Journals of an Insane Genius - October 2000

"I didn't know it was going to be our last good day together, and I certainly never imagined it would find Jen on the office floor of the Case Grande impound lot with ferrets in her pants. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jen was on her way to Flagstaff when her car died in Casa Grande. She left the car at an a.m./p.m. and caught a Greyhound to Flagstaff. When she called that afternoon to make arrangements to have the car towed, it had already been impounded. After riding another Greyhound back to Sierra Vista, she asked me to help her get her car. Knowing that the car wouldn't start, I needed to decide which of the two strategies I always use for automotive repair to employ, throwing large sums of money at it, or asking a friend for help. Since Rich Bruso knows more about cars than he does about bad movies, I figured I would try asking him first.

We called Rich at 10:30 on a Saturday morning. To our good fortune he was still asleep. I explained the situation and in a fuzzy voice he said he would grab "a couple of tools" and be right over. He arrived an hour later in a full size Chevy Blazer. Looking in the back I saw a creeper, an air compressor, a three-ton floor jack, a self-contained jumpstarting device, and enough tools to build a space shuttle. I figured we wouldn't need my toolkit, a steak knife that works on both regular and Phillips head screws, and a bowling pin that doubles as a hammer.

It's about a five hour round trip to Casa Grande, so we stop for provisions: Slim Jims, Sobe Power Aid, Camel Menthols, and Diesel fuel. By noon we hit the road. During the long drive we amuse ourselves by trying to create the most vile drink name and listing the ingredients required to make it. The winner had the words bloody, flaming, festering, and a couple of others too biological to list here. Nothing like brainstorming with other Mensans.

Around 2:00 we decide we need something more substantial to eat and make a pit stop. We pull in to the truck stop by Picacho Peak. It's one thing to joke about creating something that, despite being sick, people would still consider putting in their mouth. It's another thing to act on it. Sitting by the cash register was a product called "larvitos" available in both regular and nacho cheese. Larvitos are baby tequila worms, baked - not fried - to a satisfying crunchiness. Sometimes it's best not to listen to the advice of your friends. Like when they say, "hey that's funny, you should be a writer" or, "boy that tastes great, you could sell those". Appetites diminished, we purchase a single Oscar Mayer Lunchable to share.

We were following some rather garbled directions we received over the phone. Street signs are optional in Casa Grande and when we found the turn I couldn't figure out why they didn't just tell us to turn right when we saw the largest collection of broken glass in the known universe. For no apparent reason they have acres and acres of broken glass strewn across a field in Casa Grande. The next time you break a bottle and throw it away, you'll know where "away" is.

We arrive at the impound lot and are greeted by two of the friendliest junkyard dogs you could ever hope to meet. Jen's car has been packed in behind a half-dozen other abandoned vehicles and it's going to take the wrecker driver a half hour or so to untangle the mess. We head into the office to pay and discover that the manager keeps about a third of her eighteen pets there. Jen, an animal lover, is delighted. The manager decides her cat is having too pleasant an afternoon and releases her two ferrets. Jen is in ecstasy as she bonds with her new friends and stretches out on the floor to cuddle. Natural explorers, the ferrets are soon spelunking in her pants legs.

Eventually the car is released and we discover the reason it was immediately impounded was because someone had smashed the window out with a rock and stolen the stereo. The interior of the car resembled the field we drove past on the way here. Glass was in the front seat, the back seat, the roof liner, the back dash, everywhere. Rich suspects that the alternator may be the trouble, but when we turn the key the car starts. We get directions to the nearest Auto Zone. I risk being sliced to ribbons by driving the car while Rich and Jen follow in the Blazer. The car runs perfectly until I have to pull out onto the main highway, where it sputters and dies in the middle of the intersection. I coast to a stop and Rich jumps out and pushes me into a parking lot. He grabs his portable battery, jump starts the car, and tells me to turn off the air conditioning (oops). The car dies in two more intersections. Tired of hopping in and out of the Blazer, Rich decides to just stay with the car.

We limp into the Auto Zone followed closely by Jen, who has decided she loves the power of the massive Blazer and is singing, "Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit!" to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" at the top of her lungs. Turns out I get to use both of my automotive repair skills as I spring for a new alternator. Rich hands me the old one and tells me to make sure the new one is just like it. Oh come on! I'm the guy that always panics when instructed to hand someone a three-eighths crescent wrench because I always get it wrong ("That's metric! Don't you know anything?" - I hate those smug bastards). Rich decides he should come in to double check, good idea.

Next stop is a car wash where we spend a half hour vacuuming up all of the broken glass (I assume it was all sucked over to that field - Why so much broken glass? Why? Obviously this is dwelling on my mind). Dehydrated and exhausted, we agree to stop in Tucson to get some food during the drive back.

After arriving in Tucson we pick up Jen's friend Melissa and go to Old Chicago Pizza. They're having some kind of promotion where if you drink "sixteen of the worst beers ever brewed" you get invited to a special party. What is it about today and disgusting drinks? Never one to turn down a dare, I'm about to go for it when the waitress informs me that their policy is to only serve six drinks during one visit. Amateurs. We order a couple of pitchers of lemonade, two pizzas, and two appetizers. The appetizers never show up, but the pizza is great. The relief after a long, hard day sets in and we're all acting kind of giddy.

The waitress, realizing her mistake, returns to apologize and despite our efforts to assure her that we couldn't have eaten the appetizers anyway she insists on paying a penance. "You guys can pick any dessert you want and have it on me." There is an almost audible thud as four minds hit the gutter at once. I can see Rich trying not to laugh and Jen and Melissa seem intrigued by the idea. Unsure why we seem so amused the waitress says, "I'll give you guys a chance to think about it and then come back". Sometimes it's best not to think too much, but since we have nothing better to do I read the descriptions of the desserts out loud while we imagine having them "on her". We all agree that the hot fudge brownie sundae sounds the most wicked, "We start with a rich, warm, fudge brownie and top it with two scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream. Then we drizzle caramel and hot fudge all over it. Fluffy mounds of whipped cream are piled on, and the entire confection is sprinkled with pecans and topped with a maraschino cherry". Since we really didn't want to take advantage of her, well of her checkbook anyway, we decide to order one dessert and split it.

Stopping at the Texaco to fill up for the trip back to Sierra Vista, Jen climbed into the car with me. After having so much fun on what should have been a bad day we had the first of what would become many arguments during what should have been a pleasant, moonlit cruise home. It stinks when your relationship skills are worse than your automotive repair skills.

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