When a Rhinestone Becomes a Diamond

Let’s say you owned a faded rhinestone necklace, a piece of junk jewelry that you wore everywhere, to get groceries, do other errands, even clean the house or garden. Sometimes you left it out in the sun or rain, and it didn’t matter, because after all, it was just a cheap necklace. Then one day you took it to be cleaned, and when you got it back, it had miraculously become a diamond necklace. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you still wear it everywhere, even to go grocery shopping? Would you still feel comfortable leaving it out in the sun or rain? Would you feel differently about the jewelry? Would you feel differently about yourself?

This is what I am dealing with now that my car has been restored. I really just wanted a cheap paint job, but no one would paint it with the rust. And as it happened, the guy I took it to was a perfectionist, and so now my faded rhinestone car has turned into a diamond, and I don’t know how to react.

I never was one of those folks who loved her car. Never talked to it or gave it human characteristics. Never called it he or she. It was a tool. A sometimes frustrating tool, and sometimes a pleasing tool, but basically, just a thing. And now that thing has become something else.

I was awed when I saw the finished car, and am awed again every time I see it. It truly is a work of art, looking as if it just crept out of a time machine from the 1970s, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me. More like an icon that I have been given permission to drive. But I don’t. Drive it, I mean. At least not yet. It’s sitting in the garage of the house where I am presently residing. I open the garage door periodically and look at it. Fiddle with a few things. (The guy who did the upholstery was not a perfectionist, and the seatbelt is all twisted. To untwist it, the window has to be taken out, which is not easy because the new stripping is so tight, the seller had to go to the auto body shop and install it. Then the new headliner has to be rolled back to get to the bolts. So I’m dealing with the twisted seatbelt as best as I can.)

After I look at the car, I shut the door, leaving the bug to its own devices, and I go walking. I don’t know what to think of the vehicle. Don’t know what to think of me. How will it change me? Will it change me? I don’t know.

I like how the vehicle gleams, and I know the first time I drive it in the fierce desert winds, leave it out in the intense sun, or let it get rained on, that gleam will dull a bit. (The paint isn’t baked like a car fresh from the factory, and though it should hold up for many years, it will lose its diamond-like luster, especially if it’s sandblasted by the winds or water-stained from the rain.) Also, as people keep telling me, it’s at risk for theft or being keyed by someone who is jealous of the perfection. The only way to keep that from happening is to keep it in the garage, and the use of the garage is only temporary. When my friends get back, I’ll move on, and the poor car, like me, will be at the mercy of whatever comes its way.

I’m planning on driving today, even leaving the bug in a parking lot for a couple of hours while I go to dance class, but I am keeping an eye on the increasing clouds. If it looks like rain (and rain is forecast) I might change my mind about driving.

Still, no matter how the bug gleams, it is just a car, a tool.

But somehow, I no longer believe that.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

The Great Reveal!!

I had nightmares last night. In my dreams, I drove helplessly around, got lost, couldn’t see where I was going, which makes sense since my six month hiatus from driving was about to end.

Yep. The VW restoration is complete!

Oddly, I didn’t think I’d feel anything for the finished car — I mean, it is just a car — but when I went to pick it up today, I felt awed and overwhelmed at my first glimpse of the restored bug sitting in front of the auto body shop. I knew Pedro did good work, but it’s one thing seeing other old cars looking new, and something else seeing your own. He truly went over and above what he said he would, partly because he is an artist, and partly he felt bad about how long it took.

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The thing shines! He polished the windows, headlights, hubcaps. Replaced all rubber parts and weatherstipping. This in addition to hundreds of hours of bodywork. No bondo for him! Sheet metal and welds all the way. And he did all the things he said he would such as replace the brake and fuel lines that I’d paid someone else to fix. (He tells me God loves me because I could have been killed in that car. Not only did the cheat not replace the brake lines he was supposed to replace, he cut the rear brake line and plugged the hole for the rear brakes on the brake cylinder. Eek.)

And his upholstery guy did a good job on the interior — new padding and slipcovers on the seats, new headliner, new carpeting throughout.

It’s still an old car, of course, with old car crotchets, but not as many as you would think. The last time I drove the car, it was a rattletrap, a junker. It didn’t really matter what happened to it since it seemed to be on its last legs . . . er, wheels. And now, it’s a near classic, a vintage car of some value. That will take getting used to!

I was worried the car wouldn’t start after not being driven for so long, but it started right up. I was worried about forgetting how to drive, but that wasn’t a problem, either. I drove for a couple of hours today to work out any kinks, but the mechanic who did the repair work seven months ago did a wonderful job. There were no mechanical problems, and the car sounds like new. (Like a new old-style-beetle, that is. Not like a new modern day vehicle.)

I’ve often wondered at my folly for going along with such a protracted and rather costly restoration. (I didn’t envision a restoration — I just wanted to get rid of enough rust so it could be painted.) After all, as people keep reminding me, it’s still an old car, and as such doesn’t have the safety features of the new cars. On the other hand, it also doesn’t have a gazillion electronic parts except for the electronic ignition I had put in. It’s mechanical all the way.

