Week 90: Nissan 370Z

A bright, bright red Nissan tiny car.

 I drove an actual bright red Nissan once (many years ago before my three youngest sons were born), although only a Sentra and nothing flashy like the toy above.

My Sentra was a two-year leased vehicle, the only time I have ever leased, and that four-door was like my youngest son -- prone to constant scrapes and accidents.

I'll admit some of the mishaps were my fault like the fender bender or the ticket, but most of them were out of my control. Shopping carts would blow into it, the outside mirrors were knocked off not once but twice when I wasn't around, branches fell on it, stuff flew off trucks on the highway onto its hood, even birds targeted it to poop.

Gratefully, birds do not routinely poop on my son, but for every Band-aid my son has worn it seems my bright red Nissan had a matching ding, bump, or scrape.

A pity, too, because I liked that car, and every problem with it had nothing to do with the car itself.

In fairness to the comparison, though, my son is not so blameless, and most of his scrapes are directly related to his adventurous spirit, something my Nissan did not have. While well built and comfortable, that car, besides its flashy color, was about as plain as can be, kind of just a car, no extras, no fancy dashboard styling (although Nissan's have since changed), nothing bold. Just a solid reliable car.

I could never picture my Nissan jumping off the back of the couch, battling Star Wars-style with sharp sticks in the yard with its brother, or attempting to climb all the unclimbable things my son has attempted to climb. My Nissan would not grab a siblings arms and spin around in the middle of my living room and then shout, "Okay, let go! Let's FALL!!"

A few weeks ago I went to a store with my three sons to allow my middle school-age son to cash in a gift card he had received at Christmas. While walking through the toy department my youngest found the super hero helmets. Putting on a Thor helmet, he encountered another toddler wearing a Captain America helmet and holding a plastic shield. Reaching to the nearby rack Baby G grabbed a plastic Thor hammer, and, going up to the other little boy, said, "Okay. Now you throw your Captain America shield at me as hard as you can."

My Nissan would never have done that. My Sentra never would have even tried on a Thor helmet.

Luckily, the other little boy's father thwarted Captain America, and we both agreed that asking to throw the shield was one of those decisions that probably sounded much better than it actually would have been.

Nonetheless, I admire and am constantly entertained, if not frequently terrified by, my son's boldness.

Good thing, too. He's not a two-year lease.

Photo, and car, courtesy of Phil Pekarcik.


Week 89: Tail Dragger

Tail Dragger, the name of the Hot Wheels car for this week, and one selected by photographer Phil Pekarcik himself as I completely neglected to deliver any type of car to him.

He tells me me this car was selected because it  is a modified 1941 Ford and not because of the name. Hmm. Perhaps. Regardless, the name is fitting.

I really do feel like my tail is dragging a bit this week.

I mean that literally.

I actually have a tail.

Okay, not really, but I do feel like my tail is dragging in the sense that I'm exhausted, and also in the sense that I'm behind in getting almost everything done.

As I possibly mentioned in past posts, my wife had surgery recently and has relapsed into feeling rather cruddy, meaning I've been doing most of the housey stuff in addition to the jobby stuff. In addition to the housey stuff, I'm dealing with mousey stuff - we got a whole bunch o' mice in our pantry, which necessitated pulling everything out. While the mice are now presumably gone, I have a kitchen full of canned goods, spices, cereals, and culinary odds and ends such as my blender (I don't remember the last time I've used a blender), and more, all piled up in the middle of the kitchen like that mashed potato sculpture in Close Encounters.
I need upside down Happi Time ice cream
cones - and why is there a round dial
thing on my phone?

Here is the problem. My wife has some type of secret system for the pantry, a secret so guarded and complex that, even if I could grasp it with my walnut-sized brain (which I can't), would be so outside of my security clearance as to trigger a pantry raid should I try to put the stuff away myself. What that means is: until my wife feels up to the task, we have a surreal mound of non-perishables in my kitchen.

I've compensated for this distraction by attempting to cook things based on items at my disposal (I can't reach the middle of the pile), reaching out and grabbing something like picking fruit from a processed food tree. Sure, spaghetti noodles are easy, but grab a box of lemon jello, spinach and zucchini mini rotelles and a jar of gravy and try to combine them.

Well, like I always say, just add some fresh garlic, olive oil and a can of artichoke hearts and anything instantly becomes gourmet.*

Anyway, excuses aside, I'm dragging my tail, and even though weekends don't count as much for a free-lancer such as myself, I'm still looking forward to Friday, if only for the symbolism of the end of a work week.

And anyway, like that purple and green monster at the top, you can still be a tail dragger and look sharp.

*Seriously, try that. Using one or all of those ingredients can liven up almost any meal, except probably breakfast cereal.


