Ages ago, when men were men and women were shorter, automobiles inspired the kind of unabashed allegiance and partisan fervor that we now reserve for computer operating systems. Entire families would align themselves behind a giant mega-conglomerate from Detroit and forswear ever buyin’, ridin’, fixin’, or otherwisen’ any so-called cars made by the competition. Dadgummit.

Ford clans would wage war on Chevy clans and Chevy clans would wage war on Chrysler clans, and so on and so on. Well, OK… “war” was hanging a sign with a pithy saying in the garage and maybe buying a pair of branded pair of fuzzy dice. And these were clans with a “c” not a “k.” White sheets were for chamois and not much else. Occasionally things would escalate when that no-good brother-in-law would show up for Thanksgiving in a car made by the Evil Competition, and Dad would mutter under his breath about the godawful indignity of it all until he passed out during the football game and the brother-in-law would change the channel.

In those days, Brothers-in-law were always no good bums and lousy moochers. It wasn’t until they passed of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Extended Families Act that Brothers-in-law were required to be given equal standing. The Act reads in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of a sibling’s marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any relation-in-law.”

Aficionados for the various car clans would rally in garages across the country and make up derisive and mocking jeers that they would hurl–always with great relish and while holding a warm can of PBR–at the competition. These jeers were always, always acronyms.

The wittiest (it’s a low bar) were always directed at Ford owners, Found On Road Dead, Fix Or Repair Daily, Ford Owners Recommend Dodge, Full Of Rust Deposits, For Old Retired Drunks, etc… GM came in for its share: General Maintenance, General Mistakes, Generally Malfunctions, and General Misery. But my favorite is one for Chevy: Can’t Have Everything Vern, YaknowwhatImean? Not only is it peculiarly specific, it’s also a wonderfully tortured acronym. Plus, my Grandfather’s name is Vern.

Foreign jeers? There really weren’t any. For a long time, no decent self-respecting American would buy a foreign car (except maybe someone’s no-good, lousy, mooching, bum of a brother-in-law). And by the time foreign cars actually started to become popular, creating an acronym that made sense was kind of hard. Toyota: Runs For a Long Time with Low Maintenance Costs.There’s just no zing to that. It doesn’t flow like Darn Old Dirty Gas Eater does.

Chrysler has recently tried to reinvigorate this lost sense of Americana with the attempted reinvigoration of pseudo-brands. “That thing got a Hemi, Bob? Why of course it does, Earl! I’d no sooner buy a truck without a Hemi than loan money to my wife’s no-account brother!” (So… I actually had to do some research on this one. “Hemi” means that the engine has hemispherical combustion chambers–I suppose instead of those pesky rhomboid chambers. It’s an engine style that was used in 1912 by… wait for it… Peugeot! Peugeot! They’re French!) Aside from insipid product placements in movies and television, “It’s got a Hemi!” doesn’t seem to have caught fire with the public. (Chrysler lost $2.9 billion in 2007. Peugeot made $2.7 billion in 2007.)

My Dad was a Chevy guy. Well, sorta. He has this really cool old 1947 Ford logging truck that’s pretty slick (looks like this). But it doesn’t run anymore. He had a lot of old Chevy trucks over the years too. Most of them ran sporadically. Except for the one with the Ooogah horn. (I loved that horn.) It was a 56 (or a 57 or 58… I can’t remember). It ran for a long time. Had a pinto wagon too. That doesn’t run anymore either–but it also didn’t blow up, which is suppose can be considered a positive in the Pinto. Mostly we were poor so whatever car was actually running was the one we rallied behind.

Me? We have a Jeep Cherokee and a Ford Contour. The Jeep is great. It’s a two-wheel drive Jeep (I know.) so it stinks in the snow, but otherwise it’s great. The Contour on the other hand…. well, it’s Dead in the Driveway right now. It was Dead on the Road a few hours ago, and it’s quite frequently in and out of the shop. It’s loud, it shakes like Lindsey Lohan in rehab if you push it past 45, there’s a broken seatbelt in the back, and it’s once lustrous silver (I’m assuming it was lustrous once) is now the color of dirty road slush ice. It’s a truly craptacular car.

But I’m no car-maker fanboy. If and when we go out to buy a new (heavily used) car from a reputable dealer (Jimbo’s CrazyLot), I’ll do my research and select the car that best matches the family’s needs (is cheap) regardless of who makes it (Yugo). In the meantime, I’ll reserve my allegiances for the contests that my generation finds compelling. I’ve even got some acronyms: Most Annoying Cult, Annoying People Playing with Little Electronics, Defunct Operating System, Vastly Inferior Software To Apple’s, and my personal favorite: Vastly Improved Solitaire Tiling Algorithms.

***Note: I realize that I seem to be picking on Lindsey Lohan a lot lately. Well, in the last two posts at any rate. I’d pick on other people, but the problem is that I need druggie references and I’ve become such an old man that I don’t really know who’s hip and with it (and consequently in and out of rehab) anymore. My wife thinks that the very fact that I use the words “hip” and “with it” means that I’m hopelessly “square.” I was tempted to go with Gary Busey yesterday… I mean, he must be on drugs, right? But he was too scary. Britney might be a druggie, but she also might be insane and, regardless, she just seems kind of sad now. Plus, with Lohan, there’s the added schadenfreude of watching a former child star (and the star of The Parent Trap, for goodness sake!) go all loopy–doin’ the Bonaducci as it were.

