We’re survivalists without guns, feral as cats. OK, the other half of the revolution IS a cat. I was making chili mac and cheese, watching the second in command smack down and eat a spider so large as to make one rethink not being afraid of spiders, followed by three big fat mosquitoes. It’s not pretty, but I’m proud of our coping skills.
Our tale involves car trouble in good weather. Therefore, these scenes of radiant sunshine are in contrast with a litany of woe.
Things could have gone SO much worse! There are so many bad places to break down between Seattle and the beach. There is the I-5 freeway, then the boringly remote stretch of Highway 8, so boring that it changes its name midway to Highway 12 with no fanfare. Then there’s the melancholy ruin of Aberdeen, which is where my CHECK ENGINE light came on.
It appeared that the car was overheating. I stopped, added water, and drove with the heater on, counter-intuitively, like they say to do. I composed a unique mantra for the stretch of 105 that is captioned “CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS” that went: Please oh please oh please.
There are two bridges that take you into scenic beachy oyster land. On the second bridge a distinct rattling commenced. I pulled into the turnoff for Brady’s Oyster’s, into the shade near the beautiful bay, which is where the car died.
The car was fully loaded, with firewood, Hugo the cat, a trumpet, laptop, cooler, food, and lots of drinking water. I called AAA and sat and read the newspaper I’d brought. I learned about the Democratic Convention and Fashion Week, both glamorous. Corey, the nice guy at Brady’s, gave me a quart of oil, which did not save the world, but was a comfort nonetheless. Though it took over two hours for a tow truck to come, I was in the serious boonies, and the importance of AAA cannot be overemphasized.
It was about 6 by then, so I opted to have the heap towed to my property. I asked the tow truck driver how late they work. “We’re the 24-hour hooker!” he told me merrily.
It was a shockeroo because Now has never had a problem until now. I bought the Tercel from a Japanese guy named Now, probably spelled Nao. He was selling it for his sister Cho, but Now is the cooler car name. My friend Brian noted that if I wound up living in my car “you’ll be living in the Now!”
Now was the newest and youngest of my fleet of Toyotas, breaking out of the 1980s into the contemporary realm of 1995!
Before Now, there was a Camry I bought from a guy from Afghanistan named Yar. Yar is a nice, piratey name. Before Yar was a Corolla I bought from a guy from Palestine named Ashoke. It didn’t occur to me to name the car for him. The car was brown, but I fancied it was gold, and hung dice from the rearview and named it Queen Lucky. Lucky ran for ten years.
The next day I had Now towed to R&R garage in Westport. After several days, they told me it was a mystery, that Now did not look good, possibly requiring major surgery, maybe three more days. Maybe a week.
You’re about to ask whether I ever check the oil. Both Lucky and Yar leaked and burned it, constantly. I. Always. Check. Now ran like a dream, and never lost any. Indeed, it seemed I had reduced my dependence on foreign oil.
The yummy food I brought was quickly gone, after which the Stranded Cuisine possibilities were augmented by, but limited to, the bounty of the nearby convenience store, the North Cove Minit Market.
Avert your eyes from the false promises of Hot Pockets, microwaveable Kung Pao Chicken, and hot dogs that expired on September 3. Those ideas are so two days ago! Crisis equals opportunity, whereby true creativity can flower. Right?
Existing: 2 pieces bread, mayo, sharp cheddar.
Minit Mart: 1 can tuna, dill pickles, a cucumber (though the produce can be iffy), a single green onion for 75 cents.
Result: I was so proud of that tuna melt, yet something was not quite right. What could the weak link possibly be? I checked the mayo’s expiration date. March 2011.
Not knowing the length of my ordeal, I thought I’d wait for even more dire direness before bugging my neighbors. But they stepped up anyhow, as is their fashion. Craig brought me English muffins that required a 30 mile drive, and Ray brought me, in installments, a piece of Chinook salmon, two potatoes, and two beautiful ears of Yakima corn.
“Where’s my dessert?” I asked.
The good weather served as a distraction from ruggedness. You are doubtless wondering how stranded survivalists with no running water get a shower during Fashion Week.
My shower? Well, it works about 5 days a year here, being solar. You put a Boy-Scouty plastic bag of water in the sun and in a few hours you have 116 degree water and not a whole lot of pressure. Moving hair products through long hair requires supplementary buckets of water. Challenges are glamorous.
By now, those of you old enough to recall the 1980’s mope music of the Smiths are asking, “How Soon Is Now?”
I will see your mope and raise you existential ultimatums. Now is dead! Now is never! There is no Now! It is the End of Now!
Not good. The timing belt failed, so the oil didn’t get to the rings, and the engine, too hot for too long, seized. Now needed a new engine and the car wasn’t worth it.
“Hmm,” I said. “Know anybody selling a car?”
Mike, the mechanic, said as a matter of fact, there was an old lady selling a Honda Accord who was getting ready to move to Oklahoma. She had always brought it to R&R and had put a bunch of money into it, including a new timing belt, recently. She wanted $1700 for it. It had 200,000 miles.
So that’s how I came to meet Bonnie.
This woman is hilarious. She is 88 years old and 100% sassy. She worked as a surgery nurse, fished, flew small planes, and traveled the world. She said Turkey and Thailand were her favorites. She said, “I’ve done everything I wanted to do except jump out of a plane and bungee-jump, and that’s because my husband wouldn’t let me.”
In the back seat was a small enamel pan. I asked if she had a dog.
“That’s a pot to piss in,” she said. But, she said, she did have a dog, a terrier in Oklahoma named Pita. “That’s short for Pain In The Ass,” she said.
She smoked long brown cigarettes from a bygone era. I asked if her kids tried to make her quit smoking and she said, “they quit.”
She told me she feeds crows because they take care of their elders.
I got her some money. Then I drove her home and Bonnie made me the best BLT I’ve ever had, which involved bacon from Bay City Sausage in Ocosta (go get some immediately, I did), and then we shook hands and hugged.
“Do you want the stuff in your car?” I asked.
“No, it’s just junk,” she said.
I thought I had emergency supplies in my car. Bonnie took it to the next level.
Existing: 1 gallon drinking water, jumper cables, 1 can sardines, 1 can pineapple rings, 1 jar Skippy peanut butter (expired 2011), 3 days cat food supply.
Bonnie: Safety goggles (!), hammer, 95 cents, 2 lighters (working), 2 ice scrapers, knit hat, pot to piss in, plastic zippered raincoat, 2 plastic cups, ceramic coffee cup, copy of National Geographic, 1 roll paper towels, plastic bags, 2 cans soup: Tomato Rice and Chicken Noodle, bag of latex gloves, box of matches, one “Rouge Superbe Matte Luster Cerise” lipstick.
I have to hope for the best. Superstitious, I put on some Rouge Superbe Matte Luster Cerise lipstick and fed the crows.
When you notice your resemblance to Walker Evans’ photographs, you know it’s time for a real shower.