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All this useless beauty

Over the past year, people in a house I drive by each day have been selling cars from their side yard. The most recent was an ’80s-era Chevrolet Monte Carlo in a color resembling electric lime slices. “Mean Green Machine” shouted a decal in green letters along the top of the windshield.

This house is a typical out-on-the-country-roads house in this poor corner of New York state. It is sided with rolled asphalt the color of pine needles. A dusty driveway leads down to the road. Grass grows thigh-high on the steep roadside bank. Across the road is a dirt lot where the people who live in the house chop tree carcasses into piles of firewood the size of two-car garages so they can sell it.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a blood-red car parked where the Mean Green Machine had been sitting. First, I noticed how the car looked like it was moving 100 mph just sitting there. With its low profile, it looked as if it could slice through the air with barely a wisp. The second thing I noticed were black letters stretching between the wheel wells. The letters said “errari.”


The car’s other side included the missing F. I am more than a bit of a motorhead, so Ferraris are objects of desire. I want no other car more. But a longer look revealed why the car was sitting in a dusty driveway on a country road. Most obvious were the black letters along each side. Ferraris don’t need to be labeled. People who know, know. For anyone else, it doesn’t matter.

Previous owners also had tried to make the car sexier—attempts that were as effective as the landing of the Hindenburg. The worst attempt was an after-market aerodynamic wing mounted across the tail, just above the bodyline. Putting a wing on a Ferrari is like using oil paints to touch up an orchid.

I have been tempted to stop and walk around the car because I have seen just two other Ferraris—one in Chicago, the other at a resort town about 45 minutes from my house, where wealthy vacationers build second homes that cost a half-million dollars and up. I’ve never been closer to the cars for more than the second it takes to pass by in traffic.

I have not stopped, though. During a rainy spring week, the Ferrari sat with a window open. In addition, the car’s glorious red is faded, as if the car had been baking in the sun since the odometer of years rolled over to 2000. And if I were to walk around to the back end of the car and see that wing bolted on, I’d probably be sick to my stomach.

For the briefest of moments, allure tempted me to buy the Ferrari to restore it, but practicality threw allure off the road and ran over it and then backed over the body to be sure it was dead. Restoration would easily run into six figures, and I’m not talking about numbers that begin with one or two or maybe even three. Even after restoration, the car would require yearly maintenance running into the five figures. It’s not enough to be able to afford buying a Ferrari; you also have to be able to afford to take care of it.

Elvis Costello once sang about “all this useless beauty,” a phrase that can apply to supercars, supermodels, superhouses in the Hollywood Hills, million-dollar second homes, private jets, and travel to the destinations of dreams. I see supermodels and Ferrari drivers and realize that although they breathe the same air as I do, they may as well inhabit a different planet. I wonder what that world is like.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
anita_margarita
May. 10th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
A few years ago, for reasons too complicated to go into right now, I was seriously considering selling my aging and high-upkeep house and property and buying another home. The one I utterly, completely fell in love with was a 150-year old two-story house. Although it had recently been improved (new foundation, new carpeting, new plumbing & wiring), the kitchen was the size of a bathtub with no storage. The floor slanted in multiple directions. It was 300 feet from a main highway.... But it was BEAUTIFUL.

Although it was good for me personally that I did NOT buy it and am still in the same house as before... every time I drive by and see that house, I think, "It coulda been me."
patrick_vecchio
May. 10th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
But if you hadn't opened the door and stepped in, and if someone else had bought the house, you'd always lament your "lost opportunity" to buy it.

A kitchen the size of a bathtub, huh? I'm guessing it didn't have an island or a six-burner range.
sahlah
May. 11th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
allure tempted me to buy the Ferrari to restore it, but practicality threw allure off the road and ran over it and then backed over the body to be sure it was dead

What a gorgeous line...
patrick_vecchio
May. 11th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! Just noodlin'.
nodressrehersal
May. 11th, 2012 12:54 pm (UTC)
I agree with sahlah, I fell head over heels in love with that same line.

Posts like this remind me just how much I miss your writing when you stay away. Thanks, felixwas, I needed this.
patrick_vecchio
May. 11th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind words from one of *my* favorite writers. Maybe someday (soon, I hope) you'll have time to sit down often and turn *your* thoughts into words.
nodressrehersal
May. 12th, 2012 12:38 am (UTC)
It's all right there in my head - maybe I SHOULD think with my fingers, because my brain sure ain't talkin' to the keyboard.
inkling7
May. 13th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
Ditto to sahlah and nodressrehearsal. I reread that line a few times because I just loved it that much.
patrick_vecchio
May. 13th, 2012 02:10 am (UTC)
All I did was take what I want to do to a few people and change the nouns.
inkling7
May. 13th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
haha, I'm pretty sure we could all fill in our own choice nouns.
(Anonymous)
May. 11th, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
"...like using oil paints to touch up an orchid." I liked that so much I kept scrolling back to read it over again. :)
patrick_vecchio
May. 11th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'm stealing a Shakespeare riff there—to gild refined gold, to paint the lily. I just tightened it a bit and changed some words.
scuba_sham
May. 11th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Phrases and lines like "electric lime slices," "tree carcasses,"
"putting a wing on a Ferrari is like using oil paints to touch up an orchid" just prove why you are one of the best writers I know.
patrick_vecchio
May. 11th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Sam! Shoot me an email when you have the time and inclination, please, and let me know how you've been. Scuba_sham has been absent from LJ for too long.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

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• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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