Reflections on a 1999 Nissan Altima on the Occasion of our Parting Ways

You were a sleek black beauty when I picked you up from that slightly run down garage in Brockton that sunny August morning in 2005.

Sure, you had a little mileage on you, but it was far less than what the 1994 Chevy Corsica I was driving at the time had.

And you had an intact paint job, which was more than I could say for my dented and faded Corsica.

Our relationship was troubled at first. I had driven American cars for so long that I had grown accustomed to their low center of gravity, heavy steel frames and sturdy suspension.

When I opened you up to 60 or so on the highway for the first time, you seemed to shake and shimmer a little too much. Immediately I thought that I had been ripped off, that your suspension had been shot, that you had been in an unreported accident, that I would have to take my case all the way to the Supreme Court.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed. The car was fine.

For a few years, you were a gem of a car. Your tan interior stayed pretty clean, the car itself smelled pretty good, and we even got a Sirius Satellite radio working in there for a little while.

But time and age caught up with you after a while. First there was the battery that exploded right after I lost my job at the newspaper.

Then there was that unfortunate incident in the snow where I was the only one stupid enough to try driving into work, and the only one to forget to keep riding second gear in the slippery snow once I got close to the house, and the only one to smack into a nearby Chevy.

I ended up crushing the headlight housing on your front passenger side, but our lightweight fiberglass front end did no damage to the heavier Chevy.

Then there was the jackass who grabbed and twisted your antenna into a permanently bent shape one night, for no reason other than that fucking with people’s cars has to be expected in the city.

And the time when we tried to take you up to Maine one dark Friday night, only to have the front fiberglass frame pretty much fall off the car once we got on Route 93.

A couple of zipties got us back home to Somerville, but not much further.

And finally, there was the infamous water pump incident. The pump died on the way to work, sending you into instant overheat mode. Together we just got to the garage before your engine blew.

That day, the mechanics fixed you up for a ton of money, but on our way out of the garage (one of the muggiest days of all time) the pump fell right back off again and it was another mad scramble to get back to the garage with the needle pinned on “hot as fuck”.

I then had to run through a torrential summer downpour to catch the train back home.

But even though we had our ups and downs, you were a good, solid car.

You kept me safe on the roads. You were there to help me take my dog home for the first time, to help my bring three shrieking puppies from Medford to Walpole when the shit hit the fan at my apartment.

And most of all, you hung tough during the 110-degree day when the two dogs and I drove back from the Cape last summer.

A breakdown in that kind of searing heat with two dogs in tow would have been a challenge to say the least. The words “panic-inducing” and “full on freakout” also come to mind.

But I have a new Nissan now.

A 2010 Versa with the same black exterior. It drives like you and feels like you. It’s almost like you got a facelift and a mileage reduction.

But there’s no room in my life for two cars.

The tow truck came on Friday while I was at work to pick you up and send you on your way.

The next stop for you (sadly) is most likely the scrap heap. You need new brakes and your odometer doesn’t work and changing out your directional light is harder than most surgical procedures.

You are gone, but you are not forgotten.

Shameless self indulgence, Uncategorized, Writing

Lesser Known Relatives of the Sea Cucumber


Creative Commons photo by Kate Cooper

Sure, our old friend the sea cucumber might not look like much at first blush (see above photo for evidence of its underwhelming film presence), but it has been the evolutionary jumping off point for a number of aquatic-based vegetables and fruits that you might not know about.

Here are some of the sea cucumbers lesser-known relatives:

  • Tributary Turnips
  • River Radishes
  • Pond Peppers
  • Bay Beets
  • Great Lakes Grapes
  • Estuary Eggplants
  • Lagoon Legumes
  • Channel Carrots
  • Cove Cloves
  • Moat Oats
  • Puddle Peas
  • Ocean Onions
  • Sea Beans
  • Tide Pool Thyme

If you see any of these delicious underwater delicacies, dig in. Nearly all of them are safe for human consumption, and those that aren’t will kill you so quickly that you’ll never know what hit you. Happy harvesting!

Shameless self indulgence, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

My Business Plan (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Save the Octopus)

Your Monkey knew that if he lived back at home for long enough, a solution to his financial woes and career uncertainty would present itself. No, he will not be investing in gold bonds, corn futures, real estate or shipping companies.

