Sunday, July 16, 2017

Auto Detailing, Matinicus Style

Go ahead, reach for the jelly bean
When my family and I first moved to the island, on the very first ferry trip with our stuff, I brought my car. I was told told, 'you don't want that out here, it won't last.' 'That' was my gray 1989 Mazda 626, then a tender 17 years old. The car lasted about eight more years, which is six and a half more than most of the macho-man pickup trucks out here.

Vehicles, especially pickup trucks are inadvertently engineered to dissolve in our bracing mix of air and salt and humidity. The Mazda's advantage was that it had a single body instead of a cab and pickup bed, which tend to part company after enough years in refreshing salt air.

Most of us have at least one more vehicle than is operable at any one time. Cars and trucks break down and are difficult to schedule for repairs. Sometimes they just get left out of current rotation because the other one is better. Tires and batteries then go flat, things rust, shrubs take over.

The Mazda was still commissioned but not on active duty for a couple of years when I decided to fire it up. The exhaust system was left in pieces around the island years before, so the little car could be heard from some distance. It was a happy thing to have it running again, if only briefly.

A couple of days later, as I returned up Carrie's Hill from the harbor, old 626 seemed a little crooked, the body not pointing in the true direction of travel. A slight correction turned into a more dramatic misalignment as now I was really pointed a different direction than I was moving. So it went, this way and that way and not this way and not that way til I got to the driveway. The passenger's side rear wheel and whatever frame pieces held it in place had let go. I couldn't see a way to hank it back together with potwarp and so had exhausted my menu of solutions.

626 hobbled onto the ferry thanks to Nick Philbrook, highly skilled in such maneuvers. Since I paid $1,500 for it, drove it on the highway for a year or so and then had some good years here, I guess I made out well.


Humble vehicles work for me. My S-10 pickup is as style free as it is reliable. No hoisted up shocks or deerjacking light rack on top. No radiator grill with teeth or predator shaped eye holes. Just a cab and bed an a seemingly flawless engine at age 27.

The S-10 has been the dormant vehicle for a couple of years, cultivating berry canes and collecting a thick coat of dust in the interior as it sat by the road with the driver's window left open. That window typically stays open because it's easier to reach in and open the door than to crawl in from the passenger's side where the outside handle works.

I figured S-10 shouldn't sit too long and made a couple of attempts to revive. I figured out that it needed a new battery after which installation it fired up immediately. The engine sounded as smooth and hearty as new.

I decided to gild the lily and clean up the interior a bit.  There was no Armor-All involved, which wouldn't have helped much with the one dormant and one active wasp starter nest. The dormant one was poised on the opener of the glove box, and the active one I discovered in the gas filler compartment.

The cab had several years' worth of bits and pieces of things left in the cab and across the dash. I saved two items- one very weathered stuffed bunny (see above) and a small plastic disc from a music box found on a beach here and remembered from my childhood in Bowdoinham. The broken dandelion digger, stray computer mouse, a footwell full of change most of which I had lost to Tom and Rick and Steve at poker, a roll of blue crepe paper well past its festive days and bits of seaglass all were recycled or put away.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July the 4th 2017

The lobstering, to put it tamely, has been absolutely appalling f-ing dogsh** kind of bad, so instead, some nostalgia.

I'm old enough that things were really different when I wasn't this age. Having a job as a child and teen, for instance, wasn't a recipe for exploitation by ruthless businesses, it was the foundation of self respect and character in my life. I worked for a family farm and was treated as family. Instead of being car-seated and airbagged through my young existence, I was empowered by doing hard work and learning to use judgment with big powerful pieces of farm equipment, all under the care of really good people.

That was in Bowdoinham, Maine. As a youngster, I thought there was only one way that the Fourth of July transpired- the way it was in Bowdoinham. There was a build-up something like that as Christmas approaches, with floats being constructed in barns, bike decorations being piled on, figuring out how to get my hands on some firecrackers and other anticipations of the day.

What Bowdoinham had on the Fourth that was unique was a chicken barbecue. A very large chicken barbecue. Large enough that any enterprising thief would've had a free run through all homes in Sagadahoc County for about 6 hours. There were hundreds upon hundreds of chicken dinners served, a midway, art exhibits, rummage sales, live music and at the end, of course, fireworks. It was a high point of the year.

I thought this was the only way the Fourth of July was done.

The Bowdoinham Chicken Barbecue made Time magazine as it was originally conceived to help finance a new schoolhouse. I loved the old Coombs School, 3 wood framed stories of slightly haunted feeling classrooms and halls. I guess some folks thought it was a falling down fire trap. 45 years after my last class there, the building defies those expectations and serves as office space and the town library.

Matinicus Island does up the Fourth pretty well, with its own parade, fireworks, parties and large music on the town wharf.

This year is a little different. My two younger ones are off the island for the first Fourth since 2005. The energy is down a notch from the usually Mardi Gras-esque vibe probably due to wretched lobster catches.

It being a different sort of year, Megan and I decided to go out and haul traps. I felt a twinge of being less than patriotic at first. I also questioned our ability to know when it might be time to take a day off. Some time around 10:00 a.m., though, I looked at the bright blue sky with the puffy clouds of a good haying day, the water, the rocks and the island and felt profound gratitude for my country, particularly this salty spruce-covered corner of it.