by RIP RENSE
(July 11, 2008)
know about you, but I’m rooting for a new Depression. Right, in
addition to the one I wake up in. Complete with Box Car Willies and
Hoovervilles (Cheneyvilles?) and Wall Street suicides. My old friend, Dick
Partlow, wrote a couple weeks back: “What’s it going to take to turn this
mess around? A new
Depression to bring about a new FDR?”
WPA? CCC? Nothing to
fear but fear itself? Yowzah!
But what of the
suffering, the hobo jungles, the Martha Stewart recipes for Mulligan Stew,
Hannah Montana prancing to “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!” Well, hell, I say people
would be better off cooking a can of beans over an open fire than emitting
gas and cooking their brains in front of HDTV-pore-revealing episodes of
I mean, Americans would
get to know one another again, once they were dragged out of their cubies and home
theaters, blinking in the sun like possums, and forced to roll pennies and shop
together at the 99-Cent Store. (What, they already are?)
Plus, there would be no
more columns like the one I read in a recent issue of
Magazine by Peter Bohr.
Now, I don’t know Pete,
and he might be the kind of person who would push Oprah Winfrey out of the
way of a Hummer at his own peril (well, perhaps that isn’t the most
inspiring example, but you get the drift.) He might rescue orphaned baby
birds and nurse them back to health with an eyedropper loaded with blended
bug bouillabaisse. He might even know how to say “nuclear.”
But based on his car column,
“More Than Skin Deep,” I say Pete needs a bit of a change of scenery. He
might benefit, for instance, by my standard prescribed fantasy therapy
junket: to be dropped naked and heavily dosed up with LSD in a leper colony in Sri
Madonna. Now there's a priority-shaker.
Pete, you see, must be
Bohred (sorry, you knew that was coming.) That's all I can figure. Judging
by his column, he seems to have sought out highly arcane interests and
gotten them all mixed up with living. This is a common enough American
problem (I give you: NASCAR), but Pete has done it with an apparent total
lack of awareness.
How else to explain his
column's opening sentence?
“I bought a new Mini
This sentence just says
so much. Perhaps Pete should be congratulated, instead of criticized, for
conveying such quantity of information so telegraphically. He might have
written, for example, “Like most U.S. citizens, I am a consuming machine who dutifully obeys marketing and demographic
the interests of becoming acceptable, if not enviable, to my peers---cool!”
See what I mean? But that would sound so academic. Unlike Pete’s second
“But then I set a
cardboard box on the front fender for a few moments, picked it up, and was
appalled to see tiny scratches in what had been my new car’s pristine,
deep-blue paint. Bummer!”
the First Church of Fuck You Asshole You Dinged My Car. Or maybe the Loyal
Brotherhood of The Fraternal I Am My Stuff, Local 209. Where is Don Ho when
we need him? Tiiiiiny scratches. . .on my car. . .hurt the shine. . .I mean,
scratches on your car? What next---microscopic scratches? I fear for you
in the coming Depression. It will be full of scratches.
Well, to be somewhat fair
here, the columnist's definition of "bummer" hardly makes him unusual. To
not subscribe to automobile ethos today means you are
wildly maladjusted, if not Anti-American. You know, like people who watch PBS (doo-wop
reunion specials excepted.) Like me. I’m the freak, not Pete. I’m the guy who would be
happy driving a rusty
'51 Studebaker Commander converted to biodiesel. Very
happy, in fact
But Pete's astounding
how-to-wash-your-car-in-the-21st-century column takes things
to extremes I did not know existed. This man treats his car better than
Cleopatra treated her skin. No milk baths here, but probably only because he
hasn’t thought of it. If Pete found out that licking his car, inch-by-inch,
once a week, would make it five percent shinier, I’m betting he’d be first
in line for tongue yoga. I mean, if somebody
advised Pete to take his Mini to the beach to give its hood a nice rosy
glow, to dusts its haunches with peacock feathers blessed by Hindu priests
in Bangalore, to take it to a Zen spa where it is given a nice loofah
exfoliation followed by a facial composed of ginseng, dong quai, and clay
straight from the Ganges---
The over and under says
he'd do it. Think I’m unduly harsh? After all, this is L.A., and if your car
doesn’t pulse and glow like
Schwarzenegger’s capped porcelain teeth, you’re
a goddamn loser. But the above hyperbole
isn't really so far off. Get this: Pete actually “clays” his car. What's
more, he touts it:
“The latest wrinkle in
paint care is cleaning or detailing clay," he actually writes. "You simply rub it (along with a
lubricant) over the surface of your car, and it does a remarkably good job
of removing any contaminants bonded to the paint.”
Contaminants! Bonded to the paint? What sort of eco-terrorism can
this be? Small wonder that one would need clay and lubricants,
then, never mind that
sounds more like a night in West Hollywood than a few minutes at
Spray-‘n’-Wash. Just what were these contaminants, I wondered? I read on, and discovered that not only were
contaminants assaulting Pete’s Mini, but also. . .fallout. Fallout!
Yow! Had he been driving in China? Parking near a stash of Yellowcake?
“Airborne critters, from
gnats to 747s, leave fallout on car paint,” the columnist explained. “Then
there’s dust, tree sap, road grime, and acid rain. They don’t look very
nice, and they etch or bond to the clear coat if left on too long. A
once-weekly wash ritual is a good practice.”
Acid rain. Yeah, it
doesn't "look very nice" on your Mini. Never the fuck mind what it does to
trees, flowers, birdies, fish, your lungs.
