The End of the Taurus

So I kicked off 2011 by totaling my car.  This is how it went:

I’m driving down the 33 East to pick up my brother from the airport, around 11:30 p.m. on January 6.  Snow is coming down pretty hard and the roads are covered in slush, so I’m only going about 40.  The snow looks like it changes to sleet, then back to snow, then to sleet again.  I’m driving in the center lane, having trouble seeing the lane lines because of all the slush piled up.  My car slides right, so I turn the wheel left.  Then the car slides too far left, so I turn the wheel right.  Now it slides too far to the right.  I realize I’m fishtailing on the highway and that I’ve got to get it back under control so I don’t hit anyone else.  I turn the wheel to the left again, and the car collides with the concrete barrier dividing the highway, the driver’s side of the bumper scraping along it briefly before bouncing off.  “Shit, shit, shit.”  I’m crashing.  I crashed.  I am in a car crash.  The car then sails across all three lanes, turning 180° in slow motion so that I’m facing oncoming traffic, just hoping no other cars are close, and it runs off the road and plows down a chain link fence before coming to a stop on top of it.  Okay then.  I’m not hurt.  The airbags haven’t gone off.  I switch off the radio, which has been playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” the whole time, search for my phone, and call my mother, followed by 911 and AAA.

NY-33E between Harlem Road and I-90

My front bumper was hanging off, the driver’s side mirror was nowhere in sight, there were multiple dents in the driver’s side of the car, and I couldn’t get either of the front doors open.  While I waited for the police to show up, I gathered up my cassettes which had gone everywhere and tried to get my paperwork together.  When the three police cars arrived (along with a news van?), I climbed out the back of my car and went and sat in the back of one of the cop cars while we waited for the tow truck.  I had to pick a place to tow it to, so I just named the place where I’d gotten an estimate when a kid rear-ended me over the summer.  J graciously agreed to pick up my brother for me, and then he came and met me at the crash site when they were loading my car onto the flatbed.  The cop let me out of his car, and I ran through the snow drifts to make sure the tow truck driver got “all the pieces” of my car—I handed him the side mirror and some parts of the bumper, and he looked at me like I was nuts.

Missing bumper/headlight

The next day I called my insurance company and they went through some questions with me.  They had to send out an appraiser to look over my car to give an estimate of the damage before they could fix it, and they got me set up with a rental car in the meantime (a white Chevy Malibu with a sun roof and heated seats and free XM radio).  They mailed me an accident report form that I had to fill out for DMV purposes.  On Monday I got a call from the appraiser, who said that my car was totaled, meaning that it would cost more than it’s worth to fix it.  I was pretty bummed because I’d been driving it almost daily for a year and a half, plus it was the car I learned to drive in and took to all the piano lessons I taught in high school, and it had only been in my name since November.  I’d been hoping to drive it for years still, and I was very attached to the cassette player in particular.  I went to the collision place after work to collect all my belongings and say goodbye.


Then I had to look into getting a new car.  I used to check out various used cars in the area, and I really liked the Chevy Cobalts.  My parents heavily encouraged me to buy new, which they have done for as long as I can remember, but it was hard for me to justify spending the money right now.  In light of various circumstances, though, including a $3000 rebate, $3300 in insurance money, and a family Ford discount from my grandpa, I ended up being able to get a Ford Focus for a pretty low price.  My new car and I haven’t quite bonded yet, but I put a Carbon Leaf bumper sticker in the rear window, so I think that’s a good start.  The next step is to hook a Walkman up to the auxiliary input jack so I can play my tapes :)


Car Heaven

The Taurus in Car Heaven


The Elusiveness of Transcendence

“I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
to hold on to these moments as they pass.”

—Counting Crows, “A Long December”

New Year’s Day, 2011.  I meant to post on New Year’s Eve, but I was busy.  Sometimes I like endings better than beginnings—I’m a sucker for nostalgia.  Anyway, 2010 was a bit of a hectic year for me.  I began it as a student teacher/grad student, did some time as a customer service rep at a call center, and ended the year as a paralegal at a non-profit.  I also changed living situations and ended and re-started a sometimes-tumultuous relationship.  I’m in an okay place right now—okay as in, everything’s going well enough that I have no reason to complain.  I appreciate my job, I never dread going to work, I love my roommate and my little attic apartment with its secret spaces and pointy ceilings, it’s nice to be able to go see my family about once a month, my brother still lives nearby for the time being, and my relationship generally contributes positively to my life.  The best thing about my life right now is the lack of bad things.  As soon as one of these circumstances changes for the worse, I’ll probably look back on this period wistfully.  In the meantime, however (and this is not meant to sound like a complaint, exactly), there’s nothing overwhelmingly spectacular about it, either.

I’m referring to transcendent moments:  Standing in front of a bonfire under the stars with frizzy hair and torn-up jeans, suddenly wildly at peace with everything in the world.  Finding myself inexplicably overcome, in the moments before sleep, with the sense that Everything Will Be Alright.  Perched on a crumbling concrete foundation, watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  Nights without sleep or regret.  The longest hug of my life.  Talking about life and meaning with people I barely know on an old wooden porch, sitting around a single candle.  Sleeping in an open field under the stars.  A bouquet of sunflowers.  A green chair and a single conversation on a mint-scented, spring weather Valentine’s Day.  The feeling that lingers when I see you again in dreams.  My second-first sleepover.  The Memory of Trees.  …Feeling ecstatic, radiant, shot through with light, like there’s nothing in the world worth worrying about and I’ve never been anything but whole.  It’s like being shaken out of my complacency for a moment and being given a glimpse of some greater perspective, only to lapse back into ordinary life once more.  It’s like a drug: I crave it; I want to live this way forever.  Chasing the high, though, is pointless.  It’s impossible to replicate every detail of an experience, and trying to repeat what precipitated one of these moments in the past has never yielded the same result for me.  I have yet to discover a sure way to get there.  There are things I can do to help set the stage—break my routines, talk to new people, make more time for solitude—but none of it is a guarantee.  It’s like preparing my house for a guest that I’m not sure will ever show.  Transcendence doesn’t seem to be something I can find by seeking it.  I just have to wait for it to come upon me when I’m unsuspecting, and make sure I keep a space open to receive it when it arrives.