Getting greasy with Ben


Okay, so not REALLY greasy. Ben Boerum is my son-in-law. He and Emma live down in DC with their two magical boys, Charlie and Finn. Ben is this well-educated, highly literate, creative guy—heck, he was Julian Schnabel's assistant for a few years! Sophisticated. And he's sort of obsessed with...LandRovers! I've never been able to figure this out. I don't even know whether to put a space in the name LandRover! Is the R capitalized?

We were down in DC this past weekend, and Ben asked if I'd like to come over to the shop to take some photos. Yes, the LandRover shop. The place where he works, customizing the beasts. So I went over, and he opened up the place, on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon. A whole set of comfortable, familiar smells, garage smells. Except to me, they're pretty foreign, the smells I associate with standing uncomfortably while someone who knows what he or she is talking about (ostensibly) gives me the bad news about how much my repair is going to cost. So I recognize those smells as being familiar and comfortable...but just not to me!


The Yes, LandRovers are obsession-worthy, no doubt. Back in South Africa they were the vehicle of choice for bundu-bashing, the bundu being the remotest, wildest countryside. In Africa, that's pretty remote, and pretty wild. There were two girls at my school, the Jolly sisters, who emerged blondly from their dad's LandRover every morning. His name was Dr D'aeth—no wonder that the girls went with their mother's maiden name..

These Washington, DC LandRovers are...well, I can't help thinking that they're all vanity vehicles. There were maybe twenty of them, in varying states of dismantlization, strewn about the shop and the surrounding lot. One of them belonged to a diplomat, there were some from Nantucket. There was one which was being completely and utterly refurbished, a beloved relic from its owner's salad days no doubt. The refurb involved basically the cannibalization of other vehicles for parts, the fabrication of entirely new parts, and well, basically the replacement of everything that constituted the original item! At what point does it actually stop BEING the original item? It's as if the essence of it is all that remains. Sort of like a priceless antique knife that's had the handle replaced twice. And the blade, three times!


The funny thing is, though, that through all of this I suddenly had a better understanding of and appreciation for Ben! Don't get me wrong, I love and adore him, and respect and appreciate how terrific a husband and father he is. But until Sunday, the professional stuff was a mystery to me. Suddenly, seeing him there, the fish in his own particular species of water, it all made sense. He feels these cars, these anachronistic relics. And there's something beautiful about that.