Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

One morning in Maine

Have been enjoying a brief spell at home, in between bouts of book-touring for my new novel The O'Briens. Today a gorgeous springtime Saturday with a stiff NW breeze blowing I'd say just about 20 knots steady: kind of cold. But when we went down to Center Harbor there were already a few boats in the water. 

Boats like this Friendship sloop (below) were rocking on their moorings. Blowing white horses out on Eggemoggin Reach

I went into town yesterday afternoon to sign books at my favorite store, Blue Hill Books.

And was happy to see The O'Briens on the list.

On Monday I hit the road for NJ, PA, NC, and Toronto. Book tour events schedule is up here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

1937 Ford Woodie in Brooklin Maine

We're on a run of woodies lately. This one from last summer, at Sean McKay's shop, Affordable Performance, out on the Naskeag Road in Brooklin, Maine. Sean is mostly a Porsche guy but there's always room for a woodie. The WoodenBoat School is just down the road. So is Brooklin Boatyard. We know all about wooden vehicles around here. (Is a sailboat a vehicle?)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Surfing Ruined My Life

I was in Southern California on the O'Briens Book Tour last week. Woke up early one Sunday morning in Santa Barbara, in a guest cottage up on Mission Ridge. T he night before had read & talked at Project Fine Art Zone. Went out looking for breakfast stuff. Ended up at Gelson's Market on Upper State Street. Coffee, grapefruit, croissant. (Having grown up in Montreal, it still troubles my delicate frenchified ear to hear Americans pronouncing the 't' in "croissant").
            Caught this woodie in the empty Sunday 8 a.m. parking lot, at Loreto Plaza.
             According to Pat Rogers, this is a 1936 Ford.

Is it woodie, or woody? Anyway, I've always wanted one, but they belong to a different old-car market than the one I inhabit. I favor old plain-jane trucks. These are what I can afford on a novelist's salary. Would need to add a few zeroes to go woodie. My Santa Barbara pal Frank Mariani knows everything there is to know re. restoring and maintaining these wagons. Autoliterate featured a 1932 Ford woodie a couple weeks back.

        Today, in Maine, I saw a PT Cruiser with vinyl faux-woodgrain on the body. Something about "history being repeated as farce" crossed my mind. Was that Marx?

Meanwhile, I have been promised transportation via 1965 Ferrari from my book tour date in Winston Salem NC next week to the Virginia International Speedway.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On the Airline in Maine

If you know Downeast Maine, you've probably driven The Airline, which is that long, lonesome stretch of backwoods highway from Bangor to Calais, Maine and the Canadian border. There isn't much to see along the way, except spruce and birch and--if you're unlucky--moose. Some desolate villages and once-were-motels. To people from the Maritime Provinces, the Airline has always been a gateway to the US, and an unlikely introduction it is to the most powerful and richest nation on earth. Because power and riches are not what you see along The Airline. The road is cut through Hancock and Washington Counties. Washington one of the poorest counties of the state. Watch out for moose. And turkeys. I have never found a great place to stop, even for coffee; the Airline is really all about getting there fast. If you're heading to Canada, wait for the Tim Horton's at St Stephen or St George, New Brunswick, always full of cheerful, talkative Maritimers--Tim Hortons in Canada have a neighbourly vibe, I think because of the lingering small-town-Canada tradition of people going out for morning coffee or afternoon tea.      
          No one seems to know why Maine Route 9 from Bangor to Calais is called The Airline. It is significantly straighter and faster than US 1, and one theory is that back in the day (before airlines, as in the O'Hare and Logan and LaGuardia variety), plainspoken routes that were obvious shortcuts, like this 90-mile-through-the-backwoods stretch of Maine 9, were often called "airlines".
             Saw this sign along the road.

              Not much to say, is there? Hope that he or she finds one.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spiritual Vehicles, and Clark Blaise

                                                                                     4/11/12   Bridgeton, Maine

That means there's no Bondo underneath that paint job, right?

