TTWA: Craigslist

Your partner writes a Craigslist ad to get rid of an item of yours that they totally hate.  What does it say?

This assignment required only a small amount of imagination.  I love anime.  My brother and roommate, Kevin, can appreciate my collection of comics, movies and video games, but my other interests . . . well, he pigeonholes Japan as a nation of perverts and anime as a product of that perversion.  Daring him to watch Spirited Away or Cowboy Bebop, two excellent examples of the quality of the medium, affected no change of his opinions.  Secretly, I wonder if the subtitles prove daunting to my dyslexic sibling . . . Reading in order to enjoy a movie may taint your opinion of the genre in much the same way that Jersey Shore or The Bachelor has infected my enjoyment of documentaries.  Then again the beautiful strangeness of these tales can overwhelm the more practically minded.  Kev enjoys operating heavy machinery and tilling the earth.  Case closed.

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Thou art in thine parking lot

Occasionally sent to retrieve my lil’ sister (Bree) and cousin (Kathleen) from their private nun-guarded edifice of education, I oft on these occasions send the odd text in order to inform said girls the make and model of my vehicle as well as the when and where to meet me.   Because of the now numerous siblings, uncles, cousins, fathers, and well-trained pets capable to carpool, constant cellular communication is crucial, see? Continue reading

Discussions with My Teenage Sister

The three girls were still chattering in the back seat when Dad called.  On the beltway, traffic slowed, stopped, and surrendered to inertia.  Dudes volleyed footballs between station wagons.  A band of wandering gypsies built makeshift hovels from the roof of an abandoned Prius; tires were piled and set alight for warmth.  Slipping Mom’s Expedition behind a ransacked Hostess truck, I nearly missed the phone call: my ring tone the ultimate loser in a three-way battle between the radio and the three preteens in the backseat.

“Hey bud,” Dad chimed over the speaker.  “How ya doing?”

“We just finished discussing the niceties of shaving our legs.” Continue reading

Conversations Overheard While Carpooling Sophmores

“Hey, Murph, have you seen it?” Kevin asked jumping into the car, his shirt soaked in sweat and dirt by hours on the football field.  I unconsciously open the windows, allowing his not-so-fresh scent some other means of escape than through my lungs.  His friend Joe dives into the back seat.  His gear is tossed atop Kevin’s clothes in the trunk, across the back seat or along the dashboard until I vociferously advise my brother to return his socks to his feet.  Once buckled and stowed, we bounce across the dirt parking lot and speed off onto the highway.

“What’s up?” I finally reply.  “Something you learned at school?”

“Huh?  No, ‘course not.”  Clearly a stupid question.  “I saw a hippo eat a midget today.”

“Wha . . .?”

“It’s a Youtube video,” Joe explains.

“At school?!”

“No, on Youtube.”

“Yeah,” Kevin continues excitedly, “this midget is jumping up and down on this trampoline when . . . whoosh!  He flies off into the hippo’s mouth and dies.”

“Oh, um, wow!”  Excitement and concern play on my voice.  Confusion too.  What exactly do they allow on Youtube nowadays?

“The hippo swallowed him,” Joe adds.  “The midget can’t breathe apparently and suffocates.”

“Oh . . . well, I’m sorry for the . . . small man.”

“Don’t be,” Joe smiles.  “It was pretty funny.  And I’m not sure about the dying part.  Edgerson told Frank that in another video, not the one we saw but in another one they show the body, but I couldn’t find it.  So I don’t know.”

“ ‘Course he died. Because hippos are mean, right?” Kevin asks.  “That’s why they couldn’t get to him quick enough, right?  ‘Cause they’ll kill ya more so than lions.”

“Well,” I begin, still rather confused.  “They are quite territorial.  Tourists and hunters have much more to fear from hippo attacks than elephants or lions.  In the water, they’ll rip you to shreds.  But they’re not anacondas, they don’t normally . . .”

“Just like the Ford F150, right?  It’s like the hippo.  All other car companies can’t handle it and die.”

“Uh . . .”

Kevin routinely descends every so often into a diatribe against most of the major players in the auto industry with the minor exception Ford, which he idolizes.  Seriously the company can do no wrong.

“I mean, through hard work and creativity, they made the 1967 Ford Mustang GT 500, greatest automobile the Earth has ever known.  And will ever know.  Ford is awesome.”

