Friday, May 16, 2008

Van Gogh

“Are we actually van people?” He looked at me with a shocked expression, clearing his throat.

“Yes. I think we are.” I said flatly.

“Is it really what you want?”


An ASTRO Van. Blue with a red and white patriotic stripe down the side. It was a 2000, the year we were married. It had enough space INSIDE it to play soccer or football on a rainy day and the kids really wanted a van.

“Well, okay. I guess I can live with it if that is what you really want.”

We walked around the perimeter, looked under it, checked the engine, test-drove and left the used car lot for the day without the van. We left without it because I had to practice a new art (for me)… restraint. I had to practice the act of thinking about things and not being too impulsive.

But, a few days later, the van joined our family. My kids were so excited. The first day we got the van we were at soccer practice. We opened the side of the van to show one person and suddenly there were six children crawling all over the seats (we only have two).

“It’s a party in the van!” They shouted. Though small, children understand things like leg room and views and the convenience of getting buckled in without having to walk around the car (oh, wait… that’s the part that I understand.)

I know what you are thinking… You are thinking that I did not grieve the loss of “Trucky” at all. You are thinking that I am shallow and cold and heartless to forget about my beloved Truck high up on that heap in Brandon. Well, I am not shallow and cold and I haven’t forgotten “Trucky.” I had to move on. I had to get into a Van and Gogh…

I embraced the idea of having a different kind of car… not a car at all… but one that has a door on it that slides open. I know a few people who absolutely love their ASTROS, so I figured, “Why not?”

Immediately I started to think of the most important thing when purchasing a new vehicle. While most folks consider gas mileage and insurance, I focus on the name.

“Van-Gogh.” My husband joked with me.

We sat around for awhile with the dictionary open to the VAN page and came up with some great ones:

VANILLAN (after the Beastie Boys’ coined phrase “You be illan.”)

This went on for days. I tortured friends, family and colleagues about what the van’s name should be. And then suddenly, it occurred to me that I should embrace the shape of the vehicle that I was buying. I could use the space to my ad VAN tage (ha ha)!

I bought a curtain rod and hung it up in the back to display MyBlagz and the name flowed off the tip of my tongue one morning.

“The van’s name is BLAGZ.” I said to my husband in the kitchen.

“Huh?” He hadn’t had coffee yet.

“Yep.” I smiled. “We’ll call her BLAGZIE. I’ll get a plate that says BLAGZ or MYBLAGZ and some magnets for the side that display our phone number. This will be my business on wheels.”


“Like big business cards.” (See picture)

And so it is… and so we have her… and so we have the magnets. They came in the mail yesterday.

No… I haven’t forgotten my TRUCKY.

And while I am at it, I will take this moment to remember all the cars I’ve loved before. Consider this blog as a memorial of sorts to my vehicles of the past:

I will go in chronological order, starting in the 1980’s, since that works best for me:

CUPCAKE (1966 White Volvo)
Nissan Sentra (Tan- cannot remember the year- cost $900)
Hyundai Excel (red) (Vin # 666--------) oooohhh
TRACKER (bright yellow and soft topped)
COW CAR (yes- white with cow spots)
The JEEP (Black) (not AWD- in Vermont- oops)
SHADOWFAX (Subaru- family car) (or SOOBIE)

And now… BLAGZ.

I am almost 40, so I guess my track record is not so bad. I have loved my cars and truck and now my van. I say that my vehicle has to be a “point A to point B” vehicle and that is because right now in my life, that is true. Living in Vermont, I bounce along on the back roads anyway, and so a brand new and shiny vehicle would not make any sense. I suppose the type of vehicle I drive changes as I do. I am a mom, so it would be irresponsible for me to pile my little darlings into a TRACKER with the top down to cruise the back roads in a snow storm, right?

So I am happy about the decision- (though we replaced the brakes one week after we bought BLAGZ because my husband put the parking break on and I drove around with it on- thus destroying the break system). Cars, vans, trucks… they are made of parts and pieces which sometimes require attention. We give them what they need and they, in turn, do the same for us.

Have YOU patted your car on the dash-board today?

Go on, give your car a pat… and if you don’t already have a nick-name for your car, think about it and give it one. It just might be fun.

