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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 432 - 435

Richard Britell

432. My art teacher was very impressed with my color acuity, but she did not think I could ever be an artist, saying, "Albert, you draw like a six year old, but your skill with color could be very useful if you decided to be an art critic, or perhaps an art historian.

433. Don't you sometimes wish you could go back in time and reprimand your old teachers who years ago gave you stupid advice that turned out not only to be wrong, but disastrous.

434. That is what I would like to do, go back in time and tell my old art teacher that you don't have to draw to be able to be an artist, on the contrary, being able to draw is a positive detriment. Could Jackson Pollock draw? If he had been able to draw like the old masters would he ever have done his paintings.

435. Just picture little Jackson Pollock in grade school and his teachers are hovering over him and saying, "Oh Jackson your drawings are so beautiful, just like Michelangelo."  And then they would get him to read Vasari's biography  of Giotto. 

Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 428 - 431

428. The policeman got on his intercom and said "Be on the lookout for a boy in a green jacket."

429. Green jacket!? Was the policeman an idiot; was he deaf? I had said a chartreuse and black checked hunting jacket, and he reports a green jacket.  Then I had a revelation, I had color acuity, and probably the policeman did not have color acuity, this was an example of the serious importance of my unique skill.

430. Realizing the policeman probably did not have color acuity was a great revelation to me, but it raised very serious problems for my childish mind to cope with. I realized that there is never a way to know just what another person sees, when they are seeing red! And if you describe a color with words, you may satisfy yourself that your description has meaning, but you can never have any idea what is in someones mind.

431. In my book on the color red I tried to explain this problem of not knowing what someone else sees, when they say that are seeing the color red. It was a hard idea to explain back when I was in grade school, but I gave it a try. I expected to flunk my book report, because I wrote a book instead of reading one, but my art teacher gave me an A+.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 424 - 427

424. But I hated our art teacher and I had no intention of  reading a book on an artist.  I decided to create my own book, and I thought up the title right away, it was going to be called, "One Hundred And One Shades Of Red. It would be great and sell thousands of copies. The first line was, "There are a great many various shades of red." People would not be able to put down a book like that.

425. During the time I worked on my book about the color red I had an experience that showed me just how important my color acuity was.

426. I saw a boy steal a pocketbook from an old woman. The police asked me  for a description of the thief, and invited me to ride in the police car to to try and identify the suspect.

427. I said to the police man, "The boy is blond, and he is wearing a black and chartreuse hunting jacket. "Whatszat?" the policeman asked. "You know", I replied, "Light green tending toward yellow. " 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 420 - 423

Richard Britell

420. If my poor mother could have known how I would turn out she would be very confused; there is hardly a thing I have said or done in my adult life that would have made any sense to her.

421. My father was no help either because he died just a year before I discovered my 'color acuity'. His death was sudden and happened while he was working, running one of those huge linotype machines in a printing plant. setting type in lead. My mother always said, "Lucky thing he died when he did, it was a God send." But why she said that I will tell you at some other time; right now I want to tell you all about my 'color acuity.'

422. I could think of no occupation that would use my color acuity but  I decided to work on my special talent by creating a color collection. I collected paint color samples from the paint store, and put them into pages in a scrap book.  I added various shades of the same colors as a collage, cut out from the pages of magazines. If the colors had names I tried to memorize them, and if not I would  come up with my own names like 'lavender mist' or 'sepia serenade.'

423. Then, as luck would have it, our long suffering art teacher decided to give us a home work assignment. She was not content to just pass out the crayon boxes and ask us to make a design on manila paper while the classroom descended into pandemonium and she sat at her desk reading a book. She wanted us to do a book report on a famous artist.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 416 - 419

Richard Britell

416. "Yes" Buboni exclaimed, The Doctor pronounced that I had the finest color acuity he had ever seen. There was no talk of Rheumatic Fever, or anything like that, just 'finest acuity.'  Finally there was something about myself that was different  in a good way. This, I thought, was the key to my personality and my future. My identity must be somehow intertwined with looking at various colors, but what sort of job that was I had no idea.

417. You would think that I would have hit upon the idea of being an artist, if I had remarkable color acuity, but there you are totally wrong. I did not come from the sort of family in which the idea of being an artist, or a writer, or a musician ever came up, and if it did it would have been greeted with derision. No, the Great Depression was not a time that made parents long for their children to become poets, composers and painters.

