My Life as a Jag

Need a lift?Hello from the Dogpatch,

Turns out that my neighbors are dizzingly honest. Today I drove my silver Jaguar along the golf course where I live, parked at the cute corner market, left the sun-roof open, took my beautiful canine companion for a walk around the lake, and came back to find my purse undisturbed in the front passenger seat where I had left it. Aren’t my neighbors honest? Doesn’t my life sound idyllic?

It’s all so easy with a turn of a phrase.

Here’s the rewrite: My neighbors are still dizzingly honest. The silver Jag is my little sister’s car that I kept after she killed herself. It’s ten years old, dented in odd places, gets crappy gas mileage, and tends to require costly parts every three months. We call it the ghetto Jag and I will drive it till it drops, or I can no longer afford to fix it. As to why my sis, who for most of her life drove around in cute little Volkswagens, up and bought this huge car, I really can’t say, but somehow it suits that it was the one she went out on. There’s traces of bubblegum, hers, stuck to the steering wheel.

A while back I fixed the worst of the dents and replaced the side mirror that was duct-taped on.

As for the canine companion herself, she’s about twelve and wants to sniff more than walk, so that walk around the lake was really a walk up and down the same little strip, with me standing there holding the leash slapping mosquitoes while princess sniffed the same bush she just sniffed.

Chloe at the lakeI suck at golf. Who can afford to play when I have to budget for fuel pumps and A/C clutches? I only live within walking distance of whatever number hole because my ex thought it was cool before we split. Frankly, I view it as land my dog could be sauntering across except those cranky guys in plaid get upset by that.

Lake LouiseThe lake is nice to walk around if your dog would go that far. See those big lakeside houses at the far end of the pic? None of them is mine. Once my ex and I took a canoe out in the middle of the lake. I think I knew that day we were over (over a brunette) and yes, the thought did occur to me to let him swim back.

My sis used to say that her life looked great on paper. I never fully understood what she meant until she literally demonstrated. I’m reminded of the John Singer character in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Like Singer, but not for the same reasons, my sis could never talk about what troubled her the most.

This post is meant to be about two things. One, I keep thinking about those characters you can write who, with a slight turn of phrase, have a life that sounds perfect or perfectly horrible. Don’t our very perspectives on our own lives vary from day to day or minute to minute? On a bright blue morning with the day ahead of me, I tend to be in a great mood. By evening I can feel overwhelmed with work and defeated by my errors, pass and current.

And also about cars. The ghetto Jag has a deep history. One day my friend André called me up to say he thought I should write a story from the point of view of the Jag. It’s a great idea and I may do it.

I used to drive an old Jeep. People in 4X4s would honk and wave at me in that “ooh, you got mud on your tires, too, bet you want off-road, how cool is that?” sort of way. Now they honk at me in that “move your big-ass gas-guzzling car out of the way” sort of way. Which is even funnier, because I’ve learned it’s kind of hard to move a big car quickly. Once the thing gets going it’s like 10 to 70 in no time, but it takes me forever to back out of my driveway.

Yeah, he might have made it across.

Okay, three things. About my sis, too. I’m working on a memoir that prominently includes her, so she’s more on my mind than usual. For those of you who write memoir much of the time, you may be more familiar with the feeling. I had put it down for a few years and have just picked it up again. Whew! My brain has been more exhausted than usual after writing time.

I’m also working on a piece of fiction, and I did very easily flip the character from being well-meaning and sad to self-serving and ruthless. He’s so much more fun when he’s not nice! Actually, the best result is when he, like most people, is capable of both good and bad and in his case maybe a little more bad.

I’m wondering if anyone else is working around that fine line between the good side and bad side of characters or scenarios. It’s a very interesting place to write, and of course leaves open lots of options for moving the character from one side to the other.

After all, sometimes it’s okay to just be the cheery middle-aged gal driving around in a Jag with a dog in the backseat blasting Train loud enough to piss of golfers.

