Digging through the family archives this weekend, I found a couple of shots of Chewbacca and I in her prime. This was from about 2001 or so, out in front of my parents’ place in New York State. I guess I’m used to looking at a taller suspension these days, but she’s riding awful low on the springs.
My Dad replaced the mufflers on his Ford F350 stakebody sometime in the late ’70s with a set of Thrush mufflers–generally, a brand associated with hot rods and drag racing. He got a sticker with the package and put it in the back window of the truck: an angry-looking bird. I thought it was cool as shit. I still dig the logo, even if it’s almost obliterated by rust.
First thing Saturday morning, I was on transport duty to get Finn to the dentist for the removal of some baby teeth that have been hanging on for too long. Her adult teeth were coming in underneath, and the root structure was all but gone, but they refused to let go. One side was hurting after eating some hard candy, so we were there to address that one, but Jen wisely suggested they pull both while she was under. The dentist numbed her gums, lit her up with laughing gas, shot her with some novocaine, and pulled them both out in no time.
I then hit the Home Depot for a new lawnmower and other supplies, selecting a Toro push model with a mulching bag and oversized rear wheels. It’s shiny and red and starts on the first pull and feels solid, unlike the ghetto mower I just retired. I guess I’m going to have to hose off the deck every time I’m done mowing, so that the moisture trapped by the grass doesn’t eat away at the steel of the deck like it did the old one.
I brought supplies home and got to work on chicken wire doors for the greenhouse, ripping some pressure-treated wood to build frames to fit in the doorways. They both went pretty quickly. I put a semi-permanent panel on the back and a removable panel on the front. Now, for plants.
By the time I was done with that and assembling the mower, it was time to stop and get ready for dinner: I made reservations at a fancy-looking place downtown based on a readers’ poll in Baltimore magazine for Jen and I to celebrate our anniversary. Upon entry we realized we were a little overdressed for the venue, but our extremely helpful waiter steered us toward some delicious cocktails and good food. Arepas are tasty but not exactly fine dining-friendly food, so we busted out our silverware and made the best of things (the entrees were not lighting our fire). After dinner we had some dessert and digestif cocktails, and our waiter had us sample Amari, an Italian digestif liqueur that was better than the cocktails. Overall, it was OK but not stellar; the service was the high point, but we made the best of it. Happy Anniversary, baby.
Sunday morning I got up early and headed over to Bennett’s house to return a favor. He’d been the catalyst for organizing my Scout brake workday, so I offered to help him clear out his Mom’s farm now that it’s been sold. I’ll leave the detailed version of that story for the Scout blog, but overall it was a great, productive day with one hiccup.
In between Scouts, nine years ago, I went up to White Marsh to look over a Scout on Craigslist. What I found was a rough example with a lot of rust, bondo, and primer. It was a non-runner, up on a trailer, and the victim of questionable aftermarket mods, the best of which was a chain steering wheel and skull shifter knob. I snapped a picture and left.
Imagine my surprise when a Scout showed up on Craigslist this week with the same shift knob. A little comparison shows it’s the same Scout with a new steering wheel. The rest of it looks exactly the same: rust, bondo and primer.
I didn’t buy it then and I wouldn’t buy it now.
I ordered a lineset ticket for the VIN on Peer Pressure a month ago or so, and it came in this afternoon. I always figured the plate was not original to the body, because it’s screwed in with sheet metal screws, but I was never really sure. From what it says, the original shell was built on August 18, 1975, in Kansas City for Bob Post Chrysler Plymouth in Aurora, Colorado. It was painted Solar Yellow, Code 4410 (a 1976 color), and it had a 304 V-8 with an automatic transmission.
My body shell was originally painted Gold Poly, a 1975 color, and as mentioned before, is not original to the frame. This basically just confirms it. My only shot at identifying it now is finding the VIN chalked on the body somewhere.
I’ve talked a little bit about being a D&D nerd back in the day; My interest was intense for a period of time in the 6th grade, and then casual for a few years after that. I was also into a sister game called Gamma World, which was basically D&D in a post-apocalyptic setting. Something about this game caught my interest a lot more than dragons and swords. Some history:
In 1982, my family moved from blue-collar New Jersey to a town in white-collar Connecticut, and I started at a new school. We were bused in from a remote cul-de-sac on the far side of town. I was pretty isolated until school started (the only other kid on our street was two years younger, and all he wanted to do was sit inside and play Mrs. Pac Man) but after a rocky couple of weeks I met up with a guy who lived less than a half-mile from my house through the woods. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, who lived nearby, and one of the things we bonded over was a game I’d never heard of before: Dungeons and Dragons.
I didn’t understand how the game worked at first. There were dice, and rules, and they gave me a character to play, and I enjoyed using our imagination to solve problems. We played on and off again that fall, between building forts in the woods around our houses, riding bikes, and Pitfall! I enjoyed one of the best Halloweens of my life that year when my friend’s father showed us how to melt the plastic tip of a can of shaving cream to shoot the foam in ten-foot streams; we roamed in and out of epic battles with older neighborhood boys, using our knowledge of the local woods to escape and regroup.
