Re-Learning to Drive


I’ve lived in Boston for over 13 years. During those years, I’ve probably gotten behind the wheel of a car 13 times.

Mostly, I love not being a driver. Being car-free brings many of the same benefits as being childfree. Fewer complications. Fewer expenses. As a non-driver, I don’t need to worry about excise taxes, car payments, the price of gas, or parking.

But there’s one thing about not driving that’s started to bother me: the lack of independence. All too often, I wind up sitting in the back seat of a friend’s car–or, worse, my parents’ car–feeling like an eleven-year-old. And I have to coordinate my schedule with Boston’s mass transit system.

I’m a fearful driver, and I don’t want to be. So I joined Zipcar about six months ago and started practicing. Boston is a tough place to ease back into driving, but as some friends have told me, if I can feel confident driving here, anywhere else will be a breeze.

Today I’m making my first foray onto the highway in a while, heading down to Providence for lunch. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth didn’t make a movie between 2004’s Primer and this year’s Upstream Color. In the intervening nine years, I’m not sure how he spent his time. But his new movie is gorgeous and mysterious, and well worth the wait.

It’s almost impossible to describe Upstream Color’s plot, and I don’t quite know why. It’s not incredibly experimental or nonlinear, and I’m sure you could analyze the heck out of it, both logically and philosophically. But it hooked me on a cellular level, the way David Lynch’s movies do. Like Lynch’s work, Carruth’s movies make sense to my guts and my DNA, even when my brain says “Hunh?”.

Upstream Color is a horror movie, a love story, a science fiction film, and a fantasy. It is about mind control, about codependency in relationships, about physical and emotional attraction, about the way humans abuse each other’s trust and the trust of other animals. It is about Henry David Thoreau’s desire to live deliberately. It is about parasites, pigs, abduction, rape, and marriage. I saw it with my buddy Alex, and he summarized it in two words: “Psychedelic bacon.” Once you see it, you’ll know exactly what he means.

The First Two Times I Got the Blues

When I was little, my parents would play a record by the blues singer Josh White. It was one of our favorites, and I give them credit for teaching me about great music early on.

One day–I must have been about six–I was listening to the Josh White record and drawing a picture in the living room. A song came on that I hadn’t noticed before:

“Number 12 train took my baby…I couldn’t keep from cryin’.”

This seemed to be the saddest lyric in the world. My mom was working in the garden, and heard me crying. She ran in, brushing soil from her hands, and asked me what was wrong.

“The train took his baby!” I wailed.

My mom explained that the singer’s “baby” wasn’t a real baby. It was his girlfriend. The song meant that his girlfriend left him. That’s why he’s sad.

I cheered up right away. A girlfriend who’d left? That was no biggie. But a lost baby–now that would be worth mourning.

Another day, around the same time, my mom and I were eating McDonald’s, a huge treat. As we sat in the hard plastic booth, we started talking about a family friend, an old woman, who’d died recently.

“She had a good long life,” my mom said.

“Why did she die?” I asked.

“Well, she got sick,” Mom explained.

I could tell there was more to the story. “If she didn’t get sick, would she still die?”

Mom chewed carefully and swallowed, then took a sip of soda. “Well, dying happens to everyone, Anni. It’s part of life. Everyone dies someday.”

“Will you die someday?” I asked.

“Yes, after I get very old.”

“What about me? Will I die?”

I started crying at the same time that I heard my mom’s answer–“Yes, sweetie, but not for a really long time!” The french fries in my mouth lost their flavor, and I swallowed them just to get more air to wail with.

My mom came over to my side of the booth, and held me until I calmed down. It didn’t take long. I was six. The thought of death was too big to stick in my head. It just passed over me, like a shadow.

I’m glad she told me the truth. I hope, if one of my friends’ kids asks me that question, I’ll know how to answer. And I hope I don’t get blamed if they cry.