Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So long, Chief

So GM's planning to dump Pontiac from its family of brands as part of its "restructuring" plan. Sort of sad. Perhaps it's a function of age, but Pontiac seems, to me, interwoven with the fabric of American culture-like Leave It To Beaver and I Love Lucy. I guess, though, in this multi-cultural, shrunken globe, MP-3 era, black and white TV shows and Detroit iron are both irrelevant, sadly, like many other familiar American icons. Pontiac gave us the Star Chief, the Catalina, and the Tempest-one of the first of the "compacts". They built Safari wagons, Bonnevilles, and the first "muscle car" the GTO. That particular car, immortalized by Ronny and the Daytonas' hit song "Little GTO", brought to market in 1964, was conceived by a team that included one John Z. DeLorean who would become Pontiac's general manager that same year. (before scoring the ultimate GM position, then, of head of the Chevrolet division
where his rising star would be tarnished by his advocacy of the Vega-possibly the shoddiest, most unreliable car ever produced. His fame would turn to infamy with the financial slight-of hand that defrauded investors in his DeLorean Motor Company and his later "entrapment" in a federal drug trafficking charge.) Pontiac also gave us the Firebird, and it's "Cars-Gone-Wild" sister, the Trans Am, and the affordable, sporty, Fiero. (What will the freshly face-relifted Burt Reynolds drive if Hollywood does another "Smokey and The Bandit" movie? A Prius?) Of course, they are also responsible for, arguably, the ugliest vehicle ever-the Aztec. Of late, however, their lineup has been about as sexy as a row of beige four drawer filing cabinets. They lost their mojo somewhere along the way, and apparently the current brass at GM thinks it can't be found. I understand ditching Hummer-obnoxious, faddish, behemoths that celebrate excess and extravagance. I don't understand the decision to cut bait with Saturn. Their quality rep has been steadily rising, and it seems to me the GM brand least tainted by the I-hate-American-cars-because-they're- unreliable stigma. Probably, successful models currently badged as Saturns will ultimately become Buicks, or Chevrolets-but not Pontiacs. Like with the demise of Oldsmobile a few years ago, there's a group of people, me included, who hate to see it go. We, I suppose, unrealistically but nostalgically focus on their glory days, not their dismal current state. But I also miss black, 20 pound, rotary dial phones with a curly wire attaching the receiver; the romantic hiss and pop and sizzle of a phonograph needle dragging through a groove to play music; leaky British motorcycles that would shed parts from vibration as you rode them; those days when you could say "repairman", or "garbageman", or "fireman" instead of "...person" without offending someone; and when Miss Texas would have been cheered for advocating "opposite sex" only marriage. Like the LeMans, those days are history!

Monday, April 27, 2009

baby girl

This one is tough to write. Last Saturday evening, the 18th, our dog Maddie got hit by a car and was killed. Now, a little over a week out, I can think rationally about this loss, and sort out the thoughts and intense emotions. Firstly, she was a great dog. She was big enough to be an outdoorsy, running, romping, chasing, fetching wild wolf of a dog. She loved the woods, and swimming, and protecting us from squirrels and groundhogs and meter readers. She had a fiercesome sounding bark, especially from the safety of the backseat car window when we passed other dogs, or horses, or statues of deer. When her coat was long, she looked liked a timberwolf, her hair and tail blowing behind her as she chased a squirrel through the trees at Rocky Ridge (her favorite place on Earth). When her hair was short-her summer doo-she looked like a baby goat. Yet for all her wolven ways, she was a shy, spoiled, needy baby who demanded constant touching and attention, and generally received it. She had a good vocabulary, listened fairly well, but would argue if she didn't want to do what we demanded. The hardest part of the last week, has been the many, many times I expect Maddie to be there, and she is not. When I came home in the evenings, she would start to bark as soon as my car door closed. When I opened the house door she would burst out to greet me, so excited she couldn't contain it. She would whimper, and squeal, and wriggle in enthusiasm, overjoyed that I was scratching her belly, or rubbing her head, or patting her rump and telling her over and over, "your such a good baby, your my baby girl, such a good dog." She was with us, near us, all the time. When I sat in my living room chair, she positioned herself so my right arm would reach her head or rump. If I failed to touch her, or stopped touching her she would use her nose to move my arm where she wanted it to be. If we laid in bed reading she was between us, or on the floor nearby. She went downstairs with me in the mornings when it was time to start the coffee and make breakfast. Now, I expect to see her laying on the rug at the kitchen door, waiting for some toast crust, or uneaten eggs. But she's not there. So many times, so many places, there is a conspicuous silence, and absence. I guess in time that goes away. Maybe it never does. But she was so much a part of our family it's impossible to not, at this point, expect her to be there, and miss her deeply. Secondly, there are some truths that surface in coming to terms with the lost of so close a friend. For instance, the eternal pursuit of meaning and significance in one's life can be achieved by just loving, and being loved. As I work through a book that examines Christ's sermon on the mount and the forgiving love He demands of those who would be His followers, that attitude seems so difficult to achieve. But in the simple mind of a dog, loving us unconditionally was all she knew! She made no judgement at all whether we were fat or thin, attractive or repulsive, wealthy or homeless, employed in a prestigious job or menial labor, stylishly groomed and dressed or filthy and smelly. She loved us simply because we loved her. The cynics, of course, say a dog doesn't love, that it's just some survival instinct. But those cynics are wrong. Our dog's love was real, and pure. There is no doubt about that. Another truth is the very fragile, temporary nature of our ordered lives, and the silliness, no the tragedy, of not cherishing and savoring the time we have with those we love. In our superior human minds, we have learned to build grudges and estrangement, to file away "slights" and keep score, to punish people with disdain and contempt. But in the blink of an eye, the score keeping ends, and the opportunity for healing passes. So, the lesson? The summary? Love your dog, hug your kids, kiss your wife, forgive your neighbors, savor your days, spend them like they're your last. Love and be loved.