See you on the road. I’ll be the one driving the blue ASTRO van called BLAGZ with the business card magnets on the side. I’ll give you the “Vermont Wave”: see the script of my radio segment on “The Vermont Wave” on Click “My Vermont” and scroll down to Amy Braun on Friday May 9, 2008.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Not Kharma... Truckma

I have been driving my truck with an expired inspection. I am a naughty girl skating on the edge of danger. I have been warned by the law… three times. Admittedly, that is pretty ridiculous and immature of me. I am a mother and should behave better.
My truck is rusty. She has a plastic panel that has become rusty and peeled away, over her front wheel. I have tucked in the plastic panel (see picture.) She (my truck “Trucky”) is not that old, but she lives in Vermont and has seen 14 harsh winters. I don’t really care about the rust. She starts and drives well and transports us along back roads safely.
We have a constable in our lovely little town who has taken notice of my expiration date. I’ll protect his reputation and call him “Tim.” Tim is a good man… a really good man with one “pet peeve:” people who drive around with expired tags (people like me). And now he is on to me.
I will take you on a flashback journey to the past so you can understand my present situation better like they do the television show “Lost”… . Look out… because coming right at you are the capital letters “TRUCKY”, and the sound effects of a plane crashing. Climb in my truck cab and go back in time to just a mere 5 months ago before I actually broke the law.
I took “Trucky” to the nearby garage to get her checked out from bumper to bumper, and to get a right rear view mirror put on. I asked them to inspect “Trucky” too. It turned out that she needed so much more done than I could afford to have done to get that new inspection sticker. It was right before Christmas, and I knew that I could not afford to inspect the truck because paying for Christmas was more important to me. It just was… what can I say? I am guilty of wanting to put a few things under the tree and help give my children a happy Christmas and a memorable childhood. I don’t believe in Santa, I know the truth: it is my husband and I who pay for Christmas. So, I did what every mother would do: I decided to forget about the inspection and drive around in my truck with expired status. I blocked out the expired sticker and decided to take a few risks. After all, I live in rural Vermont, where I never see our constable Tim. He doesn’t have much to worry about and in fact he has never used his handcuffs. There is not a lot of crime, so he isn’t visible that often.
My truck joined the ranks of expiration on December 31, 2007. Happy New Year. The first day of 2008 is when I started to break the law. I guess he should dust off those handcuffs since the crime rate just went up.
“I’ll use the tax return.” I told myself.
Famous last words…
The first time he (Tim- the constable) told me my tag was expired, I played dumb… unaware… clueless… I acted like I didn’t really notice. I know it is bad, but I have theatre experience that I can draw on in times of need. And partially, I didn’t feel like I was breaking any HUGE laws because I only drive about 10 miles a day on very rural roads and pass (maybe) 20 cars… and I had good intentions of taking care of it. Good intentions mean everything when it comes to the law, right? I follow the speed limit and am very careful of pedestrians AND I wave to all my Vermont neighbors (see Vermont Wave blog because waving is important)! I am the model citizen. He (Tim) was directing traffic at the time around a large chunk of ice (road crews were working on it by the side of the road) and he waved me down and tapped on my window, “You need to get your inspection done.” He said seriously.
I smiled innocently, “Oh? Okay. Thanks. I will take care of it.”
Famous last words…
I chose to ignore the sticker even longer and while waiting for my tax return to come back so I could afford the visit to the garage. I already knew there was a large list, bigger than my Christmas list, of what had to be done to pass inspection: some welding underneath, a brake light with a faulty wire, a turning signal, the emergency brake, the rusty tire well, new tires… and on and on. I could afford it. “Trucky” travels from point A to point B each day and she simply needs to function very minimally.
And now it is April (flash forward) and I am driving around with an EXTREMELY expired tag.
As I mentioned before, I drive very little distance each day. I work 1 ½ miles away from home. I drive my son to preschool every morning. It is a four mile drive from point A to point B. I am always careful to follow the traffic laws and take the roads safely in the winter conditions. I may be expired, but I abide by the law in all other ways. Tim followed me one morning down Route 100 and I almost made it to school. Almost. He pulled me over to talk to me (again) about my expired inspection. I smiled (again), bowed my head (again) and behaved humbly (again).
I said, “I have an appointment at J & H Auto Thursday.”
“Today is Thursday.” He said flatly.
“Oh…” I thought fast with head bowed. I was panic stricken. “Next Thursday.” I am a naughty girl. It was a complete lie. I lied. I felt guilty. I still feel guilty about it. I don’t know why I lied. I think I was nervous.
He took my information and walked back to his car as I prayed to the universe for forgiveness.
