This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flat Tires

There is a soundtrack to this story called “Silently…the best of 2007”. Song currently playing: “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, a song that feels like a punch to the sentimental heart on most of my recent days. I have to turn it down so I can think and not break down into some kind of tearful mess.
That’s better.

Without prefacing any of this with my current states here is my night; a film, a plot, a line with arcs and dips, excess, trials, and triumphs still finding a poignantly meaningless end.

I don’t workout after quitting time. Even with my record of lapses into stagnant depression when faced with unstructured time I decide to deviate from “the schedule” and tend to the refrigerator of my apartment, which is barer than Mrs. Hubbard’s cupboards. I decide to devise a list based on meals I want to cook in the upcoming weeks and another list with commonly purchased items in a grid so I can create a pricing comparison chart. Yes, an anal-retentive night of consumerism and compulsive spending lie awaiting. I eat a bowl of cereal, pet Billie and bid her farewell with 2 canvas grocery totes on my shoulder. It’s about 11 degrees F outside and the sun has set. The bright, ring-less moon has risen miles above the skyline, but isn’t at her “high noon” by a long shot.

Stanley’s has raspberries too close to molding, but also my favorite tea blend (Intelligentsia Organic Blend #333). Surprisingly they do not have flat leaf parsley. I pick up my produce and tea and jot down my prices. Stanley’s wound up charging me $2.09 more for 16 oz. of roasted unsalted almonds than either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods would have. I got in an out in 20 minutes and smiled at a couple of girl roommates on my way out of the parking lot. Smiling. Faking it ‘til I make it.

I hop back in the trusty Suby and hope I can find the Trader Joe’s on Clybourn without too much trouble. I find it on the first try, am encouraged, and keep extravagant fears of betrayal, fickleness, and heartbreak at bay. Inside I taste some delicious sample of nut-based tortellini in butter sprinkled with dark chocolate. Onions are $0.50 more a pound here, but milk is $1.20 cheaper for the same brand and size. I resist the urge to buy Capital Brewery Munich Dark beer and go for the cheaper Stockyard Stout 6 pack instead. I rationalize my expenditures without any pattern, spending far too much on Mandarin & Patchouli hand soap I don’t need while deciding to drink mediocre beer for $2.50 less; and not even wanting to pay heed to the fact that none of it is really a necessity.

Trader Joe’s has me feeling even more upbeat which is a common feeling before, during or after shopping there. It’s all the wood interior, Hawaiian shirts and knowledgeable, yet hip staff. Plus…great deals!

On then, to Whole Foods, because I still don’t have parsley, adzuki beans or brown miso. I am driving, again hoping not to get lost in the maze of diagonal streets that characterize this spending trap part of the city, I drive over the kind of pothole that Chicago is known for (to other Chicagoans). It nearly eats my entire front passenger side end and I worry I’m going to hear awful noises immediately following. I turn down the blaring music (“Superstar” by Lupe Fiasco, at this point), hear nothing out of the ordinary, and pat Suby on her ever-faithful dash. I pull into the lot and am actually whistling to myself at this point.

There was a close call with desperate stories of loneliness and destinies of solitude and wandering outside Trader Joe’s but I have managed to back it off with more modern day activities of forgetting. Strolling into Whole Foods I spot a flyer for Gnosis & Meditation classes at the library and grab one for my pocket.
Whole Foods is designed specifically to make one get totally lost amid the stacks of renewable consumerism and $7 bottles of “Pumpkin Pie” spice. I find some of the things I’m looking for, pocket a stick of Burt’s Bees colored lip balm (in watermelon), and finally ask an “associate” where I might find adzuki beans or brown miso. We never find the beans, but the miso’s a success and in the process I also buy a jar of “Bubbie’s Kosher Dills”. I decide also to spend $17.99 on “whole flower” St. John’s Wort, which the friendly sales associate assured me he’d been told was a better product, and which was the real reason for wanting to go to Whole Foods. I need help with this depression this time and I’m hoping to throw some faith into a daily pill made of plants because I’m either too busy or afraid to figure out what the hell is eating at me and really do something about it.

I toss the last bag into my back seat, plop down in the driver’s, and turn the key. The radio comes back to life with Bishop Allen’s “Butterfly Nets” which makes me smile usually, except my car didn’t start and the little battery light is on. I twist the key to off and then back to on, no, that didn’t make it work. Ok…I pump the gas a few times; turn the key with much hope in my heart and…hooray! Suby prevails again!! Another pat on her lovely dash.

I’m not even thinking about what I’ll do or not do when I get home at this point which is nice. There are no voices berating me for being not enough this or too much that. There is no dread, no loathing, nothing, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t last because I hear the telltale flapping of a flat tire as soon as I make for the lot’s exit. The moon is about three-quarters to full rise now, it’s still hovering around 11 degrees outside, and I have a flat tire and not one iota of a chance of changing it on my own without frostbite, defeat, or crying. I park the car and check to make sure, yes the front passenger tire is flat. I call AAA and mentally thank my mom for keeping this membership.

Then, the man on the phone tells me the membership hasn’t been renewed, no matter what it says on my card, since May. Ok…calm still holding…what do I do, I ask him. Either renew the membership or pay a truck on my own. How much? I ask, thankful I’ve been charging everything on a credit card and happen to have one with me tonight. $64.00 for the year. Oh, not bad, I’ll do it. Ok, a tow truck won’t be there, though, until after 11. What? That’s 2 hours from now though. Yeah, lot’s of calls from Chicago tonight. Fuck, I mutter. Then, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to swear in your ear like that (apparently my good will’s not entirely gone). It’s ok, he says, we’re getting a lot of that from Chicago tonight.

I will never understand why a city that has been at this climate (for the most part) for all of it’s European inhabitants’ existence can’t function normally when we get a mere 4 inches of snow. Never will understand that…until I look into the crumbling infrastructure and poor modern design of this country that is. No, I tell him eventually. I’ll call friends; they’ll be here sooner. As soon as money came up the tears had broken slowly out. I try Amanda and my cell phone stops working. Now the frustration at inconvenience, inability, and icy air break over my already weak capacities. Fuck! I yell, while envisioning throwing my phone at the asphalt as hard as I can. I some how hold the urge and my phone still. I try her again and begin pulling out my spare, jack, and tire iron. She answers and tells me over my thinly veiled calm that she and Anthony are on their way to help.

For a moment, before I know to dial Amanda, I pretend there is no one and it destroys me. But only for a moment until I remember I am loved. And really, loved so well. I feel ridiculous and helpless and pitiful, but try to muster on.

I manage to pry off the hubcap and feel accomplished. I have the manual out and will do what I can. I know the bolts will much more difficult though, as I do not have any good kind of tire iron (as I am later told they’re called). I call Amanda again and leave a message for them to bring a better one (the plus sign looking kind) if they have it. I struggle, pushing all my weight onto the measly lever, I notice a young man get out of a running car that’s been parked near by. I stop and look at him. He opens his trunk and pulls out the right kind of lever thingy. I smile wide and say loudly, in a falsetto for humor, My Hero! He manages to get my car jacked up by the time Amanda’s arrived and says he’ll just finish it off. I stand, talking to him and thanking him. Amanda asks if I’m ok.

I ask the man if I can give him some money for helping me and he says no, so I thank him more and hug him before he goes. Amanda and Anthony follow me home to make sure I get there ok. I am pleased with myself for gracefully accepting their offer. I am really taking anything I can get at this point. I get a parking spot right in front of my house and trudge inside to climb the stairs.

This spring and summer, I have some plans. Among those plans are getting a t-iron and then practicing changing my own tires.

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