This from Clark Blaiseauthor of (most recently) The Meagre Tarmac:
"Those ancient Homeric names were very common in Qu├ębec in the 1870-1910, if my family is any example.  (As were slave-names in the States, ending perhaps with Cassius Clay).  Pepere was an Achille, and among my baby aunts and uncles were an Ovide, Athenee, Eurydice, Homere, etc. but there wasn't a single Jean-Pierre or Marc-Andre among them."--C.B.

And from Brian Bartlett: "Among my ancestors from the 1700s and 1800s in New Brunswick and Maine/Massachusetts, names included Moses, Jesse, Amos, Alpheus, Adeth, Seth, Benjamin, Joshua, Samuel, Malthiah, Elisha, Nathan, Peleg, Bathsheba, Zadock & -- not Biblical but decidedly Protestant -- Luther...but I can't find a single Homeric name. Makes me wonder if the Homeric names were adopted by Quebecois Catholics but not by English Protestants. "---B.B. 

p.s. PB talks about The O'Briens  on youtube.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Maine Barn Find #2: Ford Model A Town Sedan

The second barn find last Saturday was this stunningly original 1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan. Of course it wasn't really a find since this car had never really been lost: it belonged to Burr O'Connor's
great-grandfather, and has been in the family, apparently, since the beginning of time. Only it got parked in the family barn in Blue Hill, Maine about thirty years ago and has been there ever since. Until last Saturday, when we rolled it out so that Gene Drake, the Old Ford-whiz of Downeast Maine, could look it over.

The carburetor was in pieces on the floor on the passenger's side, so no start was attempted, but Gene found the machine in very good shape all around. Looks as though he will flatbed the A up to his shop in Bucksport this summer, clean the car up, and get it running.
               I would say it is in very good/mostly-original condition, though it has been repainted. It looks like the interior was restored, reasonably well, sometime in the Seventies. Engine original and Gene thought he'd be able to get it started and running without difficulty.
           What a handsome car! Even the rubber looks to be in good shape. And that is vintage 1982 air in those tires.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Maine Barn Find #1: 1932 Ford Woodie

I'm in NYC on The O'Briens book tour, and kind of busy, but I was impatient to get these images up from last Saturday in Maine. Two "barn finds" in Downeast Maine. Well, they weren't really "finds", because they weren't really lost: but both cars had been sitting in their barns for way too long. The 1932 Ford station wagon belongs to Teke Wiggin: it has been in his family since his grandfather bought it in '32 and started driving it from Lawrenceville NJ to Blue Hill, Maine every summer, a trip that took four days in the Thirties. The woodie lives in Blue Hill now. She hadn't been on the road for a couple of years when Teke asked  local Ford genius Gene Drake, of Bucksport, to come over and see if he could get her started. Gene examined, and fiddled, and scraped points, and in a little while she turned over for the first time in a couple of years, then fired up.

Teke has been scraping and sanding the wooden body down and consulting with my expert friend,  Frank Mariani of Santa Barbara, re. varnishes. That will happen next. Meanwhile we took the "Struggly Buggy" for a spin. It is delightful to get an old family car back on the road.

The next car unearthed was a 1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan that had been living in a Blue Hill barn for thirty years. But I'll save most of that for the next post.
     Re. Book tour: I was interviewed yesterday on the Leonard Lopate show here in New York, and spoke & read from my novel The O'Briens last night at the Center for Fiction. I hit the road in a couple of hours for tonight's event at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vermont. Then on to California. You can track my book events here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Marfa Ford F1 & F2; Nova Scotia Mercury M-3

I know of two F1's, both in good shape, in Marfa, Texas. And one F2, the 3/4 ton version of the truck,  featured in a previous AL post. Then there was the Mercury M-3, the Canadian truck in a 1-ton version, we came across in Nova Scotia last summer. All these trucks are from the late 1940s. Driving an F-1 or F-2 of that era is definitely a trip back in time: no synchromesh, of course, and it takes some serious handling to steer around a sharp street corner, even at 20 mph. Nimble is not the word. These trucks handle like, well, trucks. 

                                                                                                  F-1.  Marfa Texas

                                                                                  Ford F2. Marfa, Texas
                                                                Mercury M-3. Wolfville, Nova Scotia