Thursday, March 14, 2013

Search for a New Friend

It has seemed a betrayal to pilot my aging elephant of a Caravan from one car dealership to another in search of her replacement.  My husband, Dave, has called her the Horton of cars - faithful 100% - because, for eleven years, she has never failed me.  Bob and Marek, our mechanics and dear friends, have nursed her through the years, and they know how attached I’ve become.  But, “It’s time, Lea,” Bob finally said.  “The transmission is going, and at this age, it will be one thing after another.”  I’m almost there myself, so I feel like a traitor giving up on her, but I know he’s right.

So, I was dangerously close to tears as I told Matt, the Toyota dealer, about my fondness for my current car.  He was kind enough not to mock me, and was excited to demonstrate the keyless locking system, the push-button ignition, and the array of dials, gauges, and screens on the Prius dashboard.  Pathetic as I am, I felt like wailing, “I don’t want a space-pod!  I want my Caravan!”

Still, I enjoyed our ride together.  As I navigated the Prius over slushy roads, jerking each time I tapped the unfamiliar brakes, we chatted about Matt’s young son, his wife’s conservation work, my conservation work, and the state of the world in general.  You learn a lot about a person during a fifteen-minute test drive; everyone has a story.

I liked Matt a lot and wanted to like the Prius, for his sake and mine. I’ve justified holding on to my oversized Dodge with a promise to the universe that the next car would be a hybrid.  I am so technologically challenged, however, that every gadget Matt gleefully described made my stomach clench.  He explained how I could Sync-this and Sync-that, Sync my phone and the iPod-I-don’t-have, and quietly I yearned for my push-button radio and WEBE.   All the great features that would draw customers to the Prius made me feel, well, the same way iPhones do, outdated and clueless.  

At the Nissan dealership, Marty was equally engaging as we drove the test route he’d mapped out: highways, back roads, straight-aways, stops and starts.  The Rogue drove easily, and I liked its compact, yet familiar, sort-of-like-my-Caravan, feel.  The mileage slowed me down, though, at 22 in-city, 28 highway.  I would not be upholding my covenant with the Universe in bonding with this car.  Marty was a selling point in-and-of himself, bright-eyed, earnest, and funny.  When I complimented him on his pitch, he said, “I know people lump car salesmen with lawyers, so I’ve got to do the best I can to prove otherwise.”  Because of Marty, I wanted to love the Rogue, but it didn’t have the mileage.

It was late afternoon by the time I reached the Honda dealership.  The roads were bad, as the rain had turned to sleet.  “Perfect for a test drive,” said Harris, a graying man, closer to my age than my new friends Matt and Marty.  “Give you a chance to see how the car handles in tricky weather.”  Great.

He opened the door to a CR-V; I had spotted a luscious burgundy model on the showroom floor.  Oh yes.  I could see myself in that beauty.  I slipped into the seat and felt instantly at home.  It was solid, comfy, high.  I loved it.  We turned onto the road and the car responded like a dream.  “What kind of mileage can I expect?” I asked.

“22-28,” Harris said.

*Sigh*  I had a promise to keep and 22-28 did not cut it.

Discouraged, I headed home for a glass of wine with Dave, and to give him a rundown on my car hunt.

The thing is, this was a day of bold adventure for me.  At fifty-nine, I had never had my own brand-new car, much less gone test-driving.  As a youthful driver, I drove my deceased grandfather’s Ford Falcon, and when my grandmother died, inherited her Impala.  I married into Dave’s little Fiat – a total lemon - and then began a succession of family cars – a Datsun followed by a fantastic Toyota SR-5 Dave totaled on an icy drive to grad school in the eighties.  In 1984, we had two children and a wolfish Alaskan malamute.  We needed plenty of room, and when Dodge began advertising its new mini-van, we opened those sliding side doors for nearly thirty years of mostly-blissful Caravan ownership. 

