Monday, February 22, 2010

Miller's rant

Jury Duty

Today is my son Leo's second birthday. An interesting coincidence occurred today that has inspired me to revisit the blog. Earlier my good bro TC Boone's, sent an email inquiring about tree service. His neighbors trees are leaning over his house and he is interested in getting them removed. Surprisingly, even in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, tree doctors are hard to come by. I had already suggested that he get in touch with JP, but I think TC would prefer a more "legit" outfit. After work I met with another good friend, named Tom, who I have been collaborating with on some grant writing. He was a bit stressed because he had missed jury duty. In the discussion he recalled how the last time he had jury duty it had involved a guy who was being sued for chopping down his neighbors cherry tree. The guy had been sued for 25,000 and the case had gone to jury trial. Of course, the judge was flabbergasted that someone would file a suit for a tree claiming that kind of money. As crazy as it would seem, the owner was within their legal rights to file the suit. In the end though, the jury ruled against the plaintiff and the "tree chopper" had gotten out of it. Turns out that the "tree chopper"'s name was Leo. But what was more of a coincedence, is that Leo use to run a Chinese restaurant in the building owned by a mutual friend of TC and I.
A small world..

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unnatural Wonder

The sound of gravel being crushed under the tires broke the silence as my tape deck switched sides from Toots and the Maytals "Funky Kingston" over to James Brown's "In the Jungle Groove." I had rolled my windows down, listening to the desert stillness having just past over the cattle guard that marked the end of asphalt. Not remembering how far out in the middle of nowhere the Alvord desert really is, I had already driven for 8 hours straight. From Eugene to Fields Station is 372 miles and once you get out there, the turn off to the Alvord takes a bit longer on account of the wandering cows and jack rabbits that can quickly materialize in a darkness illuminated only by high beam light.

The Alvord desert in Southeastern Oregon is a special place, both beautiful and remote, it has unique features that hold a profound sense of wonder for all of those who visit. A prehistoric lake bed that stretches 9 miles by 11 miles it is bordered to the west by the Steens mountains and to the east by a long line of hills. It was along this eastern edge, where the flat, barren playa met with the swaths of sagebrush and windblown mounds of ancient dust and sand, that I was suppose to meet my old friend Sean and his family. "Look for the gun shoot canyon, you will find us there." To the reader these directions might seem vague, yet once you find yourself in such wide open country, this feature becomes easily discernible along the eastern horizon. To get there a person has to drive across the playa which in the wetter months of spring can often be submerged in a formidable slick of water that often appears to be an enormous lake. It is only 1-2 inches deep and in the driest parts of the summer the water can nearly disappear. Sean had assured me that the track leading to our camping spot was dry and the Alvord would be safe to cross.

My choice in music was no coincidence, I was in the groove. A new job, a new car, and I had a fun-filled summer planned. This had all set the stage for my manic all day spring road trip. It was a crazed plan; drive to the Alvord meet up with Sean and his family, wake up the next day and drive to the Wallowa's for my cousin's wedding. A trip that would circumnavigate the whole state in 72 hours. My "new car", an 87' Saab, had been purchased for a single dollar just weeks before. For the first time in years I had a functional tape deck, four working speakers , and automatic windows. I couldn't wait to hit the hard track of the Alvord and open up her Swedish engineering to the American west . That was another magical aspect of the playa; driving over a perfectly flat expanse of desert at high rates of speed. This fact had not been lost on Kitty O'Neil who in 1977 drove a jet powered vehicle called the "Motivator"into the history books setting the female land speed record. I had no intention of setting records. In fact, I was a bit disappointed that my Saab hadn't been an automatic as I reminisced about the first time I had visited the Alvord.

