An Ode to My (Unintentionally Feminist) Auto Mechanic

From Flickr User motor74. A much newer edition of my car.
From Flickr User motor74. A much newer edition of my car.

There are about 3 things in my life right now that I wish were different. The main one is that I wish I hadn’t landed, as an adult, a mere 100 miles from where I grew up, in the same state. I wanted to be someplace more urban. Or at least some rural scene that is less familiar. Like in Alaska or something.

A good mechanic is hard to find anywhere, though.

I’ve found my good mechanics more often by talking to other women than by luck.

My car is not a country car. It rebels against potholes and ice. It has about as much get-up as a 90-year-old mule. It is tiny, great for parallel parking, and has a manual transmission, which is the only thing that saves me in the snow. It is also inexpensive and great on fuel. It would be a great city car. I would be a great city girl.

Recently, a terrifying noise started coming from someplace under my car.

A loud tapping or ticking that I could feel in the steering column and under my feet as I turned hard to the right. Or left. Or soft to the right or left. I worried it was a bad shock because suddenly whenever I went over a small bump, my head hit the ceiling and Child complained about being car sick. On the way to school. Ten minutes.

I worried it was my axle which, when I thought about it, was more like this: I hope it’s not my fucking expensive.

So I called my auto mechanic. The trusty and affordable Bob Creveling of Creveling’s Garage & Towing.

I found Creveling’s by accident. My car shit out last winter parked in front of a girlfriend’s house for coffee after dropping our kids at the bus stop. A super nice country-dweller helped me get it started, then we took it up to Creveling’s. I had no clue what was wrong, and extremely limited financial resources.

Bob Creveling asked me what was happening, listened, nodded, and offered a hypothesis without talking down to me.

When he figured out what was wrong, he explained it to me and answered my questions without acting like I had no right to be asking them.

When he gave me the bill, it was under $100.

I wish I could tell you this is normal in my experience.

It is not.

I bet other women will attest that it’s not.

I bet other women have horror stories about paying $4,000 for repairs that they later found would’ve cost $600 at a different garage.

Here are other times Bob + Renee Creveling have gone out of their way to make my car work without costing a million dollars: My muffler got a hole in it and was making a terrible noise. A new muffler would’ve cost $600 before markup. Bob welded it back together and charged me $90. My car needed a tuneup (new spark plugs). It has these fancy iridium tipped sparkplugs that cost $20 each. They didn’t mark them up, at all.

Once, I took my car there for an oil change and waited. It was spring and they allowed Child and I to sit on the back porch of their home (they live in the same building as the garage) and watch their little TV. They gave me coffee. When my car was done, Bob came and sat down and had coffee with us. He asked Child about school. He asked me about life. We talked about country beauty, the sound of the creek.

Not in a creepy way. In a nice guy with good people skills way.

In a way that evinces trust of human kind, sincerity, a desire to be kind and to do right by people.

So when I drove up to Creveling’s gingerly on Monday morning, I was already a little in love with the Crevelings.

I avoided bumps and I tried to steer gently. I didn’t go too fast.

Bob accidentally locked my key in my car, then lent me his car so I could go get my spare set from town, twenty minutes away.

When I got back, he offered to drive me somewhere while he looked at my car. I just walked down the street to the Trout Run Hotel (ahem, bar, always fun people watching/listening) and had some lukewarm coffee while I read stuff.

About an hour later, Bob showed up, told me what was wrong with my car, and asked me if I could find a ride home. The driver’s side ball joint and spring were shot, and I needed new rear brakes to pass inspection. He said he thought it would be better if I could avoid driving the car.

Then, when I went back to Creveling’s to meet my ride, he invited me into his garage and showed me, while my car was on the lift, what was wrong with it. He showed me the parts that were broken, explained how they were broken and how that would affect my car’s life and my driving experience and my tires.

He said, “You women need to know your cars so you can avoid getting taken advantage of. I’ve seen it so many times.”

