Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Adventures in Spoonerland

Posted Tuesday: There's a story here, but I'm too exhausted right now to write about it. Stay tuned. Meantime, look at the Flickr page for pix of our Holyoke Canal and Chesterwood adventures.
Updated Wednesday: I've now had a day of R&R, including swimming, lounging and cocktails, so I'm ready to tell the tale of Spooner's last day in the Tofu Valley.

We took his laptop, with the new airport card, down to the Haymarket so that he could get online and find a rental car. The car places in town wouldn't rent one way, with drop-off at Logan, so he reserved a car at Hertz in West Springfield for pickup that afternoon. While we were online, we set up a Flickr account for him (screen name = exspatula).

That done, we did various errands in Noho. We went to the hardware store where he purchased two cans of Zud. Apparently this cleanser is uniquely powerful enough to tackle the lime scale that adheres to any surface touched by tap water in the UK. When Molly and I went to London to visit Spooner two years ago, we each had to take a can of Zud in our carry-on bag. The expressions on the faces of the two baggage inspector women as they looked at the Zud, at each other, then at us, were priceless.

Next stop was the storage facility at the Industrial Park. I love watching Spooner open the door and set his eyes on some crap that he hasn't seen in the past year. "Look, it's my _________!" Even though he threatens repeatedly to take a match to the whole pile, he always finds something that he just can't live without and must take back to the UK with him. Last year it was pots and pans and a kitchen scale. This time, the first thing he spied was his Webber grill. He pulled it out from under some old boots and picture frames and said he could really use it in London.

"What? They don't have grills in the UK? Can't you buy one there?" I asked.

"Yes, but not like this one. And I already own this one."

Sanity prevailed and the grill went back into the storage unit. But the carpenter's level and the vintage tin Rainbo Bread sign went into the MINI.

Back at my house, the packing commenced. Spooner rounded up all his stuff from upstairs and added it to the pile in the living room. Not only did he have the things he flew over with -- laptop, external drive, camera, books, clothing -- but he now had the things he had acquired at the factory outlets and the crap -- er, I mean precious stuff -- that he had pulled from various storage spots around Massachusetts: the John Lennon-esque portrait of himself done by a former student, some photo albums, and a salad spinner.

"What? They don't have salad spinners in the UK? Can't you buy one there?"

"Yes, but not like this one. And I already own this one."

The photo albums and the salad spinner disappeared into my cellar where they joined his other precious possessions, packed three years ago into boxes labeled "Treasures" and "For Future Antiques Roadshows." The other stuff, including the portrait, carpenter's level, Rainbo Bread sign, his new Randy Deihl painting and 3 bottles of some nasty Magner's cider, went into the MINI. We headed off to West Springfield so that he could pick up the car. That's when the nightmare began. Long story short: Hertz wouldn't let him put the car on his debit/credit card because they said it was a debit card even though it is both debit and credit. I could rent the car and put him on as the second driver, but he'd have to pay for insurance and that would bring the cost (highway robbery) up to $400+ for 3 days. Fuck that.

We activated Plan B, which involved him taking the Peter Pan bus to Newton where his friend Jen would pick him up and drive him to pal Steve's in Billerica. In the parking lot of the bus station in Springfield, we pulled all the stuff out of the car and consolidated. It was quite amazing to watch the bottles of cider, can of smoked almonds, books and whatnot disappear into his suitcase and backpack. When it was all done, three things were coming back to Northampton with me: the Rainbo Bread sign, the carpenter's level, and the portrait of himself.

That's the story.


  1. ShadowbrookShutterbug9:45 AM

    Story?: art does not fit in Mini.

  2. exspatula12:43 PM

    The dozen of you familiar with this site know of the Bloggess’ revered Mini. It is a cool little car even though the black leather seats trap the heat while sitting in the sun, a fact that baffled Trailer’s Bloggess one afternoon. And it’s a BMW with a stick shift, something woefully unappreciated by its owner. I never did get to drive it; I suppose my intimations that the Mini’s inner BMW screamed for unleashing was worrisome. Instead, I settled into the well comfortable passenger seat to discover several caveats and to learn a pair of riding protocols when travelling with Trailer’s Bloggess. The caveats are as follows:

    1. The Bloggess is a law-abiding driver; speed limits are rarely broken and sometimes never reached. There is a greater chance to be stopped for driving too slow than for excess speed.