That first visit had been fifteen years earlier with Sean and our friend Jaysun. We traveled there in Jay's van and camped with Sean's family and their friends at a spot out on the east side of the desert near a spring where occasionally wild horses will drink. It is hard to catch a glimpse of the wild beasts, skittish as they are and quick to smell even the stealthiest of humans. But the sound of their whinnying can be heard for a great distance on the playa and some times when the wind is calm you can get close enough to see them in the moonlight. On that first trip, we arrived under a moonless sky. The stars were so bright they seemed to radiate a dim light on the desert floor. Jay's van was an automatic, it had big beefy wheels, with a chassis that sat high off the ground. As we drove off the road out onto the wide and barren expanse, we could see the lights of a distant vehicle speeding across the flat, a silent reminder of civilization. Jay shifted the van into the lowest gear and we climbed out the windows and onto the roof. There, we laid on our backs and listened to the slow rumble of the engine, the crackling playa under the weight of tire and steel, with a permeating silence that you could almost feel. The sky opened up to us, a brilliant star scape, and we imagined we were on boat sailing into a great unknown. That moment will always be with me, the happenstance and naivete of youth.

On that trip we camped with a gypsy like band of eccentric family and friends. Sean's parents Stan and Margie, their friends Greg and Paula, the three of us, and Paula's daughter Michelle and her husband Nico. It was a Bedouin camp and Sean's mom created a very comfortable oasis in a harsh landscape. When we pulled into camp late that first night they had already set up a cook tent and had brought three mammoth sized freezers that were filled with iced beer and marinating steaks. That first morning as we warmed ourselves next to the campfire we were surprised by the appearance of a lone man stumbling out of the sage brush. It was Nico, who had only recently arrived to Oregon from Greece via Hawaii. None of us had ever met Nico, but he would become someone we'd soon never forget. Not only was this his first experience in an American desert, it was also the first time he had ever been camping. As it turned out, the speeding lights we had seen the night before had been Nico and his wife. They too had been told to head for the gun site feature, but they unfortunately ended up blowing two tires and then Nico had spent the rest of the night wandering along the edge of the playa looking for our camp spot. Leaving Michelle alone on the playa, was a signature move of old world machismo. Just like the way he would later recount the previous nights adventure, prefacing every statement with "my wife and I bra," in Hawaiian slang. Later that day after setting up our tents Jay, Sean and I took a long hike up through the gun-sight shaped canyon, while the rest of the group went searching for an old miners shack. After a long hike the three of us found ourselves on an outcrop of rock looking out across the Alvord toward the Steens. In the distance we could see the dust trailing from the 4x4 carrying the others, as it raced across the playa toward our camp. It was then that we saw the swirling dust cloud that was forming to the south. What an incredible sight, a nearly unified storm cloud, swirling with red dust and moisture, under a perfectly clear blue sky. At first we just marveled at the view, but then we began to notice that the course of the storm led directly toward our camp. We quickly made our way back. Running into our camp we were overcome by a swirling wind and heavy sheets of rain. Our camp had become a mud bog and the torrential rain was wreaking havoc on our tents. Greg was standing on top of one of the mounds that protected our camp from the open desert. I will never forget his warning call, standing atop the hill, "she's comin in hard. It's about to blow." At the time we were all scrambling to hold the cook tent down, all of us, except Nico who had emptied his tent and was trying to re-plant the stakes. At that moment a huge wind came through and blew through the open doorway of his tent, suddenly inflating it with a massive gust of air. Then, almost in slow motion, his $22 Bi-Mart special blew out from our camp and across the playa like a beach ball. We all slogged through the mud in a desperate attempt to catch it, a hopeless game of tag, as we watched it tumble nearly a half mile away. Finally the wind began to subside and a double rainbow formed to the North. I took out my camera to capture the moment. As I looked through the view finder I noticed Jay's hair stand on end as the dust storm became magnetic and we began to hear the distance booms of thunder. Within minutes it all had past and the sky was wide open and clear. We decided to try and recover the tent and then took a drive out toward the lake mirage that often appears on the Alvord. It is an optical illusion that when driving, can be very ominous. What appears as water in the distance is just the shimmering heat and light reflecting off the flats. But just as you begin to think it is only a mirage the dry alkaline desert grows dark and you find yourself bogged down in the thick mud. Sure enough we hit the edge and our rig was momentarily stuck. But with four of us pushing and Michelle at the wheel, we were able to push ourselves out. Covered in mud we made for the hot springs at the western edge of where the desert abruptly ends and the Steens mountains rise up nearly to 10,000 feet.
Fifteen years later, I cranked up "Give it Up or Turn it a Loose" as I pulled off the gravel road onto the Alvord. Along the eastern side of the desert I could make out the gun site feature Sean had reminded me to look for. It was just after dark and I could see a small light along the eastern edge of the playa. I figured Sean was out there using a lantern as a beacon. I cranked up the music and accelerated outward into the darkness. My lights barely penetrated more than 10-20 meters ahead of me and my windshield was covered with splattered bugs. There are many reasons that I probably should have stopped and taken a longer and harder look at the Alvord before turning off of the county road. In hindsight it was incredibly foolish to drive blindly into the darkness. I remember glancing down at my speedometer which had only reached 45 miles an hour when I noticed the color of the desert change from a dusty cream to a murky brown. Almost simultaneously as I hit the breaks, a wave of mud and water crested over the hood of my car and sent me out of control into utter and complete darkness. I heard an awful mechanical sound that I assumed was my transmission completely disintegrating. I came to an abrupt stop and my console lights went completely dark. When I attempted to turn the key all I got was the sound of JB's back up band ripping some funk, my engine appeared to be toast. I open the door and stepped into ankle high mud. Wading back to the dry edge of the desert, my car sat as if it was levitating on the surface of a lake, about 100 meters away. For whatever reason, maybe because I was grateful to be unhurt or maybe it was my overall mindset, I found myself in a positive state of mind. With no sign of anyone and the nearest possible garage 20 miles away, I began to run outward toward what I assumed was Sean's flickering light. I can still remember, with vivid clarity, the full moon that rose that night. It was a massive orb that lit up the floor of the Alvord. After running some time I stopped and watched the moon. My heart was beating and the silence of the desert amplified the sound of my blood pumping. I was alone in the middle of the desert. It was magnificent. After another hour the light went out and for some time I ran and walked wondering if I'd find their camp. I continued to run in the direction of the gun site and after another hour I came to edge of the desert where the sagebrush began to spring up. After walking for sometime in the general direction of the wild horse spring, I caught my first whiff of wood smoke. As luck would have it, Sean had kept the fire going and it was the smoke that saved me from having a night like the one Nico had had fifteen years before. It was after 2 Am when I quietly walked up to Sean and Paula who were still awake at the fire.  It had been Paula's Coleman lantern that I had seen hours earlier. She had left it up on one of the steeper mounds, hoping that I would see it. The three of us took Sean's diesel pickup back out across the playa. They wanted to survey the damage and offered to help me shuttle my gear back to camp. We were making quick time and could easily see the distant form of my car. As we came up to the edge of the water it was a surreal site. There in the moonlight my Saab seemed to be sitting perfectly still, resting on the glassy surface of the lake. We were all surprised to see that much water. Sean had actually left two snow ski's to mark the turnoff I should of taken out onto the desert. Instead I had driven too far north and entered onto the flat at a spot that, driving in a direct line toward the gun site, led me straight into the water. Luckily it was only a 100 feet from the edge. Sean figured with some luck, we would probably be able to pull it out with his truck. 