I said “You’re right. Thank you. So, so much.”

The next day, he stayed at work till 7:30 to get my car done. He called me to let me know it was ready.

Wednesday morning, Fella drove me up the hill. He said, “Did he tell you how much?”

I said, “I didn’t think to ask. I know it will be fair.”

And it was. I was expecting close to a grand. My bill was $400.

I love my mechanic, his staff, and his life partner. If I ever do get to the city, I will want to take them with me. I will have anxiety about leaving a garage I can trust.

Anybody else have a bad or awesome mechanic story to share?

Excellent meeting with a guy who wants you to have his book, free.

I’m working on becoming a nonprofit slave.

I am a nonprofit slave, actually.

Running two blogs, tweeting and facebooking with intention, meeting with people, networking, hatching ideas, and doing graphic design is really more than I have time to do.  But I’m managing so far, and once we get some funding, I can hire a couple of interns to take over some of the marketing stuff.  I need some help with the marketing, the social media.  That stuff can really, really suck time.  But I’ve discovered two cool things:  Tweet Deck, and Twuffer.

I launched my StartSomeGood campaign, and this is SERIOUSLY awesome.  I am so excited about the responses I’ve had.  We’re already close to $400 on our way.  People are so warm and receptive to the idea.  I keep scoring meetings with awesome people who are well-connected, full of ideas, and who Want to Help.

One such dude: Peter Damian Bellis.  He wrote that book pictured there, and it was in the running for nomination for the National Book Award.

Click that book.  You get a free present from him.  You can read it on the train during your holiday travels.  Or read it to escape from the obligatory familial torture you’ll endure in the next few weeks.  Or maybe you can just let it junk up your hard drive till you get around to reading it.  But you should definitely grab it.  And tell all your friends, too.

Also, the book is special.  I’ve read maybe 6 total pages of it, and it’s really kind of teetering on the precipice of avant garde, I’d say.  But delicious, and it grabs you.  I’ll write more once I’ve read more.  But for now, you should read it too.  Then come back here, or go to my other blog and talk about it.

I was so freaking energized after meeting with Peter.

It’s been a long time since I had a meeting that gave me a nearly uncontrollable urge to write.  Peter reminded me to listen to myself.  To just let the writing happen.  That was a good reminder.  I’ve been so focused on ends and means lately.  Too much so.  Peter reminded me that I didn’t start to love reading because I like stories.  I started to love reading because I love language.  That’s why I started to love writing, too.

It was a great meeting.  And Peter’s going to be a terrific ally for Billtown Blue Lit.  Which, in case I didn’t mention yesterday, you can go donate by clicking here.

Big Announcement: New Venture, Start Some Good, Twelve Good Things

This is my non-professional logo

As I write this, I am working to launch a fundraising project on Start Some Good.  I have a great idea and the expertise to make it go if we can raise the cash.

The Folks over at StartSomeGood.com like the project, and they’ve approved me to utilize their site.

You, good blog readers, get to have a sneak peek of the project, and to follow the progress from day one.

I’ll admit that I’m both insanely excited and scared to death about this thing.  I am excited because I want to serve authors and my community, and I think there are a lot of folks who will be as excited about this project as I am.

I am scared because of the possibility of failure, and because I have a fairly long history of people showing up to tell me how my big ideas are impossible/bad/wrong.  I have learned to sidestep them, but they are sneaky and they affirm my inner editor (who is a massive bitch) who wants me to believe I’m horrible and will always fail.  Of course, that possibility always exists, but you can see here why I think the insecurity it causes should mostly be ignored.

I need your help.  Once my fundraising campaign is live, I’ll tell you about it, and I’ll ask for your support.  But for now, what I need is help with the video, recommendations of  (preferably local to Central PA) attorneys and accountants who work in the nonprofit sector, and good writers of literary fiction. And I need more ideas.  Ideas beget ideas.

I need you to tell your friends about this project.