    2. Surrounding the Mini is an invisible zone. Vehicles, and objects for that matter, coming within ten feet of the Mini do so at their own peril. Violating this space may elicit a venomous outburst of denigration. Who knew there were so many assholes in the happy valley?

    3. Centered on the steering column and easily viewed through wheel sits a proper and prominent tachometer. However, the shadow of the tach’s needle will never cross the red line.

    4. Simultaneous processing gross motor signals to feet and hands with visual, and possible sudden auditory, information while stopped on any incline is, lets just say, not fluent.

    As to the protocols, first off, one is instructed in the use of the childproof doors; two pulls, not one, of the handle and the door open. It must take a kid all of five trips to figure this out, and the safety value is probably most effective for a child who should be in the back harnessed in a child seat. But imagine the horror, or thrill of turning around and eyeballing the grill of a SUV pulling up behind Mini while stopped. The kid would be inches away from the grill’s sneer. Better not be on any kind of an incline, since caveats numbered 2 and 4 would come into play, eliciting the Bloggess’ anxiety and tirade. Said child becomes agitated or shrieks in delight adding to the driver’s already high anxiety level. It’s a sure recipe for child abuse. Point: readers and pals with small children, stay out of this car. The second more curious protocol is the sunroof cannot be opened at speeds above 50 mph; it seems it cuts down on gas mileage! This surprise came to light on the Turnpike as I started to open the roof. We couldn’t have been going too fast given caveat number 1 and the fact we never once passed a car. Gas mileage? OK, at $3.00 a gallon, which is still cheaper than the UK, one must be mindful of expense. But it’s the highway! We’re in a fuck’n BMW! Crank the tunes, open the roof and let’s see what this machine can do. Fortunately, caveat number 1 did ensure plenty of sunroof usage on our return to NOHO.

    On our way to Chesterwood, we motored through the green corridors of the Berkshires. After a disappointing stop to shop – too many sherbet coloured and brown plaid sale items - at the outlets, we made our way to Chesterwood. Once there, we acted like a couple of Japanese tourists spending more time looking through our cameras than at the sculpture itself. I left with 20 photos, the Bloggess had in excess of 220.

    Now the only difference between the ride out to Chesterwood and our return to NOHO was the width of the corridors. Elevations did not change, but yes, there may have been several hundred yards with a steeper grade than the turnpike. However, at 12 mph in 2nd gear, what’s the worry? Oh that’s right, the narrower roads did invoke caveat number 2. I secretly longed for Bambi to jump out in the road. Would she stop? Sorry Bambi. Time to visit mama.

    And who knew the Worthington everything store/post office would close at 1 on a Saturday afternoon. The one sandwich shop we later passed looked busy but the pack of Harley’s parked outside apparently ruled out a stop. Mini would have been taunted and tossed around by those bullies. Anyway, this left open the opportunity for another dinner of fresh sweet corn and tomatoes. I’ve yet to find the former in London. What is sold year round as sweet corn is typically flown in from some far off local like Zambia or Bulgaria. Fresh it is not; one crumbles away the dried husks.

    Finally, it is true I seriously considered bringing the Weber to London. In fact, I had it in mind before I arrived in the states. The salad spinner, Deihl painting - well maybe not that – sneakers, Zud, dirty clothes, books, and my cowboy boots would easily have fit inside. I’d leave one bag behind and use this as my second piece of luggage. However, it was the weight, bulk, and la Bloggess’ snide commentary that made me consider otherwise.

    That's the real story.

  3. Clearly Spooner should have his own blog for his fantabulous fiction writing. At least he didn't impugn my cats' integrity. And, PS, I'm still finding Cheerios on my floor.

  4. Several comments come to mind:

    1. The owner/driver of the car has the right to as many caveats and protocols as necessary to ensure the sanity of said owner/driver, even if they seem a bit much to the person in the passenger seat. The passenger is not in charge!(see Comment #2)

    2. The owner of the car is to be thanked for traveling hither and yon and schlepping multitudinous items back and forth for passengers!

    3. If someone really wants to use a Weber grill for a suitcase, s/he would do it despite any criticism.

    4. There are drivers and there are passengers. And they each have a slightly different view out the windshield. And that's ok.

  5. ShadowbrookShutterbug10:18 AM

    Accounts of both Bloggess and Exspatula are worthy of the New Yorker.