A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Little Cars

Today I received a UPS package, but it wasn't an occasion for great excitement--except for the dog. Anything involving a doorbell is a big deal for Taz. I took my time getting downstairs, as I was pretty sure the package wasn't actually for me.

A European gentleman named Philippe gets almost as much mail at the Emory House as I do. He's a friend of a friend who was overjoyed, some time back, to make even a tenous acquaintance with an American. I have something he wants badly: an American mailing address.

Philippe is a collector of Hot Wheels cars...one of those fanatical collectors who can't have too many. Long before I met him, he had already amassed a boatload, but he had been mostly restricted to the ones he could buy in Europe. Certain models and editions are only issued here, in Happy Meals or in cereal boxes or at Kmart the month before Christmas. And some online sellers won't ship to anywhere outside the United States.

I told him I didn't have a problem with his using my house as a mail drop. Periodically I forward them, or a jetsetting friend delivers them. In the meantime, they live with me.

At the moment, I must have thirty or so little cars in my possession. Today's haul consisted of a yellow Custom Mustang from the Neo-Classics Series, with red line tires, Spectraflame color and a metal base, and a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible, #4 of 30 in the Series 2 Classics line, with special paint and a die-cast body and chassis.

Philippe is a handsome and intelligent single guy, a generously-compensated programmer with beautiful clothes and manners to match. Doesn't fit the profile of what I imagined a Hot Wheels collector would be (eight years old, hyperactive and bratty, or fully-grown but nerdy, socially backward and clueless). Possibly in response to some ribbing by co-workers, Philippe sent around an email with the header "Why I do like Hot Wheels." No text...just a photo of several hot babes in spandex jumpsuits posed with a display of the cars.

Thanks to Philippe, I have been introduced to the mysterious underground universe of Hot Wheels collectors. I troll the aisles of Target and Kmart, Toys R Us and K-B, looking for limited editions and rare colors. I learned that stores hold pre-advertised lotteries at which numbers are assigned, and patrons get to rummage through special shipments as their numbers are called. Fights frequently break out.

I'd make fun--but then I remember the U-turn I made on the highway, in the rain, to snatch up that last hubcap. To each his own passion!


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