XO Laurel Leigh

57-second sniff record and not even to the lake yet. :)

57-second sniff record and not even to the lake yet. 🙂

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10 Comments

Filed under Howling at the moon

10 responses to “My Life as a Jag

  1. Kelly

    This writing hit me hard. I just helped my 19 year old son clear out his dad’s closet. His dad (and my former husband for 23 years) died suddenly in March. I took a few pieces for myself. My son’s dad became Allison a few years ago. We didn’t always have the same taste in clothes and jewelry, but I kept a few of those things that I bought her to help her as she made her way to womanhood. All of the items I brought home yesterday were blue, just like her beautiful eyes.

    • Hi Kelly,
      That loss is painful, isn’t it? I think we all feel it differently and just as hard with each person we have to say good-bye to. I’m so sorry for your loss and I think it’s good to keep those remembrances. I have some of my sis’ jewelry, too, as do her friends and other family members, and we wear it at special times or just when we feel like it. Thank you for your note, and I hope time is your friend and begins to help with healing. Take care.

  2. this is very good writing, and very good writing about very good writing, and on and on, like the mirrors in front and behind at the barber shop when I was a kid, thinking about infinity. You had my interest all the way

    • Hi Ray,
      Many thanks for the good words. My dad used to get his haircut at one of those mirrored barbershops and I’d hang out and watch. I haven’t thought about that for a while. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. aren schank

    Hi Sis I have a black Jag in the garage it doesn’t run. the Red Jag was crashed 2 miles from my home in the summer of 2010 the first time Angela drove it . She was upset the car was in shambles I was grateful both of my daughters were still in one piece especially when I saw the car. I have 3 EXP s only one runs but needs hundreds in repairs. I drive a pickup truck 1998 Dodge until recently Angela had the Title and Aria the Registration. Scarlett the black Lab loves to ride in the back she will stay there for hours happy as a duck in a pond. I just noticed that the tail pipe was broken because I heard a clanking noise. Yea…… I am trying to sell the non running cars and get a small pick up. My Friend Linda is going to buy one of my Bruneau Jasper rocks for 15 dollars tomorrow. This afternoon I made oven fried chicken for my boyfriend’s potluck meeting. Tomorrow I am going to sell flowers at the Greenhouse last Sunday I sold over 300.00 dollars worth. They sold out of their Chicken BarBQue in 2 hours. It was a fun day. Angela gave me a huge hanging plant and Aria sent me a beautiful card and phoned me. I was thinking today that a lot can happen in a year…..Last year I could not walk any farther than my deck. I grew a deck garden I had a lot of time………I took about 3,000 pictures and spent hours on facebook………We survived by eating our own eggs and out of out garden. Aria and Terry mowed lawns and cleaned a horse barn for extra money We did not have a running car. or money to fix it. They walked or rode their Bikes into town. I had not met my girlfriend yet…My Boyfriend came in my Christmas Stocking……..I have two small dogs to play with…….a lot can happen in a year.

  4. I love the idea of a motorcycle trip to SF with my goggled dog in a sidecar. I’m actually heading to Idaho this weekend but, sadly, flying instead of hitting the open road. I had thoughts of driving but couldn’t take that much time off. I like what you say about good and bad characters who are the same people. That’s precisely the point and they are also the hardest to write because they are much more complex. If we do see them, often it’s in the extreme, like the murderer who loves his wife. But to dial it down to a more realistic juxtaposition is harder, yet so worth the effort. Good luck with your story. I will hope to read it soon!

  5. LOVE this post, Laurel. It’s exciting to see you juggle these projects and thoughts–a very rich (and, I’m guessing, productive) set of juxtapositions.

    • Thank you, Jennifer! That’s really encouraging. I have been interested in trying to balance character motivation with their overall quality. That is, if giving a character a very clear motivation, it’s easy to make them correspondingly one-dimensional instead of more complex. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Wow, Laurel, you’ve got a lot on your mind. I just started back in on a piece that I haven’t looked at in a long time. One that has good and back characters who happen to be the same people. Isn’t that true of us all? As far as your dog is concerned, I think you need to get her a scooter. That way, you both can make it around the lake. And as far as your ex is concerned, I would really have liked to have seen a picture of him swimming. :o)_The memoir issue is tough. Having to face all those ghosts every day. It’s gotta wear on you. Take a break when you need to, which gets me back to the dog scooter. Or maybe you should just take to the open road and come down to SF. :o)

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