Monday, July 22, 2002

My Life as a Trucker

The one who made me a whole lot cooler (she loaned me a window air conditioner unit and gave me fragrant candles) asked me if I would have room to store a love seat at my place now that she has moved into a new space. Being the amiable albeit easily frightened chap that I am, I heartily agreed. A few days later she asked if I would be willing to help rent a truck because she couldn't find anyone with a pickup (truck that is). Again I articulately (with my college degree) said, "no problem" and asked her to make rental arrangements which she did renting us a 10 foot U-Haul cargo van that she asked me to drive.

Thus I found myself tooling across town in a vehicle much larger than the one I'm used to- a 1990 scratched Honda Civic with 127,000 miles on it. I'm not a bad driver just one that doesn't like to drive because there's a whole lot of people out there that I don't belong amongst and believe me I know it's much more my problem than it is theirs. The drive seemed to last forever (and a day) and it didn't help that I had to go through some narrow construction sites with a truck wider than the hips associated with someone seriously addicted to White Castle hamburgers. It also didn't help that every slight turn on the freeway made it feel like the whole truck was going to tip over. I was tipsy and there was no whiskey involved.

Arriving safely at her place the next challenge was loading the love seat into the truck. She's a petite young lass and I won't say this very often but I'd estimate I had twice her strength despite a build that hasn't exactly been enhanced by steroids. The drive back across town was equally as white-knuckled as the one before. The next and final step of trying to angle the piece of furniture into my house turned out to be absolutely futile as well as comically entertaining for the neighbors. She kept having to put the couch down to rest and I have no concept of geometry or physics or any of that. So now my garage is the home to a nice smelling flowered love seat.

But back to this driving thing (and we're not talking about making others crazy). Recent local news suggests that the roads are bursting with raging drivers. And if there was another example needed to show how out of the mainstream I've drifted it is this: I'm the type of driver who feels when driving next to, or behind, or around a student driver it is my duty to obey every bit of the law from driving the speed limit to signaling the smallest turn, to driving six lengths back just to set a good example. Others may race around us or toot their horns but I wanna show the youngsters there are those out there that believe that when it comes to driving a large steel deathtrap, paying attention to the law may be a splendid idea.

I encountered a student driver on my way to work the other day and though I was running a bit late I didn't alter my normal state of things. Rather than become agitated at the growing line of cars behind me, and worry about getting in a few minutes late, I decided to focus on the best thing about my morning drive- the billboard on the corner of Rice Street and Como Avenue notifying everyone that Buffy (along with the rest of the UPN lineup) is moving to Channel 29. It's nice to see the face of my second favorite ass kicking demon defeater greet the morning rush hour traffic rather than the larger than life face of a Faith Hill or a Garth Brooks.

Unfortunately the sudden turn from happiness to devastation, so indicative of my favorite TV program, occurred as I checked out the morning news on the web. Buffy has been continually (and criminally) snubbed by the Emmy Award people but this year something even worse happened. The show got nominations in the "best hairstyling" and "best make-up" categories. This of course means that whoever is responsible for the nominations actually saw an episode (the hair and makeup nods both were for the same episode) and the best thing they saw was not the stupendous creatively rich writing and acting nor the unmatched emotional texture of the show, but rather that the good guys and bad guys sure had nice hair. Argggg.

I've given up trying to figure out why Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't astound everyone like it does me. It's far more clever and captivating and unpredictable (thus life like and affirming) than any television show I've ever seen (and I've seen quite a few). I mean I watch shows that do get oodles of attention and acclaim like West Wing and 24 and while those shows are well written and well done, there's nothing particularly uniquely outstanding about them. (Perhaps it's the Erica Kane effect- the show will perennially be overlooked just like Susan Lucci was because Sarah Michelle Gellar used to be on All My Children.) A few weeks back in this space I wrote a completely incomprehensible piece that I know no one read but it was probably the most honest (as opposed to truthful) thing I've written in a long long time. In the piece I was asking a simple but elusive question that is at the heart of whatever is bothering me these days: what exactly is art? What qualifies and what is its purpose?

Since asking that question my friend Spunky forwarded me a New York Times profile on American Beauty and Road to Perdition director Sam Mendes. The article touched on the concept of artistic choice. I also watched the divinely recommended Ghost World a terrific little movie with a perceptive attitude. Then a friend loaned me Ike Reilly's CD Salesmen and Racists that just blew me away (and the roof off my lil Honda). All these pieces of work gave me some more insight into a possible answer to my question. Whatever gets through, whatever sheds insight, whatever opens a world or a view of the world that is slightly different and yet familiar enough to comprehend even if you don't quite understand it- that's what art is.

Unlike anything else on television Buffy is all that and more. And just like Picasso or Skip James maybe its timelessness/being so visionary and differernt is just why the show is so terribly overlooked in its own time. The mixture of intellect and emotions evoked by the best episodes of the series are as astute and insightful as any piece of music, any painting, any great book, any great movie I've ever seen. I keep wondering why I let it bother me so that the show is snubbed annually by the Emmys. Who really cares? Buffy gets decent enough ratings, particularly with the age group advertisers are seeking, young people with money to spend, but it isn't just a young person's show. Given recognition by the establishment like the Emmys would perhaps expose the show to the wider audience it deserves and should have (TV Guide did recently list it on its top 50 shows of all time as the 41st greatest show in television history). Good art can change us and the world around us but what good is art if no one sees it?

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