Writing

Yard Car

by James Thiele

I was walking through my neighborhood on a fine spring day and what I saw through a gap in some bushes made me stop in my tracks. Sitting in the yard was the unmistakable boxy shape of a classic Land Rover, star of many National Geographic TV specials from my youth. But instead of trekking through the Sahara or African jungle it was now parked on the grass in a residential neighborhood of Seattle. It was still covered in colored leaves from the previous fall. It had become something else I remembered from my younger days — a yard car.

As a teenager growing up in a farming region of Indiana, it seemed that every house in the countryside had a car sitting on blocks in the front yard. Not to pick on Indiana though — people from rural areas all across America talk about this. “Yard car” is a generic term for any non-working vehicle sitting in the yard. This includes pickup trucks, tractors, RVs and other more unusual specimens. Once in Washington state I saw a lifeboat from a World War 2 cargo ship in someone’s yard. It was pretty big and rather far from the ocean so it wasn’t there by accident.

No car starts out wanting to be yard car. Every car comes out of the factory shiny and new with a possibly bright future ahead of it. But one day the future yard car won’t start. If another working vehicle is available this one gets left home. Assuming it can’t be fixed quickly and affordably it will be pushed off of the driveway and onto the yard. For awhile the owners will glance at it and mutter “I really ought to get around to fixing that.” But as time passes it inevitably starts getting stripped for parts. Somebody needs a new battery or radio or whatever and the one in the car in the yard will fit. Eventually the tires get removed the car goes up on blocks.

The Land Rover was not the only yard car in my neighborhood. A Ford Mustang from the 1960s was surrounded by weeds which had grown to half the height of the tires. The Mustang’s body looked good and made me wonder why it was sitting in the overgrown grass.

Both the Land Rover and Mustang were out of their respective yards before I moved out of the neighborhood. I’m sure the Mustang sooner or later will make it into the hands of a car enthusiast who will buff it up and show it off on weekends. The Land Rover probably won’t make it back to the Sahara (if it was ever there) but may regain some self esteem four wheeling through the Pacific Northwest backcountry.

But the true yard cars, sitting on blocks in rural front yards, aren’t going anywhere soon. Maybe someday it will get sold for parts or the owner may simply get tired of looking at it and pay to have it hauled away.


I got the idea for this in a writing class at Sound Mental Health (Hi LT).  I wrote it in a Path With Artwriting class (Hi Scott) and recited it at a PWA Showcase (Hi Nikki). It was later published in a small local literary journal.

In The News

Art and September 11th

Artists, critics, and architects are discussing how culture responded and continues to respond to 9/11.

ARTnews has a story of how an immigrant from Korea uses intricate abstract works as a response. There is a write-up in the Village Voice on how the Tribute in Light memorial came to be. The architect of the transportation hub at Ground Zero tells Architectural Digest about how he conceived the design and how the city has changed. A piece in The New York Times looks at how art and artists struggle to contend with the horrors of that day. And, finally, a writer with the Art Newspaper spoke with artists about their memories of the event and how they responded.

“I wouldn’t say that the attacks had a big effect on my thinking so much as the amorphous and ambiguous war on terror and the authorization of military force giving the president unlimited power to wage war.”

Opportunities

Hemingway and the Art of Dialogue

FREE VIA HUGO HOUSE

Hugo House logo

Hemingway and the Art of Dialogue

Along with his awards and persona, Hemingway is also famous for his literary style, particularly his approach to dialogue. Complementing the PBS Hemingway documentary by Ken Burns and the corresponding KCTS 9 virtual event Hemingway: Misogynistic or Misunderstood? this course will examine the characteristics of Hemingway’s dialogue in stories like “Hills Like White Elephants” and beyond. In addition, we’ll explore a few techniques and methodologies for strengthening the dialogue in our own works as well.

Short Story

The Muffin Lady

A childhood story from
Lynette Jenjen Douglass

THE MUFFIN LADY

The years between four and seven were some of my favorite years of growing up!

We lived in a neighborhood of middle-aged and elderly people. I had another pair of grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Hoppie, and there was another aunt, my favorite person in all the world, Aunt Lizzie!

I really liked Lizzie because she not only made the most delicious muffins, and she had a black and white cat named Buster. She also let me help her do things, like make muffins and work in her backyard.

There was one day that I spent with her that is never to forget. Summer had just begun and all the flowers were beginning to bloom. There were daffodils. purple crocuses and tulips, alongside a bunch of weeds. This was the day I learned what weeds looked like and why my dad pulled them up and threw them in the garbage! These were ugly looking and from that day on, I was more than eager to help in Lizzie’s as well as our home garden!

Most importantly, I discovered the joy of being needed and able to actually do something constructive. I felt really important that day and proud to be able to do something that needed to be done!

After we pulled most of the weeds in Lizzie’s backyard, she rewarded me with a plate of her yummiest muffins, applesauce and pecans. They tasted so good with a glass of cold milk and it was definitely time for a nap!

I lay on her soft couch and she put a blanket over me! Her soft and perry black cat crawled beside me and I will forever treasure the fresh scent of green grass, the wonderful smell of fresh flowers, the taste of Lizzie’s applesauce muffins, and the warmth and purring of a loving black cat!

Music

Some music for peeps

MUSIC+WRITING
I love this Simon and Garfunkel song. Music is often inspiring to me. The score to Alfred Hitchcock‘s film North by Northwest helped me write what was supposed to be a short story for a college writing class. It ended up on the path to being a novel. The composer, Bernard Herrmann, was a pioneering genius with quirky, eccentric musical tastes, much like the fantastic Ennio Morricone. That novel is one of my unfinished projects, which I should resurrect and complete. Wish me luck.

Poetry

Ode to My Mom

Ode to My Mom
Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020
By Holly Jacobson

You were not a Kool-Aid mom.
No grape jelly. No white bread.
Ugly peanut butter, ugly brown apple butter.
I was a lunch room outcast.
And now I know.
You were right.

Peaches.
Hanging like a sunset, a mosquito aquarium
Heavy orchard air.
And those bushels. We filled them heavy,
sneaking bites.
Sweet juice running down my chin, spilling on my flower printed dress.
Better than that was waiting at home.
Taking turns on the hand cranked ice cream maker.
I was always given the first few cranks.
The burden heavier with each turn.
Then “the men” took over.

And at the end, I could lick the paddle.
Summer days at the farm.
Where the daily anxiety of my eyes melted into pure joy.
The ritual of it all.

All my happiest childhood memories are food memories.
That was always our time together.
The drive in for rootbeer floats.
There is no substitute for a frosted mug.
You, barely out of high school.
Should have been recently groomed at the Sorority like your parents planned.
But no, you were with me, my dimpled hand holding the baby frosted mug.
Our time tasted sweet.

CHERRY LIMEADE!!!!
Let’s not go back to school.
This was a trip to the drugstore.
Grilled cheese and a cherry limeade for me.
You – a patty melt and a coke.
Oh how I love a counter lunch.
With a box of Russel Stover Turtles to go.
Just you and me.
Happy with our secret.

I think Doctor Sam was downtown.
Every check-up seemed to end at Kaiser’s ice cream parlor.
It was a true parlor.
Tile floors.
Tinned ceilings, tall as trees.

A few fans at the top whirling rhythm.
And a requisite screen door that creaked, jingled, and slammed.
Every time, you ordered pistachio.
Seemed exotic for Oklahoma City in the late 1960s
I must have ordered peach.
Always afraid to stray from the glory of summer.
Always afraid.