418. My mother was the secretary to the vice principal in charge of discipline at the high school and so all day long she had to tell students to "Sit over there" while they waited to be disciplined by Mr. Bell. Her view of the world was very restricted and consisted of an image of a troupe of boys on their way to perdition. Her only hope was that my brother and I would make it through high school and get a good job working at the Grand Union Supermarket.

419. My mother was aware that there were other jobs than working in the supermarket, but hers was a world of class divisions, and the jobs the college kids got were for the rich who, she said, "Talked with a hot potato in their mouth."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chapter 11, Childhood Of The Art Historian, parts 412 - 415

Richard Britell

412. In the morning Buboni came to his senses; his temperature was lower, but still above a hundred. The hospital staff did not ask us to leave so we sat around the hospital room drinking tea. Aunt Jemima stayed with us even though her shift was finished and Buboni entertained us with stories about his childhood. This was the first time he had said  anything about himself or his past; you will remember that all we knew about him was gathered from blogs from his time teaching art history at Cambridge.

413. I was a scrawny child and not very good looking and aware of being different from everyone else. In grade school they would line us all up and take us to the school doctor who examined us one at a time, as we stood in a long line in our underwear. Each child presented his naked chest to the doctor's stethoscope; he listened for a brief moment and then waved them off and gestured for the next child to come up.

414. When it was my turn I presented myself to the doctor's stethoscope; instead of listening for just a second as with the other boys, he would furrow up his brow, listen intently and then ask, "Have you ever had Rheumatic fever." When I said no the doctor would say something like, "odd," and mark down something on my chart. This was an annual experience along with vision and hearing tests all of which made me frantically anxious.

415. We were sent for an unusual examination; to be tested to see if we were color blind. We entered a small room where there was a doctor sitting at a table. We looked at several cards on which were multicolored patterns. In these patterns of colored shapes one could see letters and numbers indistinctly. My color blindness test went well but the doctor made me do it over several times. Finally he exclaimed, "I have never seen anything like this, you have the finest color acuity I have ever seen". 

Richard Britell

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ranting and Raving, parts 408 - 411

Richard Britell July 26, 2012

408. What Buboni said in his fever: When artists die they all go to hell, and once there they find themselves in huge museums among crowds of museum visitors. They sit on little marble benches along the walls of lofty  marble rooms.

409. And in those museums their works are never shown, but only the works of their rivals. So Warhol has to look at Pollock retrospectives, and Franze Kline and Jules Olitsky meet Mark Rothko and Gorky and spend the day admiring the works of Norman Rockwell. And if the devil hears one sarcastic comment they are forced to look at Thomas Kinkade instead.

410. Poor old Picasso is locked up in the basement of the Prado, and must stay there for a hundred years or until he agrees to look only at the works of Goya, which are the only thing on the walls there in Madrid.  He admits that he likes “The disasters of War”, but he only wishes that his Guernica image would not be used on the place mats in the cafeteria.

411. Even Michelangelo and Raphael are in hell, along with Bernini and you would not believe me if I told you what they have to do there. The three of them have to curate exhibits of parochial school student’s paintings of portraits of the Pope. They have looked at fifteen million slides already, and the best picture gets a blue ribbon. Eternity will go by, and they are never going to agree, not even two out of three. These was the sorts of things Buboni was saying, but in the morning he came to his senses.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ranting and Raving, parts 404 - 407

Richard Britell July 25, 2012
404.  “This is his life line”, she said, “You can see that it stops right here, and then it starts up again just a little further down, and goes off in a different direction? You see that?  Well, he is just in the middle here, between one life and another, and if he does get to live, he will have to find himself a new occupation. This is common with these old geezers when they get fired or retire, and what not.”

405. The warmth of the old woman’s hand seemed to rouse old Buboni out of his stupor and he sat up a little and started to mumble, “Why on earth did Michelangelo put tits on those sculptures of ‘Day’ and ‘Night’, that’s what I want to know,” he said.

406. “How is an art historian to explain those tits, I don’t know. Perhaps the shock  the Protestant reformation had on the Catholic church caused him to put the tits on those figures, but how is one to flesh out the idea and make it understandable?” Pleadingly he asked Aunt Jemima these questions, and as he waited for her answer she turned to the Duck and I and shook her head saying, “It’s going to hard.”

