Sorry I haven’t posted much over the past week. I’m writing, but it’s not something visible from here yet. After completing the Southeast Asian update at the beginning of this month, I decided it was time to do what I have been postponing for the past few months—compose the next chapter in my Latin American history project. This will be the fifth chapter in the series, covering the years 1889 to 1959. I am planning to call it “Uncle Sam’s Backyard,” because the United States has been a strong influence over Latin America as least since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, but it was during this period that it came closest to completely dominating the region. So until I announce the chapter is finished, you can assume that when I’m not here, I’m fully into working on the next history paper.
Old friends of the family know that Leive & I have two hand-me-down cars from our Florida days: a 1995 Buick and a 1992 Nissan. Previously we did most of our driving in the Buick – that’s the car I took to Connecticut – but it developed engine trouble on the way back, in April 2012, so I have driven it sparingly since then, and used the Nissan instead. Then last August 8 the Buick broke down completely while I was running minor errands with it, and I have not been able to get it to work since.
Yesterday a friend from church came over to look at the Buick (not one of the mechanic friends I have told readers about in the past). He couldn’t start it up, either, but he figured out the problem – the fuel pump failed. At this point, we decided that keeping the Buick running is no longer worth the money and the trouble, but he might be able to fix it, so he’ll probably come by tomorrow to tow the Buick away. That car has served me well, I hope it can serve him, too.
Needless to say I was driving the Nissan when I went out today. On the way home it developed serious problems of its own. It kept stalling when I cranked it up, and I could only get it to go by starting it with the transmission in neutral, and then suddenly shifting to drive before it had a chance to stall; it also handled with much less pep than usual on the road. My untrained guess is that a vacuum hose broke, because another mechanic friend, Dan Sturdivant, replaced the vacuum hoses in the Nissan last June, and it ran better after that. Maybe I can get the friend who’s taking the Buick to look at the Nissan. At any rate, the Nissan is not safe to drive until this is fixed, so both cars are effectively out of action.
I can group the complicated problems we have, those that require a specialist to solve, into four basic categories:
1. Car problems (need a mechanic).
2. Computer problems (need a geek).
3. Health issues (need a doctor).
4. Home repairs (need a handyman).
Of those four, computer problems scare me the least. As a computer nerd, when I have trouble with my hardware or software, I usually know exactly what is causing it, and can give a ballpark figure of what it might cost to fix it. Car problems scare me the most, because often I have no idea what the cause is, or what to do about it. In addition, with my long-term unemployment, this is probably the worst time to repair or replace a car. If ever I needed a miracle for my situation, it’s now!