Friday, May 15, 2009

Farewell, my Subaru

Scott loaned me Farewell, my Subaru a few weeks ago. A friend from work, who knew that we were into all things local, gave it to him to read. What a book. As one who was already at least somewhat concerned with environmental issues, it piqued my interest, but I really didn't expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. I should have known better.

As Scott was reading it, he kept saying things like, "You'll love this book," and, "this book is really great." For a man of few words, those two sentences say a lot. Scott, my sweet husband, is not very expressive (well, relative to that might not mean much) and for him to mention a book even a few times should have clued me in. He was right. The book was fabulous. And now I'm annoyed that we have to give it back to his pal at work. It's the kind of book I want to hold on to. Funny but educational, emotional and intriguing. I liked it so much I read the last third of it during our car ride to the Sand Dunes last week. And I DON'T read in the car.

To give you fair warning, the book's author, Doug Fine, has nothing positive to say about George W. Bush. At the same time, I could find little fault with many of the negative things he said, except for when he said that Bush's purpose in starting the war in Iraq was to enrich VP Cheney. That I had to contest, but the rest of it, while harsh, was not untrue. The author's political stance was not the center of this book. Instead, it was his story about moving from Long Island to an old ranch in Southern New Mexico, raising a few baby goats (whom he puts on time outs every time they get into his roses), and getting "off the grid." He was attempting energy independence on his little ranch. He did the whole thing -- drilled a well on his property and bought a big pump and tank to hold the water (and fought rattlesnakes for the water while clad in something like two Carhartt jumpsuits, a helmet, and some kind of sword), he equipped his house with solar panels to take care of his electricity needs, built a huge toaster to heat his water to scalding hot temperatures, bought a huge Ford truck and had it converted to bio-diesel, and grew his own veggies...he did everything he could do to be self-sufficient.

Perhaps the most entertaining side of the book is when he points out the many contradictions of becoming energy independent. Like buying pvc pipes manufactured in China which require thousands of gallons of fuel to be burned as the pipes make their way here from China. Like putting the pvc pipes together with puple goo that is so toxic it requires a breathing mask during application. Like having to go to Wal-Mart because there are some things you can't get anywhere else -- especially in a small town. Like driving his huge truck on bio-diesel and constantly smelling the kung pao chicken grease burning in his gas tank...and knowing that the people driving behind him would be craving kung pao chicken from Panda Express (not the most eco-friendly way to eat).

I cannot do this book justice -- it was SO funny and so insightful and such a fast read. Even if you don't agree with the author's political stances, you've got to admire him. He committed to a project most of us would not touch, even in our imaginations. And along the way he made friends with people who were very different from him -- old school ranchers and blue collar guys. And he won their respect. That has to count for something.

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