When asked why, the short answer is because all other cars suck.  If you foolishly decided to dig deeper, you will come to understand that American cars are superior to European and Japanese motors; that other countries stole our internal combustion engine and thus deserve death for their treachery; that the popularity of Japanese motors can be attributed to the increasing populations of stupid hippies; that despite it also being American made, Chevy cannot compete with Ford on any level.

“They try.  Again and again, they try,” Kevin reminds me finishing the last of my iced tea.  “But in the end, they fail.  Simple as that.”

“Okay but don’t you think Kev that . . .” My attempt at interjection.

“It’s like that Toyota commericial.  They’re so full of crap.  Oh yeah, we can drop a Toyota from a building and it will still work.  We’re so great, but we’re in pieces.  Ha, the Ford could do that and still haul a load of bricks to . . . to New York.  Stupid foreign cars.  And you know what . . .”

“What if it’s a really tall building?” I interrupt.


“Like the Empire State Buildilng.  What if we drop it from there?  I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to haul brick anymore . . .”

“The Ford could take it,” Kev replies confidently.  “Definitely.  It could take on the Loch Ness Monster . . .”


“From the commercial,” Joe whispers from the back seat.  “The Loc Ness monster grabs the car, sucks it underwater, and spits it back out.  It drives away undamaged.”

“Oh yeah . . .  Without even any kelp on it too.”

“That’s how great Ford is.  If it can take that, it can take anything.  No foreign piece o’crap can do that.  It would . . .”

“What if we drop it from the Empire State Building onto a trampoline and into a hippo’s mouth?  Would it survive that Kev?”

“Okay, just shut up.”

“Those hippo’s are mean.  I don’t think it could survive that dude.”

“Shut up,” he said reaching for the volume dial.  Blink 182’s monotonous guitar riffs burst onto the radio.  I chuckle to myself the rest of the way home.


Katie called me today with some disturbing news.

“Murph,” she said.  “You know how before I left you warned me about that tick you found on your dashboard today?”

“Yeah,” I responded, recalling the large eight-legged blood-sucker skittering around my volume control, nearing digging into my skin like a mole.  “The parasite was big too.  I nearly crashed into an old woman and half-a-dozen parked cars before I could kill it.”

“Right, well I got off the interstate a moment ago when I felt something crawl along my feet,” Katie told me dramatically.  “I was like ‘Oh my gosh!  A spider! I got a friggin’ wolf-spider in my car.  It’s going to bite me and I’m going to die.’  Guess what it was?”

“I don’t know . . . a tick?”  Frankly I find ticks to be much more frightening than spiders . . . well at least the normal spiders we have around here, which are nowhere near as big as some of the South American varieties.  Those monsters kill birds.  Have you ever seen a spider take down a crow?  If so, I highly recommend the Delmarva area.

“No!  A mouse!” she nearly screamed over the phone.  “A mouse.  In.  My. Car.  And then when I got to BJs to meet Mom, there was another one in the passenger seat, munching on something.  Sitting on its hind legs like it owned the joint.  Murph, my car is infested with mice . . . Stop laughing!”

“Sorry,” I say wiping the tears from my eyes.  “Just be careful on the way home though.  Mice sometimes can chew through wires and stuff.  I don’t know much about your car, but I’m sure some of that must control your brakes, accelerator or your radio, right?”

“Oh thanks, Murph,” Katie sighed.  In the background Mom asks her which brand of trash bags we need.  Kate repeats the question to me.  I tell her the largest brand they sell with handles.  “ . . . yeah, the ones with the blue handles there.  Yeah, those.  Well, you know whose to blame, right?”

“Sean, didn’t necessarily bring the mice in your car, girl.”

Say hello to my little friend . . . “But he’s been driving it for the last few weeks, leaving me with no gas and a backseat full of empty drinks and McDonalds trash.  Mouse treats.  I probably have an ant problem too.  Army ants with my luck.  Or snakes.  Ugh, snakes . . . I’m going to kill him.”

“Well, they would get rid of your mouse problem . . .”

“Uh, thanks but no thanks.  I’ll take my chances with Mickey and Minnie . . .”

Locked Out

I passed my hand over my eyes and sighed when Bree entered the room.

“Why is Mom crying?” she asked.

“She’s laughing,” Charley smiled as Mom let out a loud snort, her face buried in a large wool blanket. She momentarily peeped out – her eyes red and wet – and looking at me, she then burst into another long giggle.

