Archive for June, 2012

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For those of you who have dropped by my place here on wordpress from time to time and were wondering what the obsessed old coot who is usually up to something on a daily basis ad nauseum, has been doing these last seven days of radio silence. Old folks love to talk about their maladies so I’ll tell you. Over the last few weeks I started developing some annoying and disturbing symptoms including: lack of appetite, inability to get a good night’s sleep (largely due to progressively more violent coughing episodes), lack of energy and creative motivation. I really hate going to the doctor (substitute dentist), not because of some macho thing but because I hate pain to the point of psychosis. I fear doctors and dentists. I know that their smiling faces belie the fact that they will inevitably be bringers of pain. But nevertheless I eventually manned up and went to the doctor. There were tests, there was drawing of blood, there was talk of my heart beating too fast, there was prescription writing, and gnashing of teeth (mine). But it was not till the following day that Dr. Penny called me with the news that I had a serious infection going down somewhere within my withering carcass (presumably in the lungular area) and that I had best get antibioticized immediately.

After 72 hours of anti-bs I am happy to report that I no longer number among The Walking Dead, but a temporary Walking Pneumonian instead. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I need my humor and drawing platelets to help me fight off and ultimately expel this demon infection from my body, there may not be much of that for a while yet. I was encouraged by my ability today to make a fairly pleasing giant menu for the Mexican guy who is running the food concession where my wife works her Summer job of renting kayaks and canoes. I got payed off in a gynormous mound of chicken quesadillas. Baby steps.

This started out as a fun diversion and a good memory test. Now I just want to get it the freak over and start something else. Please pardon me if I don’t go into much detail about this last few years worth of automobiles. For one thing it has become increasingly more difficult to find good photos of some of these clunkers. But I will end with a flourish and a genuine pretty picture of one of my favorite vehicles, still alive and well in Mexico.

I remember this VW Squareback only because it was totaled by an inattentive driver who rear-ended us when we slowed to make a right turn into the Sebastopol Flea Market. Gail was about seven months pregnant with Jesse and we were worried. I think he turned out OK.

Wrong year, right color, close enough.

Then came the Datsun Station Wagon which I got out of sequence. It appeared In My Life In Cars Two. That was our last car in Camp Meeker. When we moved to Monte Rio, high on fabled Monte Vista Terrace, we bought a great !974 VW Bus with a 1977 Porsche engine. I loved this car. It really came in handy when I took kids on field trips. It was difficult to maneuver on the skinny, bending roads on the hill though.

Color is right, and it was nice, purchased from a mechanic who had taken great care of it.

Then it was the 85 Dodge Caravan that was unappealing visually (the interior design was like that of an old Russian tractor) but served us well for a few years. It even carried four adults and two kids all the way down the Baja Peninsula to Guerrero Negro and back. It didn’t live too much longer after that though, and was sold for parts.

Not a good Baja car.

The Nissan Stanza Wagon which came next met a similar fate after only about two years.

Cute but crapola.

Okay, were starting the bonus round, and close to the end (mercifully). I liked this Ford Escort, decent mileage, fairly attractive, and durable, till one of my former preschool students sideswiped me and totaled it.

The only car I’ve ever had with a spoiler.

Gail was already driving the 2001 Ford Ranger Stepside pickup (which we bought new) when the Escort was totaled. I would just go out in the driveway and take a picture of the truck, but Jesse borrowed it, and I really want to end this so here is a google image.

Couldn’t find a white one that wasn’t a king cab so this black one will have to do.

And here is the great Ballena Azul, our all-wheel drive 1991 Toyota Previa. She is currently residing in the garage (sans battery) of Casa Fisherrero. In the only real and authentic photo of this whole series, she is shown being the superb Baja car that she is. And that’s all folks.

In the late sixties I was letting my hair and my wanderlust grow. Disenchanted with the familiarity of my old South Florida digs, and with an increasing anxiety caused by the overzealous attentions of the authorities, (If more than 2 adults lived in a single dwelling they were considered a commune and dangerous to the community) I decided to work for a few months to get together enough cash to bankroll a trip to sunny California, plus first and last months rent. During this time I drove my sister’s 1961 Oldsmobile 88. This is the  collaborative memory of two seniors and is not to be trusted, but close enough for blog and roll.