Week 88: Volvo 760 SLE

I went to my vintage bin for this week's tiny car -- a French-made Majorette. This diecast Volvo makes me happy, and the chipped exterior makes it more special, even though this particular toy had not become worn by a tiny version of this daddy -- some unknown child had played with this one -- maybe a little French kid, who knows. I have no history on this car other than it is old and awesome, like me -- and it's aqua, my color. Plus I really appreciate doors that actually open (both in diecast cars and job opportunities).

I am always on the lookout for vintage treasures, so the other day I asked my five-year-old son if he wanted to stop in a new vintage/antique shop that had opened out here in Chesterland. While there is always a risk in taking a pre-schooler into a shop with breakables, Racer A is generally good in these settings, and his enthusiasm outweighed the potential risk for the need of a dustpan and broom at some point.

The shop was in a warehouse-like building that only a few years ago was home to a shop that sold lawn mowers, chainsaws and weed whackers. Now, it was filled to the top with a hodgepodge of vintage items --  good stuff, junk stuff, and all beautifully random stuff. A radio was playing big band music, and combined with the large volume of items and the haphazard pilings, the shop emitted a surreal wonderment -- this was not a small shop, either.

Racer A loved and embraced the adventure. Making the shop even more exciting, there were various rooms to explore, so as you rounded a corner there was a separate room of vintage clothing, for example, and a wooden staircase that went to a loft area filled, and I mean filled, with vintage chairs and tables. In one room, a stuffed deer head was mounted on a wall over a very large turkey - I did my best to explain the concept of taxidermy to A, who was fairly skeptical that these creatures were once actually living. Although he eventually believed me, he wasn't sure he saw the point of stuffing an animal. Actually, I wasn't sure I saw the point, either.

For me, the best part of that absolutely enjoyable experience was realizing I probably would not have been nearly as fascinated as A was when I was five. I am not taking credit for his enthusiasm, but for some reason I felt ... proud. Somehow, in this fast-paced, video game-/cable TV-/Internet-saturated world, my son still was able to appreciate the rambling, slow-paced weirdness of a bizzare antique shop, and I hope, hope, hope that somehow I contributed.

In collecting vintage, you  get ever-so-brief flashes into lives gone, or at least changed -- beautiful, bittersweet snapshots. While every moment of our lives are a potential future memory, this trip slipped out of time for me, and I felt the memory being actually made, right then and there, for both me and my son. I became part of the vintage around me, and I was happy, free from the burden of holding on to anything and just a dad and his kid having fun in a strange warehouse of old stuff.

That moment is gone, now, and I have returned to the world of bills, jobs, and responsibilities, but I know it was real, and I know there is a mental snapshot stored somewhere, as real as any faded celluloid buried under a pile of old magazines, hidden away to be found at a much later future date while while wandering through aisles of random memories, joys and sorrows.

I hope my son finds that moment someday, and smiles.


Week 87: ATV 6x6

Check out the crunching above -- my tiny all terrain vehicle is rolling over cars and taxis on-site in Cleveland, Ohio during last year's filming of the movie The Avengers (parts of the film were shot downtown). While my Matchbox car has been superimposed on the background, the setting is the real deal, shot by photographer Phil Pekarcik during the filming.

I didn't get to watch any of the filming of that movie, but did for Spiderman 3 in 2007. I took my oldest son, a teenager at the time, Racer Z and Racer A, then a baby. That was a fun, but not exciting, time; I had no idea how much time is spent standing around. It was like watching a construction crew on a road-paving project, with people leaning, talking, and holding "Slow" signs -- that is if one of the road crew had been dressed in tights and occasionally swung from a lamp post.

Don't misunderstand. I 1.) loved watching the movie production process, and 2.) never want to see a road crew in tights.

The family went to see The Avengers at the drive-in this past weekend, although I was out of town so didn't get to go. Here in Geauga County we are lucky to have one of the few remaining drive-in theaters nearby. There is a vintage charm to the drive-in experience, an event sometimes better in retrospect. While actually there, you may need to deal with cranky kids, spilled juice, garbled sound or a difficult to see screen, but later, you kind of forget about the irritations.  I am a huge fan of the drive-in, and even though I wasn't there for The Avengers (my wife said Baby G had a full fledged whining attack for the first half of the movie), I had a great time, comforted that the drive-in was there, even if I wasn't.

Last year we took the kids to see Iron Man II. The night was warm, but soon into the movie it began raining, so we needed to run the windshield wipers. Between the radio (which is how you get the sound) and the wipers, the battery went dead. My wife asked (I remember it as demanded, but she tells me my memories are off), that I find a jump start. Oh boy.

