Saturday, December 31, 2011

Endings of 2011


It's going to be hard, in the far future, conveying the incredible smugness of Prius ownership in the first decade of this century. For a few years there, the Toyota Prius was nearly the only SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) on the road, offering all the haughty superiority of a bike with all the seats and AC and awesomeness of a car. In sharp contrast, all other vehicles on the road - including all those hippie-owned, soot-belching VWs - were revealed as monstrous gas guzzlers. Owning a Prius in the aughties was a fast track to self-righteousness.   

It was also a fast track to the fast track. California awarded Prius owners with Diamond Lane stickers. These deceptively flimsy decals clung to our bumpers with some super-strong, secret government adhesive, and made our futuristic cars 2% more futuristic. They also allowed solitary Prius drivers access to the car pool lanes. Can you imagine the unique self-satisfaction of zipping through clogged traffic in your own private freeway lane? Of course you can't. You don't drive a Prius. Or you don't live in California. Or you live in some year later than 2011 and your car is powered by Hydrogen or yard trimmings and you don't have to worry about air pollution.

Anyway, the dream died in July. You can thank CA vehicles codes 5205.5 and 21655.9. Also the new PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) cars. And your own indifference to my moral superiority. All of you guys killed the dream. Congrats.

Why do (other people's) bankruptcies make me so happy? And why does the specific bankruptcy of Borders Books make me so especially happy? I spent many nights in the Borders of Montclair, CA. I read a lot of their books, drank a lot of their coffee, sat through a quake in their leather chairs. I shopped at many Borders in many parts of the country. I never held my miserable one month of employment against them.

So it's weird that I get a little thrill whenever I pass their exit on the freeway and see that big, bare retail space. And who pays to keep all their lights on?

I love shit like this. It's messed up.


I was kind of disoriented the night I arrived in California, twelve years ago. I retrieved all my worldly possessions - a duffel bag of clothes and two frightened cats - from a crowded baggage carousel, and realized with a rough jolt that I no longer owned keys. My girlfriend picked me up and drove us to my future in-laws' house at 1 AM. I was jet lagged, freaked, and slightly stunned that I had actually renounced the entire east coast of America.

All this may explain why I immediately locked us out of the house. It was far too late to wake anyone up. I skulked around the bushes near the kitchen, noticed one of the windows was unlocked, hoisted myself up, and stealthily popped out the screen. I was halfway inside when a large labrador mutt ran up at face level. It was Scully. We'd met once before, but I didn't know if he was the kind of dog who would rip out an intruder’s throat. I froze. We exchanged a long, meaningful glance. Slowly - tentatively - his tale wagged.

We were good pals for the next dozen years. My wish now is that he gets to live in the neighborhood of Dog Heaven where Vincent Price and Elizabeth Taylor hand out t-bone steaks every hour and cartoon fire hydrants dance the fandango on every street corner. Farewell, sport.