Monday, April 8, 2019

“Why, Fran, Why?”

     I’m sure my Gentle Readers have noticed that I’ve left the political commentary to my esteemed Co-Conspirators these past few days to do other, lighter-toned things. I do that now and then. A steady diet of politics is bad for the soul (Just look at what it does to politicians.) Life in these United States is pretty damned good despite the corrupt state of our political system and the elite that largely remains at its helm. We may be living off our progenitors’ momentum, as Milton Friedman once said, but the ride continues to be a pleasant one.

     So I’ve been writing about things that tickle rather than enrage me. I hope they’ve tickled you as well, but…well…tastes do vary, and I know that there are people who need their spleens and bile glands refilled daily. Happily (?) there are many sites that will serve that need; Liberty’s Torch can afford to depart from it now and then.

     It’s now twenty-two years since I completed my first full-length novel. So many things have happened since then that, in the usual course of events, one might expect a novel written in roughly contemporary society to become dated. Out of curiosity I revered the book with an eye to that possibility, and found only one item that appears time-worn: a description of a personal computer.

     Have things really changed that little? Of course not. But when composing a story, the writer must concentrate on what matters to his characters as he’s defined them. Most of the changes that have come upon us these past two decades have made astonishingly little difference to the ways in which we live, conduct our affairs, and relate to one another.

     I take this as a confirmation of the late John Brunner’s Two Great Commandments of Fiction:

  1. The raw material of fiction is people.
  2. The essence of story is change.

     Brunner cleaved religiously to those dicta in his own books, which is what makes them so readable – for me, at least – despite his openly averred socialist convictions. His Hugo Award winner Stand on Zanzibar remains one of the greatest landmarks of the science-fiction genre. That’s not because of the few, relatively mild SF-like motifs it incorporates, but because it concentrates on developments in the lives of three unusual people: Donald Hogan, a scholar trained as an assassin; Norman Niblock House, a corporate executive immersed in an intriguing development project in Benin, Africa; and social theorist Chad Mulligan, a curious combination of misanthropic genius and ardent lover of Mankind.

     Brunner’s magnum opus makes the Hugo Award winners of recent years look like masturbatory finger exercises. Their authors should be ashamed to stand in his shadow, much less to let their shadows fall upon him.

     Long Island, New York is a special place in many senses. Among other things we have the least predictable seasonal weather patterns along the Atlantic Seaboard. It pays for a Long Island homeowner to be braced for anything and everything…and not to be too put out when it doesn’t arrive.

     About every third winter, for example, we get buried in snow. The entire Island grinds to a halt for two or three days while residents dig themselves and their chariots out of the snow and the Powers That Be try to remember who bribed them most recently and must have their streets cleared post haste. One chance in three of an apocalyptic snowfall is enough for us – the private citizens, not the political grifters – to prepare ourselves, and so most of us do, typically with snowblowers and large quantities of rock salt.

     So when December rolls around I roll Snidely, my 400-pound Toro dual-action snowblower, out of the shed where he summers and into the garage, from which I can extract him most readily should the need arise. Snidely usually returns to his summer cottage on or around April 10, as the latest in the year we’ve received a significant snowfall since I took up residence here fifty-two years ago was April 9. But as I deploy him, I also utter a silent, heartfelt prayer that Nature won’t put him – and me – to the test. The winter just behind us, that prayer was answered favorably, for which God be thanked.

     But there’s always a downside. When Snidely comes out for the winter, I must fill a gas can for him. He eats voraciously when in use. Thus, I must now dispose of a can of gasoline that’s five months old and nominally unsuitable for internal combustion. But backyard bonfires are considered passe, damn it all…to say nothing of the frowns of the fire-prevention authorities.

     It’s nearing the hour when another feature of Fortress life, my C6 Corvette Joy – remember Joy?

     …will make her seasonal debut. I think this will be my last year driving Joy. Among other things, my back has been complaining of recent abuses. Anyway, it costs the Moon to insure her. So I intend to enjoy her as much as possible this spring, summer, and fall.

     But there’s a downside here, too: As she’s a convertible, Joy must sleep under a roof. Therefore Milla, my Mercedes S550, must do so outdoors for the next few months. That makes it problematic to keep Milla’s batteries charged. Who in his right mind would run an electrical cord to a car battery trickle charger outdoors for such an interval? Not this Long Islander; the high school kids around here have too extensive a record for doing unfortunate things.

     Suggestions would be appreciated.

     It’s time to address the demands of the day. I hope the above hasn’t disappointed my Gentle Readers unduly. We all have lives, and despite my enviable status as a retiree, mine has its odd developments and requirements just like anyone else’s. Now and then those things are uppermost in my thoughts. Anyway, they make a refreshing change from the political blather.

     I’ll return tomorrow. Enjoy your Monday, if that’s not too unthinkable.


Bill St. Clair said...

Take Milla's battery inside. Return it when you start driving her again.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Thank you, Bill. (Now I feel stupid!)

Brian E. said...

Depending upon how much juice her battery needs to stay in ‘starting form’, there are solar trickle chargers that can sit in the dash and plug into a cigarette lighter. I suppose that’s not feasible I’d she’s kept ‘under cover’ when outside.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Or just unhook the cables and leave the battery sit. Watch out for possible loss of various computer settings if all power is removed from the system. Some settings may have to be reset by a mechanic. Radio and GPS system settings will evaporate probably though there are gizmos you can plug into your cigarette lighter that will supply a slight charge to keep things alive. Necessary with the latest cars especially when a new battery is installed. O'Reilly's can sell you said gizmo.

Brian's idea of a trickle charger is great.

AuricTech Shipyards said...

You could try a small solar panel inside the windshield as a trickle charger.