Monday, 25 August 1997:


It was a pretty quiet day; not a whole lot happened. I did some shopping after work, photocopied a zine for APA Centauri, worked through some more of Stand on Zanzibar (yes, I know, it's taking me a ree-a-lly lo-o-ong time. I think this is a sign that it's just not a very good book), and now I have a mild headache.

So I think this is a sign to use today's entry as an excuse for writing More Background On Me. There will probably always be sections of my life that won't appear here, not due to deliberate omission but because like everyone else I live life at a rate faster than I can type! But I can fill in some of the broad lines with a little detail...

First of all, I think any licensed driver who writes about themselves is required to use the title "auto-erotica" at some point to talk about their car. Union rules, or something like that. Besides, Al Schroeder recently wrote a piece about how people who drive are crazy, so this may make a nice, oblique counterpoint to that (Al also nicely mentioned this journal of mine in the same entry).

I grew up outside Boston, only a 5 minute walk from the subway station, so I didn't feel a burning need to get my driver's license in high school, and in fact delayed until I was 17. Then I went to college in New Orleans where I lived on campus for three years, and also right by the streetcar line which would easily take me downtown. Plus, New Orleans being flat (it was built on a swamp), it's basically flat land, and is easy to bike.

Senior year, though, I moved into an apartment off-campus, and ended up getting a car (with financial support from my Mom). After a whirlwind, 3-week search, which involved a lot of reading of Consumer Reports, I ended up with a 3-year-old Honda Civic hatchback, 1987 vintage. I had generally shied away from American cars, since I don't have much faith in the US auto makers (although today I would probably be willing to buy a Saturn).

It turns out this old car of mine has been a great machine. It doesn't have much of an engine, but it can get up to 80 and stay there. It regularly gets 35 miles per gallon in the city, and 40-50 (yes, every so often I go 500 miles on a tank of gas!) on the highway. The engine is in basically good shape, although I had to get it overhauled a couple of years ago when some gaskets blew and oil got into the workings. It hasn't really required more than average maintenance, though, which is cool since it's ten years old now.

I don't drive a whole lot - mostly to and from work (and less if I start biking regularly), and I've averaged about 7,000 miles a year, so my car now has about 98K miles on it. The covers on the front seats are fraying, but it's still pretty comfortable, especially since I replaced the dead tape deck a year or two ago.

I enjoy driving - I enjoy it a heck of a lot more than flying, that's for sure! Given the time, I'm quite happy to drive out to Boston to visit my folks, which is a 2-day/1200 mile drive. Sure, the Midwest is not terribly exciting territory, but I can listen to a bunch of tapes, and do some thinking. And on a weekend drive in the summer, I can usually listen to parts of 5 or 6 different baseball games each day!

Eventually, of course, it's going to break down for good. My plans are to push my car to the year 2000 and then start thinking about replacing it. Even so, I have several friends who have brand new Saturns, and although they sure are nice and cushy and automatic and sleek and have air conditioning (which mine does not), they feel weirdly insulated, like you're not really on the road, but being transported in a padded cell. When I realized this, I realized that there's something comforting about my bumpy, overworked, manual-transmission vehicle, and I realized that I don't want to replace it for a long time.

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