Sunday, June 25, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Last night, after settling in to watch Miss Marple sip tea and catch killers on PBS, I heard the sound of an explosion from the general direction of the parking lot of our apartment complex. Several seconds later, my phone beeped with a text message from my husband:

"Going for a quick ride!"

I suddenly remembered that several hours earlier my brother-in-law had picked up his '69 Camaro from the shop. The now-in-pristine-condition muscle car of men's dreams had been sitting mere yards from my husband all evening. I was amazed he'd resisted its siren song for as long as he had. Seconds away sat the car in which I'd lost my hearing, gotten light-headed from fuel fumes, and seen my very life flash before my eyes the last (and only) time I'd been coaxed into going for a ride in it.

The explosion from the parking lot merely indicated that the '69 Camaro was back in business.

Steve told me that when his brother pulled into the parking lot this afternoon, a man came out of his apartment and said:

"I wanted to see what sweet thing was making all that noise."

Wherever it's driven, men pay tribute to the Camaro. It even sets off other cars' alarms.

Before I dated my husband, I was one of those girls who didn't know anything about cars. Blissfully unaware, I was happy as long as my car got me where I wanted to go and didn't fall apart in the process. That said, my first car may have been possessed by the devil. The heater turned off and on of its own accord, and the tape deck once shot a tape out with such force that it landed in the back seat. Whenever I gave my friends a ride, they would stroke the dashboard and say sweet things to the car in an attempt to keep it from killing us like that car in the Stephen King novel.

My second car was cherry red, and came with me to grad school. I'll always remember the joy I felt when first I saw it in the driveway, and my parents told me it was a new addition to our car family. It had automatic seatbelts that made a sort of growling, groaning noise as they slid into place. One of my classmates named it "Frankencar." As in: "Grrr! Frankencar no like go up hill!" and "Frankencar is ANGRY!"
I cried when it was time to say goodbye to Frankencar. We'd been through a lot together.

There are now at least two Camaros in our parking lot: my brother-in-law's '69, and my husband's '96. On my first (blind) date with Steve, I waited for him outside my apartment, and as I watched him pull up to the curb in his red Camaro (the sun glinting off the pristine, perfect paint) I thought:

"Oh, puh-leeeeze. Who does this guy think he is?"

Sitting in the tan leather seat on the way to the restaurant, I doubted there'd be a second date. I mean, he'd seemed really nice on the phone and everything, but the car was a little much for a liberal Mormon actress like me.

Steve got a parking ticket that day, and we were married less than a year later.

When we were engaged, he let me borrow the Camaro. Accustomed to compact cars, I felt like I was driving a long, narrow tank. I was terrified that I might wreck or scratch it, even though he told me that it wouldn't matter and not to worry. When I drove it to the theatre, my actor friends surrounded the car, ooooing and ahhhhing. Steve laughed when I told him, and said:

"They have no idea what a redneck car it really is."

"You've got to be kidding me!" I said to him. "Your beautiful Camaro?"

Turns out, I was still one of those girls who doesn't know anything about cars.

Nowadays, things are a little different. I can tell you a thing or two about gas mileage and mufflers. I can tell you that Formula One racing is like a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Nascar is two-for-one beer night at Hooters. I can even tell you the actual name of the car I want:

(A Mini Cooper! It's so cute!)

My brother-in-law has already tried to talk me into another ride in the '69 Camaro, but I think I'll content myself with listening to Steve recount their adventures. And as I sit next to him on the couch, breathing in the fumes from their late-night ride, I'll remember my first glimpse of that shiny red Camaro, and how I had no idea that my future was driving up to meet me in a redneck car.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wardrobe Malfunction

Last Friday I decided the time had come to purchase a few new items for my almost non-existent summer wardrobe. I knew what I was looking for, and I knew where I had to go to find it, but I didn't want to go where I needed to go to get it.

For me, shopping at Orange County's Fashion Island is either amusing, fascinating, or incredibly frustrating, depending on my mood. Fashion Island has a Koi pond. At night, Fashion Island looks like the streets of Paris. 12-year-old girls wear tight tank tops, high heels, and chatter on pink, diamond-studded cell phones at Fashion Island. At the Fashion Island pet store, average-looking kittens cost $1200.

Last Friday, I knew as I drove to Fashion Island that the experience had the potential to be less than positive. I was not looking forward to watching botoxed, breast-implanted, orange-skinned women heading to kate spade (with their diamond-studded cell phone carrying daughters-in-training) to purchase $50 flip flops.

The thing is, I often enjoy people watching at Fashion Island, especially when I'm with my husband. My favorite thing to point out to him is a woman wearing fake hair. You know, a woman whose hair is pulled back - a gigantic, gravity-defying ponytail (of a slightly different shade) sprouting from the back of her head? Steve likes it when I point out these things to him. Especially when I do it too loudly, and the woman turns and looks straight at me with a shocked expression.
(That only happened once, but I believe it was Steve's favorite people-watching-with-Emmie experience.)

Last Friday, however, all I wanted from Fashion Island was a pair of reasonably-priced capri pants, and maybe a t-shirt or two. And at Fashion Island, where mangy-looking gerbils go for $300 apiece, I knew that wasn't going to be easy.

The first pair of pants I tried on were perfect. They fit like a dream, and were a delicious color. And after tax, they were $78.

Cute, huh?

$78 worth of cute? I don't think so.

My shopping experience went from ridiculously expensive to ludicrously expensive, and if it hadn't been for the fact that I eventually wound up at The Limited (still expensive, but much less ludicrously so), I probably would have ended up sobbing quietly into the Koi pond. Or holding a $1200 cat for ransom until my reasonably-priced demands were met.

And so, two hours after arriving at Fashion Island, I left with more or less what I came for. And as I was leaving, I passed the kate spade window display.

These flip flops were on sale. For $50.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Misanthrope Redux

Today Mr. Balcony walked by the pool gate.

What you may not know is that I was in the pool at the time, swimming straight at him, unable to change course before:

"Hey there!"


This exchange was followed by several seconds of silence during which he stared through the gate, and I attempted to swim in the opposite direction in a casual it's-nothing-personal-I'm-just-swimming-away-
from-you-because-it-happens-to-be-the-next-part-of-my-exercise-routine sort of way.

Before I could get too far, he said:

"So, is it cold in there, or what?"

I weighed my response options. (Can you see my dilemma?) And decided on the path of least resistance:

"It's not that cold."

"What?? You're kidding me. You must be freezing your butt off in there! You're crazy to swim in that cold water!"

Did I:

A) Reply: "Oh, I'm crazy, all right - crazy like a FOX!"

B) Jump out of the pool, grab him, throw him into the pool, and yell: "See! It's not THAT cold!"

C) Whisper to a nearby bunny: "Yup. I'm the crazy one."

Hint: Bunnies are good listeners.