I took off wandering around in the dark and the rain, looking for anyone outside of their vehicle, but the only people out in the rain are teenage and pre-teen girls, and I wasn't about to approach them in the dark and ask for a jump. I continued to wander around for seven minutes or more (which translates into an emotional perception of two or more days) and became progressively more soaked, progressively more uncertain as to how to proceed, and in all likelihood progressively more creepy to the families watching the movie. I could hear the click of the electric locks as I walked by.

More importantly, I was missing the movie, so at least once as I hobbled down the aisle Quasimodo style by I turned to see the screen only to trip over a pile of gravel. I personally think stumbling to the ground added a nice touch to my creepiness factor. "Thanks for the jump, lady. Hey, thanks for the jump. Heh heh heh."

Eventually I wnet to the concession stand, oddly teeming with people even though I never saw anyone walking there as if they all just materialized Star Trek transporter style. I felt awkward trying to snag someone leaving the stand, especially since everyone leaving was moving  fast to avoid the rain and they all seemed quite serious about getting to their chili dogs. Because of the crowd, I wasn't sure I wanted to squeeze past and bother someone at the stand, either, which could have potentially turned ugly. Never stand between a hungry man and his chili dog.

Finally, an attractive woman approached me, 30 something and self assured, and asks if my battery went dead. I answer yes, and she tells me she could tell by the way I was nervously hovering around the concession stand. Before I realized that meant I probably looked stupid, she explained her battery also went dead and told me to wait. She effortlessly was able to flow through the crowd to find a theater worker to come out with a portable battery starters. Easy peasy.

As it turns out, many batteries went dead that night. I'm not sure how this woman made everything so easy while I made everything so difficult, but she did. She didn't even look drenched or even mildly creepy, but in the end I ultimately was responsible for getting the car started, right?

I've made this blog lengthy so hopefully my wife will get interrupted by a hungry pre-schooler before she  reaches the end and finds out I actually didn't solve the jump start issue.

If you've made it this far, remember -- it's our little secret, and if you're out Chardon way, maybe we'll see you at the Mayfield Road Drive-in!


Week 86: 1957 Lincoln Premier

This week's Tiny Car is a special one -- one of the Lesney edition releases from Matchbox. Why the fancy pants, you ask?

The May edition of Cleveland Family, Akron Family and Lake / Geauga Family magazines came out, and in it there is a cartoon picture of me and my family along with my first publish-for-pay column. I'm in the back, all the way in the back, and that's great. All the cool kids sit in the back of the bus.

Enlarge this document in a new window
Digital Publishing with YUDU

Actually, besides this blog, I've been quiet about it, except for one moment of embarrassment, when today, picking up a copy at the store, I became childishly giddy and flagged down a random lady walking past me.

"Guess what? That's me! That's my column," I said.

The lady was confused. "No, it isn't."

"Yes it is."



"That's something!"

Oh yes, random lady at the store, it is something, and even though I promise never to flag you down again to begin talking out of the blue, I'll give myself a break -- I was proud. Plus, I already feel stupid enough.

Speaking of random ladies, a few weeks ago I was at the grocery store and I almost bumped into a woman at a part of the store where the displays became narrow -- we did that you go, no you go thing, smiled,  exchanged pleasantries, and went on our shopping ways. Here's the thing:

She was carrying two large melons, cantaloupes, I think, but exceptionally large ones, and she was holding them in front of her, palms up. Yes, she was holding them there.

Her expression, friendly and harried but not sassy, made it obvious she was not doing it to be funny, but you see my dilemma. This was the ultimate set-up for juvenile humor, a once-in-a-lifetime perfect chance for a totally organic nice melons joke. To not take this opportunity felt like a waste -- like I was stepping over a ten dollar bill on the sidewalk or throwing out a gift card to The Gap. If the world presents you with a chance for a nice melons joke, isn't it disrespectful to not use it?

Well, I hope not, because ultimately I kept my mouth shut, not only because it would have been rude, juvenile, and mildly vulgar and sexist, but also because I didn't want to appear like I was flirting or do something that my wife might have felt was inappropriate had she been there. After I left, however, I actually sighed, having passed on the one and only nice melons opportunity that has presented itself to me in my 49 years on this planet.

I hope the cosmos understands.

The great picture of my pink Lincoln taken by Phil Pekarcik. The image enhancements, by the way, include a blue sky picture taken at Cleveland's Edgewater Park with a view across the water of Lakewood, Ohio's Gold Coast.

The photo of the melons was borrowed from the 'Net, and even though it's a rather standard picture of cantaloupes, I want to give credit, anyway. I borrowed it from one of the most fun websites to browse with slightly older kids, HowStuffWorks.com. Go on, learn about muskmelons: