Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mea Culpa

For all intentions of being a prolific writer and profound thinker, I must admit to being merely...vainglorious?  For all wishes held in one hand of recording anecdotes and musings of a childhood witnessed, I have the shit of the mundane, the normal and the usual piling up in the other.  Tough to type with both hands full.  Mea culpa.

And for all of my professed love of Italian cars, I must admit to my daily driving betrayal:  a 1963 Mercedes Benz 220SEb.

Plush leather, real wood, just the right dollops of chrome. Brutish but crisp mechanicals.  Imagine--fuel injection in 1963!  A beauty, with the heft and grace that you might expect of a Teuton goddess.  There are cars and then there are automobiles... and this was an automobile nonpareil.

I've recently sold it after a long ownership.  My unforgiving anima.  Mea culpa.

I kept some personal memorabilia in a little leather pouch in the glove compartment, which I removed before selling the car.  It took some time and coaxing from a 18 year old single malt before I was willing to open the pouch and review the contents.  Included is a Laguoile knife, the 1950's leather key fob from my grandfather's Cadillac and a gold amulet brought back from La Finistere some moons ago.  Then there is the old newspaper photograph of Ry Cooder and son motorcycling through the streets of Havana, Cuba taken from Wim Wender's film "The Buena Vista Social Club".  I've written on the bottom "Vocatus Atque, Non Vocatus Deux Aderit", which if you've seen this movie and you've seen Ibrahim Ferrer's face at the conclusion of the Carnegie Hall concert in New York City, you might know my inspiration.  Beautiful.

And in my own handwriting:  snippets of poetry; some of my own, some from Raymond Carver and this from Wallace Stevens:

"Keep quiet in the heart, O wild bitch.  O mind
Gone wild, be what he tells you to be:  Puella.
Write pax across the window pane.  And then

Be still.  The summarium in excelsis begins...
Flame, sound, fury composed... Hear what he
The dauntless master, as he starts the human tale.

A momentary pause.  Here is a photograph of myself on a boat in Elfin Cove, Alaska on a particularly beautiful day many summers ago.  The spectacular landscape behind me contrasted sharply with the barrenness I felt inside of myself on that very day, almost at that very moment when that photograph was taken.  Indeed I wanted that picture taken at that moment to never forget that I had just joined Eve in the Garden.  That I too had taken a bite of that forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and of the power of life and death.  As wide open as the sky and the Gulf of Alaska were, so crushing was the weight of this fall from grace.  Mea culpa.

This old wound has never really left me.  But it continues to heal me.

Again I hold my breath.   Amidst the last few bits and scraps in that leather pouch is an old love letter from a previous life.  Beautiful musings from a beautiful and intelligent woman.  Another pause as I simply say "thank you" at once anonymous and eponymous.  Can I confidently say this?!  She and I may or may not have deserved more that we were willing to give to each other at the time.

Well... Mea culpa.

This leather pouch and the old Mercedes seemed to be the appropriate receptacle for these items--the ark and its sanctum sanctorum, by my own imaginings. I shall miss this  ark.  And the pouch and most of its contents will be tucked away carefully someplace else now.  Nonetheless, I'm grateful to allow these objects, these memories, these emotions and thoughts flight, that the sacred becomes the profane, and that the profane becomes sacred.  As is above, so is below.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Back in the day, this was racing!

And also, there was some pretty fine filming, editing and storytelling back in that day too.  Go here for the BBC's story of the 1958 running of the Coupe des Alpes.  Top Gear owes its chops to films like this!

I wanna ride that route on my Italian bicycle someday!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

That French Car

The Citroen DS is pretty well known in car circles as being one of the most amazing cars to have ever been produced.  Its safety features were far ahead of its time, its comfort was and still is unparalleled, and its road manners are sublime even by today's standards.

When it was first unveiled in the 1950's, it was widely panned both by both critics and the car-buying public .  People just didn't know what to make of it.  Attitudes and perceptions changed quickly however, and the car very quickly became one of the best selling automobiles in history.

Just as the DS prognosticated future trends, an unfamiliar word gracing our own vocabulary today suggests the future:  sustainability.

The idea of sustainability is being applied to our eating habits, our healthcare programs and our economy. This is a good thing,  as it offers a bright spot of hope and opportunity to the dark clouds otherwise looming on our collective economic horizons.  Despite early resistance and criticisms, I think if we give it a chance... sustainability might offer us a smooth ride in surprising comfort.

With thanks to the goddess!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heffalumps and Woosils

There's been a strange flu going round these past weeks in the city, and it found its way to our home.  We've spent a fair amount of time cozying up here with the requisite amounts of chicken noodle soup, orange juice and Winnie the Pooh videos.

The original videos from the late 60's and early 70's are the ones to watch.   They tell A A Milne's story of Christopher Robin and friends with amazing creativity, veracity and musical whimsy.

And then there's this whole other very real drama going on about the economy, bailouts, stimulus packages, people in high places not paying taxes, etc etc.  Oh bother.  

Better safeguard your hunny!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Magic and Loss

Pictured at left is a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2800.  This was the scrumptiously styled saloon car based on the fantastically successful Vittorio Jano designed track car.  These cars were pretty magical at their time of introduction, resplendent with the latest in innovation and styling, just a half step away from their race track brethren.  Even the exhaust manifold was art, sculpted with delicate fins so as to help keep the exhaust temperatures cool.  Such a car is not possible today.

And now these cars, of which only a few survive, are either museum pieces or a billionaire's bauble, tucked away in atmospherically controlled garages and far away from the thronging crowds and excitement of yesteryear's race course.  There's a bit of loss there, methinks.

And so it goes with our lives.  I see it with my child, that she has started out with such unabashed enthusiasm and delight in the magnificent and the mundane.  She loves her dollies to bits just as much as she loves unravelling the toilet paper roll.  She says "noshanks" to pieces of broccoli as enthusiastically as she slurps butter off of her toast.  She does not walk, but runs excitedly everywhere.

And I know that she will progress, grow and continue to experience the many delights as well as a few of the heartbreaks of a lifetime. Friends will come and go, success and failure visiting regularly and hope and faith will have to be constantly nurtured amidst growing older and hopefully wiser.  Slowly, a life of active track time will turn towards the stillness and quietude of the museum.

Guess I'd better get out of my own museum, back onto the track and back to oiling her wheels and greasing her enthusiasm for her own next few go-rounds anyways.

Its a good life, always filled with a bit of magic and loss.  Thanks Lou Reed, for the words and inspiration here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Snow: good for kids, bad for Italian cars.

At less than three feet tall, my little girl loves to let herself fall into the snow outside.  Hasn't quite grasped the idea of snow angels yet.

And with less than 6 inches of ground clearance, my Italian car is just not getting out into the rutty roads created by the big snowfall.  Haven't seen anyone else's out either.  Imagine that.