Thursday, August 31, 2006

Twilight and glare or whatever.

Before we got rolling toward K.C., Natalie tapped the dashboard.

"We need to fill this bad-boy up! Serious fillage." Even at this relatively early juncture, I had become entirely accustomed to her idiosyncratic grammar and syntax.

She spotted a gas station adjacent to the southbound entrance to the interstate. After some fumbling with the credit card, the pump and the nozzle, we were ready. It was nearly dusk. She did the driving, while I navigated.

"South for a while. Mostly southwest," I announced, once we'd safely merged into the flow of traffic.
"So just down and over, right?"
"Down and over? Right, down and over."

Beginning a road trip of considerable distance with a relative stranger at this dangerous time of day gave me pause. The headlights hadn't completely taken full effect and it was hard for me to see. I figured it was hard for Natalie to see. Then she confirmed my suspicions.

"Whoa. It's hard to freakin' see. Twilight and glare or whatever."
"Uh huh."

In order to distract us from these annoynaces -- twilight? glare? whatever? -- Natalie directed her attention to the car radio, to find some tunes. Tuneage. All eyes turned to the radio. It was one that had come standard with the car, this powder blue monstrosity, this 1983 Oldsmobile Toronado in which we would soon die our fiery deaths. Its pre-sets were shiny metallic buttons, spring-loaded so when you press a button, the one that was originally depressed comes popping out of its socket with a vehemence you can feel and hear. Snap-click. Anyone with half a brain when encountering such a contraption would try to hold down two of the buttons at once, just to see what might happen.

"That's how things get broken."
"Uh huh."

If I were to remove this gaudy button, there'd be nothing but a small plate with tiny copper hooks on either end -- one end held the plate to the aforementioned gaudy exterior buttons; the other end attached, ostensibly, to the radio's internal wiring. The shiny metal on the pre-set buttons was, as far as I could tell, there primarily to provide the passenger with some sense of psychological remove between the button itself (merely a symbol, really) and the mechanism, raw and cold, that lay underneath it.

"And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in another part of the world."

We sang along.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

There but for the grace of God go I, Part One.

I am thrilled to be back in a position to write more blog entries. I was involved in a pretty big misunderstanding in Kansas City, Missouri. Before the Kansas City fiasco will make any sense, though, you will have to know who Natalie is.

Last week, Natalie cut my hair at the local middle-brow hair salon chain, and we got to chatting the way stylists and clients will do, and I realized about five minutes into the conversation two things: (1) most of what was coming out of my mouth was utterly false; and (2) Natalie was interested. I told her that I was on a medical leave from my job in Houston, at NASA.

"What do you do for NASA?"
"I'm an astronaut."
She pulled the scissors away.
"Psha! Shut up!"
I shut up.
"Well, no, But it's not as ridiculous as it sounds. I do work for them, for NASA, on a contract basis. Mostly p.r. consulting, which is a year-round thing but gets especially hectic whenever there's a launch or a landing or anything. At more off-peak times, I call my friends at the newspapers, magazines, and the wire services and feed them 'feel-good' stories about the space program. Seriously."
"That's awesome."
"What I tell people is that it's basically 40 hours a week trying to make the general public like rocket scientists."
"I don't know, rocket scientists seem pretty likable to me as it is."
"Well, obviously I'm good at what I do, then."