407. The rest of the night he drifted in and out of consciousness. His lucid moments were filled with very odd art historical comments which seemed to indicate that he was wandering in a hellish sort of landscape peopled with figures suffering the torments of Dante's Inferno. Perhaps his fever was what brought on these ravings of his, I don't know, you be the judge, here are some examples:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ranting and Raving, parts 400 - 403

Richard Britell July 24, 2012
400. At five o’clock the day staff of the hospital went home, and an entirely new staff arrived for the evening shift.  We were still in the district of Dannersville, a very poor district, and so the night staff consisted of just one person, and elderly black woman.

401. This old woman now entered Buboni’s room and introduced herself saying, “Good evening, I am the night staff person, my name is Jamalia, but everyone here just calls me ‘Aunt Jemima’. My job is to clean the halls with the buffer, empty the bed pans, and generally bring the patients back to life after the day staff has finished killing them.

402. Jemima took an immediate interest in Buboni and pulling up a chair next to his bed said, “Let’s have a look and see if the professor’s time is up, or if he is going to make it through the night.” She took hold of  Buboni’s hand and had a look at his palm.  “How did you know he is a professor?” I asked. “Because it’s obvious.” she replied.

403. “I learned to read palms as a child", she said,  "but where I come from hardly a single person lives to be forty, so these old man’s sorts of hands are not so easy for me to figure out. But the professor’s hand is pretty obvious, just have a look here.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ranting and Raving, parts 396 - 399

Richard Britell July 23, 2012

396. The nurse had some good news for us, old Buboni did not have cholera after all; his tests had come back negative she said, and so could we please leave because the auxiliary hospital had been set up only to deal with the cholera epidemic.

397. I truly think that this was the lowest point in the poor old art historian's life. "I'm dying now", he said, "And I am going to die of the wrong disease. It turns out that I do not have the 'disease de jour,' Alright then", he continued, " lets go out to the car, and I will die in the back seat under a packing blanket, like the grandmother in the Grapes of Wrath." Having said his piece he collapsed on the cot and started to snore.

398. But the Duck was not about to let this happen, he pulled the nurse aside and said, "Is this hospital really going to accept the responsibility for sending this old man out into the night with a 104 degree temperature, and delirious?"

399. The nurse went out of the room and came back with the doctor who said that, in light of the old mans temperature he could stay put till the morning, but then he would have to go. The nurse and the doctor left, and I said, "Duck, how did you know Buboni's temperature?" "I just made it up" he said.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ranting and Raving, parts 392 - 395

Richard Britell July 22, 2012

392.  With Cholera, the first thing to do is blood work to establish if it is indeed the infection, so that is what was done. While this was happening the Duck looked on and I unscrewed the pictures from the wall and slid all three of them under the bed. The Nurse and the Doctor paid not the least attention to me, I guess it was because they were so intent on Buboni's condition.

393. Removing the pictures from the wall was hardly any help to Buboni, who continued to thrash around on his old army cot, changing his position every second.  The Doctor and the nurse left and the old man sat up and stared very hard at the wall in front of him where the fall scene had been just a few minutes before. What assaulted his poor blood shot eyes was the sight of a big light colored patch on the wall where the picture had been, and small black holes where the screws had been.

394. It's minimalism, that is what this is," he said pointing to the white patch on the wall. "And those disgusting Hotel lobby fall scenes are just the thing to make one love minimalism. There is only one thing vastly superior to minimalism, and that is, NOTHING, Nothing at all"  He shouted. "And as far as this sort of minimalism goes, it is the accidental sort of the art form, as opposed to the artificial intend type as, force fed to us by Judd and his ilk." 

395. What on earth he was talking about I had no idea but fortunately he lapsed back into a coma and the Duck and I had some peace and quiet for a while, then the nurse came back into the room with a curious expression on her face.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chapter 10, Ranting and Raving, parts 388 - 391

Richard Britell July 20, 2012

388. As the Duck finished his story about Sarah and the car we arrived at the makeshift hospital at the old armory.  They took one look at the old man, threw him onto a gurney, and rushed him into a single room because of his contagious condition. There was something about finding himself in a hospital room that brought Buboni out of his delirium, and as they unstrapped him from the gurney he jumped up shouting, "I can't have it, I can't stand it, not even for one instant." 

