This is the first photo I have ever included on this blog. I actually take a lot of photographs, but am not into mixing my media, so they remain downloaded in iPhoto, like a collection of postage stamps with images of people I know instead of Eleanor Roosevelt or Lady Liberty.
I know a picture is supposed to be worth 1,000 words. But the efficiency of a photo is of no interest to someone who prefers to use 30 words when just a single one would suffice. Would Salinger, Nabokov, Amis (Martin, not Kingsley, duh), or any Bronte substitute a picture for any syllable of their intricate prose? You call it long-winded, but I call it brilliant. Better than authors who revel in their brevity. Hills like White Elephants. Yeah, I get it. An Old Man and something to do with the Sea. Zzzzzz.
Recently, there was a storm in my neck of the woods. It was attributed to either El Nino or Santa Ana, two names that come up often when it gets windy in Los Angeles, but I never seem to be able to muster up enough curiosity to research either of these entities. Basically, there was a lot of wind. Crazy, howling, Wizard of Oz wind. LA gets earthquakes, mudslides, droughts, floods, and, apparently, lots of wind. I am exposed to a nonstop stream of news, which presumably would give me a head's up that historic gusts of wind would be blowing in my neighborhood, but I didn't seem to get the memo on this one. To be honest, most of the news that I have programmed to inundate me is of the political variety. I am always in the know when there is a political storm brewing, but, unfortunately, Rachel Maddow doesn't do a weather report. Maybe if she did, I would have known that 100-mile-per-hour winds were going to rip through my yard.
After 10 hours of half-seeing debris swirling around my house in the dead of night, hearing a cavalcade of crashing and mini explosions, and thinking my roof had caved in, it was surreal to go out the next morning to survey the damage. We were relatively lucky, with just a neighbor's tree falling onto our roof, and lots of leaves and branches strewn about. Other neighbors had 100-year-old trees uprooted and lost chunks of their roofs and screens and awnings.
This morning-after, I was outside, chatting with neighbors I hadn't seen since the garage fire down the street during the summer. We are Natural Disaster Friends, bonding over events beyond our control that also happen to impact our property values. I was at the bottom of our driveway, bending down to investigate a wayward piece of bark, when I noticed something under my car. It was the very item featured in the photograph I have included above. This tinny detritus was perched on our driveway, perfectly centered under my car. Since I rarely have the opportunity to view the underbelly of my car, I at first assumed it was just something that was part of the car, sort of like the udder of a cow. But then I thought it was odd to have a part of the car actually touching the ground. I had had the car for almost 10 years and didn't recall ever hearing anything dragging under the car, except for the time the belt of my coat dragged several miles hanging from the driver's car door.
Now, anyone who has seen my car would probably not be surprised to hear that something had actually become unhinged from the car's working and was dragging down the street. My car is what people in Los Angeles in the 1970s apparently used to call a "Hoop D."I have no doubt that I am spelling that incorrectly, since I was 3,000 miles east and a nondriver during that historical period. But, for those of you unschooled in urban semi-jivespeak, my car is a piece of junk. It didn't start out that way, but that's another story.
So, as I was one-upping with the neighbors over the extent of damage the storm either caused us personally, or how we knew-someone-who-knew-someone-who-heard about such damage, I told the assembled group how the winds had dislodged part of my car's engine, most likely rendering my vehicle inoperable. My revelation was a real conversation-stopper. "Really? How interesting," was a typical response, combining neighborly concern with scientific skepticism.
One of the neighbor's 11-year-old daughter actually made the effort to inspect the undercarriage of my Highlander. "That doesn't look like part of your car," the wise pre-teen reported. "Would you like me to get it out for you?" Secretly, yes, I did want the girl to reach under my automobile to free the object, but I counted two lawyers in the gaggle of neighbors, and thought better of it, and said I would do it myself. I sat on the concrete of the driveway and reached under my car, unattractively exposing half of my pale, fleshy back to the unsuspecting brood. The girl was correct, the item did not appear to have any connection with the car, for it did not have any oil odor or was not touching the actual bottom of my car.
I looked at the item, confused, reminded of a Gilligan's Island episode where none of the shipwrecked crew was able to identify a metal thingy that washed ashore, which turned out to be some sort of every-day item. Had it washed ashore from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, and made its way inland via courier pigeon? Was it dropped from the Space Shuttle's last mission? Did an alien creature leave it for us to discover? I was already drafting descriptions of the item in my head for an Ebay listing.
The Savvy Girl Next Door (literally), for some reason, knew exactly what the object was that flew under my car in the storm. "It's the metal thing that goes on top of your house to cover that other thing," she declared. And guess what, she was right. A closer inspection of the doohickey confirmed its identity not as a Toyota proprietary part, but an Americap American Metal Product Co. Type B Gas Vent 5EC, Listed 7336. Smart girl.