Friday, September 3, 2010

Trying to Find Something Good

Try to find something good you can pull from each experience……

Several weeks back I made an expensive mistake with my primary drive, a ’01 Eclipse Spyder. Say what you want about my mechanical inability, but the bottom line is this: I did not pay close attention to the maintenance schedule or I would have noticed the line about replacing the timing belt at 60K miles. I haven’t driven a car with that requirement in a while, and this happens to be a non clearance engine. That means bent valves, all twenty four of them. It happened two hours from my house, so I chose to have it towed (before I knew the extent of the damage) to a local shop near the Georgia/North Carolina border.

It took several weeks for the repairs to be completed, mostly due to a two week backup at the local machine shop where the head was taken for resurfacing. My son accompanied me on the two hour drive to pick it up, soaking up the mountain views as we approached the garage, plus enjoying the 61 degree mountain air. Afterwards he joined me for breakfast at a local diner before driving back.

If you can find out where the locals eat you’re always in line for a good meal.

When the car had broken weeks before, my two daughters were in the car with me, and sat for an hour at a pull off where the belt broke. We ended up talking to three different locals that stopped to help, all very eccentric, each one of them worth writing about. One man was trying to sell painted mailboxes after telling me all that is wrong with the world, another had pulled in to roll his tobacco and didn’t even know we were there (his words, not mine,) and the other guy just wanted to see what was going on. It will worry me when my girls are both driving by themselves after seeing who stopped to help. They deserve a thanks for their concern , but still, I will be worried.

After the car was towed a few miles back stream, the garage desk operator suggested we walk down to the breakfast house while we waited for our ride to arrive, about a 10 minute walk. We did, and after the girls jumped mud puddles, complained about the high grass and chiggers, and we made the treacherous run across the four lane highway, we made it.

Nothing but locals. Plus this guy (me) with his two daughters, both of whom were texting and talking nonstop. No one seemed too concerned about us, and we enjoyed a nice lunch, plus some unexpected time spent talking and cutting up.

A sign was mounted on the wall, behind the counter where the bill was to be paid. It read “We cook food to order. It takes time. If you want fast food, there is a McDonald’s in town.”

So my son and I made the return trip to eat, this time driving from the garage to the diner. Too much traffic to cross the road on foot anyway.

I decided on pancakes. The menu gave a choice of 1, 2, or 3 big pancakes. Now I’ve seen some slightly exaggerated product descriptions in my time, so I went with the three, figuring they weren’t as big as the menu claimed. Good thing my son was there to help with a portion after he finished his meal. I would say the three pancakes were the size of 6 to 8 normal servings that my wife makes at home.

I went up front to pay, and I asked for a to-go coffee. The lady running the register, the same one who took the order, brought out the food, and refilled drinks, was very friendly. I suspect she is owner or co-owner. I saw her go to a table and sit for a moment to talk to the guests, and she knew them, I could tell. She seemed to be a kind, gentle soul.

As I was paying, I mentioned how much I liked the two black and white studio portraits framed and mounted on the wall, standing out from the myriad of other photos on the same wall. At least they stood out to me, since I am a portrait photographer. Both featured a baby, and one photo had the dad, one had the mom. Very sweet poses, and a loving expression from both parents. The photographer captured the moment well.

The lady behind the counter’s eyes lit up, and she told me about the photographer taking these at a local event, and how she loved them as well. She said, “I have something else you would probably enjoy, even though it isn’t a photograph. It’s a painting.”

After the transaction was complete, she took me through a closed door into a secondary dining area, one that must be reserved for peak times. Maybe Friday and Saturday nights. She switched on the overhead fluorescent lights and pointed to a rather large painting on the outside wall, mounted between two windows. The painting was huge, I’m guessing four feet high. It showed two boys dressed in overalls, sitting on hay bales, with a pig in the foreground. Looked like a country fair scene. She told me these were her two grandsons, and the painting was made from a photograph taken of them recently. The photo was nice, but the story behind it made it more special.

The artist, a friend of the lady I spoke to, suffered a stroke before painting the work of art. She had to hold her hand on the arm she painted with the keep it steady, and despite her limitations, the work is beautiful and full of life. This was after learning to paint initially without the disability, so she had to relearn, and figure out how to overcome the obstacles to keep doing what she loved. She probably had to go through a painful relearning process for things we take for granted. Don’t you love it when someone pushed barriers out of the way and does something he/she has a passion for?

As we left the room and she turned the lights back off, she made this statement: “Wish I could paint like that. I can’t even draw a straight line. Guess I’m just here to takes money and wait tables.”

I told her kind words can touch people and you may never know what you’ve done for the other person.

She agreed, and said “We all have a purpose, I guess.”

She talked about the painting, saying when she looked at the older boy, probably around eight or nine years old, she saw everything about him. The personality just jumped off the canvas. She pointed to the eyes, and said they were captured just right. It seemed the artist was looking straight into his heart and mind and pulled everything out, through those beautiful eyes.

It’s been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. I’ve found in portrait photography the eyes can be what makes or breaks a good image. I always look for a good catchlight to reflect in the eyes to show some life. The light is easy to see, and it’s also easy to see when it’s missing. Have you ever seen someone smile with their mouth, big and wide, but the eyes are full of daggers? It’s often times easy to pick up on a kind spirit, even if you are meeting someone for the first time. Some can fake it, but not for long. The other extreme stands out as well. We can see life or a lack of life in someone’s eyes.

About the car; it runs smoother with less engine noise than before the breakdown (noisy valves or was it the water pump that was replaced?) And the owner/mechanic told me about a class action deal that will help me get a rebate for a new paint job on the car. His daughter has an identical hardtop version and he shared the rebate info with me.

There is usually a silver lining hiding somewhere. I will admit sometimes it takes years to figure out what it is.


  1. Sometimes you have to have a little car trouble to slow down and see the world around you. Great post.

  2. Very nice post! Slowing down and getting a dose of perspective is something we can all use n a regular basis! Thanks!