389. The Duck and I both supposed that Buboni's alarm was just the same as you or I would feel at being treated for a serious ailment in a makeshift hospital by unknown persons, and we imagined we would have to restrain him, but we were wrong. He rushed up to the wall of the room, and with unusual energy for a man so seriously weakened by cholera, tried to  rip a painting off of the wall of the room. 

390. He was unable to remove the picture from the wall because its frame was screwed to the wall. The hospital room was decorated with three paintings, all of them prints, and all of then attached to the wall with screws. They must have purchased these pictures on sale because all three were the same image, with the same frame, and the same screws. It was a fall scene painted in brown and orange, mostly with a palate knife. They were those old style prints with an embossed pattern on the board that mimics brush strokes.

391. "These pictures are going to kill him faster than the cholera", said the Duck, "I will go out to the car and get a screwdriver and take them down, and mean while, force him to drink down this five gallon container of water because he's dehydrated."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rejection And Abandonment, parts 384 - 387

Richard Britell July, 19, 2012

384.  The old taxi prostitute knew she was right. For a car to have a devoted owner has its advantages, it was nice to be taken to be vacuumed on Saturday morning at ten o'clock every week, and that sort of thing.  But, on the other hand, consider the excitement of never knowing who you would pick up next, Americans  from Texas in the morning, drug runners at lunch, and movie stars in the evening. But there was no point telling this to Nani, she was in no state to hear it.

385. But the taxi wanted to soften the blow, and so she said. "Your Sarah will come back you know, they all do. She will come looking for you again in twenty years with a tour bus full of Americans on holiday.

386. Back home she will be married with grown up kids. Her Paris days will be a distant memory. But one day she will drive out to Walmart to buy more lawn furniture because of a big summer get together at her house, and in the parking lot she will come across an old 2cv, parked way in the distance where the fussy owner hopes to avoid dents and scratches. It will be a well kept car, belonging to some old professor of literature at the local community college, he drives it only in the summer.

387. She will come across that car, and she will stare into its windows. Her past will rise up in her, and she will remember a time when she was 18 and thought, 'I will throw some things in the back seat this morning and go see what Bulgaria looks like', free as a bird, like a gypsy. And that old college professor, returning to his car will not disturb her when he sees her, because he will know what her tears are all about, having seen this before.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rejection And Abandonment, parts 380 - 383

Richard Britell July, 18, 2012

380. What the taxi prostitute said to Nana is pretty much what you or I would have said if we found ourselves in a similar situation; forced to give unwanted advice that will break some one's heart.  She started with a blunt declaration of the truth, saying. "Little sister, you are not going to America, put that right out of your little head. People are not like cars, their love is shallow and not lasting, their hearts can change with each new model year, especially the Americans."

381. The taxi Prostitute did not pull any punches, in her crass way she made no attempt to soften the blow. "Your precious Sarah will forget all about you the instant she is buckled into her seat in the plane. All the dear things she said to you will never even cross her mind, as she notes down in some notebook all the exciting things she will plan to do back in America."

382. The 2CV had no reaction to the things the taxi was telling her. All along she had known in her heart that it was over. Dreaming of America  was just a smoke screen to divert her thoughts from the terrible reality of being put back on the used car market, a thing she though she would never have to face again. "Don't you see, you are going to be sold down the river, you may never even see Paris again. Teenagers will make you into a doon buggy and drive you up and down huge piles of rocks all day long." The taxi said.

383. "Just be glad you had a few good years, perhaps you will be sold into taxi prostitution like me, that is what every one fears, but take it from me, it is not so bad. Once you know true love is not a possibility, you take each day as it comes, and even in the midst of the fast food wrappers and vomit in your back seat, life is still worth living in its own pointless way, you will see."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rejection And Abandonment, parts 376 - 379

Richard Britell July, 17, 2012

376. Only one thing was certain, they all knew for a fact that Nani was going to be left behind, that she would never see America. They knew it but did not have the heart to tell her.

377. They had seen it all before. 2CVs were especially vulnerable to this catastrophe because they were not sold in America and so were more exotic looking creatures. Recently an almost new 2CV plunged herself into the Seine after she was abandoned by an actor when the film he was working in was completed.  He didn't even bother to put her up for sale; just left he in the street. She was left in neutral, and the emergency brake not engaged.