It got hot early the next morning and after a cup of coffee I was anxious to get started. Sean was sure that even if we got my car out, I'd still need to find a way to tow it back into Fields Station. Driving out across the flat we could see my Saab, it's dark grey exterior in sharp contrast to the white alkaline desert. What we discovered when we got up to the water's edge was even more discouraging. The distance from the edge of the dry desert to where my car sat had lengthened in the night by over 200 meters. The water was moving. 
Fields Station is renowned for it's cheeseburgers and milkshakes. They never had tasted better. I knew I would be eating some humble pie too, once I admitted to our crusty waitress the mess I had gotten myself into. No one was that impressed or hopeful about my predicament. "You best get up to the Alvord Ranch. They may be able to help you there. But I wouldn't count on it." Otherwise I was looking at catching a ride back into Burns and spending a fortune convincing a tow truck to come all the way out. We drove back up past the hot springs and found the sign leading to the Alvord Ranch. There were a set of stone out buildings and a beautiful old farm house. When I knocked on the door a sweet woman trailed by three small children came to the door. She explained that her husband Scott was taking a nap, but she'd have one of the kids wake him. Scott was straight out of the movies; barrel chested, with a grisly mustache he had one blue and one brown eye like a sheep dog. He also grumbled when he talked, which at first, I thought was a sure sign that I was out of luck. Once I explained my situation he wandered off mumbling in the direction of the barns. Meanwhile, his wife and twin teen-aged sons engaged me with stories about rattlesnake hunting and living the good life.  After about fifteen minutes I was beginning to get worried, but then out of nowhere Scott's dad appeared. He was wearing grease stained overalls and had a broad forehead. Scott's dad seemed to be tickled that I had gotten stuck. As soon as Scott reappeared his dad started barking commands. "Go git the tractor. There is sum chain down at the milkin cow barn. Get the heavy ones too." Soon a large tractor emerged and they followed us back down the road to where we could access the desert and out toward the spot my car was still sitting in the mud. We pulled up to the edge of the water.
 "Git in the bucket," was all Scott's dad said as he handed me the coiled heavy chain.
Scott ferried me out to my car in the bucket the tractor and I hooked the chain to a steel eye hook that was welded on the frame under the Saab's back bumper. I stood with one foot out the driver's side door as Scott effortlessly pulled me out of the mud bog. Those fella's refused to take any money nor the cold Budweiser we tried to offer them for their help.
 "You know, when Scott was a young buck he got his truck stuck out there and et sat for over two months." His dad seemed to be impressing on us our good fortune.
It was an unbelievable gesture of kindness. What turned out to be even more fortunate was the fact that the Saab started right up and I ended up making it to Wallowa county in time for my cousin's wedding.
Two weeks later, I called Sean on the phone to see how the rest of their trip had been. "I am just lucky to be alive," he said. Only hours after I pulled away from his camp a massive storm had come in and it rained throughout the night. The desert had become a lake and they were stuck out on the far side for three days. Finally in a desperate attempt to make it across, Sean had driven his truck out into the wet. Luckily he had a diesel. "You wouldn't have believed it," he said. "There was a wave of water coming over my hood and I could barely see. I had to hang my head out the side window and I knew if I stopped we'd be stuck." He had driven over half way across the expanse of desert when he began to make out another vehicle in the distance. As he got closer he could see that it was not moving. He could see a figure working next to the car. "I knew I couldn't stop, but I figured I would at least get close enough for them to jump in."
"It was crazy, as we got closer this guy looked up and he was covered in mud. He just stood there as we drove by."
"It was Nico. It was Nico the Greek," Sean described with surreal awe.

