Thursday, August 24, 2006


The HMS Indefatigable was a noble vehicle for many things. It swallowed five mountain-bikes of varying sizes without even a hint of indigestion (although come to think of it, the kids sometimes came out with tire marks on their faces...). It navigated entire states with a self-deprecating dignity that was beautiful to behold. It even gave us the unbelievable joy of pulling up at a rather posh winery and piling out to demand a tour at the same time that a BMW-load of Texans arrived elegantly hatted and sporting entirely improbable cowboy boots (yup, you can sneer at our travel-stained jeans, but you still bought two bottles of hyper-sweet sissy dessert wine from the gift shop. I saw you).

However... nimble? Not so much. Economical... hardly. Something anyone but Kirk was even remotely willing to get behind the wheel of? Well... no.

Which is why we were in the back woods of Virginia (no, no banjo music) checking out a car. We had already done the preliminaries which consisted of me giving Kirk the 'oh my word this is such a COOL vintage car! We will buy it at once' meaningful stare while he returned with an 'are you out of your mind? We have to check for [car buying stuff] and I haven't even begun the man connection thing with this guy so he'll drop $500 off the price' blank gaze. Now we were in the kitchen, slightly disturbingly lined with thousands of rosy-cheeked Hummel figurines. Turns out the wife is German which allowed me to try and chat her up (useless) and Kirk to slide in the we-were-in-Germany-military-connection thing. That goes quite well, and inevitably the question is asked - so, where you coming from then?

And that's when it happened. 'Alaska, eh?' The guy leans forward and drops his voice to a confidential whisper. 'Don't have many... coloreds up there, do they?'

I couldn't help thinking about how just a day or two before we had gone to a local air museum where we saw a film and then heard a lecture by a pilot from the Tuskegee Airmen. Fantastic talk; amazing guy. Afterwards he signed a mug Child 1 had won as a door prize, and kindly answered our questions and chatted with us for a while.

This guy was a World War II vet too. He had met his wife in Germany and brought her over. He had missed D-day, but was there for the push deeper into France.

We didn't say any of the number of things that occurred. It wouldn't have changed his mind; wouldn't have shone a light in his dark, cramped world.

We just thought about it. Yes sir, actually there were any number of people from all sorts of backgrounds, because that's what the military is like, thank god. What I do know though is that at least in our experience there weren't many ignorant, cave-dwelling bigots around.

And, no I don't think we'll buy that car.


Anonymous said...

Are there any photos of the HMS Indefatigable or would that ruin the mise en scène?

For Kirk said...

Oh my word! Good question. There is a very powerful mental picture... so powerful that I'm convinced there must somewhere exist an actual photograph...

And as I've recently been reminded of the drawers and drawers of carefully filed away photos I'd forgotten about, it's just possible.

However, in case, let me sketch a tiny word picture:

Slug grey, conversion van with ladder on back pulls up to parking lot at York River State park. From it emerges two adults (padded shorts and violently colored biking shirts), three smallish children (smeared a bit with chain grease and having to unfold a little since they were wedged around:) five bicycles scaled appropriately. This is accomplished with frightening precision, and amazingly quickly all five bikes zip off up the trail

leaving... slug grey conversion van pinging slightly as various metal bits change shape with the heat... and smelling just a little of children, chain-lube, and fish.

And may I say you just upped the style level of the whole thing by using 'mise en scène' appropriately AND with accent? Wow.

Lori said...

I've seen all kinds of bigots, the simple kind you mentioned, and some evil ones who hide behind a caring smile. The kind that bug me the most are the ones (all colors)who beamingly insist that they love everyone, but then make cracks about successful people of color "acting white", or suchlike. I heard the (white) host on a "progressive" (!!!) talk show the other day say that Condi Rice and Colin Powell should just admit that they are really white. Hmmm....Does it bother the caring host to see a beautiful African-American woman playing Mozart and helping run US affairs? It seems Ms. Rice and Mr. Powell are just a little bit uppity for her. Seriously, that can be the only explanation for this type of thinking. Be true to your People, Condi! Back onto the plantation!