Newberry College

Jacked Up

I picked up a flat tire on the way to Newberry College a few days ago.  In the dark.  On the Interstate.  It began with a funny little sound coming from the back of the car, along with a little vibration.  Of course, I assumed nothing was wrong.  Prayed nothing was wrong.  I did not like the idea of being stranded on the Interstate in the pre-dawn darkness.  There be monsters about at that time of the night. So I ignored it.  With regard to my health, I have always ignored little signals of malfunctions in my physiognomy and the problems always disappeared, unless there was breakage.  And sometimes even then.  The funny little sound grew louder.

Pretty soon it was really, really hard to ignore the deafening "whop-whop-whop" sound of my right rear tire disintegrating and the colorful array of warning lights all over my dash.  I slowed down a bit.  It got louder until I couldn't hear myself ignoring it.  Fortunately, an exit was looming up so I was able to ease off the Interstate and onto a two-lane blacktop that led into a small town where we used to live.  But it was still a few miles to civilization.  So I nursed the car on three good tires and a sturdy rim to a parking lot on the outskirts of town.

I opened the truck and noticed that I had one of those dinky little spare tires, which was good.  What I didn't have was a jack.  I have no idea where it was, but for sure it wasn't in the trunk of my car.  So I walked a few short miles in the cold dark and into town, believing nothing would be open for a couple of hours, but I did find a repair shop that was open, but that did not do tires.  The man there gave me tow numbers to call for help, so I thanked him and walked back to my crippled transportation and called the first number, found a nice lady on the phone, and gave her my tire size and location.

An hour later I was back on the road and only $167 poorer.  I plan to find that jack when I get around to it.  Might come in handy someday, but I rarely get flat tires, so I might just ignore it.3865_blowout-shttr

Ol' Reliable

Earlier this week, my 14-years-old mid-sized sedan failed me. I drove the 71 miles home from the college where I work, parked in the Publix parking lot while I went inside for a few items (beluga caviar, champagne, brie, and so forth - the usual), and came back out. I tried the ignition and every light on the dash lit up. No go. I left my things in the car, walked home (30 minutes on a beautiful day), got my aging pickup truck, and drove back. Still no go. I went home. I had it towed to the dealer.

I needed transportation to work. That old pickup truck I mentioned came to mind. It's 21 years old and has frequently failed to start, leaving me stranded at various points in the neighborhood. I had never taken it farther than walking distance home; never out on the Interstate. I decided to risk it. So, at 5:45 the next morning I prayed, cranked the engine, and drove south. The truck is not well known for its power, acceleration, or comfort. This is because the engine is small - two cylinders, maybe. But it worked. I passed one car on the Interstate and was proud of it. Everyone else passed me. Humbling. On inclines my mph dropped to 50, on downhills I was able to get up to 70. I made it to work and thanked God. I also made it back without incident. And thanked God.

The people at the dealership told me it was probably a battery, which would cost a bit over $200. I said, "Go ahead." Not bad. They called later and said the transmogrifier was kaput, pushing the cost up to a tad over $700, which is $200 more than I paid for the truck.. I said, "Go ahead." A third call, one they admitted wasn't good, was that the bilateral bushing dweidler would have to be replaced. They could get the part in the next day and complete the job. "How much?" I asked.

Just a hair over $1,700 he said.

At this point I was feeling faint. I summed up my courage and said, "So, what if I don't have you fix those things, other than the battery?"

"Well," he said, kindly, gently, "your steering will be unreliable and your tires on the right side will disintegrate, hurling you into trees or other motor vehicles."

I already felt like his call had hurled me into a tree. Still, safety is paramount, so I said, "Go ahead."

We're picking up the new, improved 14-years-old sedan shortly.

The old pickup truck is looking better and better. I'm calling it "Ol' Reliable" these days.



too_many_T-shirts_2 I have reached my limit on t-shirts. I finally paid attention to why my t-shirt drawer was so stuffed, as was the other t-shirt drawer. Not counting white t-shirts that I wear under regular shirts with collars, I have 15, FIFTEEN t-shirts with various statements on them.

Here they are: Boston Red Sox, Boston '13 World Champs, Boston Red Sox World Champs (in Hebrew), "I might live in South Carolina but I keep my sox in Boston," Newberry College, Narnia College (a favorite), Eastern Connecticut State University, black IOWA, white IOWA Football, Beware of Dawg (U. Of Georgia with famous picture on the back of Uga going after the Auburn player), black Wales, Israeli Defense Forces, POEM (Professional Organization of English Majors on back), "If you can't see Paris Mountain you're too far from home" (we live back up against Paris Mountain), and "Careful or you'll end up in my novel."

That's it, FIFTEEN t-shirts with a message. I intend to donate at least half to a charity. Some are so threadbare I'll recycle them into the trash. It will be hard, but no one who lives in a cozy cottage needs to have that many t-shirts taking up space. When that's done, I think I'll get a t-shirt with "Efficiency" across the chest.

I miss Banana Flips

I drifted into one of those snooty supermarkets, you know the kind, where they have hand-held-throughout-the-growing-season arugula for sale. Let's call it, hmmm, "Elitist Market." Anyway, I only went there to get four items. Four. I knew they would have them. I mean, if I could buy Norwegian goats' milk cheese from animals that listen to Chopin as they sleep, I could find four items in that supermarket. Four items. The main one was a key ingredient for Swedish meatballs from a recipe given to me by one of my students, a fine young lady from Sweden who is at Newberry College to earn a college degree and play golf. The item was blackberry current jelly. Elitist Market did not have it! I looked high and low and found a wide variety of jellies, many whispered to in the packing process, and Elitist Market did not have it.

I was frustrated, convinced that the end times was near. They didn't have the other three items, either! I walked out of the place empty-handed, muttering.

The other four items? Milk Duds, Banana Flips, and candy cigarettes.

The apocalypse looms.


Smoothing out the Struggle

Writing is hard, but proofreading is harder. That's what I've been doing the last couple of days, going through my novel, Signs of Struggle, and ferreting out every little mistake, smoothing out a few rough patches, and doing a tad bit of rewriting (I gave one very minor character two names - not smart). It's not much fun, but it's another part of having a novel published that includes the concept of work. Just a different kind. I think of Gene Fowler's quote that writing is easy, all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper (or blank screen) until the drops of blood form on your forehead. And that's hard work because Larry Niven, the sci-fi author of The Cold Place reminds us that it's a cardinal sin to bore the reader. Not much pressure there. Or Leonard Elmore's simple advice on how to write well: all you have to do is get rid of the boring parts.

And tomorrow is the first day of classes at Newberry College, and I have a small, talented group of young writers in my Advanced Fiction class. I'm wondering if I should just give them those three quotes above and turn them loose. Probably not. I'm using Stephen King's On Writing as a guide for them, but not a textbook. No quizzes. Just writing about setting, conflict, dialogue and so on. I can't wait.