Le Vomit Comet
February 25, 2003

Oh, the French. It's all doo-bluh crehm, doo-bluh con-so-may, and doo-bluh vay-say with them. Well, perhaps not the last, but I remember it from seventh grade French. "Puis-j'aller au W.C." was so much more satisfying to say than "Puis-j'aller aux toilettes" even though it amounted to the same thing -- Madame Moen and her Voila! game would be so proud. Those were two of the four "Puis-je"s she had on a sign taped to the far right-hand side of her blackboard. I can't remember the other two but I think one had to do with asking about sharpening a pencil. Or maybe it was just that the pencil sharpener was right below the sign? Wouldn't you know it would be the potty ones I remember. At least I've never been stuck in France needing a W.C. and not knowing how to ask for it. Although, those coin-operated contraptions are pretty scary -- if your timing's off and you're in there too long, you could get caught in an auto-whoosh of water. I'd rather hold it, thanks.

Delving into Classical French and Regional French cuisine is bringing back memories of high school French. I'm fairly amazed at how much I can recall. Although I didn't write much about eating our way through the Italian regions -- there was just so much! -- one region brought back another high school flashback. One day, Chef Lafite talked about the seasonal sciroccos in Sicily and what was the first thing that popped into my head? A certain red hatch-back. Why? Because my first and lasting memory associated with the word "scirocco" has to do with a certain upperclassman who drove a red Scirocco hatchback. To put it in high school terms, the boy was fine. Every time Puzer, Nix, and I saw that car around the nabe, we followed it. I'll amend that: we followed it, giggling. God, and we were so not subtle about it. It's not like anyone else in the city (or even in the whole state of Minnesota) had a car like mine. A 1973 Mercury Comet -- so old it took any kind of gas and didn't ever have to go through emissions tests. It was also puke green, hence its clever sobriquet, "The Vomit Comet." Every teenager should've had The Vomit Comet because it had a V8 engine, could whip some amazing shitties on the ice, and was so dented up that when you hit something you worried more about it than the car.

What we went through in that car, the three of us and Boris. Remember Boris? He hung from my rearview mirror, basically being strangled by his attached plastic parachute for four years. I don't even know where Boris came from -- Cracker Jack box? The Wishing Well at Perkins? -- or how we decided on that name, but he was with us through Lembitian vehicular water gun fights, buzzing The Crush of the Week's house, winning a drag race with a Cadillac down 50th and France, and that time when Brady basically swung out the door, hanging onto a seat belt strap and all four hubcaps flew off at exactly the same time. Then there was that time we got lost in Serious Suburbia on our way to a tennis match and the horn exhibited signs of Tourett's whenever we slammed one of the doors. That "feature" only happened in the humid summers, though. Although it got so bad that we finally had to have the horn disconnected and the only way I could honk it was to touch two bare wires together. With that, you got a honk AND a spark. In the winter, the heater didn't start wheezing on us until after I picked everyone up and we were actually in the school parking lot. And if I didn't get a running start and build up some speed, there was no way that car could make it up steep, snow-packed hills. I recall a time we got halfway up 45th and it just gave up -- no amount of tire-spinning was going to give us the momentum to carry us over the top. With Puzer navigating, I had to slam it into neutral and coast backwards for two extremely steep blocks. Sniff, I loved that car.

The day I got my license Puzer and I took off driving around all the lakes -- Calhoun, Isles, and Harriet`-- it was a fuzzy March spring (Shut up, I know I turned sixteen in November but you show me any teenager who's willing to take their road test during a Minnesota winter. Yeah, not so cocky now, are you?) and already so warm. Allanah Myles' "Black Velvet" was overplayed that year and it was playing on KDWB the day we drove around windows down, breathing in the recently cracked open lake water, wearing special sunglasses, with one arm slung over the side because we knew we were just That Cool. When I hear that song, I don't think of Elvis -- I smell the thawing lakes and cold mud.

Of course, I had to ruin the mood by expertly pulling up my steep driveway and bumping into the closed garage door. It was a tap, if that. Freaked the hell out of both of us, though.

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