I’ll be telling all of my friends and posting updates here, at twitter and–once I hit my tipping point–on the Billtown Blue Lit website, which will be designed and hosted by local web professionals.

I’ll need to form an unpaid board of directors within the next several months, so if that’s something you’re interested in, or to help with anything above (or below), email me at AprilLineWriting@gmail.com or comment here.

Williamsport is a great town, I’m proud to live here. This project is a great match for our already arts-centered community.

Here are the 12 things that are up at the Start Some Good venture as things I’m aiming to accomplish.

1. Bringing the writers to town will provide an opportunity for Blue Lit to contract with local hotels/B&Bs to board the writers.  Blue Lit will ONLY feed the authors at local, independently owned eateries.

2. There will be an opportunity for folks in the community to hear these authors read their work, get exposed to new authors, and to meet them and ask questions at the reception and Q&A that will follow each event.  The events will be free and open to the public.

3. Blue Lit will work with The Pajama Factory (local artists’ haven) to start a writer-in-residence program which will provide an opportunity for a writer to work on her stuff in a place that’s designated to artists.

4. Farther down the line, Blue Lit will host a writer’s workshop (like the one Tin House does, that’s what I’ve linked), and provide more culture and commerce to the independently owned businesses in the town.

5. Blue Lit will consistently fund-raise to provide a scholarship fund for deserving, gifted writers of single mothers.

6. Blue Lit will employ local college students as marketing interns, and eventually as office personnel.

7. Blue Lit will work with Otto (independent book seller) to feature the books by the visiting readers, and with the community library to feature the same books.

8. Advertising is key.  I’ve been in touch with the local radio folks and they said that they’re willing to tout the series throughout their entire listening area which spans a huge portion of central PA. I’ve also done some research about print advertising and will run twitter, facebook, and blogging campaigns.

9. Blue Lit will provide a stipend that’s on the high end for visiting writers ($1,000), and we will encourage the visiting author to sell books at the event.

10. Blue Lit will work to give writers additional venues by launching an online literary journal, and contests that award cash prizes to new writers. (á la Glimmer Train)

11. I will contract with local freelancers with whom I already have a working relationship to put together the marketing materials (brochure, flyers, website, etc). These will be printed at the local print shoppe.

12. Blue Lit will do a book group focusing on the  most recent work of the visitng writer. This will generate hype, and will also raise funds.

New York, New Ideas, Old Passions

Today, Child and I are going to New York City.  It will be her first time since she was on the inside and I went to see the Christo exhibit in Central Park.

I love New York.  I love all cities, but New York particularly makes me feel alive and happy and inspired.

We are going to visit friends who just ran the New York City Marathon.

Marathons are way harder than Zumba.  I have been doing Zumba.

I am looking forward to walking around the city in the fall with good people, and I hope that Child will feel some of the awe I do.

But before I go pack & iron out my directions & make sure I’m ready-ready, I want to tell you all about this great idea I’ve been hatching.

I’m going to start a literary reading series in Williamsport, PA.  That’s where I live. I’m going to call it Bill Town Blue Lit Series.

In college, going to literary readings was my favorite thing.  Like going to New York, going to a literary reading leaves me bursting with new, great words, and feeling happy and connected.

Williamsport is a great town.  Home of Little League Hall of Fame (and World Series), and The Pajama Factory, and Brodart.  We have a wonderful arts community, a number of arts venues that is startling compared to our population and political affiliations.

I’m putting together a budget and looking for readers.  I’ll be launching a kickstarter page in the next few weeks.

I want to raise the money for the first six months.  The ultimate goals are lofty and include promoting literacy through community involvement, hosting a writer’s workshop (like this one), and starting a scholarship fund for writers who are children of single moms.

But in the short term, small scale, immediate vision, there are readings that are free to the public, high quality readers who get paid to be here, and another aspect to the already rich cultural presence here.

I will need your help.  Stay tuned.