My son’s little voice chimed in from the back seat, “Mommy, what is he doing? Why are we parked here?”
“He is checking mommy’s license.”
“Is he going to give us a white one?”
Now, there are moments when one of my children asks a question that I don’t understand. This was one of those moments. It is possible that I didn’t understand because my heart was beating too loudly and I didn’t hear my son properly or it could be that I just didn’t understand his question.
“What do you mean, honey?” I tried to sound calm. I knew I was going to get smacked on the hand by the law as Tim walked back to his car to check up on me.
“Is he going to give us a white license instead of a green one?”
“Oh…” I chuckled, finally understanding his four-year-old logic. “No…honey, we get to keep our green license plate.”
“We can keep our green one?”
“Yes honey.”
The human brain is so strange. It will go places that we never expect. It will drive down roads that we forgot were roads of our memories. The brain can experience a flash of memory, good or bad at any time and any place.
You need to look out again because here it comes. That flying word “TRUCKY” and the plane crash sound effects are upon you again. You are about to experience another flashback… but this time we are going way back... way back to the side of a road in my childhood.
My thoughts traveled at that moment from “Trucky” to a rural road in Pennsylvania. I about the same age as my son: “Daddy?” I asked my father as we drove over a bridge that looked down on a large Pennsylvania highway. It was dusk.
“Yes baby?” My father said.
“Why do all the cars on one side of the road have white lights and the other cars on the other side of the road have red lights?” Looking at headlights and brake lights on a highway, seeing cars going different directions, I was perplexed by their difference. I was in the stage of development where things had to fall into very clean categories (just like my son.)
My father chuckled, “Well, it may look like the cars have different colored lights, but every car has both red and white lights. They are just going different directions. The white ones are going north and the red ones are going south on the turnpike.”
I must have said, “Oh…” Or something like that and moved on with my thoughts.
Now please return with me to the present where I was about to get a ticket on the side of a rural Vermont road with an expired inspection. My son brought me back with a question, “Why is our license green?”
“Uh.” I gripped the wheel and glanced into my rear view mirror. “We live in Vermont, which is called ‘The Green Mountain State.’ That must be why they make the license green.”
My son notices little details. He once made an observation about cars with white license plates from Massachusetts: he said they drive fast on back roads. “They pass us a lot. They are in a hurry all the time.”
When we first got “Trucky” and registered to get a license plate, we received a temporary one made out of white cardboard. He was troubled by it and talked about it with me. “All the other cars and trucks have a green license. Why don’t we have a green one? Why is ours cardboard?”
“It will come. We will get a green one in the mail.”
“Okay.” He felt better. He paused briefly and added more, “Just because we have a white one doesn’t mean we go fast, right?”
“That’s right. People who drive fast get tickets.” I said.
Famous last words…
Here we were with someone (Tim) “checking my license” and since this is the second time he talked to me, I was sure he was going to give me a ticket.
We learn when we are ready to learn. I was in the process of learning and I am sure of it because it hurt. Learning happens when it actually hurts. I could have tried to explain the difference between a car license and a person’s license to my son because he was confusing them, but my son was already on to his next question, “Do I have yogurt in my lunch today?”
I love kids.
Tim came back and smiled at me. I smiled in return.
“I am going to give you a verbal warning. I feel like you need to take care of getting your car inspected because it is the law.”
“You are right sir. It is your job and I respect that.” I could have left it at that, but again, I was nervous. I continued to ramble, “The price of oil has made things extremely difficult this year for me financially. I will take care of it. Thanks.”
“When?” He stared at me. “You said Thursday. Did you mean today or next week?”
“Next week.” I lied nervously.
“Okay. Well, make sure you take care of it then.”
I bowed submissively and took my paperwork. He let me go without anything in writing, without a written warning. What a relief.
As I drove away, I began to get mad at myself about the lies. I didn’t have an appointment. I was a naughty girl. I never should have lied. I was only hurting myself and providing a really bad example for my son.
I dropped my son off in his preschool classroom and asked his teacher if I could use the phone. I called my husband and begged him to make an appointment for me at J & H Auto to get “Trucky” inspected right away. I had been spared but I had to take care of things. “Next Thursday. It has to be next Thursday.”
“Just do it.” I whispered the NIKE slogan severely into his ear.
He made the appointment for me and I went on with my day.
I want to pause for a moment and tell you that I have a sister who also has a blog on called “Chrionsgrove.” If You ever spent time reading her blog, you would discover a common family theme: we don’t do well with details in life like registering cars. We don’t get “bogged down” by things like that. It is a weakness. We are weak people in that one way, but hearty and strong in other ways.
