Sunday Potpourri: Sneakers with Wheels Edition

I’m gearing up to assemble the midterm exam for my Brit Lit survey kids, but meanwhile…

***

Made a run to Real City yesterday, hitting my favorite cheap Chinese restaurant before settling down at the used media emporium. The drive from Mondoville is usually about 35 minutes, but was closer to 50 yesterday, as the traffic on I-26E toward places like Charleston, Hilton Head, and the rest of the coast was pretty solid. It seemed to me that much of the Greater Cincinnati area was migrating down — I saw scads of license plates and dealer insignia from my old region, with Cincinnati neighborhoods and Northern KY counties prominently displayed. Clearly, we’ve entered the true summer season.

While I was ensconced at the used media place, I found an interesting graphic novel, Dark Night by Paul Dini (text) and Eduardo Risso. It’s subtitled “A True Batman Story,” and it’s an account of Mr. Dini’s near-fatal mugging in 1993 and his subsequent recovery. When he was attacked, Mr. Dini worked for Warner Bros. Cartoons (specifically, on the film that would become Batman: Mask of the Phantasm), the end product of years of comic and cartoon fandom. He had lived primarily in an imaginative world of superheroes and villains, while also trying to live in the only slightly more real world of Hollywood.

Mr. Dini narrates how the two worlds intersected in his life, with effects both baleful and beneficial, and how they have led him to his present situation. It seems remarkably honest, and it’s an interesting use of the medium. I’d recommend it.

***

I also bought a copy of Murder as a Fine Art, the first in David Morrell‘s Thomas DeQuincey mystery series. I’m only a few chapters in at the moment, but his mid-19th-C. London seems sufficiently grungy, and the action sequences are as solid as one would expect from the guy who created Rambo. I’m interested in seeing how Morrell portrays the aging opium eater in as a sleuth.

***

I ran into three former students (all had graduated within the past year or so) while I was at the bookstore, including two friends of the Spawn. I enjoyed it when they said, “Well of course we’d find you here, Dr. Moore.” I told them it was an occupational hazard, and we chatted a bit before they continued on their way.  They all seemed to be perking along nicely, and it was good to hear from each of them. It’s also good to know that I apparently haven’t soured them on bookstores. 

***

A highlight of the trip came as I was heading toward the car to make my waya back to Mondoville. Showers were rolling in from the west as I walked through the parking lot, but they hadn’t quite arrived as a yellow Triumph TR-6 rolled past with the top down.

Now you have to understand — I’m a convertible fetishist, and have been since I was a kid in the 70s and learned they were going out of production. I grew up with tales of my Dad’s old clapped-out Jag, and reading The Magnificent Jalopy, a 1967 kids’ book about some kids who enter a restored old car in a 1000-mile rally. So I’ve always craved the feeling  of zipping along with the top dropped and my music of choice harmonizing with the sound of the tires on the pavement. Thank goodness, they came back, and the first newish car I bought for myself (instead of inheriting a beater from someone trying to get rid of it) was a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron ragtop.

89 LeBaron

This one wasn’t mine, but it’s a ringer for it.

It’s the only convertible I’ve ever owned, and since then, all our cars have been chosen more for practicality (and drum capacity), but the dream has never died, and has in fact grown stronger.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved the LeBaron, even when the top got pinched by the mechanism and I could only afford to patch it with duct tape. But even it was a shadow of the Platonic experience I’ve sought through the decades. What I’ve wanted was a little European sportster of some sort. A Jag, or an MG, or a Karmann Ghia, or an Alfa…

… or a Triumph. And in recent months, I’ve found myself looking online at those cars from the 60s and 70s and wondering. But one of the things I’ve had to wonder about was the question of whether or not I could actually use one of the things.  Back in the late 80s at Kentucky, I was a passenger in a Triumph Spitfire belonging to a girl I blind dated before I met Mrs. M. (I was tempted to keep dating her just for the car, but she had a vote as well, oddly enough. I don’t remember her name, but the car was blue.), and I remember sitting comfortably. But at 6’4″, I had to fold a bit, and while I’m no taller, my overall volume has increased. A lot.

So when I saw the yellow TR-6 roll past, I admired it and went back to my ride. But as I was pulling out, I saw the couple who had been in the car putting the top up, and dammit, I had to ask.

76 tr-6

This isn’t the one I saw, but it’s a remarkable simulation.

I stopped my car, rolled my window down, and asked, “How much room is there in that thing?” I told them I have been thinking about little British convertibles for years, but didn’t know if I could fit.

“Well, would you like to try sitting in it?” Do ursine mammals defecate amidst the sub-Alpine conifers? Indeed they do, and indeed I would. And since the top was now up, this would be a useful test indeed, as I was about 8 inches taller than the car’s owner.

It took some ducking and shrugging, but I found myself in the driver’s seat, in the Spartan confines of what felt like a pair of canvas sneakers with a steering wheel. My fears of poking my head through the roof like Dino in the opening credits of The Flintstones proved unfounded, and while there was practically no clearance between the steering wheel’s rim and my particular excess cargo, the owner told me the seat could tilt back one more notch. He and his wife did say I could probably rule out the MGB or Midget, but this? This was manageable, and if I were to drop 30 pounds or so, even comfortable.

So I wriggled my way back out, grazing the top of my head on the roof’s edge, thanked the folks greatly, and made my way back to Mondoville. Now I need to find a Karmann Ghia to try. The dream lives, and I can think of worse motivations to lose weight.

***

Well, that exam won’t write itself, so I’d best get back to it, but here’s a bit of music before I go. Turquoise were a band from the Muswell Hill section of London, a region familiar to fans of the Kinks, and there’s a definite Kinks vibe to this track, anchoring it enough to keep it from turning quite as twee as one might fear. Although the group had Heavy friends (Dave Davies, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon among them) and were managed by Stones tour manager/chauffeur/possible killer of Brian Jones Tom Keylock, their two singles for Decca/Deram went nowhere. This was the B-side of the first one. From 1968, here’s “Tales of Flossie Fillet.”

See you soon!

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Family, Literature, Music, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sunday Potpourri: Sneakers with Wheels Edition

  1. Robbo says:

    Heh. I spent a summer on Hilton Head working as a bagboy at a golf club. The vans with Hamilton County, OH plates were legendary. They were invariably crammed with loud, already-buzzed middle-aged men, oversized and very heavy bags, and enough peripheral equipment (coolers, utility bags full of sunscreen, etc.) to support a mechanized regiment. And the occupants paid little attention to club etiquette, and were almost always very poor tippers.

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