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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Female Model, “Classic” make (15-25 yrs.)
Part IV - Inner Mechanisms

Always take care when handling damaged or broken children.
Spare parts are not available and replacement cannot be guaranteed.

Before undertaking any repairs, please check the child to make sure it has proper feed and lube. Give it a thorough cleaning before visual inspection.

Carry out complete visual inspection and standard review of moveable parts, checking for external damage. Should any damage be discovered or suspected, refer to corresponding sections in the General Repair Manual.


This make and model often suffers from sporadic glitches and erratic running, although it rarely seizes up until 18-20 yrs. Apathetic start-ups and sudden shut downs are inherent in this make’s operation. Adjust supply line and shorten operating hours when possible in order to improve outlook and function. Higher-grade feed and a fresh coat of paint are recommended.

RECYCLING TIP: Accessories go out of style quickly. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! Trade with other child owners ("parents") or set aside for later models, as styles tend to come around again on short cycles.

When the child seems to be veering off the proper path, first check its alignment. Is weight evenly distributed among peer pressure, academic achievement and domestic duty? Next look for signs of uneven wear, as evidenced by split ends, acne or nail biting. Now is not the time for excessive force nor undue leniency, as balance is key. Try loading up on domestic duty to offset everpresent peer pressure. Remuneration is often used as a last resort.

This problem often surfaces a few years into this make's high performance years. Rivalry among makes, and especially when competing against opposite models, often leads to recklessness or overly prudent behaviour, the consequences of which tend to dent self-esteem, although it is rarely shattered. Typical repairs include bucking up from the inside with pep talks and age-old parental reassurances, including the tired but fail safe "those others don't have a clue about how special you are, but one day they will see, don't you worry". Add the term"Princess" for deep dents.

Often surfacing after the appearance of several self-esteem dents, pipe dream punctures are somewhat more serious, but there are many possible solutions at hand. Try homemade remedies such as an epoxy of hard work rewarded by hard cash, or purchase or trade for new, more modern accessories to dissimulate the repaired seams and holes. Punctured pipe dreams are dramatic, but they often serve to strengthen the child's outer shell, giving it a luster not found in factory fresh bodywork.

Likely to occur more than once, repairs are laborious and time-consuming, but damage is rarely permanent. Heart damage is hard to assess, as the child will ocassionally begin banging and clanging for no apparent reason and will just as suddenly stop. However, these episodes often lead to actual broken hearts, which the owner will easily recognize. Sympathy is all that is truly required, and patience to sit it out until the child is ready to function again. Parents may often enjoy a short grace period in which the child, grateful for its unconditional love, dabbles in requitedness and reciprocation. Parents are warned, however, that this reciprocation is only practice for the next Pre-Broken-Hearted episode for which yet more unconditional love and endless sympathy must be on hand.
REMINDER: No returns will be accepted and abandonment will be prosecuted under the law.
Enjoy your child, but remember to always parent safely. Parent groups can be found at your local educational center and on the internet. Toll-free information available.
Fall Edition. Copyright Coveney Editions Ltd. 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008


The lesson here, I say to myself, head spinning and gut churning from a bad mix of cocktails and embarrassment, is that you can’t go home again.

I’ve thrown myself across the bed, wondering how a simple evening out could end up being such an ungodly waste of time. Even worse, never having had a reputation for anything, I feel like mine’s been ruined in so many shades of gray that I will never rise from the ashes in this town.

Imagine Mother phoning people at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Phoning Susan’s parents was bad enough; at least they know me. But phoning Dave? Looking up his number in the local phone book and dialing this previously unknown number in the middle of the night to ask where I am? To be told that I had last been seen in the harbor’s –no, the town’s- only nightclub with someone who is known only by the enigmatic nickname of Owl? To have this pretty, preppy boy in chinos and deck shoes admit that he met Susan and me for drinks at the Bell Buoy, but that he and Susan both left without me?

Does Mother even have a clue of how tiresome Susan can be, how shudderingly boring Dave becomes after a half hour or so? Can she even being to imagine the underlying tension between Owl and me, who’d been shunting around each other for a year, teasing and not even daring to flirt -we were coworkers after all- when we suddenly found ourselves uniformless, timeclockless, dare I say shiftless, with rock and roll, alcohol and dim lighting to guide us through into the night?

What of the driving around on dark backstreets in the middle of the night? The excuse I gave to the brightly-lit kitchen interrogation was: he was a bit drunk, I wanted to wait until he could sober up enough to drive. Who was this person who needed to sober up? Owl. Who the hell calls himself Owl? What kind of a name is that? Who is he anyway? Just a guy. Nobody.

But he had gotten me home safely after all. After a silent car ride during which I shivered and smoked, having longed for a cigarette the entire time I lay under his dead weight on the semi-reclined passenger’s seat of his ‘72 Pinto, waiting not so much for him to sober up as to regain consciousness as I tried to gauge the hour, though there hadn’t been enough light to see my watch, and feebly attempted to wake Prince Charming while staving off the fear that he might not be done heaving and might even be comatose or dying.

