Boston Driver’s Notebook 4/1/12

29 03 2012

Wareham Harbor

It’s a good truck that will get you home before it gives out.  It was a windy October day that I went to Wareham to put up a gutter at the small beach house of the mysterious Helen of Cambridge.  I caught a radio traffic report that predicted an extremely slow drive from the entrance to Rt. 93 N at the junction of Rtes. 3 and 128 in Braintree all the way to downtown Boston, where traffic wasn’t moving at all.  The report was accurate enough.  I finally escaped at Leverett circle where I picked up Rt. 38, the McRoadRage at Lechmere just past the Science Museum.

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Boston Driver’s Notebook 9/15/11

18 09 2011

Having obtained a new inspection sticker for the white Barracuda, I drove it back to its garage @ Paradise, Concord, MA.  On the way home in Clyde the blue Toyota truck, there was a traffic snarl at the fresh pond rotary.  It was right in front of the building where some locally-famous falcons were nesting.

Falcon by Sweet Lil Bunny Photo

A couple of kids sat in a car broken down in the right lane.  I pulled in behind them and got out.  A woman on a cell phone told me that the state police were on their way.  I went up to the passenger window and asked if they wanted me to push them out of the road.  The young woman behind the wheel said the clutch wouldn’t work.

Just then another guy crossed the road to help.  I told him that the driver couldn’t put it in neutral, but the sceptical Samaritan wanted to try to push anyway.  We tried, as a couple of young skateboarders rolled up and wanted to help.  We had a good team, and I was considering pushing it against the resistance of the motor with our mighty four.

The pragmatic gentleman was leaning in the window past the driver’s immobile boyfriend.  He spun around, “Let’s try it now!” he said.

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Boston Driver’s Notebook 8/30/11

30 08 2011

This summer almost past, I have been working hard to gain a couple of weeks in August for a vacation.  I had largely finished rebuilding a two-story porch on the front of a house in Jamaica Plain.  The owners, old friends of mine, were so construction-weary that they had stopped talking to me, and only cast irritable looks in my direction.  They owed me a lot of money.

Handmade Dentil Mouldings: Old World

As a result, I had left the final clean-up and punchlist for later, and moved on to a job working for the golden-haired Helen of Cambridge.  She had an appreciation for high-quality work performed by a trustworthy skilled professional, and was pleasant and easy to deal with; a Glenda the Good Witch dream customer.  I could drive to her house in 10 minutes, in contrast to the vicious slog to JP, either by way of the unpredictable Big Dig Expressway, or through the bowels of Central Square Cambridge, across the occluded BU bridge and then through the alimentary canal of Brookline Village.  That, or a suicidal plunge into the gnashing steel jaws of the Jamaicaway.

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The Movies That Made Me Weird(er): Algiers (1938)

24 08 2011

Disembodied Floating Heads -- The Movie

Unlike most kids born after the advent of color TV, I had a fascination with black and white movies, the older the better. I went through a protracted phase during which my sole criterion in choosing late night viewing was the age of the film. The oldest ones gave me a vaguely trippy sense of hurtling back through time — a sensation enhanced by the combination of being half-asleep and sitting thisclose to the TV, so I could see each individual pixel and hear the dialogue over the hiss that old movies acquire as the film stock decays.

There are a few special favorites that still have a bit of that time-tunnel quality for me: Dracula (1931), Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Captain Blood (1935), and today’s film —  Algiers (1938). Based on a French film called Pepe Le Moko, it tells the story of a suave and dashing French thief named…(wait for it)…Pepe le Moko. Pepe  is played by Charles Boyer, one of those homely-ish French dudes that still managed to pull legendary tail due to his sheer, overpowering, musky Frenchness. Pepe is the unofficial king of the Casbah district of Algiers (charmingly referred to as ‘the native quarter’ in the opening crawl).


Our story begins with Commissioner Janvier (Paul Harvey), newly arrived from Paris on the trail of Pepe le Moko, insisting that the local yokels don’t know nothin’ about catchin’ no criminals.  The local yokels attempt to explain that the Casbah is very different from Paris, and requires a different approach to nabbing criminal masterminds. Janvier responds with, “Casbah? What’s that? Some kind of nut?” This — along with his big, blustery American accent — helpfully establishes him as the Stupid Authority Figure of this motion picture presentation. (The local yokels have British or European-ish accents, indicating their intellectual superiority to Janvier. Everyone’s supposed to be French-ish, though.)