“Why? What happened?”

“I accidentally locked my keys in the car,” I said, my eyes fixated on the floor, the ceiling, that plant

“ . . . while the car was still running,” Charley added. Mom sniggered.

“He had a thought,” Shannon said unwinding a metal hanger with a pair of pliers. More muffled sniggering diffused through the blankets on the couch.

“Look,” I sighed. “The car was running when I parked outside. I was gathering up all my stuff. You know, my iPod, my books, my notebook and the pen which was slipping off . . . I was trying to map out this story idea that had just come to me when . . . I guess I must’ve hit the lock without noticing. When I closed the door, I noticed this humming sound . . .”


“You know Mom, it’s not all that funny,” I said.

“That was Bree,” Charley said. My small sister lay doubled over on the couch, laughing in her mother’s lap.

“ ‘H . . .h-humming sound’ . . .” she blurted.

“Are you ready?” I asked Shannon.

Shannon had fashioned a wire hook from the wire hanger and together with Charley we walked outside.

“So what’s your success rate?” I asked eyeing his ersatz lock pick with some trepidation. “I can’t find the spare key so if this doesn’t work, we’ll have to wait for the one Dad has stored up the shop.”

“Well it worked for Ryan’s Yukon,” Shan said. “That time when he got locked out down at school.”

“Yeah,” Charley nodded. “It was lucky that none of the campus police questioned us then.”

We reached the car. For good measure, the boys checked all the doors. Concluding that I was indeed an idiot, Shan examined the rubber insulation between the window and the door.

“Hey, you can hear the humming.”

“Shut up,” I muttered as Shan stuffed the wire frame down the window. “This won’t hurt the car, right?”

“Um . . .” Shan said with a glance to Charley. “I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t be here . . . just in case.”

“No, if this works, I want to know what you did. It could be useful. You know, if it ever happens again.”

“You know what else might be useful,” Charley added. “Not leaving your keys in your car and then locking the door.”

Reminding myself to kick Charley in the shin later, we watched Shan fish blindly for the door lock with his hook. This continued for some time, as the wind picked up rattling the trees and windows. I shivered. At least the engine is warm, I thought. Beside me Shannon cursed. He had pulled the hook from the window; the constant pulling and pushing had uncoiled the wire.

“Let me try,” Charley said grabbing the hook after Shan’s rigorous butter-churning action had sent the wire flying in our faces.

“Last time on the Yukon, it was really tough to pull. You have to really yank it.”

“Yeah, but how do I know that it’s the right thing to yank?”

“Just yank everything it gets caught on . . . “

My stomach churned with every yank, resounding a heavy thunk and chlunk from inside the door.  Absently I wondered if I should count it as a victory if the door suddenly falls to the ground.

“Is it suppose to do that?” I asked after a particularly loud KA-CLUNK.

“Uh, I don’t know. The door’s not unlocking so I’d go with a probable ‘No.’ Maybe Ford wised up over the years,” Shan offered helpfully.

Eventually we gave up and relinquished our efforts to obtaining a spare key from Dad’s office.

“I swear Murphey you are our absent-minded professor,” Mom smiled after we entered crestfallen.

“I am not absent-minded,” I objected.

“You’re not?!” Mom laughed wiping away more tears.

“No, just . . . distracted that’s all.” I don’t think she heard me through the giggles and guffaws so I just sighed.

“It was a pretty good story too. I would write it down if I can remember where I put my notebook. Mom, Bree, do you know . . . ? Ah, forget it.”

I strode from the room to search for a piece of paper and a pencil, until remembering I had left my DS on a few hours ago, I ran downstairs. My Chrono Trigger game left me spellbound for another hour, before I remembered that I had forgotten something yet again.


My travels today found Mom and me in search for water-proof fleece, rain coats, and other camping essentials for Kevin’s end-of-year school trip. Inspired by the beautiful weather, thoughts of a pleasant drive, and absolute necessity for the items by tomorrow morning, we drove off to the local L.L. Bean store for some much needed shopping.