378. The papers said it was an accident, but everyone in the neighborhood knew 
it was a suicide.

379. Finally one of the old Paris prostitute cars, a taxi, decided she would break the news to her.  She had been in Rome, and Milan, she had worked in Copenhagen and Berlin, seen the world. She too had been abandoned by an art student in Sicily thirty years ago and sold into taxi prostitution by the Mafia back then.

Rejection And Abandonment, parts 372 - 375

Richard Britell July, 16, 2012

372. Nani began feverishly to seek out information about America, and what life was like there for a 2CV. This was extremely difficult.  She had an Uncle and an Aunt that had emigrated to Canada, but Nani was only three at the time. There was only one source of information, she had to ask the other cars during the long  Paris nights when the parked cars talked about everything under the sun, everything except America that is.

373. Talking to the other cars was very difficult. Cars have tremendous amounts of knowledge but most often it was of the 'savant' type. Even the most expensive cars were entirely self educated, and their information, for the most part, was concocted from the overheard conversation of their owners. 

374. One BMW, know all about the stock market, was an expert in pork futures, and short selling, but would have to ask what a word like 'peanut' meant.  There was a Peugeot  who knew about  the French revolution and was a direct descendant of one the tumbrels used to transport Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. This Peugeot was a socialist even though her owner was a conservative deputy . She longed for the days of the barricades, and hated that she lived in such politically placid times.

375. Some cars did have knowledge of America but it was so mixed, confusing and contradictory it was of no use to her. Did the cars in New York City really have to have mattresses attached to their bumpers? Was life expectancy only twelve months? Some said that 2CV's were not legal in America, and that an oil change had to be done in a hermetically sealed garage to prevent pollution. But it was all just rumor compounded with speculation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chapter 9, Rejection And Abandonment, parts 368 - 371

Richard Britell July 15, 2012

368. Finally the situation was explained to her. Sarah gave a classmate a ride home after school, and in the conversation Nani found out that Sarah was moving back to America at the end of June.

369. That Sarah was leaving France actually did not upset the 2CV at first, because it never crossed her mind that she would be left behind. She was aware that Americans would sometimes abandon a dog or a cat, but she was a car, not a useless animal.

370. Nani's confidence in Sarah's devotion to her was absolute. Her owner practically knew the repair manual by heart. Just a week ago the transmission would not shift into reverse; the garage said a new transmission was needed, Sarah knew it was just the linkage that needed to be tightened. Owners like that do not abandon a car like her, they might abandon a Renault on occasion but never a 2CV.

371. No, Nani did not anticipate abandonment, but she was worried about what life was going to be like in America?  She had never heard a single good thing about the place and its huge arrogant, pushy, vain, idiotically designed, automobiles. Nani was very prejudiced against America and its cars.  A Mustang for example, what would she do if she got parked near one.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Love Story, parts 364 -367

Richard Britell July 14, 2012

364. The relationship between Sarah Meyers and the 2CV lasted exactly eighteen months, because that is how long Sarah was in France, completing the last year and a half of her time at Vassar.  At no time did she imagine that her ownership of the car would last longer than her stay in France.

365. But for Nani it was a completely different story. In her imagination she saw herself being the only vehicle Sarah would own for the rest of her life. She had planned that they would move to a little cottage in the south of France when her course work was finished.  A cottage including a garage complete with a lift.

366. Nothing spoiled this day dream of the 2CV during this time.  If there were problems in the relationship it arose from Nani's intense jealousy if Sarah should even look at another car. Tremendous mechanical problems arose if a passing comment were made in admiration of a Renault or another model of Citroen, but she was most aggravated by the fact that Sarah had occasional crushes on the  Fiat 500, and even stopped to admire a Topolino one day. 

367. But during the last month of Sarah's stay in Paris very strange and ominous situations arose that the 2CV was at a loss to figure out. Why, for example was she parked for several hours in front of a travel agency, and why, when Sarah came out, was she so distracted and preoccupied. Why did she have to go for three weeks without her oil being checked? And what were three suitcases doing in the back seat all the time?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Love Story, parts 360 - 363

Richard Britell July 13, 2012 

360. "Obviously you do not believe that a car can be in love and have sexual reactions" replied the Duck in his most condescending tone of voice. "People believe that they, and only they have an exclusive monopoly on consciousness, sensation, thought and feeling. This is the reason you are so disconnected from the universe and your life experience is so pathetically limited compared say, to the average squirrel."

