I had to take Her Majesty the Hotness to the dealer for service last week. She had developed this annoying little habit of pulling sharply to the right at high RPMs when the accelerator was punched, and then lurching back to the left when stepping off the accelerator. Pretty disconcerting at, ahem, 100 miles per hour.

I braced for the worst.

The verdict? Turns out the right rear tire was just a few pounds of pressure less than the left rear tire. Apparently, in high-torque, high-revving (and, apparently high-strung and temperamental) rear-wheel drive autos, this minor pressure difference affects performance significantly. In Formula One and NASCAR vehicles, it often sends them into the wall.

Well, at least I was out only thirty bucks. Good girl…

We did get a little bit of a surprise, however.

When shipped from the factory, temporary spacers are installed in the springs of the car’s suspension to avoid wear-and-tear during transit. Babycakes never had her’s removed by the original dealer!

The car was always exceptionally stiff, which I always ascribed to the intentional design and engineering of her species as a torsionally rigid street racer built to hold fast turns and curves tight. But she was always particularly teeth-rattling on rough roads and railroad crossings, and just a few hours in the cockpit left you exhausted with the beginnings of a headache.

Now we know why.

Anyway, she rides like a different car — softer, sweeter and more liquid — yet still aggressively edgy and stiff where it counts, which is in the frame, not the suspension.

In return, last night she gave me one of those happy-to-be-alive-aren’t-I-lucky-to-live-in-Vermont evenings. Clear and crisp, where every color seems more vivid, the air more nourishing, and your fellow humans less annoying than usual. We made a loop around Lake Dunmore and then straight home.

Tonight, she gets a bath.

AuthorJoseph Fusco
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When I travel, I have one goal that pre-empts everything else — efficiency.

In other words, how can I cover the most ground in the shortest distance and time possible. Of course, this leaves no time for collecting the experiences of travel. There is a starting point and an ending point. There is nothing in the middle — no lingering, no exploring, no surprises. In fact, half the fun is getting there sooner than the GPS predicted.

So when I set off from Vermont en route to Chapel Hill, N.C. with the idea that the blonde and I would “meander” I had my doubts that I would be able to resist the “beeline” impulse and, instead, actually relax and enjoy a trip planned around “whatever,” “wherever,” and “whenever.”

Surprisingly, it’s worked. Instead of looking for the straightest line, I’ve found some great roads and breathtaking scenery. And a confused wrong turn taken in a downpour becomes simply another enjoyable route to the same destination. The contrast is stark. When I joined an interstate for a brief 70-mile leg, it was like landing on another planet, its inhabitants obsessed with speed, seemingly panicking at their lack of margin. It was unnerving.

I’m enjoying myself. I’ve reconnected with an old friend and reminisced about the origins and sustainability of our friendship over three decades. I’ve been reminded that this is still a very rural, untouched country. I’ve spent an afternoon on a college campus chatting with students and faculty, feeling every one of my forty-four years. I’ve given myself margin, and not just in time, but in spirit and experience as well.

I also realized that my car is not the delicate flower I tell myself she is, and that she’ll be okay in all kinds of weather.

And, even though it rained all day yesterday, it wasn’t so bad — I came this close to Intercourse…Pennsylvania.

AuthorJoseph Fusco

So I’m driving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week, and included in my luggage are some mixed feelings.

But first, some background:

There are two major reasons I’m driving 1,200 miles round trip instead of flying. First, as an experiment — does someone actually have to be bolted in their office to be productive, particularly if the work they are doing is mainly (a) thinking and advising; and (b) connecting and networking? We have great tools where I work: national broadband access, a virtual private network, VoIP phones. These tools, used intelligently, can be liberating; that is, since virtually none of my work is physical, the traditional “sit-at-your-desk-answer-your-phone” requirements don’t necessarily apply. I could make the argument that, although I am travelling on business, I am nearly as productive and “present” sitting in this hotel room as I am in my office for any given period of time.

Second — and here’s where I’ve packed the mixed feelings — I need to spend more time with my mistress.

Yes, it’s just a car. Owning it has made me a little neurotic, however, taking pride in silly little things like using it sparingly, never driving it in the rain, obsessing over its condition and cleanliness, and bragging about how few miles I put on it each season. In three years, I’ve put only 4,000 miles on it which, when you think about how much fun and joy the thing gives me, is a crying shame.

Yeah, right. So I need to get over that. This trip is the prescription.

blondebath2.jpgI left Vermont yesterday afternoon a little later than expected (my wife had food poisoning, and the kids needed to be shuttled to various activities and obligations around town. Plus, I was procrastinating and still unsure I even wanted to go). It had been raining and overcast in the morning, but the weather broke and it was an absolutely stunning day for a drive.

Less than five miles out of town, I received an omen. A carload of teenage girls pulls alongside, squealing and giggling. One of them scrawls a note in lipstick on the passenger window of their Honda Civic; “I love your car” (only the word “love” was a heart. Awww…)

I think it’s going to be a good trip.

AuthorJoseph Fusco

Having been out of town on business on the appointed day, I wasn’t able to fetch my car until this afternoon.

While I was happy to have it back, I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel. Would I feel like I was driving a flawed automobile, unable to get past the fact that it had been damaged, even if only in a minor way? No matter how well the work was done, would I be able to tell? Would my guilt and disappointment tinge the experience of owning and driving it?

All of that apprehension disappeared instantly. The folks at Parker’s Classic Auto Works did an absolutely flawless job of restoration, and I’m very, very grateful for their skill, craftsmanship and attention to detail. On top of that, it was simply a perfect day — 72 degrees, pure sunshine — custom-made for this kind of reunion:


Baby, we is gonna get re-uh-quainted real fast.

AuthorJoseph Fusco

I try very hard not to be one of those people who wishes his or her life away, but today was one of those days I had circled on my calendar with a thick, thick marker and, then, for weeks silently bemoaned at how far away it seemed.

First, for a moment, let me drop all the tongue-in-cheek pretense about “the blonde” and “my mistress.” The damage done to my automobile was difficult for me to accept, made many orders of magnitude worse by its timing, as I was forced to sit by and watch most of the summer drain away under deep blue skies. The season for a highly impractical, vanity convertible, like many other things, is very short here in Vermont and each warm, cloudless day and evening is precious.

I know it’s just a car. But it is my one indulgence, and a source of joy, relaxation and pride in a life woefully short of those kinds of moments. The loss of its use, if only for six or seven weeks, left me feeling confined and distracted. And in a state of denial, as well. I kept the car under a cover — a cover that had previously served to keep it clean and unblemished now kept the offending damage out of sight, if not entirely out-of-mind.

Today, at last, was the day I brought the car to the body shop — whose motto, by the way, is “like it never happened.”

They had better damn well mean it.

They told me it will be ready next Tuesday, September 18 — a day that has earned its own thick circle on the calendar.

When the car was damaged, a friend sent me a sympathy card, and suggested that, like Abraham being called upon to “let go” of his beloved son Isaac, perhaps I would only truly enjoy the car if I was able to “let go” of it as well.

He has a point. Much of my pride in the car arose from silly little things like using it sparingly, never driving it in the rain, obsessing over its condition and cleanliness, and bragging about how few miles I put on it each season.

The damage, though soon repaired, is a reminder not to put her — or “it” — or anything else on a pedestal and to stop hoarding or rationing the things in life that give myself and others pure joy.

I miss her already.

AuthorJoseph Fusco