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Soup of This Day #234: Lost In The Real World

August 17, 2012

AVE Mizar flying car
Where we’re going bro, we won’t need roads. This is an AVE Mirzar flying car, mating a Cessna Skymaster plane to a Ford Pinto car. The car was too heavy and the only example of this hybrid crashed, killing it’s designer. Which is not promising – Photo: Doug Duncan, 1973. Doug Duncan is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Sunday just past I got to thinking about how I’d got my driver’s licence. The prompter for this was a trip to the local video store where I was looking to hire some DVDs for The Noah, who was facing a long afternoon cooped up at home with a cold on a day of truly miserable weather. The link to my passport to drive is circuitous but stick with me ‘cause there’s a point to be made somewhere in all of it.

I think.

Let me start off the journey by declaring that I use my wife’s video store membership because I don’t have 1. Not because of an unpaid fine – I have never had a late return fine, principally because I have never been a member of a video store.

Not once.

This might mark me as a bit strange. Video stores were big through the 80’s and 90’s. Most folk had a video player and a rental made for a cheap and entertaining night in.

Throughout all of this I steadfastly refrained from joining up. Initially because I had no video player. And for a while there, no TV. Strangely I did, and still do, own video cassettes – Some of which have never been played. There’s not much point in borrowing more cassettes when you can’t play the 1s you already have.

That though just covers off the 90’s. Around 2001 I bought a TV and a Playstation and hey presto, I could play the DVDs that video stores had converted to. I didn’t rent any though, choosing instead to just buy them outright. For those who love the detail, my 1st DVD purchase was the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. It had Angelina Jolie and a whole host of great cars.

I’ve always loved cars.

In spite of this I waited until I was in my 30s to get my licence. The reasoning behind this was a perfect storm of weird logic and stifled opportunities.

For a start, when I was old enough I was following a trail blazed by Brother of Longworth72.

And boy, did he blaze it to hell and back.

Granted a Toyota Corona he tested its limits, primarily on the trip from his Perth base to the family home in rural Beverley. One of his favourite spots to stretch the mighty Corona’s wings was a long straight right before you made the final turn into town. Late 1 afternoon he was barrelling down that straight at speeds that nobody would later believe you could achieve in that car, when he decided to fiddle with the cassette tape player in the centre console. Taking his eyes off the road, he lost control, a feat enabled by the road being just a narrow strip of tarmac surrounded by wide borders of gravel.

What happened next is contentious but the end result is not in dispute – The Corona came to rest, right side up, in a paddock, with its driver relatively unscathed. There are 2 mysterious aspects to this scenario:

a. The paddock was surrounded by a drainage ditch, trees and a fence that was at least a metre high. None of the trees were marked and the fence remained intact. A favourite memory is standing with Dad and the farmer who tended that paddock as they stared at the car, then the fence, then the car and then the fence, trying to work out how this had all come about, given that they were convinced that the car had been travelling at only 80kmph.

b. Why Brother of Longworth72 was playing a very uncool mix tape featuring a relatively obscure Australian pop group called The Maybe Dolls.

You live and learn.

Regardless of the feat of engineering orchestrated by my errant bro, the effect on me was pretty draconian. I got no car and nobody was spectacularly willing to teach me to drive, mostly I think, because they feared I’d somehow be worse than him.

This might sound unfair but technically it was true. I was a little crap on the whole steering and braking thing. Not individually, just when combined.

So no licence at 18 for me and this was not so bad early on. Since I couldn’t drive sober I was never called upon to be responsible about what and when I drank and so I was free to drink a lot whenever I felt like it.

And I felt like it a lot.

By the time I’d passed 25 though I slowed down on the drinking and started to wish that I could legally get behind the wheel of a car. The trouble was that by then I was a mess of depression and anxiety and so in my fraught mind the whole getting a licence thing was a huge behemoth of a monkey on my back. More of a gorilla to be honest. Which isn’t a monkey – I know it’s an ape – It’s just that ‘gorilla’ reads smoother than ‘really, really, abnormally large monkey’.

And so the primate stayed, growing bigger each year as it fed off my fears. Unchallenged and unbowed.

Until it met my future wife.

Fed up with being my chauffeur she undertook the painful task of teaching me to drive. This was truly a labour of love because I was, frankly, as monumental a pain in the arse as a driving pupil for her as that psychological gorilla was for me.

She persevered though and 1 fine day in Carnarvon I sat my practical driving test. Not even my beloved thought that I’d pass and there were around 12 years of doubts bouncing around inside my head that day but in the end they ran into 1 of the biggest victories I’ve ever dished out to myself.

I’d passed 1st time around and after a handful of weeks of logbook driving and then a final hazard perception test I finally got my driving licence.

This then in turn gave me a crucial piece of identification that I could then have parleyed quite easily into a video store membership.


Because by then video stores had started to die and in the years since they have become an endangered species. The problem for them is best exemplified for me by a recent stretch of me being constrained to bed with the flu.

I had an iPad for entertainment and unable to even make it to the TV I decided to rent a movie via iTunes. It could have been any online service but the point is that without getting up and going to the video store I was able to rent Moneyball and watch it in stark hi-def.

It’s a good film that Moneyball.

I hadn’t seen it to that point, contenting myself with the book, which I like. I was apprehensive that the movie wouldn’t live up to that and so hadn’t rushed to watch it. As it turns out the film adaptation did have some aspects that struck a jarring note – It took poetic licence with the book and most probably a fair bit of the truth. Art Howe in particular doesn’t look good out of it, made as if to seem that the winning was in spite of him and not with his help. Curiously, the opening commences with the A’s having just come off a 102 win season so surely Art must have been doing something ok up to then.

So if it’s the truth you seek, a documentary this is not.

What I did though was to imagine as I watched that there is another Oakland A’s organisation out there, with another Billy Beane and another Art Howe. If you can picture that alternate universe then this movie just becomes a nice baseball story, complete with a rag-tag bunch of misfits who come good and a game-winning long-shot by a guy identified as the underdog of losers – A catcher who can’t throw who is crammed into an unfamiliar 1st base role.

Brad Pitt is good as the fictional version of the business-minded but quirky Beane, while Jonah Hill is pitch-perfect as the fictional uber-nerd with a game-changing vision. Both actors have their fair share of filler but there is enough moments that reach even a cynic like me to make this story something to see.

My 3 favourite scenes – a. Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) taking a visit from Beane and infield coach Ron Washington (Brent Jennings). In amongst the fast dialogue is a ball-player facing the reality that his career is shot and his life is at a crossroads; b. Fenway Sports Group supremo John Henry (Arliss Howard), smoothly selling his vision for the Sox to a sympathetic Beane:

‘I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sitting on their ass on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.’

Only a year out on that prediction so not bad; and c. Hill’s Paul Brand showing a jaded Beane the Jeremy Brown hit that Brown didn’t realise had gone long – Beane then asks rhetorically:

‘How can you not get romantic about baseball?’

How indeed.

So I like the film and in watching it via iTunes I’m contributing to the downfall of my local video store.

The very same place that I headed to last Sunday and that is offsetting falling income by selling off ex-rental stock in large bins taking up maybe a 3rd of the shop floor.

And which contained a copy of Moneyball for $6.

I bought it and in doing so hope that maybe that store can keep it going for just a bit longer. If they’re still around in October I might even get a membership for a shop that only sometimes now rents DVDs and Blu-ray discs but which will always be a video store to me.

That would be my idea of romance.

Lost In The Real World

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