A couple of months ago I wrote about my years-long relationship with a poem.
Here, lately, the situation has changed.
Now I am living in a folk song.
I have gone from being Stuck Inside of Mobile to being busted flat in Baton Rouge like Bobby McGee.
You have to learn to expect a certain amount of adversity when you drive a 9-year-old van with 164,000 miles on it. So, you keep up the AAA payments, carry extra food and water (especially out here in the wide open spaces of Colorado where I am now) and prepare yourself financially and schedule-wise to be detoured and delayed in places where you hadn't planned on spending so much time.
I blew a radiator on my way into Mobile, Ala., three years ago and wound up (it was, of course, a weekend) waiting three days for repairs. It wasn't really awful. I found a nice motel with a great restaurant and now actually put a night or two in Mobile on my annual itinerary. Heck, I even got to attend a convention of Star Trek fans at a bookstore there. Your experience of life isn't complete until you have heard Captain Kirk bark orders in an Alabamian accent.
Same thing with Baton Rouge, La. I had actually planned on spending a night or two there anyhow, so when it turned out to be four, I knew how to amuse myself: good restaurants, a neat planetarium and a chance to see the building where Huey Long got gunned down.
This year it turned out that I needed to replace two crucial hoses, which takes a lot of time and about $800 to do.
I couldn't help but note that my vehicle and I had dealt with similar issues. I recently had a bypass surgery and one of the hoses I had to replace was a bypass hose. I also had a valve replacement, but I am not discussing that in front of the van because it can be a bit of a hypochondriac and I really can't afford two valve jobs in one year.
Neither do I discuss the possibility that the van may be junked upon my return because I don't want to give my wife any ideas about what to do with defective machinery.
All I had to do, once I arrived here in Colorado, was endure the mandatory blown tire. These rocky dirt roads eat up anywhere from one to five tires per year before I remember that the key is to DRIVE SLOWLY on them. I couldn't change the tire because I am still dealing with a post-operative lack of upper body strength. Okay, okay, and also because I don't know what my jack looks like or how it works or how to get the spare tire off of the thingy that keeps it tucked up under the van.
Fortunately, the owner of a nearby trading post took pity and changed it for me. I watched him, and although I don't think I am now qualified to change a tire, I now can look much more professional while I am being inept.
I finally got settled and turned on the television set. (Hey, I roughed it in a tent the first year I retired, now I am more interested in creature comforts.)
And there it was on CNN, the news that the Brooksville City Council has ordered city employees to wear underwear and deodorant.
The news brought a brief pang of homesickness because I only live about 25 miles from Brooksville, and I have some fun memories of all the years Times management tried to get me to do the same things. (Actually, it started with neckties and jackets and then worked its way down to the basics.)
We finally compromised on the underwear issue when I agreed to at least wear pants, which I immediately determined meant denim shorts.
They finally gave up on the deodorant thing.
I offered a brief prayer of thanks to the column gods when the Brooksville story aired, but my joy was cut short when I assumed (correctly, it turned out) that my old friend and colleague Dan DeWitt would feel the same way and use up all of the good stuff.
All I have to add is that it has been far too long since officials of any of our local municipalities have done anything really dumb.
Columnists are human, too (pause here for vociferous debate from the audience). We have needs.
To complete this column's opening metaphor, I now have to find a song that incorporates a city, underwear and body piercing (also now askance of the rules for Brooksville city employees).
I haven't come up with it yet, but at least my life has purpose again. Thanks, Brooksville.