Wedesv Ferury20 215/ Te5taemn
An ode to LBJ
by Josephine Adams
On fine COmnt what's wrong with students today?
"Of course, what isn't mentioned here is the corruption of our
for-maximum-profit businesses, who grab fresh-out-of-college
grads, burn them up for 5-10 years, then spit them out, exhausted
and unable to carry on so they can hire another college grad at half
the salary and repeat the process."
- USER: Jaym Esch
paige's pages: revisions, revisions by paige pearcy
Having admittedly failed at
reading the one book I promised
myself I would read for the first
of these columns - Zadie Smith's
"White Teeth" - I was deter-
mined to read it for this one. I'm
thankful that I tackled it, though
tackle is a strong word because it
was hardly unwieldy or difficult.
It was more of a pleasurable hug.
I chose to read Smith's first
novel for two reasons: One,
because I admire the essays and
literary journalism that I've
already read by her and two,
because I was told that she
always revises her work, even
during public readings. And
considering I re-wrote this
column five times and have
been editing it for two weeks,
that sounded all too familiar.
How does she know when
something is good enough to
publish it? When does she
make that distinction? And
when can we accept we've
done something well enough
to say it is "well enough?"
When do we give up on
the pursuit of perfection to
settle for something we deem
acceptable? Perhaps Smith
found it in "White Teeth"
when she wrote my favorite
line from the book: "Pulchritude
- beauty where you would least
suspect it, hidden in aword that
looked like it should signify a
belch or a skin infection."
Perhaps I found it when I was
accepted to attend to this fine
institution, or when I was in
fourth grade and won an essay
contest about conserving electric-
ity (with the impressive monetary
prize of $1.) Maybe that's when
I decided I did something well
enough. But that doesn't mean I
wouldn't have been completely on
board to go back and make revi-
sions. There is always room for
revisions, something that is hum-
bling and scary but also strangely
calming; we can always scratch
out words to make a sentence be
more visceral, just like we can
always turn back around and talk
to that crush and say what we
actually mean. We can always
change something we don't like.
Having that ability to never settle
but still determine when some-
thing is "good enough for the time
being" keeps us going.
Yet, when I read Smith's book,
I couldn't find any areas where
it needed revising - not that I
have an authority to say. It was
exceptional. The words are so
perfectly selected that sentences
like this: "But surely to tell these
tales and others like them would
be to speed the myth, the wicked
lie, that the past is always tense
and the future, perfect," come up
and you just have to stop for a
minute and breathe because, yes,
this book is something great. And
that's where Smith excels. She can
hide the flaws. Hide the areas that
she would revise. That's a skill
harder to do than one may expect.
How do you say something is your
best when you know it's not? It's
the decision you have to make
at that moment when you run
out of time and you have to do
something. Even if it's not quite
what you want, you still have
to go with it. You have to meld
the good and the bad so well
that the average onlooker can't
distinguish a difference - or
else you're screwed. You'll
constantly be faced with
disappointment and dissatis-
faction that is impossible to
fix. That act of being so good
(but not perfect) at covering
up your imperfections, and
accepting where you wish you
could revise but you just can't,
yields contentment. Smith
had to decide she was content
enough with the published
"White Teeth." And so is the
Likewise in "White Teeth,"
the characters are seeking
contentment. Clara wants a
'normal' family, but how can
she get that when she marries
a 40-year-old man when she's
17? And he wants a normal
life but is plagued with memories
of war. Samad works to find true
love, but grapples with it because
it requires him to go against his
religion. So instead the charac-
ters hide. Sound familiar? They
keep on searching for the life they
want, oh yes, but they also keep
living their same lives. They keep
their eyes open for the moment
when it's acceptable to change, to
revise, but until then they cover
But it's never to late to make
that correction. Revisions, revi-
J'm in love with my car. That sounds weird, I
know, but it's true.Ask anyone.
Ask my sister, who gave me the car as a
hand-me-down six years ago; ask my friends
from home, who love the fact that I volunteer to
be designated driver; ask my mechanic, who has
told me multiple times that the car is shit and
should probably be given to Cash for Clunkers
as soon as possible. They'll all agree - I'm in love
with my car.
I learned to drive in a Dodge Caravan. Sexy,
I know. You don't need to tell me. At the time
- when I was 15 - I liked to say "jank." Why? I
don't know, but I thought I was cool and "jank"
was cool, so everything was cool. So my friends
and I named this Dodge Caravan "Whip Jank."
