?” he asked. I told him,yeah and tried it again. Still nothing. Doug climbed out from under the car and checked it himself. “You got any oil? he asked. I opened the trunk and fished around. I did have oil. Three quarts, to be exact. Along with some stuff in an antifreeze container and the soup. Doug put a quart in, half a bottle at a time, and checked it. Then he put another half a quart in. “How often do you get it changed?” he asked, “When’s it due for another change?” I opened the driver’s door and looked at the sticker in the upper left hand corner of the windshield, then down at the speedometer, then back up at the sticker.

“Uh, now?”

Doug grinned. “Guess you’re all set then?”

Now I have to figure out what to do about the battery.

Gasket inventory

23 June 1996 at 8:00 pm
by Jonah

Okay. I have too much oil in my car. Any suggestions as to what to do? Besides “blow a gasket”?

In other news, as I was checking my oil and starting my engine (which it did nicely), I also got the bag of garbage out of my trunk and fished the grapefruit juice cans out of conveniently tucked away places. That led to a fruitless search for more trash and quick inventory of odd things in my car:

there’s the 2 lb. Bowie knife I keep under my seat,
my anti-theft device club (the sawed off end of a shovel handle),
the can of soup in the trunk,
the M.R.E. in the backseat,
and the baseball glove in the front.

There will be a quiz following.