Years later, at a party I ran into Nico and Michelle. He had gone out to the Alvord that day not knowing that Sean and his family were even there. When Sean drove by he had been absolutely stunned. "It took me over a day to get out bra."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Touched by Irreverence

I had a powerful moment the other day in our local supermarket. As I stumbled along one of the aisles in a post-Leo-up all night- stupor, I found myself looking into a face I recognized, but was momentarily nameless. She paused and said, "you know I have been thinking about you." I embarrassingly raised the point that I didn't remember how we knew each other. Gulp, interpersonal interaction faux pas numero uno. "Samba Ja," she said. Ah yes, she was the contact for the band that played our wedding. "I have to tell you," she continued, "I grabbed a couple of the bookmarks that you gave out as gifts. Out of all of those literate and lovely notes to mark the day, the one that I absolutely adore is irreverent and simply makes me giggle." 
Which one, I asked? "I don't give a rat's ass,"was her reply. Well that is a coincidence I said, that happened to be my late father's quote. I went on to mention that I had listened to my audio recordings of that memorable wedding day, for the first time, just the night before. In fact I had started to write about the wonderful coincidence that had occurred as I recorded my brother-in-law Abe and I dressing for the ceremony. Of course, I gave her the supermarket run-in abbreviated version. But for the rest of you, here it is as it happened on our wedding day. 
For our wedding this past summer Heather and I decided to give out bookmarks as a gift for all of our guests. Each bookmark depicted one of 30 different quotes, the date of our wedding, and Shawna Trumbly's "Crow Frog Kiss" drawing. Thankfully my cousin Becka saved the day by taking over the final design and assembling all 300 of the individual bookmarks. It was a great deal of work and she didn't finish until hours before the wedding ceremony. Heather and I had a lot of fun coming up with those quotes. A number of them came from our favorite books or were generated from conversations with family and friends. 
As it should be, the day of our wedding my lovely bride and her lady friends dressed upstairs at my aunt and uncles in their beautiful bedroom overlooking the river. I was sequestered to the back guest room. Abe and I were dressing and doing our man-thing, mostly passing a bottle of burbon and guiding Heather's 80 year old aunt's to the wedding site over the phone. It was really wonderful, that moment, reflecting on my life and the magnitude of what we were about to do. Abe was in fine form, encouraging me to wear my father's woven sun hat that I have become so fond of over the years. He had pulled out his grandfather's 1923 bowler, a real beaut in contrast to my scraggly worn out hat. It was about that moment that Becka arrived and came in to share the finished bookmarks. I reached in and grabbed one randomly, handed it to Abe, explaining that Heather and I intended to give them out as gifts and this should be his. As coincidence would have it out of all 300 of the bookmarks, "I don't give a rat's ass", was the quote I pulled out. We all were struck by what powerful connection this was to that moment. I then pulled out another, "No broke yokes, no false hopes", which was attributed to Abe's dad. Neither of those men were there, but they were there in spirit and we felt it.  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Patting Pappa's Head

As promised I wanted to return to the Gastronomic Odyssey and try and describe another cosmic coincidence that happened for Jason, Eric, and I on our grand adventure to the 2003 Jazz Fest. We spent our first night of the trip in San Francisco where we had a wonderful evening with friends at Cha Cha Cha in the Haight. Their college friend Kristi put us up that night. "Thank you lovely lady for the ham." Our plan was to drive as far as we could the following day. After getting a late start we made good time over Donner pass and into Reno early the next afternoon. Jay remembered a Mexican place that he had eaten at years prior, so we decided to try and find it. After about a half an hour getting lost in the industrial district we were all about to give up when we saw a sign for Louis' Basque Corner. As soon as we walked in we new we had discovered something special. It was early and the long bar to the left of the entrance was lined with patrons. We asked our hostess what folks were drinking and she told us that the Picon Punch was a local favorite. The place had an authentic feel right away, with dark mahogany paneling and walls covered with grainy black and white portraits of Reno's history. At Louis' everyone sits at picnic tables covered with red checkered, plastic table cloths. Before we even had a chance to look at the menu our waitress had two carafe's of red wine at our table. Besides the large crowd at the bar the place was almost empty, except for a couple of older gentleman sitting at our table. They both had distinctive noses that I recognized from spending time in the Basque region of Spain. I had known that parts of southern Oregon and northern Nevada had a large Basque presence from stories my track coach had described years past. He had found what he called "Arborglyphs" in the Steens mountains. Old carvings in the Aspen trees left from the early turn of the century sheep herders who had previously lived in those areas. I didn't realize that any real Basque's were left. We struck up a conversation with the fellow and he was quick to engage with us. As it turned out, his name was Anastasio Landa Burro. He had been a merchant marine, unlike his three older brothers, who had all been sheep herders. His parents were first generation immigrants and had raised Anastasio and his brothers in the old way. "My father gave all my brothers American sounding names. Like Michael and John. Then they go and name me Anastasio. So people call me Dego." Anastasio described how he had made the trip back to the Basque region only one time, to as he said, "pat pappa's head." A reference to the statue of Ernest Hemingway that you can find in the Plaza de Toros in Pamplona Spain. Both Jay and I had just finished reading a "Sun Also Rises" for our book reading club a month prior. What was even more amazing is that he had been accompanied on his trip by his young nephew who was a English professor at Tulane in New Orleans. We ended up getting his nephews number and Jay called and left a message when we arrived there. We asked Anastasio if he'd ever return to Spain. "Yes", he said, "if my nephew would accompany me again." That is exactly what Jay urged Anastasio's nephew to do on the message he left a week later when we got to the Big Easy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Full Circle

