Monday, September 13, 2010

Auto math: MG - MG = MX5 GT

I'm not tied to "things." "Things" and "stuff" don't own me.

OK, there are two "things."

Joyce often kids that, if the house were to catch fire, I'd first grab the signed and numbered Picasso serigraph (signed, unfortunately, not by Pablo but by Picasso's daughter with the inscription "from the collection of Marina Picasso"). I'd then grab my 1889 edition of "Stanley in Africa," Henry Stanley's account of finding Dr. Livingstone, who had been "lost" in remote Africa in his quest to find the source of the Nile.

My Stanley book story lends value to the value of the book. If you're not interested, skip to the next graf. If curiosity prevails, here goes: As a student at the University of Florida in African Studies, I was in the attic of the library doing research when, rummaging through the shelves, I stumbled upon the Stanley book. Opening the back cover, I saw that it had last been checked out shortly before I was born in 1943. This was 1977. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT have a larcenous bone in my body. If a clerk were to give me a nickel more in change than deserved, and if I failed to discover the additional bounty until after reaching home, I'd get back in the car and drive whatever miles necessary to return the unearned five cents. But, on that day in the musty attic on the UF campus, larceny did, indeed, raise its ugly head. I thought about taking the book. My rationale was simple: I'd give it a good home after being ignored for 34 years. After reflection, I ultimately put it back. Jump five years to the future, shortly after I had been named editor at the newspaper in Hendersonville, N.C. Joyce and I went to one of our favorite events - a used book sale, this one by the Hendersonville Public Library. Entering the hall where the sale was held, I glanced over at the rare book table and, lo and behold, there was my Stanley book. A woman, much older than I, was getting ready to pick it up. "Excuse me," I said as I reached past her grasp to put the treasure into my own. ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume!") Inside, in pencil, was the price: $1. Ahhh, no doubt the book gods were repaying me for my successful resistance to theft years earlier in that attic.

So Picasso and Stanley, then back into the flames for Joyce.

Back to the "stuff," some folks think there's a third "thing" -- my 1979 orange (officially, blaze red) MGB roadster. No so, but...

...Wednesday will be filled with a bit of emotion because I'm letting go of a "thing" that has consumed a good many hours of my life, most pleasantly.

Today, I announced that "I'm selling the MG" in the newsroom to an audible groan (and not from me, but from the Kansan staffers there that morning). In fact, that's been the response of everyone I've told. I truly didn't think people cared that much.

Take heart. I may be selling the old lady (the MG, folks, not Joyce), but I'm staying the same. The MGB, my "every day" car that has been a part of our lives for seven years, many thousands of miles, and a number of tows by triple-A, is being swapped for a 2007 dark green Mazda Miata MX5 Grand Touring model. Both are two-seated roadsters (though the Miata comes with heated seats).

Why? Age is the biggest issue. Not the MG's, but mine.

Moreover, to own an MG, ultimately you have to become a pretty good mechanic. (One club member fashioned a head gasket from an old cereal box found along the side of the road when his failed.) I simply won't ever be that accomplished a mechanic because of the lack of both aptitude and desire. I've loved the MG, just not enough to do the oft-required surgery required of old British cars, often on the side of the road. I simply want to spend my time on other pursuits, most especially reading and writing, as well as the drinking of fine ales (and sometimes at the same time).

Joyce and I decided we wanted a roadster to travel the country to see our children (one on one coast, one on the other) and some kin and good friends. After much angst, we decided that the MG simply was not reliable (or safe) enough.

So, we began exploring. First on the list was a Honda S2000. We found one in Kansas City, and the color was just right (yellow), but it was a bit pricey and almost too comfortable. Moreover, Honda decided last year to discontinue the model. We plan to keep the "new" old car for a lot of years, so we were a bit concerned about getting parts for the S2000 if none were being made.

Miatas, which, like the Honda, get high marks from Consumer Reports and folks we know who've owned 'em, have been made for a long time now. The expectation is that they'll be made for a lot longer, too, so parts (and advice) should be plentiful. And there's an active Miata club in the area.

As you know, we value the "travel" of travel. So, we'll still be cruising the highways with the top down. We just expect (and are hopeful) that we won't be meeting any triple-A tow truck drivers (one of whom once said of the MG: "I've towed this one before.")