Now Mom and I possess two different philosophies in terms of parking our car:

My philosophy:

  1. Locate the first available parking spot, preferably as far away from other vehicles.
  2. Pull into spot.
  3. Put car in park and remove key from ignition.
  4. Hike the two miles to your destination (Frankly I need the exercise, and we all should try to walk more)

Mom’s philosophy:

  1. Drive around through the maze of parked cars for the closest spot possible.
  2. If you pass more than ten parked cars, you have gone too far.
  3. If no parking spots are available, continue circling the parking lot like vultures until someone leaves.
  4. Upon finding a spot extremely close in proximity to your destination, pull in.
  5. Put car in park DO NOT TURN OFF IGNITION
  6. Look about you and wait twenty minutes, if you see anyone pulling out of a parking spot closer to the mall, quickly leave the secured spot and jump to the closer one.
  7. Repeat until parked adjacent to handicapped spots. Then if the mall is not closed, shop.

Honestly — with only a little exaggeration — Mom loves to capture that “close” spot. It’s the competitive streak in her, that blood-thirsty Celtic-warrior stare that melds onto her face whenever we play volleyball or softball. A trait we ironically share as years of video gaming have unearthed the battle-lust in my genes as well (particularly at Mario Kart and Tekken). Losing to Dasad’s Ryu in Street Fighter, usually prompts hours of intense training afterwards and a few hurried matches with my younger less battle-hardened cousins. The fact that few of them have played the game before or even know what buttons to push, bite, or gum is inconsequential at this point. I simply need the victory, the knockout, that cybernetic affirmation that I am still a man.

Yet when it comes to parking, I simply do not possess my mother’s patience. No sooner would I pull into a parking spot ten rows from the entrance to Nordstroms, then a Honda begins pulling out several rows ahead and Mom would shoot me that expectant disappointed look, suggesting “We could have parked closer if we hadn’t rushed.” Yes and we could, losing gas and shopping time in the process. However I do not say this. One thing I have learned in all my years of parking and gaming, sometimes the best victory demands a timely retreat. And no dishonor can be found in yielding to the chidings of your mother from time to time. Indeed it is good for them to vent now and again. Our two miles walks to the mall are rarely silent.

“Ooh . . . Murph, honey, you missed that spot. If I sat down here so that no other cars could enter, and you ran back to the car . . .”

“Come on, Mom . . .” I sigh, promising to grab myself and her a large mall-bought fruitshake before the afternoon ends. After all we need something to sustain us for the long hike back to the car . . .

Motor City

Three simple yet important qualities or questions guide my taste in automobiles: function (Does it work?), utility (Can it get me there?), and size (Can I comfortably stuff ten or twelve adults and/or children loaded like sherpas into it?). Other factors essential to more fervent automotive buyers like style, make, model, year, country, cleanliness, stereo, sunroof, engine, quantity of tailfins, speed, color, brightness of headlights, mileage, cost, or thickness of racing strips are ignored, unwanted necessities like new socks on Christmas morning. I do not care if the machine I am driving happens to be a 1970 Ford GT 500 Mustang convertible or dispenses coffee milkshakes (though that feature is long past due). If I fear damaging the car to such an extent that I cannot drive it, the thing no longer becomes a car but a large metal albatross around my neck, a driveway monument to American excess or – if they include the milkshake dispenser – genius.

On the other hand, if my brother Kevin was forced to choose between, say . . . a castle in the Alps and a 1970 Mustang, I would not invest in a home-warming gift . . . unless said gift involved a pair of fuzzy pink dice. Kevin absolutely loves tractors and cars of any and all kinds, an obsession as strange to me as my bibliophilia probably is to him. Given the opportunity, he would jump on our riding mower like the Lone Ranger on Silver amid three feet of snow even just to cut down any ambitious blades of grass that look a little bit too healthy. Moreover, he adores American cars – Ford especially – becoming quite agitated if you insult his favorite models or praise any foreign makers with too much fervor. Thus any critique is seen as a personal insult. This is where Pat and I come in:

Pat: “So Kev, I hear that Toyota is the top-selling car in America. That’s like the entire nation, right?”
Kev: “GRRRRRR!” *he punches Pat’s arm and storms off*

Kev: “Ford rocks!”
Murph: “Yeah, it shudders and quakes too. Usually just before it breaks down!”
Kev: “GRRRRRRRRR! *he punches my arm and storms off*

