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Fahrvergnügen

Island Life

A portion of my time last Friday night was spent behind a video camera, a situation I have been known to find myself in as of late. The reason for being there was to record a panel discussion among four women who have been known to swim long distances in the open water, which in the purest sense usually refers to a fluid that is cold and salty. Each had done an epic or marathon swim in 2016: the Catalina Channel swim off of Los Angeles, Bremerton to Alki Beach, the Strait of Georgia off Vancouver Island and a circumnavigation of Maury Island, all without wetsuits, and between the four of them totaling some sixty miles in water that ranged from the mid fifties to the mid sixties on the Fahrenheit scale. It is highly likely that most people reading this will not associate long distances traversed under one’s own power while immersed in cold and mysterious waters as something that brings joy to any part of a human existence, but that was a universal sentiment held among the panelists there, and most likely by many of those in attendance to hear of their exploits. If you would like to see and hear why these are both tests of endurance and joyful experiences, you can view the entire discussion on the youtubes at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghT-PkonoZc.

As it is, I have either chosen or been enlisted  to participate in any number of open water excursions, but mostly from the safe confines of any number of floating craft as both an escort and/or as a member of a safety crew for a race or event. This is of course the best way to see any of these events as you are out amongst the swimmers as opposed to standing on a beach or water edge, cheering them as they disappear into the distance and then waiting for the lot of them to finish. It also gives me a sense of purpose, which often these days I find lacking. While it does not dominate my thinking, the psycho-drama that is still being played out in the courts as to final distributions from my parents’ estates has been, and continues to be, morphed in my mind as a metaphor of my having to tread water (I allow myself warm water, at least) while holding a concrete block in each hand, and keeping my head just enough above the water to both breathe and keep a sight on the lifeboat that I am slowly working myself toward on a not too distant shore. While it is a valiant struggle, there is no Hollywood ending here, since when I finally get to the boat I find that my sociopathic sister has seen fit to remove the oars and perforate the bottom of the boat. All is not lost however, because in this fantasia I have, as stated, allowed myself the luxury of warm water, and having left the concrete blocks on the shore once it get there, at least I know I can swim to places not horribly far from where I landed.

Or drive. As it is, things are not all that horrible here in relative reality land, since along the way I was able to get a replacement for my dead truck in the form of a used, compact wagon well suited for holding video equipment in a lockable space, and also for transporting three dogs for short, highly anticipated Island journeys. This type of vehicle is something that I had been looking at for a while as I waited for the settlements to dribble in. Along the way, there was another curve thrown and revealed, however, as the car I had been thinking about was and is a Volkswagen diesel- yes, those diesels. Much to Wendy’s dismay, I went ahead and got one anyway, as the price was right, and when I went to test drive it, it seemed to fit me like a glove. In spite of being seven model years old, the previous owner had kept it in mostly pristine condition, and the seller had put on new tires, a new clutch and other stuff to make it seem to be a good deal. Since I got it mid summer last year I was able to drive around in the warm outside air with the sunroof open and actually experience what they meant back in 1990 when Volkswagen went with their Fahrvergnügen campaign, which was anchored by a made up compound German word which translates as “driving enjoyment”. Coming from the days of “a powerful gasoline, a clean windshield and a shoeshine”, this is important on some level to some of us. My timing in buying also allowed me to get in on the emissions fix or buy back deal- having done all the paper work I’m waiting for the next move from VW. But last week, while pulling up to a stoplight, the manual transmission I had sought out failed to allow me to get out of third gear and find neutral or first, and the joy suddenly turned into a large knot in my stomach combined with the aroma of burnt clutch that permeated the cabin of the car. In spite of it all, I still really like the car.

Right about now you might be thinking that in some ways this sounds a lot like our current political situation and the buyers remorse some are feeling, having assumed some of the responsibility for the descent into Trumpland by darkening the spot on the ballot next to the name of the insane clown president. I did take the car back to where I got it and they did fix the shifting for not too much money. But I also got to do what I had hoped for, and that was to talk to the mechanic about some of the background details of what is actually going on with these cars and what VW plans to do. Evidently, they are still working on the fix, but apparently they are mostly hoping to buy back all the offending vehicles and solve the problem that way. When I asked where the cars would then go, it turns out that this is not like the mythical EV-1, the electric car  that was offered to the public in the 1990’s and then recalled so that all could be sent to the shredder, still a puzzling move in the light of where electric cars have gone in the last few years. As far as the diesels go though, instead of destroying these cars, it seems that VW will just sell them elsewhere in a market with less restrictive emissions standards, which does not really seem to deal with the problem, not unlike the way that cigarettes and bad baby formula and pesticides banned here eventually get sold somewhere in the less suspecting or regulated world.

So do I think that keeping this car is similar to normalizing the exploding nonsense that continues to erupt around the so-called president we continue to refer to here as 45*? My answer to that would be no. Getting rid of this car in the buy back scheme would change nothing environmentally besides the location of the problem, while keeping it would possibly make things somewhat better if the fix that wouldn’t happen if I sold it back actually does what they say it will. Getting rid of the president known as 45* would not change everything, although it might allow things to return to a certain level of relative normalcy and, if nothing else, it might reestablish some of our lost credibility on the world stage. In many ways it is just too bad that VW blew it with the diesel because as far as I can see they got it right with every other aspect of this car complying with the fantasy of Fahrvergnügen without selling it as such. As far as the president known as 45* ever having a chance of making America great again- dream on, if you can get beyond the current nightmare.