It would seem that Australia is a hip place to be right now. Between Nicole Kidman's latest epic saga and Geoff and Liz's blog, I have had Australia on my mind. Nothing is more quintessentially Australian than the boomerang. I just recently found my only remaining boomerang, which was made by one of the Pacific Northwest's most famous, boomerang designers.
My friend Randy introduced me to the art of boomerangs back in the mid 90's. At the time, one of the most remarkable boomerang makers in the world of boomeranging lived in Eugene. His name was TW Smith.
One spring day we decided to take Randy's young daughters down to the Amazon fields and toss booms. While we were tossing, we noticed another fellow throwing in the distance. By the accuracy and pace of the fellows throws we knew immediately that it had to be TW. We decided to go and have a visit with the legend. TW had been known around the U of O campus more for his tenacity at ping pong than as a boomerang maker. He was also notorious for having wickedly sweaty, frothing arm pits that, along with his tie dyed tank tops, were his trademark at the tables. That day at Amazon was no different. TW was working up a sweat throwing a handful of different boomerangs out and back again. It was incredible to watch. He had boomerangs of all shapes and sizes each unique designed to produce various trajectories. He could make them fly out in long swooping arches or quickly back to himself with a lightning toss. He had some that he had shaped like stick men that were designed to corkscrew down from a lofty height. All the while he was chatting away about boomerangs being a metaphor for life or getting carried on in finite detail about the aerodynamic design. Then, without breaking eye contact he would slap his hands together above his head catching the descending boom with ease. A conversation with TW was a bit mad scientist, a bit throw back hippie, and a bit crazed. The man was a genius when it came to designing boomerangs.
Two weeks later Randy's wife was in the grocery line down at a store called Oasis when the woman behind her said, "This might sound strange, but I just noticed from looking at your checkbook that your last name is Free." Gwen was a bit unnerved; this woman had just looked over her shoulder and read her checkbook. It turned out that the woman had the same last name. Then the woman said, "you know I got an odd call the other night from a man, I think, was trying to locate your husband. The reason it was so unusual was that he was a bit flustered and went on about needing Randy to do a job for him selling boomerangs." Randy and Gwen had an unlisted number, so TW was unable to track them down until Gwen coincidently ran into the only other "Free" in our city of over 100,000 residents.
As it turned out, in a fit of panic, TW had looked through the phonebook to find Randy because he wanted hire us to work for him out at the Country Fair selling boomerangs. I already had a pass for the fair and Randy wasn't going to make it either, but we both regreted not getting the chance to work with TW. That was to be his last fair as a boomerang maker. A couple weeks after the fair someone stole all of the frames for his different boomerang models and it kind of sent him over the edge. In fact it wasn't long after that I ran into TW and he informed me that he was done making boomerangs and had changed his name to Twanda. It came as a bit of a shock, but I was bit more shocked by the name change and that he had started wearing women's cloths. I only wish Twanda had continued to make the boomerangs he was famous for.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Haggler