Now I’m glad I went ahead with the restoration. It’s past time for a bit of folly, and besides, it’s nice seeing the old bug looking so good.

Restored 72 VW

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Life All Awhirl

I think my computer has the soul of an old cat. It’s been in storage for two months, alone and neglected, and when I rescued it today from its storage unit kennel, it decided to neglect me in return. I suppose that passes for fairness in the purr-fect cyber world, but it sure was irksome! Poor old thing, the battery was almost dead, so dead I didn’t think it had enough juice to resuscitate itself, but luckily, it did finally begin recharging. It took several hours for the beast to decide to share its CPUs — I have no idea what it was doing other than its svchost.exe thing. It didn’t seem to be chasing anything dangerous like bugs or viruses, so I let it play.

I’m getting my metaphors twisted here, but the thing really did seem to be punishing me for my neglect. We’ve made up, though, and its decided to let me have my say.

To be honest, I have nothing much to impart, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you leave. Mostly, the past couple of days have left my mind in a whirl, and I’m using this bloggerie to unwhirl my life, and bring me back to a semblance of equanimity.

The bus/train return trip was an interesting experience. I made friends with a self-named “new generation hippie” or “traveler.” She said she got tired of the scene, because although the kids were into various spiritual things, they were mostly into drugs, and she wasn’t. These travelers slept in fragile eco systems, without a care for the damage they did, just because. I might not have paid attention to the account of their shenanigans, except so much of the research I am doing about hiking and backpacking is based on protecting the land while making it available to as many people as possible. The various trails in California, as well as the Appalachian Trail are particularly at risk. (For example, lot of people are reporting used toilet paper “flowers” along the trails. Some parts of the trails are littered with trash and broken gear.) I can’t do anything about them. I’m just glad I walked softly on the trails provided and left no trace. (Though they left a trace on me! Mosquito bites and bruises. Eek.)

Since I’ve been back, I’ve spent a lot of time at my storage unit, trying to find what I need for the next month or so. (For the past eight weeks, I’ve lived with less than 53 litres of possessions — that’s how much fit in my backpack.) And now I find I need a whole carload of stuff. (Computer, dance clothes, printer, nutritional supplements.)

I checked on my car yesterday and today. Poor old beetle still isn’t finished being restored, but even though the body shop guy is only working on it when he has nothing more lucrative to do, I am grateful for the care he is taking. He keeps finding things that were supposed to have been fixed, but weren’t. I’d paid a supposedly reputable VW repair business to replace rusty brake lines and leaky fuel lines, and even though they took the money, they didn’t do the work. Even worse, when I went back because the problems didn’t seem to be fixed, they swore they double checked the work and everything was fine. I can sort of understand cheating with parts like a muffler (they did that, too, took my money for a new muffler, and neglected to put it in) but brakes? Fuel lines that are prone to catching fire? Cripes. They tried to murder me for a few dollars. Oddly, the reason I went to them in the first place, is for them to fix something a previous mechanic had screwed up. And now they’ve been put out of business by myriad lawsuits.

Luckily, I have a new mechanic and now a body shop guy. Between the two of them, my car should run as well as any ancient car can, and look a whole lot better than most old vehicles.

Meantime, I’m back at dance class. It’s been a long time since dancing made me smile — too many personalities and too much drama overloaded my system and took away the joy, but now I feel renewed. At least for a while. It helps that I have another trip planned. And it also helps that I’m literarily causing havoc for my dance mates.

I started writing my novel about the dance class when I was up north. I even know who committed the murder and why, just don’t know all the particulars, but I don’t need to know those details until I write myself into a corner and need a twist to get me out. I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue writing the book now that I am back in class. I have a hunch it will be hard to keep my mind in the story when every day I see the characters in real life doing the opposite of what I’d written. Sort of kills the imaginative aspect, I suppose, but maybe not. The characters are already evolving away from their real life counterparts, and since I couldn’t have a whole bunch of supporting characters muddying my figurative waters, I combined the women into composite characters, which makes it easier to be truthful. (As the wolf told Red Riding Hood, “the better to destroy you with, my dear.” Or some such.) Besides, if anyone annoys me, I can get my revenge on them in the story.

It’s hot here in the desert, close to 100° and so humid I am drenched even so late in the evening. Such a vast difference between here and the northern part of California! Oddly, the skies seem higher in the desert. The light is different here, so glaringly yellow, that I’m sure it causes some sort of optical illusion. And oh, does that sun burn! In all the hiking discussions I have read, all the experts have iterated not to wear cotton when hiking, but that can’t possible refer to the desert. Wearing synthetics would be like sitting on a vinyl seat in a car that has been baking in triple digit temperatures. Ouch. But I’ll check out Merino wool — supposed to feel like silk.

And anyway, I’ve put away my hiking persona for now, and donned my dancing diva.

Thanks for helping me unwhirl. I feel so much better now!

Here is a song someone sent me. Sounds like my life. https://youtu.be/6BvPMbJZfLw Hope you enjoy it.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)