As my car rested outside, ready to start up on cue as she always has, Dave said, “Let’s take a look at Ford.  It would be a bonus if we could buy American.”  He did a Google search and we scrolled through Ford’s offerings.  “What about this?  A C-Max.  Nice lines.  It’s a hybrid, Lea…” he said, much as he might if waving a bar of dark chocolate beneath my nose.  “A hybrid, with a projected 47 miles to the gallon.”

So, the next morning, I parked my old friend among the Fiestas and Fusions at Park City Ford.  Was it me, or did she look particularly plucky there among all those upstarts?  I felt a prickle in my nose as I turned away and pushed open the heavy glass doors to the showroom.

And there it was.  The C-Max.  Shiny and black.  Sort of an appealing, mini-Caravan shape.  I felt a lift in my heart…this might be The One.

Patrick strode across the floor to meet me, hand outstretched, smile welcoming.  With his angular features and slender build, he reminded me of a mix of my dear friend Vin as well as my son Tucker; surely this was a good sign. 

As Patrick and I drove Route 25 and circled back on side roads, I learned he’d done some acting in New York, just as my daughter had.  I told him about the school for children with learning disabilities where my husband and I have worked since the seventies. He told me about a near-fatal car accident he’d had in his youth.  He listened patiently to my automotive requirements, and yes, to my sad rant about my love for my old car.  “Lea.  You will have new memories and new adventures in this car.  It will be all right.”

With this car, I’d still have to Sync my phone and adjust my driving to earn “efficiency leaves,” but with this car, I could keep my promise to the Universe.  Patrick was an added blessing, and for his sake and mine, I wanted to love this car. 

And I do.    



Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Next Big Thing - Blog Hop

I love writing and the sheer fun of maneuvering words.  When I return to old essays and journal entries, I am glad to have more than my failing memory to chart past reflections and events.  But how do I justify hours spent scribbling away simply for my own amusement?  For now, this blog has provided an answer, a circle of kind cheerleaders in you.  I love reading your feedback and free associations when you relate to something I’ve written. 

Depending on my mood and phase of life, reading has been a source of comfort, escape, amusement, or companionship.  During hard times, I have been blessed to find authors who have seemed to say, “I know just how you feel….been there myself.”  It is always my hope that my writing might be, for others, that stand-in for a friend and a cup of tea.

My friend Tricia Tierney has invited me to participate in “The Next Big Thing,” a blog –tour of writings. I think you’ll enjoy checking out her blog as well as those of Casey Sylvestro, Eliza Twichell, Laurie Stone, Lynne Openshaw, and Elise Broach.  More on them in a moment, but first, I am supposed to answer a series of questions:

What is the working title of your book?  Currently Time Given or possibly Lift-Off.   Many titles have come and gone, each reflecting a changed tone or emphasis in the book.   
Where did the idea come from for the book?  It was always one of my goals to write a book when we planned our sabbatical in Italy.
What genre does your book fall under?  Travel memoir, with a taste of self-help.

Which actors would you choose to play you in a movie rendition?  Sandra Bullock.  Love her… plus my daughter, Casey, and I like to think Sandra’s a blend of the two of us.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?  A couple and their daughter, each carrying a burden of pain, seek spontaneity, healing, and re-connection in the people, history, and countryside of Italy.  
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  It would be a wonder to find an agency, but I want this book to happen and am open to self-publication.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Six months, but many drafts have followed. 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?  All three of us had a difficult year prior to leaving.   Dave and I were over-committed and spending a fair amount of time in a nursing home visiting Dave’s father.  Dave’s brother had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Casey had broken up with the boy she thought she’d marry.  The trip was such an adventure, such a release, such a return to ourselves that it is a story I believe will uplift others.    
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  There is wry humor in my sleep-deprived, menopausal point of view and struggles with identity and life issues faced by virtually every person over forty.  The reminders, lessons, and joys in the book are equally universal. 
That's it! Now let me introduce to you...
Tricia Tierney grew up in New York but spent many years as an expatriate, including over 3 years in Kyoto, Japan where she painted and sculpted and rode her bicycle everywhere. She also lived in Croatia and Bosnia, working for the United Nations' Peacekeeping Department during the Balkan wars, where she met a number of budding war criminals as well as the dashing but troubled English international relief-worker she would marry. After a thrilling war-zone romance, Tricia wed her now-late husband in Sarajevo and a year later, after one-too-many bumpy helicopter rides while pregnant, prematurely gave birth to her daughter in Southern Italy. As she prepares to send her (long thriving) daughter off to college in the fall, Tricia is beginning to think about her own next adventures, while continuing to work on her memoir of life during war and peace, loss and sorrow.  She writes mostly at the crack of dawn before going off to her full-time job at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. 
After a life of performance, both as her natural state and through high school and college, Casey Sylvestro spent three years in New York pursuing theater and teaching pilates at Equinox.  In August of 2011, she decided to “throw her life up in the air and see where the pieces fell." With her best friend Karis LeBlanc, she set off to South East Asia for four months of travel.  Her blog, “Running To Not Running From” follows the two women by cable car, careening vans, motorbike, tuktuk, and elephant into the Forbidden City in Hong Kong, the mountain country of Sapa, the rice paddies of Cambodia, the rivers of Laos, the jungles of Thailand, the beaches of Indonesia, and market after market after market…Casey now teaches pilates at Black Rock Pilates in Black Rock and is Assistant Store Manager for Lululemon Athletica in Westport.