361. "It never crosses your mind that a mountain knows it is a mountain, the sun knows it is the sun, a car knows it is a car, and that all of these things have rich emotional lives you can never grasp, or even imagine. This truth looks you right in the eye out of the face of any dog, touches you in the caress of any breeze, but it is all lost on you poor people who are the least feeling of all sentient objects in this universe." Thus the Duck concluded his sermon, for what else was it, if you ask me?

362. "There is no arguing with you Duck, I finally said," But tell me then, how did my 2CV's affair with the American college student end, I am rather curious to know." 

363. "Her romance ended tragically for her, and what made it even worse was the fact that Sarah was never for a moment even aware of the terrible damage she was inflicting on her beloved car, but I am getting ahead of myself."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Love Story, parts 356 - 359

Richard Britell July 12, 2012
356. "Now this business of constantly checking the oil and looking to see if the  transmission oil is topped up has a sexual aspect to it and there was no way that this sort of constant automotive petting could not have led to serious sexual responses in the 2CV, and so, at the end of a few months of this treatment Nani was a car hopelessly and passionately in love with her owner."

357. "And you have to keep in mind that this passionate involvement was taking place in Paris, a city that only exacerbates and inflames passionate feelings. There were late night drives, picnics in the countryside, cool evenings driving down the the Champs-Elysees with the canvas top rolled back."

358. "And then you must remember that Nani was in love with an American girl, a foreigner, whose odd way of speaking French, her accent and mispronunciations gave to the relationship a color, depth, and novelty you only see in movies.

 359. At this point I had to interrupt. "Look Duck", I said, "do you really expect me to believe that my 2CV, this old heap I am driving, was in love and involved in a torrid affair with an American girl in Paris two years ago? I have had to accept a lot of very strange ideas from you but this is just too much. You want me to believe my car is a lesbian that can be sexually aroused by having her oil checked! I don't believe it, I simply do not believe it."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Love Story, parts 352 - 355

Richard Britell  July 11, 2012

352. Not knowing what to do she drove down to the service station and, accosting the manager's son and asked, "Can you show me what part of my car is the transmission and can you tell me how its oil level gets checked?"

353. The mechanic pointed out the transmission to her and wiped the dirt from the filler screw. He said, "Unscrew this and put your finger in there, the oil should be just below the opening."  Sarah ignored the very suggestive leer the boy gave her as he explained this very mechanical operation to her but Nani, who was listening to all this from out by the pumps, did not.

354. The suggestive looks of the the auto mechanic produced in Nani her first experience of jealous rage, and as a result Sarah had great difficulty in getting her started later that morning. These feelings of jealousy were  new to the 2CV, and were to persist and cause problems in the future.

355. "What was going on", explained the Duck, " is that our 2CV, back just two years ago, was falling in love with her owner. Although a rare occurrence, still it is not unheard of. The 2CV was simply responding in kind to the affection her owner was showing her."

Love Story, parts 348 - 351

Richard Britell July 10, 2012

348. On the following Saturday Nani was delighted to find that Sarah returned to her garage for another attempt at her maintenance. The oil change was put off at first and instead a much simpler operation was attempted, the cleaning of the battery terminals. 

349. This also ended in instant failure because as she unscrewed the bolt holding the clamp of the battery cable, she accidentally let the wrench touch both polls of the battery. The wrench produced a huge spark and flew out of her hands onto the garage floor. This, like burning her fingers on the oil filter, was completely unanticipated, but Nani saw it coming also and now considered the situation would become hopeless.

350. But Sarah overcame her fears, completed the cleaning of the battery, and by the end of her Saturday session with her car had changed the oil and the filter according to more detailed instructions she got from the boy at the service station where she bought gasoline.

351. According to her manual the thing she had to do next was a mystery to her. She had to  check the level of oil in the transmission. There were no details given in her manual and she couldn't figure out how to go about it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Love Story, parts 344 - 347

Richard Britell July 9, 2012 

344.  At this point in the narration of the 2CV's story the Duck felt it was necessary to stop and give me a lecture about the complexity and depth of a car's emotional life. "You people will never for an instant understand that forms other than yourself have an emotional life," he began. 

345. "A person will gladly admit that any common dog has sharper sight, better hearing, and a finer sense of smell that a person has, and yet they would never consent to consider that a dog has a more complex and varied emotional life than a person has. This is a blindness caused by ego-centrism." 