My parents gave me the beginner’s box set of both D&D and Gamma World that Christmas, and after that I was obsessed. We played through the spring until school let out, when my friends vacationed out of town. I spent a lonely August swimming in the pool, reading books from the library, and creating Gamma World campaigns for my friends to play through when they all got back.
That fall, we started at the middle school across town. I was dumped into a new system where I knew no one, and all of my friends from 6th grade had dissolved into other classes. D&D suddenly wasn’t cool in the cutthroat atmosphere of 7th grade, and I was adrift in rough social waters.
When we moved to New York, I spent one lonely semester in 8th grade until I made it up to the High School, and found new friends. One of the things we did was play D&D and Gamma World informally here and there; I’m not going to lie, but I miss those Coke and pizza-fueled sessions with friends, because we had a great time. (I remember an epic 10-hour session during an ice storm my Junior year).
Fast forwarding, I had a little credit with Amazon last week and decided to find a game that Finn and I could play, as well as one that I’ve been dying to try for years: Fallout 4. Fallout is a series that’s been around since 1997, but Fallout 4 was released two years ago. It’s as if they took about 90% of Gamma World and made a video game out of it. You control a character who awoke from a cryogenic vault 200 years after a nuclear war, and you spend the game wandering a gigantic wasteland, killing evil humans and radiated monsters (if you can) while picking up objects along the way. You can use these objects to craft new weapons, structures, or special items. You can start settlements for people, working to keep them happy and safe. You can find special powered armor suits which help you defeat huge, powerful monsters. In short, everything that was cool about Gamma World but without your friends playing by your side.
I’m already about 20 hours into the game and I can’t put it down.
I’m sitting on the couch trying to figure out how to put the last 72 hours into one coherent narrative. Fuck it, here goes.
Friday: a whirlwind of cleaning and scanning and organizing and shopping. That’s the boring stuff. in the early afternoon I picked up Matt and Sophie, whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years, and slipped back in time as easy as putting on a new shirt. As we got settled in and poured cocktails, Jen got taken down by a migraine, courtesy of the storm system that was gearing up to blow through the area, so Finn and I took them out for dinner and we commenced to catching up.
Saturday we got a slow, easy start to what would be a heavy day. I picked up some bacon egg & cheese sandwiches for my family and fellow NY expats before we all got ourselves ready for the drive over the bridge. Which, as Siri was happy to tell us, was backed up by two and a half hours. We’d left an hour early to get there and set up the slide show. After some WRC-worthy driving from Jen on the back roads, we wound up only a little over an hour late. Finn, who had been napping in the car, spiked a 103˚ fever, so Jen dropped us off and turned right around to go find some children’s ibuprofen. Have I mentioned recently that she is a saint? Meanwhile I hustled to the back of the bar to hook up the displays and then someone slammed a drink in my hand.
So many old friends were there. Charles, looking the same as he always has, tall and tan and bearded. Beth, smiling wide and cheerful. Karean’s whole extended family, her sister, Rob’s brother Steve, who I’d spent two and a half hours catching up with on Wednesday night while picking up photos to scan. Rodney, my Scout and carb guru. A bunch of other guys we went with on that epic rafting trip. The rest of the afternoon was talking with friends, drinking, checking on Finn (who soon recovered and dove into Minecraft with Zachary), and telling stories about Rob.
Karean and Steve got up and said a few words that made the whole house cry.
By dinnertime the crowd had thinned so we got a table and sat down to an exhausted meal with Karean and her family. Finn’s fever spiked up again and an already late night for her was compounded by a drive back over the bridge so we piled in the car and headed home. After getting her into bed (and Jen, whose migraine had returned), Matt, Soph and I stayed up until 3:30 talking and laughing and telling stories.
Sunday morning my internal clock got me up at 8 but I wasn’t functional until I’d had 2 cups of coffee. We got a slow start to the day and roused ourselves for a lazy walk through Patapsco to shake off the cobwebs, then headed over to Tim & Betty’s for an afternoon of cocktails on their deck and some barbecue for dinner. Again, we all slipped into the familiar rhythms of laughter and stories, and I realized even though we’re all greying, wearing reading glasses, and talking about mortgages, we’re all still the same band of fuckup art students who were lucky enough to find each other in one of the country’s most permissive and dangerous cities of the early 90’s.
As the sky got dark (and Game of Thrones loomed on the clock) we packed up the car and headed home to prepare for the Monday workday. I said goodbye to Matt and Soph and we all made a promise not to fall so far out of touch again. This is something I am not good at, but if there is one single takeaway from this whole shit experience, it’s that I don’t have the time to lose sticking my head up my own ass.
I will reach out, call my friends, and ask them how they’re doing. And then I will get better at listening to them.