***Note: How about Patsy T. Mink joke! I was very proud. (I know, I know.) Look her up. It still won’t be very funny, but at least it will make sense.)


My brief hiatus

It’s been awhile since I posted anything here. What with basketball games, family gatherings, sick little girls, emergency room visits and electro-cardiograms, I just haven’t found the time to write anything. And, of course, there’s all that bad television that so desperately needs to be watched.

OK. That’s a lie. There’s always time. I should just be honest and tell the truth; I’ve written a bunch and it’s all been dreck.

I wrote a long piece responding to an article on 9/11 conspirators that meandered (more than usual!) and wavered and wobbled and ended up both snarky and banal (a combination that’s harder to achieve than you might imagine). I took a few stabs at a platform (I haven’t forgotten!) but there hasn’t been any spark to the writing. When your statement of principles sounds pre-teen protean you’ve got trouble. (America should, like, totally be more free. You know?) I also wrote some background for a site I’ve been thinking about putting up, but it turned out woefully bad. I was going for urbane sophisticate but wound up with a bunch of doody jokes. Also, I read an article on grammar, which is just dangerous. In this case, the article was on semicolons; I think I’m using them too much.

(And speaking of dreck, pre-teen protean? Ugh.)

The past two weeks have been pretty busy. We went to Adam’s Middle-School Mega Concert where they pack everyone into the gym and every group plays one song (sixth-grade band followed by eighth grade chorus followed by seventh grade orchestra followed by silly faculty comedy routine) and it’s really hot and really long and the kids who aren’t performing get bored and sullen. Actually, this one wasn’t so bad. It’s not everyday that you hear a Dona Nobis Pacem followed by the theme to The Simpsons.

I also spent much time laying out class photos for the elementary school yearbook. Since when do elementary school shave yearbooks? I don’t remember getting a yearbook in fourth grade. Of course, I was in Mexico for fourth grade, so maybe I did and I just couldn’t read it. “¡Adios gringo!” Hannah was sick with an intestinal bug that was a real joy. (How much gross liquid can a nine-year old expel at once? More than you’d imagine.) And of course, we’re a family that shares, so Jamie, Pat and I are all now afflicted with the cold/flu/general-winter-miserableness.

We saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert (Just the two of them and their guitars; it was great.) American Idol is on, and like every other suburban American, I’m required by law to watch at least sixteen hours of Ryan Seacrest every week. Plus, Jamie and I have started watching Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show (we tape it and watch it the next day at a reasonable hour). He’s very funny and very zany; we like him a lot. (That was another semicolon; make me stop!) Hat tip to Joshua for the YouTube link that prompted us to start watching.

And on Saturday, the boys lost a thrilling semi-final basketball game by two points. Those games are so exciting; I always think I’m going to have a heart-attack.

Which brings me around to the big reason I’ve been so lax in posting…. emergency-room visits and cardiograms. About a year ago, I learned that I have dangerously high cholesterol levels (in the manner of Mt. Everest or Lindsey Lohan… which is to say, very high). So I started taking medication and getting bi-monthly blood work-ups, and I’ve been a little skittish ever since. (No… Not you! Yes, yes, I know it’s hard to believe… Is there an emoticon for an eyeroll? There should be.)

Anyway, my skittishness reached its zenith a couple of weeks ago when I found myself spending the day in the emergency room with pain in my chest and numbness in my left arm. The diagnosis was “chest pain of unknown cause,” which I took to be good news… sort of. The ER doc guessed that I was probably just fine and dandy, if a bit panicky. “Oh, and by the way, your electro-cardiogram indicated that you have a Right Bundle Branch Block. Which is usually nothing,” he said. “You’re absolutely fine, it’s completely benign, no worries, really. But why don’t you go see a cardiologist as soon as you possibly can?”

So I did. And on Monday I had a “nuclear stress test.” The whole “stress test” thing seems redundant to me, as if being injected with a radioactive gel (that’s the nuclear part) and having giant machines revolve around you and take pictures of your heart isn’t stressful enough. The nurses who administer the test were all very calm and peaceful, but there’s an odd dissonance in the calm and gentle reminder that I shouldn’t handle any infants or babies for 24 hours because I’ll be radioactive. (I’m still waiting for my super-powers to show up. I’m hoping for laser eye-beams, but becoming super-stretchy would be cool too.)

So, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied the last few days. Sitting down to write about whether I disliked Barack Obama more than John McCain seemed needlessly absurd and amazingly pointless; my heart just isn’t in it.

However, the news is back from the doctor and is all good. My heart is where it should be and is doing what it should do and is getting all the oxygen it needs. I need to keep watch over the cholesterol and will probably be on statins for a good-long while, but am otherwise fine and healthy.

Now when I have a two-week lapse between posts, it’ll just be because I’m lazy.