But at least on that particular Thursday morning, I made an appointment to have “Trucky” examined (or should I say that I had my husband make me an appointment)? A few more days passed as I continued to drive around town with an un-inspected truck.
Let’s play around with the time space continuum for a moment and jump to the very next Tuesday. (Duck… here comes the word “TRUCKY”) My son and I drove south on Route 100 at around 8:30 in the morning and passed the local hardware store. I also wave (see earlier blog called The Vermont Wave) to whoever I see outside because it is a local expectation. I waved. I waved at a state cop and drew attention to myself and my expired inspection (I am an idiot). He turned out of the hardware store and followed me for three miles. Like a cat, he pursued me the entire trip while my mousey heart beat in my throat. I almost made it, but not quite. I saw the lights.
“Why are police always behind us?” My son asked.
“I am wondering the same thing.” I told my son. “But I think we have now managed to meet the only two policemen in Vermont.” I joked.
The whole scenario repeated itself again with a different man of the law. License. Registration. Insurance.
“I haven’t been driving this all winter.” I lied ridiculously. Police make me so nervous. I say whatever will get me out of trouble even though I know better. I believe in KHARMA… or in this case… TRUCKMA.
“I have an appointment on Thursday!” I said desperately.
“Really?” He asked.
“Yes.” This time it was true. I did have an appointment. What a responsible citizen.
We sat. We waited. I answered my son’s questions.
“Mommy, is he checking our license like last time?”
“What does he want?”
“He wants “TRUCKY” to have a current inspection.” I stopped myself because I figured my son was already wondering about the yogurt in his lunch again. I didn’t want to go into a huge explanation about the ways of the world that didn’t really affect him.
“What is that?”
“Inspection is a… a sticker on the window that is new. He wants us to have a new sticker.”
“I can make us a new sticker. Can we do that today after school? Can we make a new sticker?” My son has a sticker kit, obviously. How sweet. I wish he could make us a new sticker. It would be a lot cheaper.
The state cop returned to my window and handed me a slip of paper. “This is a warning.” He said roughly. “I am letting you go because you have an appointment. But you need to get it done.”
“Thank you sir.” I bowed my head again.
As I drove away, I again scolded myself in my head. Why did I lie again? I told him I didn’t drive “TRUCKY” all winter. It was a bold-faced lie. Why did I do that? I was making myself very afraid. I knew better than to act like that. Lying made things worse. I scolded myself all the way to my son’s school. I should be ashamed of myself. The fear of having to pay a fine cause me to become horribly manipulative.
Duck again. Here comes the word “TRUCKY” again. I will take you into the future to the fateful Thurday.
“Yeah, Amy…” This is John from J & H. I have your truck here and I can’t inspect it until you get about $1000 worth of work done on it. I wanted you to give me permission before I started to work on it. It needs a lot of work.”
“I’ll call you back.”
“I’ll leave her across the street with the keys in her if you want to come and pick’er up. I know that’s a lot of money for an old truck.”
“Thanks.” I hung up the phone, staring at nothing. I didn’t have the money for that, not that much money all at once.
The next few minutes were a blur of asking people I worked with for advice on what to do. One colleague knew of a “place in Brandon” that would “slap an inspection sticker on”- and then I could get work done on it gradually- maybe one or two things a month as I could afford to. I made an appointment (for the following Wednesday) and prepared to drive around for another week with an expired inspection sticker.
Here comes the word “TRUCKY” again and the music from the show LOST. Look out… I am taking you one week into the future to the following Thursday at Brandon Scrap Yard.
“This truck is very dangerous.”
“Rusty. Underneath.” The mechanic paused. “It can’t pass inspection. I won’t let it. It isn’t safe.”
The reality was there. I was faced with a huge decision on what to do next. “I can’t believe it.” I muttered. I loved my “TRUCKY.”
“I’ll give you $300 for it.”
And that was the end of the line for “TRUCKY.” She was put to death on a junk yard hill by a jury of her peers. I felt sad. I felt denial. I felt grief. I felt many things. I felt confused about it too… for how was I able to love something that was considerably sub-standard? My truck would not fit through the expectations set aside by the state of Vermont. She started (even on very cold winter mornings), and she got me from point A to point B (even on muddy roads). There I was, forced into letting her go on to become parts and pieces for many other trucks. There I was, giving permission for her to become an organ donor on a hill in Brandon.
“I’ll have nothing left to write about.” I whispered to myself. “TRUCKY” is gone. It is my fault. I never should have lied to two different men of the law. I deserved to lose my vehicle. I know better. It is kharma… or in this case “truckma”… To quote Desmond from the show LOST , “The universe has a way of course-correcting.”