346. "The fact is", continued the Duck, "any old car has a deeper and more complicated emotional life than a person has, and if you do not understand this fact it will be impossible for you to grasp what I am now going to tell you about the relationship between Nani, and Sarah Meyers. 

347. "A car's complex emotional life can never be translated completely into the English language, any more than Russian can be  rendered accurately in the German tongue, and so you must keep this in mind as I tell you what happened to Nani as a result of her involvement with Ms. Meyers."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Love Story, parts 340 - 343

Richard Britell July 8, 2012

340. One Saturday morning Ms. Myers put on some overalls, opened the bonnet of her 2CV, and attempted to remove the oil filter. Never having worked on a car in her life she made three mistakes, she did not remove the drain plug at the bottom of the engine first, secondly she tried to remove it by hand, and third, she did not wait for the engine to cool off.

341. This was not a disaster however, she removed her hands from the filter the very instant she felt its heat. She shut the bonnet, went into her apartment, and put Vaseline on her fingertips.

342. "How on earth was Sarah Meyers supposed to know that you don't unscrew an oil filter with your fingers?" interjected the Duck at this point.  "Those repair guides are very misleading, especially for a young girl. The guide said screw it in finger-tight, wasn't it natural for her to attempt to unscrew it with her fingers?"

343. The tragic thing about this little event was that Nani saw it coming. She understood that her new owner was going to do the service herself and she was moved to the depths of her transmission gears with anticipation. She had dreamed of what it would be like and now, instead of the sublime experience she was anticipating, she had injured her owner instead. She was devastated.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Love Story, parts 336 - 339

336. From that day her life was completely transformed. She had a garage to herself for the first time in her life, and the American student was completely infatuated with her. The owner, Sarah Meyers, felt that the car was as French as it was possible to be, and being a Francophile herself, loved the vehicle to distraction.

337. If Sarah met anyone, the first thing they were subjected to was a ride in the countryside in her old 2CV, and on these rides Nani heard herself described in the most glowing and adoring terms. Sarah would even pick up hitch-hikers on the road to share with them her purely American love for the car, a love not easily understood by the French, for whom it is not a curiosity. 

338. Sarah decided to do all the routine maintenance to Nani herself, and as a start she purchased the repair manual and read it from cover to cover. Sarah was not too mechanical, but she tried to picture to herself removing the transmission, and taking it apart. 

339. First of all the oil had to be changed, and after that she would learn about a tune up, and how it is done. She read the passage about changing the oil and discovered there was also an oil filter to be removed and replaced. The directions were not clear to her however, and she was a long time trying to find the filter in the engine compartment.

Chapter 8, Love Story, parts 332 - 335

Richard Britell July 6, 2012

332. Her first owner was not the the one who used to measure out her oil with a coffee spoon, but whomever it was, she did not recollect because she did not develop consciousness until she was about five, and had changed owners twice already. What she knew of her childhood came from the comments of a fortune telling gypsy.

333. She had a serious illness when she was three and was hospitalized for many months, and spent several weeks dismantled and on a lift in a Paris garage.

334. Her first twenty years were rather uneventful; a series of owners at two or three year intervals. Hers was the usual story of a Paris car; five months with a hairdresser, then two years with a high school teacher. She had rather fond memories of seven years spent in the countryside at a vineyard where she only had to go into town once a week.

335. The defining event of her life happened only two years ago when she was eighteen, and was for sale at a used car lot in the 20th Arrondissement. She was purchased by an American college student who was studying Fashion Design at the Sorbonne.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The 2CV On Strike, parts 328 - 331

Richard Britell July 5, 2012

328. I was standing there looking at this quart of oil, and thinking of its strange mute testimony of some unknown persons' love of their car when I heard the Duck saying, "What it boils down to is, you are a car abuser, no getting around it."

329. We put the old quart of oil into the engine; the oil came up to the bottom of the dipstick, and we drove off in search of the hospital. From that moment on, the old car began to insert her two cents into the conversation.

330. I could not hear what the 2cv was saying over the sound of the engine but the Duck, with his more sensitive hearing was able to. Perhaps because she had learned to talk by listening to the conversation of auto mechanics, her comments tended to be coarse and opinionated.

