Tuesday, July 21, 2009

dinner for driving lessons

my new section is the barter section. Its a funny mentality there. A lot of people are looking for very material things. In the form for posting there is a dollar amount you can fill in: the model is I have goods that are worth this amount of money for trade (XBox ipod boat bike computer dvd player flatscreen tv). Then there are a lot of people out of work. Electricians, plumbers, auditors massage thereapists. Often people are looking for hilariously specific things. some one in Kelso today wants to trade a set of heavy duty tires for some heavy duty chain, big enough for towing. Some boy is offering his guitar for a women's ruby ring. I cherish posts like this:

The other day I tried to barter with some hippies who posted about needing clay for firing. I have a bag in my room that the girl who lived here before left behind. They were offering things like butterfly wings and crystal wraps, and logo design. I was hoping to get some chains to put the chicken feet on, but i think my last email to them was a little snarky and they never got back.
Upon return from the industrial cardboard warehouse that donated cardboard to my shadow puppet project, a reminder from Elizabeth that echoed with reminders from Kasey put me up to it. It was high time I learned how to drive. My ad ran:

cooking lessons for driving lessons

I am a generally capable 22 year old who never learned to drive. I'm pretty good at most things and I imagine that I will be a quick learner. I am also a great cook. I would be happy to trade cooking lessons for driving lessons, or just cook for you in exchange. I specialize in vegetarian food, but am capable of making anything you like.
I provide the groceries and the kitchen, you provide the car.
You should be a good driver, and feel comfortable teaching someone else.

We could meet over lunch or something to work things out further.


Almost immediately I got a response from the Angel of Portland. She could teach me stick. She worked during the day but was free most evenings.

Angel is about 5' 10, 200 lb, short brown hair, drives a beat up old pick up truck, has an ex-wife. Has worked construction/maintenance all her life, went to college across the street from my highschool. Probably in her mid to late thirties. Cilantro and ginger taste like soap to her (read more about this at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98695984 and ihatecilantro.com) She is not a vegetarian, although she seemed to like my food. I made ratatouille with heirloom tomatoes (shelled out for those at the supermarket and they were nothing like the tomatoes they grow at Mark and Judy's farm in Bucks county, where I worked for a bit one summer) and quinoa with sunflower seeds. She also requested the meal not be spicy, so i seasoned with garlic, butter, and fresh rosemary. I've recently been on a big butter kick. They have this local butter and cheese here called Tillamook. Farmer owned since 1909. Real cheap and good.

Angel was a great teacher. She kept it simple, but informed. She explained the actuation point on the clutch: two metal plates. When they are engaged, the transmission is connected to the engine. Push the clutch down, move the plate, disconnect the transmission from the engine so that you can shift without damaging the gears. "You know about gears?" she asked. I thought about Cara squatting on the floor fiddling a greased chain on her upturned exercise bike piece. I said something funny about our can opener. She was good at asking questions. We sat parked for a while. She held the keys and I sat in the driver's seat, practicing holding down the clutch and the brake, easing off the clutch and lightly applying pressure on the gas, shifting from neutral to first, first to second, second to third, and back down. "Ok so your pulling out of the parking space and speeding up, what do you do?" "Now your coming up to the stop sign at the end of the street..." When I was fifteen my mother got into two serious accidents and totaled two different minivans. One of the times she was listening to Italian tapes in preparation for a family vacation. She was at the light just down the street from my house. It turned red and she just kept driving. Scusi, che cosa... She had to go to driving school to get her license back. I was always to busy to learn to drive outside of school and it wasn't offered at private school. In reality I was terrified.

Angel drove us to a parking lot, got out and handed me the keys. There were a few people walking around about 30 yards ahead. One time my mother had hit a pedestrian coming out of the parking lot of my high school. A girl who went to the college Angel had graduated from. She wasn't hurt, my mother had only just bumped her, inching up out of the driveway and looking the opposite way. She sent the girl so many packages of organic herbal muscle relaxant shower gel and banana bread that she was probably more likely to sue her for stalking than the accident. I turned the keys in the ignition. I started out giving it too much gas and the car lurched forward, as i eased off I started rolling off at about 20 mph. "Go around this tree." Angel instructed. It was contained by one of those triangular concrete curbed parking lot planters. I peered my head as to try and gage the distance between the tires and this geometric obstacle. I turned the wheel to the left, at first just a little and then a lot, as prompted by Angel. I made it around the first, then the second side, and then suddenly I was very close to the curb on the third side. I pushed in the clutch but not far enough and hit the brakes. The truck stalled. It was ok. We talked for a little while, and she anwered a few questions of mine before I mustered up the courage to continue. I pulled out and away from the curb, and return in the direction I had come from, rounded around another tree planter and decided that I had had quite enough driving for one day. On the way home Angel told me about riding a motorcycle. The other day an old lady in a Buik had run her right up on the sidewalk. As we pulled up to my house, we made plans for our next lesson. "I don't want you to forget, what you learned today". We are booked for friday. I think I might make fish...


  1. Claire is learning to drive!!!!!! my world is now totally upside down.

    but srsly, great news! also, i like the way you write. its very good. today, jeff identified what was obviously a Fettuccine as linguine, and it made me think of you. your tip about the olive oil to the pasta after draining has been amazing, and i even got my dad doing it. so good luck in the car world, and as soon as you get good, drive yourself out here and we can turn some cooking tables.