You can mock me all you want - if you're reading
this online the comment boxes are down below
- but I drove around in a car named Whip Jank.
And then ...he died. Myfamilyhas a habitofpay-
ing for cars that are bound to be worthless in less
than five years. Anyway, moral of the story: I got
LBJ, you ask? Like the president? Well, per-
haps. The Honda Civicwassmaller than the van,
so he immediately became "Lii Whip Jank,"
which became "LWJ," which became "Lil Wil-
liam James," which became "Lii Billy James,"
whichbecame "LBJ." Some people call him Lyn-
don B. Johnson, but that just doesn't flow off the
tongueaswell. So, LBJ itis.
If I'm being honest, which I'm normally not,
it's a pretty crappy car. It's a 1994 Honda Civic.
It's black, the "Check engine" light has been on
for three years and the "Maintenance required"
light has been on for four. It failed the emissions
inspection required in Washington, D.C. two
years in a row, so now we just pay the fine. The
windshield wipers somehow manage to smear
rain across the glassso it's actually harder to see,
and when it's cold enough - which it always is
in Michigan - the driver's side window doesn't
roll down. The trunk isjammed and hardly ever
opens, especially when you're running late for
the airport and need somewhere to putyour bag.
The two back doors make dying-animal sounds
whenever they open and close. If you're easily
embarrassed, you probably don't want to get out
of my car in a crowded parking lot because peo-
ple are undoubtedly going to stare.
You're confused - I get it. How could I possi-
bly love a car that is in worse shape than Subway's
Jared before six-inch Veggie Delights came into
his life? The answer isdivided into three parts.
I like to tell people that I peaked in high
school. That at 17, I was the coolest I was ever
going to be. And while that's not necessarily
true - nobody is as cool as they think they are
at 17, and I am no exception - I'm still a sucker
for reliving the glory days. That car is count-
less road trips to Nantucket and the Eastern
Shore. It's 2009, appalling top-40 hits, mid-
night drives to 7-Eleven to buy eigarottes for
friends who weren't yet18. It's Trident Tropical
Twist, Febreze and Diet Coke. It's sneaking off
campus during fifth period to go to Chipotle.
It's following the bus to lacrosse games in the
boondocks of Maryland. And I get to relive all
of these moments every time I turn the key.
I've been taking my car to school since the
beginning of my sophomore year. The drive
from D.C. to Ann Arbor takes me about seven
and a half hours, and I love every minute of it.
First of all, I love being alone. That makes me
sound extremely antisocial. I swear I have
friends. Really, I do.
Second of all, the speed limit on the Ohio
Turnpike is 70. 70! So really that's 80, and, if
you're feeling really brave, it's 90. Cops are
somewhat of a downer, but I've managed to
avoid them so far. And I definitely just jinxed
myself with that lastasentence.
Third, you can't do anything but drive when
you drive. That sounded better in my head, but
what I'm trying to say is that you're completely
free from everything. All you've got to do is
drive. I promise, there's really nothing better
than the Pennsylvania Turnpike at three in the
afternoon on a Sunday in August.
And then there are the little things, like the
way the steering wheel is in just the right place
so I can drive with my knee (although everyone
else hates it because they thinkI'm going to kill
them), or the tiny compartment by the dash-
board that fits an unfinished pack of gum per-
fectly, or the slight stick of the gas pedal when
you jump above 30 mph.
In the end, it all comes down to familiarity.
My friends tell me I'm scared of change, and,
in a lot of ways, they're right. I just had to cus-
tom-order a pair of shoes because they stopped,
making the style I've been wearing since high
school, and I just couldn't bring myself to
branch out and buy something different. So
maybe I'mjust overly attached to a piece of crap
because I've had it for so long. But I'm okay with
One of these days, I want to go through all
the repair receipts from the last few years and
add up the money my parents have spent on
keeping my car alive. I probably could have
purchased a not-piece-of-shit used car with the
money spent on repairs in the past six years.
Actually, I probably could have purchased
an Audi. Or a Ferrari. Or one of those Justin-
Bieber-customized batmobiles. But I'm in love
with my car. So, if you need a ride - and you
don't mind squeaking doors, funky windshield
wipers and driving 20 mph above the speed
limit -call me.
Josephine Adams is an LSA junior and a Co-