331. Old Buboni continued to rant on in his sick delirium and so we continued along hoping to find a sign that would lead us back to the main road. The Duck, with his ear cocked to the dashboard, made notes of what the car was saying; which turned out to be autobiographical material. Later he transcribed it for me. What follows is the Duck's account of some of the car's important history, complete with his observations. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The 2CV On Strike, parts 324 - 327

Richard Britell July 4, 2012

324. I did not know what to think. I suspected the Duck was making it all up  to entertain himself at my expense, laughing at me because he could get me to believe for a few minutes that cars could express opinions and even go on strike and issue demands that had to be met.

325. "I see you do not believe me", the Duck said, "but listen. Nani told me that the last owner kept a log of all the maintenance in the glove compartment. She used to top up the oil with a coffee spoon. The  log has a big oil stain along the binding.

326. That oil stain is from oil leaking from an nearly full quart of oil left up under the engine bonnet  last year.  We can put that oil in the crankcase and get to the hospital with Buboni.

327. Sure enough, we opened the bonnet and up against the firewall we found an old quart of oil and taped to the side of it was a rag and a coffee spoon.  On the label in ball point pen was written a series of dates and corresponding amounts, it seemed that some time ago Nani used four coffee spoon fulls of oil each month.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The 2CV On Strike, parts 320 - 323

Richard Britell July 3, 2012

320. The Duck was out for a long while talking to the car and when he got back in it was not good news. "First of all" said the Duck, "You have owned Nanette for six months now and you have yet to check the oil.

321. "She just wants to say that she has never had an oil problem, but the screws to the valve cover were not tightened completely and oil has been oozing through the gasket ever since."

322. "She is on strike and will not go another inch unless her demands are met. She knows that Buboni may die as a result, but she says, 'One 2CV engine is worth more than ten washed up useless art historians.'"

323. She wants a complete service plus she wants to be vacuumed, and the tires have to be rotated, and this is just a start.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The 2CV On Strike, parts 316 - 319

Richard Britell July 2, 2012

316. I listened to what the Duck said about the car's having intelligence and consciousness, but I could not accept it.  I started to get sarcastic about it.

317. "Look Duck", I said, "where does this car consciousness and intelligence reside, is it in the distributor, or somewhere in the starter motor?  If you take the tires off do the tires talk Italian if they are Perellis."

318. "You stupid idiot" shouted the Duck in anger, "Where is your precious intelligence, is it in your fingers, if I cut off your leg do you get more dumb, does your knee cap speak English, and can I teach algebra to your toenails? No No No,  but your spleen knows more about blood chemistry that you could teach yourself in a lifetime."

319. "And if your spleen gets mad at you it will start to 'Knock' just like the 2CV is doing. Cars have consciousness because God gives it to them, just too bad for you that you don't know about it.  Now shut up while I go out and have a little chat with this car of yours."

The 2CV On Strike, parts 312 - 315

Richard Britell July 1, 2012

3312. "Human beings are all alike", said the Duck, "when it comes to not understanding that cars have feelings and consciousness." It is so obvious it is painful. Show me an old car anywhere that  does not know to the penny the  account balance of their owners checking account relative to the cost of repairs".

313. "Now I will grant you that new cars are very dumb at first,"  the Duck went on, "their consciousness usually begins to develop about the time you miss their first scheduled maintenance."

314." These old cars, like this 2CV, having been on the road for thirty years often know several languages, and are very sensitive and even clairvoyant. They will breakdown the instant they can sense an accident coming, but do they ever get any credit for it? Never!"

315. "Unfortunately, the average thirty year old car has experienced so much abuse and neglect and outright rejection they they are often filled with bitterness and intense unrepressed anger"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The 2CV On Strike, parts 308 - 311

Richard Britell June 30, 2012

308.  As I stood there in the road with the dipstick in my hand, I became aware of a terrible moral dilemma. Did not my behavior show that I was more concerned about some old car that about Buboni who sat there dying in the front seat?

309. Any self respecting human being would never stop a car to check the oil on an emergency trip to the hospital. What sort of a person was I  anyway. I shut the hood disgusted with myself, got back in the car and put the key in the ignition.

310. "Just what in the loony toons do you think you are doing", said the Duck out of the back seat, "If this old car started knocking at us, it has its reasons, let me have a little chat with him."

311. "Look Duck" I said, "I can accept that you are smarter than I am, and you have universal consciousness, but don't start telling me that cars can reason and have consciousness because I will not believe it."