Stateside, Part 2


When last I left you, I was happily looking forward to driving from Connecticut to visit friends on Cape Cod, where I lived for more than twenty years.

I knew surprises and setbacks might be lurking . . . and they were.

The first came halfway through the journey, when the oil warning light appeared on the dashboard, alerting me that the motor oil level was dangerously low. It is a light that must not be ignored, because driving with low oil is the surest way to prematurely retire your vehicle.

My Audi S4 requires synthetic motor oil, not readily available at roadside filling stations. So I keep a couple of quarts in the trunk for times like this.

I pulled into the next rest area and hopped out of the car to add oil. To discover I was locked out of my engine compartment.

This photo shows the small nipple that must be pulled up and out to pop the hood. I toiled at it for literally twenty minutes, until my fingers were grimy with dirt and numb from the Massachusetts cold—with no success.


The little gray latch release, second from left, that held my Audi ransom for $144.

I’ll make a long story short. After calling down the wrath of God upon the drunken German engineers who designed this poor excuse for a car, I simply continued driving despite the oil light warning me not to.

I prayed to Scotty, warning Captain Kirk that the starship’s dilithium crystals couldn’t hold under the demands Kirk was making for more speed.

I slowed down to sixty miles an hour, and threw the car into neutral on the downhill runs—imagining that would help keep my engine from seizing.

I made it to the Cape.

First thing the next morning, I took the car to the mechanic who knew her well during the years I lived in Truro. After two hours of his guys struggling to wrestle the hood open, and $144 on the credit card, the hood was operable. I was finally able to add the needed oil to the thirsty engine. As it turned out, the only thing the latch wanted was lubricant.

To the second surprise . . . my lodgings during my time in Provincetown.

I’ve been intrigued by the tiny home phenomenon, so when I found this little cottage on AirBnB, I booked it as an experiment in tiny home living.


My little Provincetown cottage, a little home for a little while.

This one, however, turned out to be too tiny, too ridiculous.

Small parlor, fine. Manhattan-size kitchen, fine. Tiny bathroom, fine. But no table to eat on? And the stairs to the sleeping loft were not stairs, but call it what it is—a ladder.


The parlor was slightly wider than the settee . . .



Ponder the severe angle of the stairs to the loft bedroom.


In any accommodations, however, and in either wintry or sweltering weather, Cape Cod remains as marvelously unique a place as you’ll find in the contiguous United States.

I hated to leave, but Thanksgiving with two daughters and two grandsons beckoned.

Cue the piecaken.

You might have heard of turducken, a mashup of turkey, duck, and chicken. Leave it to a pastry chef in Tennessee to apply the mashup concept to dessert, and force-feed piecaken on us.



The internal structure of piecaken.

Of course, we bought one. At a price point near $100 plus shipping so poorly packaged that the thing (for want of a better descriptor) arrived grotesquely misshapen.

If the look wasn’t enough to turn our stomachs, the taste of it was worse. We all agreed that it was pure sweetness, to the point that we could taste nothing but sugar. My youngest grandson, Andrew, a biology major, calculated the caloric load of a slice of piecaken at 2,000. 


A 2,000-calorie slice of piecaken. 


Thanksgiving temperatures in Connecticut ranged from the teens to the twenties. But on Flagler Beach in Florida, things were a lot hotter.

There, eldest grandson, Erik, slipped an engagement ring on the finger of his girlfriend of several years.


For Thanksgivings to come, they will have something for which to be grateful.


On Monday I’m off to Spencer, Massachusetts, for a week’s retreat with the monks of the Trappist monastery there—to experience the difference between quiet and silence.

But stay tuned. Let’s see what further surprises lie in wait during the week ahead.



Evil exists only if you let it. If you enjoyed reading this, you will like my new novel, Billy of the Tulips, a sensitive boy’s grim engagement with innocence and iniquity, now available in both print and Kindle from Amazon.

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  • Sharon Matthews
    commented 2018-11-24 10:08:54 -0500
    I cannot wait to read the rest of your Thanksgiving adventures, Peter.
    Sharon Matthews