Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Icon keeps it's appeal...

(Many VWs have worn the "Herbie" Number 53-this, however, is the second car built for the original movie. Strong provenance. Pap's was this color, sans stripes, and was a '64, not a '63 like old Herb here.)

The Volkswagen Beetle. A veritable icon. While little can be said of the People's Car that has not already been said elsewhere, I'd like to at least throw my hat into the ring with some Beetle anecdotes of my own.

As a kid, things appeal to you that may never appeal again-but if you are lucky, they will, and their re-emergence will make you smile, keep you young and maybe save your very soul from ruin. One of those things for me is the many incarnations of the Beetle.

When I was a kid, my Pap had a '64 Beetle-he had seen and driven them during WWII in Germany and had been impressed with the simplicity and indestructability of the little car. When they came stateside, he eventually bought one. Though he would own many other cars in his lifetime, I am convinced the white Beetle was his favorite. I know for sure it was mine at the time.

See, to a kid, the sound of a Beetle is hard to distinguish from a race car. It's swoopy, bulbous features are the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons. I was fascinated with how the engine looked so much like our lawn mower. I loved the long running boards covered with black rubber. The spartan interior is nothing negative to a kid-it's all cool textures and smells and someone small has no trouble fitting in the rear seat.

(How do you make a rolling cartoon more appealing to a kid? Metal flake and offroad lights help. Especially if the metal flake is lime green, and the offroad lights are KCs. Looks like a rare right-drive Manx. My neighbor growing up had a similar design in brown metal flake, with lots of diamond-pleated naugahyde inside.)

One night, Pap came and picked us up somewhere-I have no idea where, it's lost to the memory of childhood. What I do remember was it was snowing like crazy. I distinctly remember huge flakes of snow committing suicide on the Beetle's flat windshield. I remember the steady buzz of the motor, and the sure-footedness of a goat as the Bug purred through the dark...we got home with ease.

(Ahhhh, kit cars-like a rubber nose and glasses with fuzzy mustache for a Beetle-anyone can be someone else for less than eight grand)

Pap's brother, my Great Uncle John, had also been introduced to the Beetle in the Great War. Uncle John had a gold Super Beetle he drove into the 80s-It had a crank out sunroof and black Wolfsburg Interior-I was mortified to learn he had DRIVEN it to the junkyard without asking anyone if they were interested in it. The spare held up the driver's seat, but I would not have cared-free is free, then and now.

Ultimately, I would own a VW bus-if only for a short time. My other uncle had owned one and taken it all over the country once-I guess I associated it with freedom. My friend G had a Bus camper that had a rare "turtle top" conversion. He was literally selling it to protect it from a flood-a series of storms in our area in the early 2000s left his house at the time submerged. I took the van, nicknamed Werner, for $600 at the time-a steal, but sadly, like many projects, it never panned out and I sold it to a guy who loved it far more than I did for a few bucks more. Hey, I had to make a profit.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Espresso VS Espresso

I like to consider myself a bit of a trendsetter-I may be fooling myself, but more than one instance has proven it to be the case. In high school, I was the first guy in my class to discover The Cure. I enjoyed brewing my own beer, fine cigars, Netflix, and home theater with an actual movie screen long before anyone I knew. It's probably a case of foolish pride, but so what-I was first.

About 15 years ago I was first in my group to discover the gourmet coffees of the West Coast and their worldwide origins. I learned the difference between Cappucino, Espresso (I still cringe when someone adds an "X" in the pronunciation) and the Latte'. I relished my first taste of real Jamaican Blue Mountain and eagerly awaited the arrival of our first Starbucks.

At a yard sale at the time, I purchased the black Krups Espresso Maker you see on the right-at the time they were going for around 50 bucks so I considered it a steal for the five bucks I paid. I used it quite a bit, and transported it with me from apartment to apartment and made many a foofoo coffee drink to impress the ladies. Once, I opened it up to clean it before the pressure had been released, sending fine, powdered espresso all over my kitchen, leaving me with white raccoon eyes where my glasses had protected them from the blast.

We did not get our Starbucks til last year-although I go, the negative stigma of their globalization has made them passe' by most folks' standards. That, and the relatively uncultured nature of our populace cannot understand paying three dollars for "burnt" coffee (what they mistakenly call dark roasted blends). Recent budgetary concerns have led me back home to work on the pricy custom drinks I now find myself hooked on. I pulled out my trusty old Krups, only to find the all-crucial steam cap, that blocks water flow from the heating chamber, was missing. Fifteen years ago I'd have panicked, but the glory that is Internet led me to a supplier of dinky little hard to find coffee maker parts. For $7.65 I was back in business, still far less than the cost of a new machine. I was thrilled!

Within a week I had already misplaced the little bastard. I looked everywhere, and had written it off to my house guest, Karen (She, the Trader of Lucinda and Bringer of Donnie), helping out by emptying my dishwasher and perhaps putting it away somewhere less likely. When she said she had not seen it I began to get a little pissed.

Fortuitously, I discovered the white Krups unit you see on the left at the flea market in Saylorsburg. Complete with all the pieces and a MANUAL (never had it the first time!), it was only FIVE BUCKS! Again! I checked for the disk and sure enough it was there. I took the whole mess home and got ready to make more espresso. As I set them next to each other, I could not help but think of the old Mad Magazine "Spy VS Spy" series. I also noticed my original unit needed a cleaning, so I got to it, as I turned it over I noticed the steam cap stuck to the underside of the spout. Ah well, now I got a complete set of spare parts, albeit in white.