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Archive for December, 2010

GilgameshMy 10-year-old brought home a word this year the way other kids bring home the flu. It debilitated everything it touched and spread quickly from house to house. It was epic. No, I mean literally. The word was epic.

In the same way that the British dumbed down the word brilliant and Americans removed the jaw-dropping power of awesome, a new generation of definition abusers has successfully transformed a word that once represented a series of legendary adventures across time and space into a qualifier for the most mundane things in life. According to my 10-year-old, even a dish of spaghetti can be epic. I should not be surprised. The Odyssey was an epic once. Now it’s a minivan.

Maybe the endless hyperbole of Hollywood movie teasers led people to believe not so much that mediocre movies are epic, but that epic means mediocre. Or maybe it is just that epic in its brevity is easier to text to your friends than the right word. Whatever the reason, I’m not giving in. We already have some pretty good words that mean pretty good. And if something is better than pretty good, we have words for that too.

Why can’t we just bring back groovy?

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One Car, Lotta Miles
I have been telling people that our van has 300,000 miles on it for about six years. But as of Wednesday, it finally does. For the event, I woke Nick up at 6:15 a.m. and let William drive the half mile needed to flip the odometer. Nick sat in the back aiming his flashlight at the dashboard. The dashboard light itself having burned out long ago. At a quarter mile William ran his first stop sign. I would say that he had broken his first law, but he doesn’t have a learner’s permit yet, so it was actually his second offense. At the  symmetrically beautiful 300,003 we stopped, took a fuzzy photo of the odometer, and switched drivers. I can say in all sincerity that, although the van has now traveled a full 300,000 miles, it looks like it has gone much, much farther.

Two Cars, Seven Wheels

One of these wheels does not belong

On Saturday I was heading up to the corner of 1st and Wall in downtown Seattle when I noticed that the blue SUV coming toward me had only three wheels. Like a tricycle with a less mature driver.

At the intersection I saw the missing wheel with its axle still attached, aimed skyward. Meanwhile the three-wheeled SUV shoved its nose hard into pavement, hissed and shot sparks, and successfully turned right to head down toward the harbor before crashing into a curb. It is easy to turn right when you are missing your right front tire. It is hard to do much else. It was a hit and limp.

Three Four-by-Fours
Before the Wall Street crash, before the van passed 300,000 miles, I had a minor incident with our own SUV. It was raining hard and we stopped by Papa Murphy’s to pick up a pizza. Should have been easy enough.

“That’s a compact spot,” William pointed out. But he is young and doesn’t understand how these things work. After all, he doesn’t even have a learner’s permit. So I explained that we could park in a compact spot with our oversized SUV if we wanted to. We had a pizza to pick up.

And I almost had the pizza when I got a phone call from Julie. She was sitting in the car alone, watching the man who could not get into his car because there was not enough room in the parking lot for three SUVs to park in three adjacent compact spots.

When William and I came out we found a frustrated man with a pizza of his own, standing in the pouring rain and pointing at our crooked car squeezed up next to his. “You couldn’t even manage to park straight,” he said.

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