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The Movies That Made Me Weird(er): Double Indemnity (1944)

26 07 2011

When I was just a wee girl I used to check the TV listings for the local stations that played movies all night long. If I found an intriguing title (anything with ‘damned’ or ‘blood’ in it was a surefire winner) or a cool old horror story or space opera that would be playing on the late late movie, I’d set my alarm and creep downstairs to watch it — usually sitting about two feet from the TV with the sound low so I wouldn’t wake my parents. The Movies That Made Me Weird(er) is a look back at the films that populated my childhood dreamscape.

Classic Film Noir is such a weird thing. Hollywood would option films based on sexy, blood-soaked novels full of perversion and existential bleakness, but then scriptwriters and directors had to tone down the sex and violence and change gay characters into straight characters and make sure the bad people get punished, etc. because no major studio was willing to release a movie that didn’t get a seal of approval from the Hays Office. That meant the movies had to communicate a lot of stuff through subtext — ESPECIALLY sexual stuff — which was a thing that mostly flew way over my head when I was a kid. It was the ’70s; according to the popular entertainment I’d checked out thus far, if people in a movie or TV show liked each other, they slept together.  I was used to seeing characters kiss for a while, then cut to them in bed with the sheets pulled up under their armpits smoking a cigarette, being groovy and digging each other’s rap, or whatever. So these weirdly chaste movies that were supposed to be about sex confused the hell out of me.

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Boston Driver’s Notebook 6/15/11

8 07 2011

BDN 6/1/11
My days of Paradise:
Saturday morning I set off for the House of Paradise, off Route 2 in Concord, MA, the birthplace of liberty, or the Enlightenment, or what have you.  I had a list of items to bring with me.  The problem with having a list was that some essential items were not on it, and so I didn’t have the usual moment of contemplation, deciding what to bring.  It is a Slavic custom to sit and think before walking out the front door, on any luggage if luggage there is.  I once heard my friend Arkady claim that he wouldn’t have missed his plane if they had only sat.

I was driving the Clyde the Blue Truck, for no particular reason.   It was running well enough and the brakes worked.  It was burning a lot of oil and wouldn’t subside all the way to idle speed unless you revved it a couple of times and let the RPMs drop back down.
It was a MoPar day, nevertheless, so I had brought front end tools for Charlie Paradise’s 1966 Valiant and general tools my 1967 fastback Barracuda.


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The Movies That Made Me Weird(er): Love at First Bite (1979)

1 07 2011

A metric shitload of awesome comedies came out between 1979 and 1982: Life of Brian, The Jerk, Caddyshack, Airplane, Melvin and Howard, My Favorite Year, The Muppet Movie, History of the World Part I, Victor/Victoria, Night Shift, Stripes—that’s just what I could think of off the top of my head. You can utilize the Googles to find a lot more, if you’re interested.

’79 through ’82 were pretty much my junior high years, and our family moved a few times before settling in Texas for a while, making the universally unpleasant experience of pre-adolescence even more sucky for me. I coped by voraciously consuming comedy–when I wasn’t reading and re-reading the Hitchhiker’s  trilogy or watching stand-up specials on HBO while babysitting, I was sneaking into movies my parents had deemed too risque for my tender sensibilities (Parental Calculus: Violence = OK;   Boobs and/or Dick Jokes = Heavens to Murgatroyd, get the kids out of here!) I’ve grown out of my tween angst, but I will never outgrow my love of dick jokes.

Love at First Bite (1979; trailer here) was a particular favorite of mine back in the day. When the movie came out I was firmly in the grip of a juvenile obsession with vampire movies. Yes, I was one of those young girls obsessed with vampires. Also horses.

But not vampire horses.

Mainly I loved the the old black and white movies (Tod Browning’s Dracula is still a favorite, despite how slow and stagy it becomes after the awesomely atmospheric opening third) but I was also partial to Blacula, which I had discovered on the local all night Monster Chiller Horror Theater (and which sparked a lifelong love of Blaxploitation movies that will likely get discussed in some future post.)

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