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Grease Monkey

Once upon a time I owned a twenty-seven year old Volvo, and so found myself beholden to the sort of questionable characters who make a living off people who’ve traded half their material wealth for the likelihood that something which has already outlived its expectancy should continue to forever defy the odds.

For the record, twenty-seven years appears to be exactly the natural lifespan of every last component in that superior automobile, and a couple of months after receiving its keys from an orchestra violinist who said all of the right things about its previous owner (both literally and proverbially, the little old lady who only drove it on weekends over San Diego highways), the alternator went, then the starter, the steering column, and that stupid cable thingy that holds the front hood down. Blinkers, break pads, window rollers – I swear it was like Jeff Goldblum’s face coming apart in “The Fly” – and yet maybe none of this was happening exactly as it was explained to me, right up until the operatic culmination someplace on the West Side Highway where one amazing mechanic actually threw his wrench on the ground and started shouting, “Do you know who I am? I don’t work on———- like this!” Turns out he was some sort of radio personality, and automotive guru to the stars. I was hooked. When he offered to rebuild my entire engine for three thousand dollars, well, I felt blessed, and would have even waited in line for his services – still, twelve months later there I was fluttering through the Yellow Pages for someone to tow all of that rebuilding for scrap.

The point is I am enormously impressed with anyone who can even pretend to know what they’re talking about in the way of machinery. The hero of Chris Monroe’s Monkey with a Tool Belt bears a passing resemblance to Curious George, but he’s a great deal more useful in the community than his mischievous forebear, who always seemed to come too easily to his popularity. Chico Bon Bon wears his tool belt like a résumé, though he manages to also summon a genuine enthusiasm at meeting the challenges which Monroe puts before him, whether that is escaping the clutches of a blundering organ grinder, extracting a wayward elephant from a laundry chute, or building and repairing docks for the local ducks, or a roller coaster for chipmunks. His biggest challenge here is presumably just finding a use for most of the tools he carries around with him everywhere – to mealtimes, and all of the fantastical corners of his tree house, even to bed. You live your job, though if you are lucky, you even dream about it as well, and that appears to be the magnificent genesis of all of these bungee hammers and staple removers and twizzlers and detwizzlers and pickle-pickers – heck, who besides the inveterate dreamer, imagines a pickle so urgently needing to get picked?

Always prepared. Oh, did I mention his groovetastic tree house? With separate spaces carved out for billiards and trampolines and painting and stargazing – there’s even a swimming pool and a five-layer bunk bed for guests. We always love it when someone comes over to tend to our plumbing; we just don’t imagine them returning to better, more luxurious homes. There’s probably a lesson here as long you’re visiting, and really who better to learn it? And when better than now, near the beginning of a decades-long education that is increasingly likely to amount to a feeling of entitlement and very little else? Sorry, but in this global economy already full to the tipping point with massively compensated delegators and allocators and consultants, it’s hard not to at least acknowledge these revolutionary alternatives. Chico Bon Bon, a nation awaits.

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