Big giant head

In Other News

Sure, blame me.

We had a 4th of July BBQ here, luring guests with the promise of a great fireworks show because we're a block away from Valley College and their display goes practically in our back yard. Thus motivated, many people came.

Come dusk, we could hear in the distance the whump of fireworks lifting off. In the far distance. Not our show, but the Studio City show. Our show was late getting started. 8:30 ... 9:00 ... 9:30 ... Nothing.

People started getting tired. They started getting bored. They started getting cranky. And they started blaming ME.

"Come on, Chuck," said my brother-in-law. "Where's the fireworks? You promised me fireworks. Where are they, huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?" Every 10 minutes he was doing this. I kept reminding him that he was free to freakin' leave, but nudzing me was clearly more to his liking.

Yeah, like I run the fireworks in this town. By the time they finally started, I might have set them to explode at waist level if it had been my show.

It wasn't that bad, but it sounds better when I bitch about it.

Among our guests were Steve and his lovely wife Viv and cutie-pie daughter Amy. Yes, folks, the Amaya/Atkins collaboration continues. I guess when neither of us broke out the axes on our first Booth trip we decided we could be friends.

Beth and I really liked Steve's wife and daughter. Frankly, we wondered what wonderful thing he'd done in a previous life to deserve them. It must have been a doozy.

Zoe and Amy got along great. They were chasing each other in circles for a solid hour, up and down the slide, around and around the yard, on and off the swings, etc. It was a joy to see.

It's so odd and yet such a Booth thing that Steve and I met and became friends through The Booth. Its magic still survives, apparently, even 240 miles away.

Of course, we did count the silver after they left. You just can't be too careful....


Tuesday -- July 6, 1999
The Damage Done

No good deed goes unpunished. I offer as proof the pitiful sight I witnessed this afternoon: My Cruiser being loaded onto a flatbed truck to be spirited away to the Cruiser doctor.

One thing I neglected to mention in my Mojave wrap-up last time out: I killed my truck. Well, maybe not killed it, but I definitely wounded the hell out of it.

One of the fun things about bombing down the dirt road toward The Booth was being able to do it in 4-wheel drive. Well, that and the fact that Tim was following me in his open-top Jeep, which meant he was eating my roostertail of dust for 15 miles. I periodically swerved from side to side, covering the width of the road, just to make sure he got the full effect. He told me later he thought at first I was avoiding holes, but then figured -- correctly -- that I was just being a dick. Mission accomplished.

Anyway. 4-wheel drive. Stay on course, Chuck. Half the fun was running the Cruiser in 4-wheel drive. I didn't really need it -- hell, someone got a Mazda Miata in there -- but you can't run it in 4-wheel on asphalt or you'll kill the gears, so I took advantage of the dirt to pretend I was He-Man Offroad Boy. As I got out to lock the hubs going in, I muttered to myself, "Remember to disengage the hubs, dummy."

Coming back out I remembered to disengage the hubs. I got back in, all smug with pride at not being stupid, and we headed on out LA-ward through 124 degree heat, uphill, pushing the Cruiser hard at 80 mph. No worries, mate, I disengaged the hubs.

Pulling back onto the Interstate 100 miles later after dinner in Barstow, Steve casually said, "Hey, is that 4-wheel drive light supposed to be on?" "Ha ha," I said, "Very funny."

Steve just looked at me. I looked at the dash. Big green light that had been hidden from my view by the steering wheel: "4-wheel drive". Oh shit. I remembered to disengage the hubs, all right ... and forgot to take the 4-wheel drive out of gear.

Running with the hubs locked isn't that big a problem. In fact, it can be beneficial because it keeps the grease in the front axle from drying out, but I thought it best not to do that on such a long trip. Running it in 4-wheel drive on pavement, even with the hubs unlocked, is never good. Especially at speeds over 50 mph. Especially in 124 degree heat. Especially for 100+ miles.

I crossed my fingers and gutted it out the rest of the way home. We pulled over briefly in Ontario and it sounded really bad. It didn't sound as bad once we got home, but man, it was ugly. The transfer case is leaking fluid like a sieve. I figure that can't be good. I figure I killed it.

So the Cruiser went into the shop today and now I'm driving a rental from an outfit called Rent A Wreck. Boy, they aren't kidding about the name. I'm driving a deathtrap.

It's a puke green Ford Escort you'd pay someone to take off your hands. There's not a single panel on the body that doesn't have at least one dent. The bumpers bear numerous battle scars. All the door trim on all four doors has been torn off. The passenger side mirror is missing, the hole patched up with duct tape. The right front tire is bald with tread showing in places. All four doors have been keyed, most noticeably the driver door on which, although it's been painted over with what looks like spray paint, can still be read the inspiring inscription "Bitch." Someone has scratched a TAFKAPesque design on the hood. The interior is filthy, the seatbelts don't work, it bounces if you get it over 60 and shimmies all over the road at all speeds. But, hey, what do you want for $17 a day?

Actually, it kind of reminds me of the cars from my youth. I coulda been Rent A Wreck! I coulda been somebody!


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Copyright © 1999
Chuck Atkins