Instead, he will be marketing a new set of “In Case of Emergency” stickers to your less traditional pet owner and collecting enthusiast.

Let’s face it, the current pet emergency sticker (shown above) is hopelessly and some might say laughably out of touch with today’s progressive pet owner.

Not every John Q. Pet Owner  has your standard dog, cat or bird.

And thus these ho-hum stickers may may leave out some pets that are now finding their way into people’s homes and are just as worthy of being rescued.

The following are the categories your Monkey is planning to add to his new “standard” pet emergency sticker.

In Case of Emergency, Please Save My:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Rabbits
  • Birds
  • Ferrets
  • Lizards
  • Telepathic Octopus
  • African Killer Bees
  • South American Homicidal Hedgehogs
  • Electric Eels
  • Solar Power Salamanders
  • Coal-Fired Cuttlefish
  • Dodo Birds
  • Passenger Pigeons
  • Sasquatch Babies
  • Human-Ape Hybrids
  • Human-Alien-Hybrids
  • Human-Alien-Ape Tribrids
  • Gold-Hoarding Dragon
Audiobooks, Uncategorized, Work

The Best Audiobooks I Listened To This Year

Your Monkey has a looong commute to and from work every day, plus a 45 minute a day gym habit, and two dogs that need lots and lots of walking. So to make a long story short, he needs a lot of audiobooks to keep him entertained and educated while he goes about his business.

Picking out the right audiobook is a bit of risky business. You try your best to find something that will be interesting, challenging and engaging, and that will be worth your time for the 8-20 or so hours that you are going to be wrapped up with the author and the narrator.

That being said, the following books are among the best that your humble monkey listened to this year.

“The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Valliant

Your Monkey would normally not be interested in a story about the hunt for a deadly tiger (really? tigers? in this day and age?), but Valliant does an amazing job of capturing the remoteness of far eastern Russia, the deadly power of the Siberian Tiger, the desperate economic conditions of the Russians who live there, and how all three elements — land, tiger and man — interact with each other. It is a mesmerizing story and a perfect choice for the winter. You won’t be able to crunch through the snow without wondering if there’s a tiger somewhere in the shadows waiting to pounce.

“Columbine ” by Dave Cullen

A meticulously detailed account of what is perhaps the country’s most famous school shooting to date, Cullen does an excellent job of separating fact from fiction, dispelling myths, and pointing out the errors in judgement made by police officers both before and after the murders took place. We also get an uncomfortably close look into the minds of the two Columbine killers via detailed excerpts from their journals. It is a dark, sad and frustrating read, but worth it in the long run. You’ll understand what motivated the killers (it may not be what you think) and have a new empathy for the victims and their families.

“The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter” by Mark Seal

Seal does an amazing job of charting the life and lies of most famous con-man/chameleon to be exposed in recent years. Rockefeller made his name by posing as a descendent of the famously rich Rockefeller family,  but was actually a German immigrant who lied his way to the top of high society several times over. Rockefeller, who gained national attention by  kidnapping his daughter “Snooks” during a supervised visit in Boston,  presents a maddening case of a man whose seemingly sole purpose on earth is to pretend to be someone  he is not.  What makes Seal’s book so unusual is that he merely presents the facts of Rockefeller’s case to us. He does not try to psychoanalyze Rockerfeller, or explain away his actions.

“The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars” by Paul Collins

It is just before the turn of the 20th century in New York City, and the headless torso of a man neatly wrapped in oil cloth is pulled out of the East River one sultry summer day by a group of swimming boys. The discovery leads to a riveting murder investigation, a sensational court trial, and a no holds barred media circus. Collins does an excellent job of presenting the facts and testimony of the case while concurrently charting the competition between New York’s two leading tabloid newspapers to provide the most complete coverage of the case. For anyone who thinks that the media is ruthless and sensationalistic now…you have another thing coming.

“A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Social Experiment Reveals About Human Desire” by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gadda

After America Online inadvertently leaked a Titanic-sized boatload of information about how people search for information on the web (and by information we mean pornography), a group of scientists used the  data to draw some interesting conclusions about what turns men and women on. The result is a fascinating look into gender roles, human desire, and how evolution plays a role in who we look for in a mate. You will not want to miss.