I have been following Geoff and Liz's blog about living down unda in Australia called "Notes from the Shire". The latest addition is a priceless look at the underbelly of Western Australia and their fascination with cars. I can relate to Geoff's feeling of ignorance when asked about the various "makings" of his ride. Growing up in rural Oregon, a man proved his intelligence by the depth and veracity in which he could describe his trucks engine, tires, or exhaust. I lived at the beginning of the age of "lift kits" and big tires. When guys would come to school with their trucks splattered with mud or spend half the day welding roll bars in shop class. I just never caught the fever.
My first car was a Volkswagen bug. I bought it for $2200 dollars when I was 18 years old for 50$ less than the owner was asking for. My dad let me do the talking that day. Obviously to teach me a lesson about the "haggle" and that is, if you want to haggle you better make a counter offer with a little more meat on it. In the end I was never unhappy about the price. I loved that car. My second vehicle was my parents Nissan truck, my friends affectionately called the "Grey Warrior". I think it got that title after a couple buddies and I drove it down to the tip of Baja and back. My parents had more or less given the truck to me, but it was never registered in my name and for most of the time it was running, it sounded and looked like it shouldn't be.
Five years ago, that truck had 300,000 miles on it and had pretty much stopped running. I remember it got so bad that I would have to push start it myself every day. The time had come for me to go car shopping. It happened to be a time in my life when my lack of experience purchasing a car was really messing with my head. I already had a complex going on the account that I was single, jobless, didn't own a house, and had not really figured out what I wanted in life.
But then I got a job and I felt like it was time to buy a car. For whatever reason I wanted to have a Subaru Sudan. I had found one at a local car dealership, but it was a bit pricey. To get the price down, I enlisted the help of my friend Chris. He is from Queens and has probably owned 50 different cars in his life. He likes to haggle just for the fun of it. The whole experience was hilarious. When we got to the dealership he described with finite accuracy every statement and movement the salesman made, before it even happened.
"No matter what he says, don't sound like you really like the car. Now watch. When he goes back into his office, it will about 4 minutes, he will come back and tell you that his manager things he can go a little lower, but he will have to check some numbers." This all went on for a couple of days until finally Chris told me I would have to make up my mind. "We" had talked them down about 3500$ but they weren't going to drop any farther. I had to think about it. At the time having a car that didn't rattle and squeak seemed to carry so much weight for me. I figured I'd never get a decent date with my old clunker, but I just felt so uneasy about committing myself to 300$ a month payments. What to do..
I don't go to bars alone much. I never have. But Soriah, it was different. The long wooden bar, the familiar faces making drinks, the lovely people that seemed to almost enjoying seeing a guy drinking alone, felt good to me. I walked in that day at a crossroad. Cars seem to define a man. Just like the bars they drink in. Those days a guy couldn't go to Soriah without seeing the familiar face of Nigel. He'd often be alone and he was comfortable in his own skin that way. For one reason he's a Brit. He always looked comfortable alone; doing a crossword, reading, or just easily chatting with whomever was there. They guy is witty. He is brilliant. He is, as he was that day, incredibly present. The thing is, I never felt like I could keep up with Nigel. But that day I didn't really care. When he asked me, "how are things?" I told him the story of my dilemma about buying a car. He looked at me and without even hesitating, nonchalantly said, "well it would seem to be your lucky day mate. How about I sell you my car?" What? I didn't even know the guy could drive. He's a Brit for Christ's sake. He told me that his 87' Saab had been sitting for over a year and that it probably only needed a battery. The fact was he had finally decided to donate it. How much did he want to sell it for I asked. How about $1 was his reply. How could I say no? Two days later I met him at the gated entrance to his apartment complex parking lot, with a battery in hand. The only problem was that I had forgotten to bring the symbolic dollar bill. Reaching inside the console I found $2.43. I paid Nigel and pocketed the other $1.43. I like to tell people I made a a buck forty on the deal. In the end, Nigel really taught me the true lesson of the haggle. Just put it out there. It will come to ya.