Monday, November 23, 2009

A Temporary Cure for the Job Hunting Blues: Friends, Nature and a Ride in a Bugatti

My friend Marjorie and her husband Jerry retired to the Virginia countryside a few years ago.  They live in a wonderful, peaceful place with wildlife and beautiful trees, rolling hills and wide-open space for enjoying God’s gifts.  I spent a recent afternoon visiting.
The invitation was such a gift after a hard week of networking, cancelled meetings, appointments and job applications.  One federal application took me at least 8 hours to complete and, frankly, it was getting to me that my efforts are not producing the desired result.  I was ready for some fun!

It was a perfect day.  The sky was clear after two days of rain and the air was cool and crisp.  Marjorie and I went for a walk on a country road.  During hunting season, it is not a good idea to go where you might be mistaken for a deer so we stayed out of the woods.  Just to be on the safe side, I wore a red vest and she a red scarf.  We definitely did not look like deer.

We saw red-tailed hawks soaring above.  Magnificent.  We talked about how great it would be to be a bird.  Eating field mice for dinner doesn't sound too appetizing, but as in flying on a commercial airline, the views and speed of travel outweigh the unappetizing food.

Birds were everywhere.  White-barked sycamore trees lined the banks of a stream and you could tell where it meandered through the fields by the trees along its banks.

A lovely mare, alone in her pasture, watched us from a high place.  I called to her and she galloped to the fence for some horse whispering and scratching between the ears.  She was clearly very lonely and reeking from having rolled in a messy spot in the field (see side view of head).  But we were friends for that little while and she seemed sad as we continued down the road toward home base.

After a delicious lunch, I was treated by Jerry to a ride in the Bugatti.   It is probably the most beautiful car I have ever seen.  

To understand how big of a statement that is for me to make,  you must know I am not a car person;  I drive a Toyota.  Function, affordability and reliability are all cars have ever been to me. 

Several years of dating cars and their men eliminated any enthusiasm I may have had for automobiles.  It seemed most dates were obsessed with their cars and impressed with themselves for what they had chosen;  I was more interested in knowing the human behind the wheel.  More than one date was ruined by a car; once I spent what was to be a lovely afternoon at the beach in Southern California in a mechanics shop for some silly malfunction that became an all-consuming obsession.  

At one point, I started referring to dates by car names but then there were multiple BMWs and that got confusing.  "Oh you remember Volvo," I might say instead of using his name.  Now I can't even remember most of the human names but only their vehicles.

The Bugatti is different.  And it helps that I am not dating it.  It is a work of art, an architectural masterpiece of a vehicle. 

This Type 44 was made in 1928.  Jerry and the Bugatti have been together since he acquired it in 1960 when he was a young lieutenant in the Air Force stationed in Reno, NV.  It was shipped to the docks in San Francisco and soon after he took apart the engine.  

The Bugatti followed him during his military career, including surviving storage in Gulfport Mississippi during the devastating Hurricane Camille in 1969.  He reassembled the engine in 1973.  It spent several years in Colorado where in 2006 Jerry heard the engine start and run 46 years after he purchased it.  It was returned from Colorado in 2007, painted and finished in 2008, and has been run weekly since then.  

He looks at the car with such pride and love.   He showed me the engine.  How could an engine be so clean and shiny and attractive?  

It is a beautiful reminder of the past.  As I rode in it in my hunter-deterring hiking attire, I thought about what a lady in the 1920's might have worn.  I wondered how the experience might have been enhanced by period clothing.  With the top down, going nearly 60 mph on country roads, a hat would have certainly been problematic. I have no idea how Jerry kept his driving cap attached to his head while my hair was flying madly in the wind.    He looked like he was one with the vehicle.  

The ride was smooth, albeit a bit racecar-noisy. We talked about the car, its history and the loving care it has received. He informed me about things I do not comprehend – calibrating, engine size, tidbits about wiring and restoration.  But it was seductive to listen to him because he was so enthusiastic.  Rather like a skillful teacher of a boring topic; I listened because I admired the presenter, his delivery and his devotion to the subject, not because I have an interest in being an engineer or an expert in car restoration.