Pat: “Hey Kev, when you get your license will you get a Forerunner?”
Kev: “Foreign piece of crap. I’m going to get a 1970 Ford Mustang GT 500.” (he says this as if it’s one word).
Pat: “You’re right. A Forerunner’s probably too powerful for you. Too much SUV for one man.”
Kev: “That stupid car doesn’t have power. It’s not American. It’s weak!”
Murph: “It’s Japanese. It can transform into a giant robot, shoot surface-to-air missiles, fly, and make coffee milkshakes. It can do anything!”
Kev: “That car cannot transform!”
Murph: “Sure it can. It’s Japanese. It’s like standard features on all their products. I’m pretty sure the blender will transform if you’re man enough to find the right button.”
Kev: “ GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR *he punches our arms and storms off*

As I said before, it is quite fun to irritate family members if you know the right . . . well, buttons to push. Nevertheless, despite his short temper Kevin possesses great inventive intelligence capable of disemboweling an engine or gadget for parts and reassembling them into something totally unique and new. I try to avoid mentioning that many of the parts were not made in the states. Such truths I fear could destroy him.

Dasad on the other hand has a distinct preference in foreign cars, namely Acura’s and Subaru’s (and one day he hopes a Ferrai or two). While Kevin can take an engine apart, examine it, and put it back together within seconds, Dasad can recognize the make, model, and year of any automobile on the road merely from glancing at their headlights. Listening to him talk is like hearing Sherlock Holmes lecture on the various kinds of soils a footprint can leave behind. However, like Holmes and heroin, the man does get a little hung up on head lights though. For example, Dasad’s current vehicle is an Acura, an Acura XM . . uh, MXD? Or is it CCR? No, . . .um, Eclipse? Well it is small, gray and has an internal navigator with voice recognition like in Knight Rider. Anyway his headlights resemble miniature moons captured within crystal globes and powered by a million tiny nuclear reactors. They figuratively burn holes in the surrounding forest and any deer foolish enough to jump at the wrong moment. Literally they blind the hell out of anyone driving from the opposite direction.

My Explorer’s headlights resemble candle flames compared with his earthbound beacons, a fact that amuses Dasad whenever we happen to be driving.

Now these three varied and distinct personalities collided at the auto show this weekend. One would of course consider me the neutral judge in this debate among foreign and domestic automobiles, between Dasad and Kevin. However, as mentioned before, I wield little authority among the car enthusiasts, possessing little in the way of engineering or mechanical intelligence. I am trained as a biochemist, a proficiency which is arguable at best. However, my perspective is not totally for naught. For example, I can easily judge the speed of any car by three distinct qualities:

1) Number of “ponies” under the hood (Ponies: a slang term here meaning horsepower for those not in the know)

2) The flatness of the body (I call this the fish test; if a car looks like a flounder it must move really fast)

3) The number and style of tailfins attached to the rear (by and large, the longer and higher the tailfin, the faster the car moves. Cars that possess two or more long tailfins never actually remain stationary. What you see in the parking lots is actually the afterimage burned into your retina of an automobile which travels so fast that it resides in several different places at the same time).

I also learned that car companies love bribing potential buyers with cheap trinkets and former Miss America contestants, who distribute them. Unfortunately I am easily bought. Several fake smiles and sheepish nods later, I am encumbered with piles of key chains, cheap plastic pen holders in the shape of SUVs, fully illustrated car brochures, and of course several logo-marked bags to tote it all. With a few carefully aimed jump-shots, we buried most of this swag in designated recycling bins. Everything but the bags. Not knowing enough to question or criticize any of the automotive specimens, I resorted to judging the cars on the basis of swag. If a company could afford to offer free high-priced goods to potential customers, they must — or so I reasoned — christen each of their products with the same love and dedication. Shopping bags were thus emblematic of the quality of the automobile.

In this war, Scion far exceeded all others in style and thickness, enveloping the logo in a sea of smooth metallic gray. It was beautiful. Meanwhile, Ford’s totes lacked any real style or interest: an uncreative white with the company logo on the front. It seemed to exude boredom; as if the geniuses at marketing said “Hey, who cares what it looks like? It’s just a bag.” Just a bag indeed. What if the engineers held their work to the same standards? “Hey, who cares? It’s just an air bag.”

I would offer a few photos comparing the two; however, they have mysteriously gone missing from my desk before I could take any photographs. Apparently my little theory was discovered earlier than intended, and somewhere up in my brother’s room lies an immaculate white bag pressed and folded like flower petals in the folds of a Tolstoy novel.