Yet not even an hour would have passed since he had finally stopped trying to kiss me again after having opened up the passenger seat door and puked out onto the pavement of the Peggotty Beach parking lot. And that was maybe five minutes after I started wondering what I was doing out at Peggotty Beach after midnight with this oddball geek who was sort of but not really trying to instill passion in this gone-by moment. And who hadn’t been acting anywhere near as drunk as he unaccountably was.

He’d started the car without a hitch, walked a perfectly straight line down the four blocks to his driveway from the back lot of the Bell Buoy, even danced without crushing my toes in a surprisingly sensual slowdance to the perpetual 70’s mixer song, Stairway to Heaven, whose frenetic ending escorted us out the door, finally.

This was not long after Susan and Dave gave up looking at their watches and scowling, first at Owl’s mere intrusive presence, then at my brusque shift in alliances and finally at what had eventually become clear to them as my abandonment of our respectable threesome for the incomprehensible charms of just another disreputable townie. They’d both pursed their lips in their separate yet parallel ways when Owl approached our table, hung his arm over the back of my chair and, ignoring the rolling of their eyes, whisper-shouted in my ear “What’s this song?”
“The Doobie Brothers?” I offered insecurely, but smiling widely. I’d never before seen Owl outside of the store, and it was strangely intimate to be playing the game that entertained us both for hours on end at work, where he stocked the shelves and I rang up the customers’ purchases. Owl, like Dave, had graduated high school a year ahead of me but, unlike Dave, his was not a stop-gap weekend and holiday job, but a real one. Also unlike Dave, Owl had a profound knowledge of the 70’s pop radio we listened to at the store and he quizzed me mercilessly on the names of the bands and the song titles. I started out with a high recognition level of only Michael Jackson (my first love) and Elvis (who died that past summer, for which Sunday-bagger Roger, who was someone’s retired grandfather, offered me his condolences), but I ended up heading to college with a fairly good arsenal of rock and roll trivia under my belt, thanks to Owl.

I’ll grant that Dave and Susan had rights to be pissed. They had not been aware that they were remnants, substitutes for the wild, bright and fascinating friends I had begun making at college, and for the best friend I had in high school, who was now engulfed in an all-encompassing relationship that would culminate in marriage a year and a half from then and which obviously and necessarily excluded me. So when Dave, my bag boy from Curtis Compact, someone who looked like he ought to have been out playing tennis or skiing, depending on the season, but doing something that required his nose to sport a slathering of zinc-oxide and his lips to be coated in chapstick, casually suggested, when I ran into the store to say hi to Bob the manager, that we go out for a drink later, I called Susan as backup.

And when I was pulling on my coat in the hallway of my parents’ house, fresh from the newfound loneliness and freedom of college dorm life and checking for the newly legal ID that would get me past the bouncer at the Bell Buoy, there was absolutely nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary in my mother’s voice calling after me as I breezed down the stairs and out the garage door:

“Have a good time, and don’t be late!”

Friday, October 17, 2008


It is hard to keep the edges of my life from fraying. When the edges begin to fray, that can only lead to unravelling and breaking, like the strings I weave through the broken spots in the bamboo that shades the terrace and which the wind chastizes and leaves frayed and broken, like the strings that I replace almost always at the very last minute, until at last the bamboo itself must be replaced. Sadly, the edges of my life are harder to tie up, tie down, and there are no replacements. So the idea is to keep them from fraying in the first place, which is hard.

Es difícil evitar que las márgenes de mi vida se deshilachen. Cuando los bordes empiezan a destejerse, sólo puede llevar al deshilachado y la rotura, como las cuerdas que enhebro entre los rotos del bambú que da sombra a la terraza y que el viento castiga y lude hasta romperlo, como las cuerdas que cambio casi siempre en el último instante, hasta que finalmente hay que sustituir el bambú entero. Desgraciadamente, las márgenes de mi vida son más difíciles de sujetar, de atar, y no hay recambios. La idea, pues, es evitar que lleguen a deshilacharse, que es difícil.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A suitcase isn't difficult to fill. Knowledge of certain facts are required - destination, duration and season - and certain abilities are handy - placing bubble-wrapped breakables in the middle and shoes sole-side out in the corners. Yet when venturing out into the world -summer camp, college or a home of one's own- it would seem more expedient to pack intangibles. Forethought, hindsight, a trustworthy instinct and a healthy dose of joie de vivre. An ability to overcome fear of the dark, to distinguish mouse patterings from settling beams. A knack with a hammer or a sentence or two for chatting up neighbors.
The more enlightened traveller might pack a workable budget that included a loophole for occasional extravagant behavior and excluded the living-beyond-one's-means repair kit. Instead of deodorant and shampoo, packets for inner strength and perseverance may be tucked into hidden pockets. Sharp edges are padded not by white socks for morning runs, but by spontaneity and unexpected kindnesses. Tiny sewing kits are made superfluous because snags and rips can be stitched up by basic ingenuity and an earnest unravelling of complex situations.
Binoculars? No, rather uncompromised ideals and simple ambitions may be used to study the horizons.
Care ought to be taken to leave no empty spaces for doubt and anguish to settle in, which might leave a place for despair to tear through the fabric during one beastly transfer or another. Instead, the exquisitely filled suitcase, zipped with good humor, is packed with a hug for good luck.
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