The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for March, 2012

On Datsuns, Egg Nog, and happiness dependencies.

Once, years ago, my dad made a statement that really took me aback. He was telling me about his Harley, and a particular ride along the coast that he enjoyed nearly daily, and told me how he found happiness in that ride. Well, being the young, audacious, and spiritually superior man that I was, and not having a shiny Harley myself, but an old beat up BMW, I saw a challenge to be made there. It saddened me a little bit that he should be stuck in a place where happiness was to be found on an expensive piece of machinery.

So I challenged him. I said, “But, could you drive that particular drive in a 1973 orange Datsun B210 with Automatic transmission, and still be happy?”

I might as well have squirted 20,000-mile old axle grease into his breakfast bowl. Either the juice from a thousand lemons had reached into his psyche somehow, or… there was not going to be any happiness found in a 1973 orange Datsun B210 anywhere, any way, any how.

Now, you must understand, a 1973 Orange Datsun B210 with Automatic Transmission is much more than a machine. It is an evil, swirling cosmos of fast-food refuse infused indelibly into the smell of cheap plastic upholstery, mold, grease (in addition to the burger grease on the steering wheel) and Unnamed Evils worked into the carpet, wrapped into possibly the most inept application of transportational machinery ever contrived, wrapped in the most gaudy, hideously offensive, in-your-face look-at-me-I’m-a-poverty-stricken-idiot-who-not-only-can’t-but-wouldn’t-if-I-could-afford-a-more-decent-conveyance acts of aggressive stupidity ever foisted upon humankind. Yes, it’s that bad.

And that’s coming from a guy who owns three old VW’s, all of which have, somewhere on them, holes connecting the cockpit to the outside formed by rust.

And in my mind, I was at once sad, and smug in the knowledge that I had a Deeper Peace, that I could find happiness in an orange Datsun B210 if I had to.

A couple months ago, however, as has happened far too often over the span of years, my illusions of philosophical superiority over my father were shattered. And it started at the refrigerator.

There, in the dark confines of the fridge, there abode a carton of Egg Nog, waiting to contribute to the sumptuous satisfaction of Morning Coffee. Egg Nog Coffee is a seasonal delicacy around here, and its season is welcomed with rejoicing. It is a celebration of home and family, the comforts of settling in from a raucous, wild, hilarity-filled summer to the quiet comforts of inside voices. It is the celebration of impending visitation from the children, and grandchildren, and the chaos of family coming together cooking, eating, making merry with one another in a way only possible when a group that big is compressed into the confines of a winter-storm-sheltered home. Egg Nog Coffee brings its own aroma, but somehow also conjures the baking of pastries, the long-simmering savory-ness of large birds cooking in the oven, of cinnamon rolls baked late at night by the visiting sons and daughters each vying to prove they have the Best Recipes. Egg Nog Coffee, wherever you drink it, it takes you to your front window, where you look out the window early in the morning, at the evidence of cold – frost-patterned windows, icicles, gloomy days of coastal rain, with the warmth of the fireplace at your back, radiating inward through something woolen. Egg Nog Coffee, on any cold, miserable, lonely, semi-conscious morning, is Magic.

And on this morning, having poured the coffee, I reached into the darkened cavern that lights up at my approach, but its lamp did not shine on the Egg Nog. Because the Egg Nog was not there.

It would have been one thing to simply be out of Egg Nog, to be denied the joy for one day. But there, one shelf down, was the 1973-orange-Datsun-B210-with-automatic-transmission of creamers. I was staring at my own private horror, and nothing I could do was going to avert the spiritual train-wreck about to happen.

I suddenly, with horrification washing over me, found myself standing alone, in the kitchen, with a bottle of Vanilla Caramel non-dairy in my hand.

And all I could think of was a Datsun, with Automatic Transmission, with rust-highlighted colors.

It had been a long time since I have sported a wan smile. I don’t know how well I did at it, as there was no one but the dog to judge, and he just looked at me with lips that have virtually no muscle control, and said, “Hey.” That’s all he ever says. I then tried a sheepish grin, and since it had dual application in realizing the folly of my philosophy, and the folly of expecting a dog to judge me by appearance, I think I probably did well at that.

As I poured the vile substance into my equally vile cheap coffee, I realized that I, like most of us probably, am made up of a lot of illusions, and that quite frankly, illusions aren’t bad things in and of themselves. But if we cling too tightly to them, that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. Vanilla Caramel creamer is vile, so…why did I even have it in the fridge? Well, I didn’t, it was someone else’s choice. But why am I writing this essay with coffee flavored with vile substance in my cup at my side? I do it because writing in the winter, without coffee no matter how vile steaming at my side, would seem wrong somehow in this cold autumn season.

I don’t know if it was the Evil of the coffee concoction or what, but pretty soon I was thinking in spiritual terms. The funny thing about the things God has told us to do – they don’t just pertain to how to “behave”. They aren’t things that, if we could hide our other deeds, would really matter if we only did them in His presence. They seem, often, to be principles that work best when employed throughout our daily life. I wonder if my dad hasn’t discovered in his own way an application for the concept “Ye shall have no other gods before me”. Perhaps what God wanted us to learn was not to accept miserable engineering, or cheap imitation substitutes. Perhaps He wanted us to hold out for the best, and in doing so not to encumber ourselves with those things that only satisfy our illusions, and allow us to only dream about the reality that lies behind them. Egg Nog coffee? It has nothing to do with frosted windows, or woolen things. Those pleasures, if I want to experience them, are just a closet door and front door away from me, should I need them. Egg Nog is a reminder of those times, something that keeps me close to them. When it becomes a substitute, then I have a problem. And when I’m prepared to ingest Vanilla Caramel as a substitute to the substitute, then I have a dependency problem.

I wonder if my dad will be able to fully appreciate my sheepish grin over the phone? Maybe I should ride the Harley up to see him this afternoon.