As we sped by, horses grazed in the fields, occasionally lifting their ears, raising their heads and reacting to the sound of a mechanical thoroughbred in their midst.  Maybe they thought it was awesome, too.

The car is tiny inside.   People were smaller in the 1920's.  Jerry showed me the compact floor space beneath his feet; my size 10's would barely squeeze in.

Here are some of my favorite attributes of the Bugatti:  
  • The super-charged addictive smell of the fuel; honest, it is a good smell.
  • The polished grain of gorgeous wood.  
  • Beautiful, smooth leather.
  • Immaculate, powerful but graceful lines that flowed together to both blend into the countryside and stand out like a prized stallion in a line-up of workhorses.  
  • A small, elegant beveled mirror (a girl would of course notice that). 
  • The simple logo (Ettore Bugatti = EB).  
  • The push button instant start; it is necessary for a racecar and a super cool feature. 
  • The spare tire is just as handsome as can be resting on its sleek rump.
For the first time, I understand the love affair with automobiles, at least racing automobiles from the 1920's that have been restored to their original condition and can be driven fast on country roads on beautiful fall days when the sun is shining, the hawks circle above and the last of the fall leaves are hanging on the trees with all their might.  For a short time on a beautiful afternoon I was able to forget about unemployment and job hunting and focus on beauty, both natural and Bugatti-made.

For more information on the Bugattis see these websites:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rural Florida: Natural Wonders

Morning walks on my recent Florida visit were full of natural wonders.  Walking on the bike trail and a footpath that run between several lakes, I marveled at the beauty.  The paths, at times, seemed quite remote with moss-draped trees and nothing but wildlife noises.  Other parts of the trail were busy with retirees on foot, in an occasional motorized wheelchair, and on two and three-wheel bicycles.  Below are some of my favorite sights.

Alligators:  I saw small ones as I walked on the dock above the lake.    Every day there was a new article in the paper about an alligator attack.  It seems that people feeding them disturbs their natural inclination to stay away from humans.  Humans and small pets then become associated with food.

Great Blue Heron:  They are fun to watch as they patiently wait for a fish or underwater creature to snatch.  Their legs hardly look strong enough to hold up their bodies and their wispy feathers make them look like old men in need of a shave.

Cyprus Trees:  Cyprus trees are dramatic and have such a graceful and stately presence.  My favorite looked different in the changing morning light.  

Cooters:  This is a generic name for fresh water turtles.  The town I visited has an annual Cooterfest.  Apparently that name has other meanings and confuses some people who arrive thinking there is more to it than a celebration of turtles.  

Anhinga:  These large water birds spear fish with their pointed bills.   I encountered one on a dock, drying his wings and looking like an old flasher opening his coat!  He prepared to take off as I got too close for comfort.

Great Egret:  There were many of these snow white leggy beauties, standing alone in the shallow water fishing and looking quite content.

Cyprus Knees:  Looking like symphonies, worshipers, pilgrimages, and sometimes packs of small animals, these offspring of the cyprus trees seem to be trying to communicate something very special. 

Butterflies:  Two smallish butterflies were prevalent.  The zebras were the hardest to track down; they rarely stopped to feed.

Tree Frogs:  These adorable creatures were surely everywhere along my path, but I did not see them in the trees.  Instead, they congregated on my Mother's porch where the bugs clustered in the evenings.  I had great fun watching them and even caught one or two, getting peed on in the process.

Common Moorhens:  They were "common" on one of the lakes.  They have a distinctive, loud call and were always busy swimming, talking to one another ,and flapping their wings.  To hear their sound, and those of many other animals, see this website

Sandhill Cranes:  These enormous omnivorous birds are commonly seen in pairs or family groupings.  Each morning I heard the family of four, who live nearby, flying over Mom's house and talking to one another.  They feed on a small island in one of the lakes along my path and I saw them from a distance.  Unfortunately my photographs were taken from some distance and are not clear.  For more information on these amazing birds and to hear their distinctive call, visit this site

Moss:  Because I grew up in the South, moss is a familiar and comforting sight to me.  It screams of home, family and warmth.  It looks dramatic and beautiful in the afternoon and early morning light.