You know, I want to react
with more arch sarcasm here, but it would be silly(er) of me to do so. Extra-terrestrials long ago not only concluded that
dogs and cats have strange sway over humans, given our apparent coveting of
their street leavings, but E.T. has also correctly assumed that we ascribe
deifying importance to automobiles. Car commercials, after all, represent
some kind of epiphany of expression in all human history. Doubt it? The
production values, the colors, the sounds, the jump-cuts and psychotropic
razzle-dazzle is epileptic, I mean, epic. Show a commercial for a Toyota
Tundra to a family from, say, 1520, and if they did not die of fear, they
would certainly sprawl about the dirt floor of their thatched hut,
supplicating and talking in tongues.
It's small wonder, then,
that Pete uses
terms like “ritual” and “practice” in reference to his car, eh? I mean, car
wash? Car wash? Car worship. We have here an automotive
exaltation that demands dealing with contaminants and fallout
that etch and bond to paint. We must apply clay (don’t
forget the essential lubricant) to remove them, and if you think
that’s all there is to this ritual and practice, then you
probably believe that Rosie O’Donnell is a woman.
There were a bunch
of italicized headings in Pete's concise, well-organized column, each introducing a paragraph detailing his prescribed procedure
for making his Mini maxi-shiny. One bore the mildly onanistic title,
Wash it---a lot, followed promptly by the arguably Buddhist admonition,
Wash it right. It would be wrong of me to not share these remarkable excerpts from Wash it right:
“Wash your car when the
paint surface is cool and the car is in the shade.”
(And preferably, when it
is fully relaxed.)
“Work from top to bottom,
front to back, leaving the dirtiest things---the wheels---for last. (In
fact, use a separate bucket of water and rags for the wheels.)”
Now, Pete did not explain
why a separate bucket and rags were advisable for the wheels, presumably
because this is self-evident to Automotive-Americans. Still, given the ritual involved here, one must suspect deeper motivations at
hand---metaphysical, perhaps, or at least egalitarian (which, in politically correct
America, is practically metaphysical, anyhow.)
And here---I swear to
Germaine Greer and Simone De Beauvoir---is Pete's next instruction:
Yes, dear. No rushing allowed,
no crude stampede for that hood ornament. . .got to take time and gradually
arouse the car before dousing it with lubricant and washing it a lot.
. .Talk about auto eroticism. Wait! There's more: “Use only fluffy
all-cotton towels (ooooooo, yeah. . .mmmmm) a chamois, or special microfiber
towels to dry the finish.”
Presumbly the car then
lights up a Sherman.
Had enough of this
stuff? I don't blame you. But it's really too Ameri-mazing to ignore. How is it that we live in a
country where people fawn and slave over inanimate possessions while humans
are routinely chopped up, raped, tortured, kidnapped, and even subjected to the Tavis Smiley show? Guess it just comes down to
that endearing little quirk about our species: we don't really give much of
a crap about anything outside of burritos, beer, sex, how to ease hemorrhoid
suffering, and cars.
Still, I must introduce this next bit of
Pete’s column with a warning to the reader that it could drive him or her to
promptly seek entertainment elsewhere, if not to never read The Rip Post
again. Ready? As Peter Pan says, “Come
on, everybody, here we goooooo.” The
next step in Pete’s car-cleaning prescription. . .
Yes, study it.
Honest! He wrote this, I swear. Hey, why not just get a degree in it? Automotive Husbandry. And a minor in Hip Hop
Studies (it really exists.) Move over, Jesus, here come the lunchtime workplace
"Car Study" groups. Our Prius, which drives like heaven. .
“Look closely for minute
scratches and swirls."
(What was I saying
earlier about a microscope?)
"Just as important, feel the paint with your
fingertips. It should be as smooth as glass. If you see scratches or if the
surface feels gritty, you’ll have to take further action.”
Yes, further action.
Sounds like Rumsfeld. What further action, you ask? Well, Pete doesn't say. But
my money is on dropping your pants
and rubbing your bare buttocks over the gritty surface for that unique
deep shine that can only be brought about by the oils and sweat of the human
You'll be relieved to
know that step six of Pete's column is simply “Polish it.” Phew. That
sounds normal enough---but as you shrewdly suspect, polishing is
not just polishing in Peteworld. As he warns: "‘Polish’ and ‘wax’ are not synonymous. . .Wax protects
the clear coat with a barrier to keep nutrients in and contaminants out.”
For those who have not
fainted dead away, or who are just now being revived with deafening replays
of Larry King Live, yes, you read that right: he said nutrients.
Nutrients, folks. Nutrients!
His car can eat!
At blessed long last comes the
final instruction in Pete Bohr's Westways Magazine (subscribe
today!) car column:
Well, come on, now he's
just filling space, right? Everyone knows this. People routinely fire great
blasts of profanity at one another to prevent “dings” and dents---and once in
a while, they just pull out guns and ding and dent each other to death like real men.
And women. To protect the honor of their Navigators and Infinitis.
It turns out that what
Pete really means by
"protect" is to "apply wax or sealant two to four times a year," and I can
think of nothing better to do with my time unless it involves cleaning
showers with a toothbrush.
I don’t know, I’m about
out of gas here. This exercise just leaves me drained, stupefied. Mini-mized.
But it's my problem, as I
I’m the tricerotops from the days of hoses, rags, and a can of soft Kit
wax on a Saturday morning when you feel a need for the satisfaction of
honest physical labor. When you might crudely apply a little drippy touch-up paint on the
chips and scratches, never expecting to fool anybody. Thanks to Pete,
though, I now know that car paint has changed, and
consists of primer, color coat, and clear coat, and clay and
ritual. But this just leaves me
wanting to grab my old coat and get the hell our of here, and head some place where people don't
study their tiny scratches. Preferably
in a rusting ’51 Studebaker Biodiesel
Which ought to look
damn good in the coming Depression.
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