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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chili Con Car. By John von Daler

                    Mechanisms. Machines. A light case of mechanophilia. That is what they said: symptoms of budding fascism. You men. All alike. Always falling in love with them. And I who thought of myself as super liberal - or at least the Clark Kent of super liberals.

                There it was, the #car. Red as my childhood's fire engine. You could sit up high in it, yet still it was no taller than the rest of the traffic. Powerful, it was. Fast, but still it clung heavily, safely to the road. It could transport a whole string quartet with instruments, baggage, coffee, music stands and high spirits.
                "It" you say? Who's "it"? No, no! The car was "she" and "her". Almost without thinking. She even had a name.
                We sat around the table with our glasses of wine and called out characteristics: "Strong!" "Red!" "Shiny!"
                "Chili!" said my downstairs neighbor. "Just your kind of thing!" She knew me well enough.
                "That's it, but that's not enough," I said. "I know: Chili con Car! Strong, and red and spicy!"
                So we named her "Chili con Car." And raised our glasses.
                I would go to the window at night and look out to see if she was all right. I would take her out just to drive around. I washed her once a week for the first half year. I polished. I worried about scratches.
                Luck would have it that I aged during this period of my life. The years just added and added on. It was as if I was running twice as quickly as before -  and in the wrong direction at that.
                I decided to retire. We sat down and did the math. How will we cut down to keep our budget in balance?
                That was the moment when Chili con Car after ten years of faithful service, loyal friendship, and cosy companionship found herself struck from my list.
                "We are using 48000 kroner a year on that thing," said my wife. "And you are not even going to play anymore. What will we do? Just use it in the summer?" Her use of the "it" word stung me.
                "OK, OK! The car goes," I said.  And that was when I went out to take some pictures to put on the internet and an Arabic friend came by and asked what was going on. When I told him, he made a phone call. And that was when I sold Chili con Car to Mohammed, a friend of my friend.
                When I handed over the keys, I pulled Mohammed aside. Still holding on to his elbow I mumbled, you know, so that the words could be understood if necessary, but not necessarily.
                "Her name is Chili con Car," I said. I tried to laugh, as if that name would be our little joke together. But Mohammed had purchased the car to transport his wife and five children. And they ate very little chili.
                "Oh," he said, the way I myself have answered Danes in Danish without understanding anything of what they had just said.
                "Of course, you can call it whatever you like," I added, trying to look casual. "After all, it's your car now."
                These days when I walk the streets of Copenhagen I often see red cars much like the one I owned. When I see one, I sometimes mutter that erstwhile name under my breath, especially if my wife is with me. But never once has any of those cars braked and stalled right beside us at the sound of my voice calling out that name of names, "Chili con Car".
                Maybe she is called "Car-es-Salaam" now. Who knows.

If you enjoy the blog, you might enjoy make book: "Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude". You can peruse or buy it HERE.


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