Laurie Stone is a writer with a mixed bag of interests – fiction, essays, blogging, and travel writing.  She started as a local reporter but the siren call of novels and short stories became too strong.  Several years ago she won an award for her short story, “Just One More Thing.”  Her essays have appeared in the Connecticut Post, Connecticut Muse Magazine, Westport News, and County Kids Magazine.  She’s also in the process of writing and editing two novels.  Recently Laurie began blogging and loves sending her newest entries to family, friends, and colleagues.  Travel writing is a recent passion and her seven-part blog, “A Peek at Provence” ran weekly on the website, “In the Know Traveler.”  Laurie lives in Easton, CT with her husband and two sons.

Eliza Twichell is an artist, writer, and Therapeutic Touch practitioner and teacher.  She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico but sneaks off to the Adirondack mountains for three months in the summer to get her fix of water and family.  Fascinated with where the subtle becomes physical, Eliza is always exploring that frontier in terms of well being and being well.  She is increasingly comfortable with how much she doesn’t know.

Lynne Openshaw wrote her first book, Circle Dance, with her sister Valerie. Circle Dance was a legacy of love fueled by the desire to pass on to their children the traditions and experiences unique to them as second generation Greek Americans.   Lynne was raised in a close-knit family surrounded by extended family and “adopted” family through the Greek community.  Both she and her sister wanted to leave a legacy for their children and future generations of a bygone era.  A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Lynne relocated to the New York area with her husband and children. In addition to her writing, she is active in her church and local community.   She serves on the board of her town’s Women’s League – a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping women and children.   She is passionate about education, reading, health, and wellness.   She enjoys traveling, spending time on the beach and taking walks with her family and their adorable golden retriever. She has written for magazines and journals but her true passion is fiction and currently, she is working on her next book, a thriller.

Elise Broach lives in the woods of rural Connecticut, walking distance from three farms, a library, a post office, and two country stores.  Until she was 12, she lived in Brighton, England where she first read Shakespeare’s plays and fell in love with the sound of the language.  When her family moved to the US, she went to high school in Northern California, then college at Yale University.  She left grad school to raise her three children and began writing children’s books when the youngest was a year old.  Eventually, she wanted to try a novel.  Shakespeare’s Secret was her first, bringing together her fascination of history, her love of Shakespeare, and her real-life immersion in small-town politics were written during that time.  The issues of popularity, reputation, and personal integrity seem as relevant now as they were in the world of sixteenth-century England. For Elise, discovering those connections and bringing them to life in a book is one of the best things about being a writer. Her children’s titles include:  Snowflake Baby, Seashore Baby, Gumption, When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Cousin John is Coming, Hiding Hoover, Wet Dog!, and What the No-Good Baby is Good For.  Novels:  Missing on Superstition Mountain, Masterpiece, Shakespeare’s Secret, Desert Crossing