The tire place
The Derbmobile had a slow leak on its right front tire, so Saturday morning I took it to the tire place.
My little town has a tire place everyone goes to. Perhaps yours does too. Our tire place is squinched in a short street between two bigger streets about to converge—like the bar of an upper-case “A”—in the low-commercial part of town (body shops, dry cleaners, chain drug stores, bodegas). The frontage is only about a hundred feet wide, twenty deep. There are four bays and a service-desk area.
Saturday morning they are super busy. There’s a small army of guys directing you to a parking place on the street or the forecourt, or into a bay. Under their directions, I parked at one side of the forecourt. A guy came out from the building and asked me, in a heavy Spanish accent, what was up. I told him. He jacked up the car, span the wheel, and quickly located a tiny nail imbedded in it. I was not to worry, he assured me, he could feex it, no prob-lem!
He took off the wheel and disappeared with it into a bay. I waited by the car, admiring the wonderful skill with which the choreographers, by gestures and shouting, managed the inward and outward flow of cars and customers. Skill and precision—the tire place guys deserve a mention in Simon Winchester’s book (below). Tolerance: 1 inch.
It seemed to me there must be endless possibilities for fender-benders with so many vehicles in such a small space. Does it ever happen? I asked one of the guys. “Not to my knowledge,” he replied in regular Long Islandish, never taking his eyes off the corps de ballet.
My man came back with the wheel, wet from the puncture bath. He put it back on, dzz dzz dzz, let down the car, and walked me to the service desk. Twelve dollars.
I almost like coming here: everyone working hard but good-natured, everything done so efficiently in such a confined space, fair prices, no fuss. No chicanery, either: They’ve never tried to sell me a new tire when the existing one is feex-able. The tire place is a model of useful everyday commerce.
There’s a serpent lurking in my paradise, though. A couple of streets over there’s a stretch of road where illegal aliens hang out early in the morning, looking for a day’s work. The probability that by having my tire fixed here I am participating in the cheap-labor racket I seethe and fume about on VDARE.com, is very high.
All sorts of questions arise. As a conscientious patriot, shouldn’t I be lobbying ICE to raid the tire place?
Or: Suppose they did raid it while I was lounging there by my car watching the forecourt maneuvers. Suppose they went into the bay where cheerful, efficient José was fixing my tire and brought him out in cuffs. Would I be, like, “Hey, wait a minute, fellers …” If José looked at me, would I look right back at him? What if ICE shut down the tire place and frog-marched the proprietors off to the bridewell?
Damn these moral conundrums! Answers: I am lobbying, in my own way, trying to bring my own particular limited abilities to the issue, writing internet articles deploring our open borders.
And no, I wouldn’t interfere with an ICE operation. You do the crime, you do the time—sorry, pal. It wasn’t me left the border open. Yes, I could meet his eyes. What’s right, is right. Scoffing at our laws is wrong. If ICE shuts down the tire place, there’s one in the next town over.
I do think, though, that after watching José being driven away, I’d feel a strong urge to find the nearest politician and break his jaw on José’s behalf.
Of course ICE didn’t show up. After paying the lady at the service desk, my man was hovering outside expectantly. I gave him an extravagant tip.
Passing on stage
In my September 14th podcast I recorded the passing of Indian public intellectual Rita Jitendra, who died on September 10th while being interviewed on live TV. I commented that: “Somewhere on the internet, I’m sure, there is a list of people who have died in the middle of some public performance.”
Several listeners did the due diligence I should have done, and pointed me to Wikipedia’s “List of entertainers who died during a performance.” There have been more such cases than you’d think. A general favorite with listeners was this one from 1971:
Longevity expert Jerome Rodale had been quoted as saying, “I’m going to live to be 100, unless I’m run over by a sugar-crazed taxi driver.” Soon after, he was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. After his interview was done, Pete Hamill was being interviewed by Cavettwhen Rodale slumped. Hamill, noticing something was wrong, said in a low voice to Cavett, “This looks bad.” Rodale had died of a heart attack at age 72. The episode was never aired.
I think the case of Jim Fixx beats that for irony, though it doesn’t really belong in the Wikipedia list. Fixx was a leading promoter of the mid-1970s jogging craze, and wrote a best-selling bookadvocating running for health. He died of a heart attack in 1984, aged 52 … while jogging.
If you consider college faculty meetings to be performances, which some of my academic acquaintances surely do, a borderline Wikipedia-worthy case is that of Franz Boas the anthropologist, godfather of the No Such Thing As Racedogma. Boas died of a stroke at a Columbia faculty dinner in the arms of Claude Levi-Strauss, another crank anthropologist (but a much better writer).
My VDARE.com colleague James Fulford remarked on the number of stage performers who have died attempting the Bullet Catch illusion. There is even a book about this giving the precise number: Twelve Have Died.
I’m surprised the number isn’t bigger. Given the Pagliacci-style passions that swirl in the hothouse atmosphere of a troupe of healthy, highly-sexed young adult performers living and working in close quarters, especially on the road, the Bullet Catch illusion must offer irresistible temptations to jealous lovers and cuckolded husbands.
This whole business of dying while performing is fascinating. I’d write more, but I think I should go lie down. There’s this sudden pain … I … can’t breathe … I think … oh … ah …