Automatic, not a 442 or anything, still it was more powerful than anything I’d driven since the Camaro.

Once upon a time there were three little hippies who lived in a subdivision with airboatin’, swamp buggyin’, gun rackin’, Skoal spittin’ neighbors living all around them. It was not uncommon for the hippies to get unofficial police escorts on the way home from work. When the hippies had collected enough cash, and when the oppression grew insufferable, they winnowed their belongings down to a few boxes of LPs, a stereo, four T-shirts and a couple pairs of jeans (sample winnow), and left for freer climes. Wrote a song about it. Wanna hear it? The car that was to cross deserts, mountains and rivers, to carry the hippies to the promised land? A 1961 VW Microbus.

Not the right color or level of decrepitude, but you get the picture.

For the first three or four years in the California Land of Opportunity, if I had a job it was low-paying so I quickly got out of the habit of driving, using public transportation, hitchhiking, and the kindness of friends to get around. I lived in sin with a nice  young woman, right across the street from the Administration Building of San Jose State. The wonders of pre-Silicon San Jose were within walking distance. Who needed a car?

A year or so later we migrated North to the Vacation Wonderland of the Lower Russian River, looking for a better life. Since required destinations were further apart, we found it necessary to buy an ugly, cheap form of transportation. See how handily this Opel Kadett fills the bill. It’s days were thankfully short, it’s demise painful, and I don’t like to think about it. This was an intense part of the long strange journey.

This one looks almost unrecognizably better than the one we had, but it is the same model, color and year.

Jump ahead a few years and I’ve found my soulmate (Gail), am now a member of a nuclear family (Gail, Rhiannon, 1.5 years, and Dad. We drove an old Datsun pickup truck that sought out and relished every bump in the road.

Imagine a patina of shabbiness and a few bumps and this is close.

When you are near the poverty line you sometimes run through a lot of disposable clunkers because that’s all you can afford. I cannot describe this revolving carny of cars with the detail a car lover might want so I am just going to try to get the basic chronology right and provide photographic evidence.

’71 Datsun Wagon, a very likeable vehicle.

Again a 600 buck clunker but frighteningly powerful

I need a breather, but the present is on the horizon and we’ll get there for sure in “My Life In Cars, Part Three”. Coming soon.

When you get to be my age you need to design little activities to help stimulate your memory. And since (supposedly) America and most other developed countries have a love affair with automobiles, perhaps this will amuse you while I’m keeping Alzheimers at bay. When I first started researching this project I had forgotten exactly how many bloody cars I’ve driven over my 68 years. So many that I believe this may have to be done in two parts. And then there’s the matter of an Oldsmobile whose year and model I will have to try and get from my sister. No more noodling around, let’s get on with the show.

The very first car I can remember riding in ( as a 4 year old I believe) was a dark blue 1948 Chevrolet Bel Air. This was the beginning of a long relationship that my family had with Chevys.

I really can’t recall much about this car except that it seemed immense.

Mustard and white two tone with whitewalls. Classy.

Staying true to Chevy, the next family ride was a ’53 Chevy Bel Air.

The car I learned to drive in was the people’s car. That’s right, a 1958 Volkswagen Beetle. At this time we still had a Chevy in the driveway, but Dad kept this bug around for his commuting trips because of the superior mileage. But as I gained more driving experience I got to use it for my own recreational purposes. For those who have memories of these early VWs, you may remember that there was a reserve tank lever which provided you with another gallon or so when the main tank ran out. I got in trouble on more than one occasion because I got into the reserve tank, forgot to refill, and suffered the wrath of my pops who ran out of gas on the way to work.

Sorry, Dad.

I must have inherited the Chevy gene because when I got my first real job (6th Grade Teacher, Northwood Elementary School, West Palm Beach, Florida, thank you very much) and had a few pay checks under my belt, I bought a brand spanking new first edition ’67 Chevrolet Camaro RS. It was “Deep Water Blue” with two parallel pin stripes, hideaway headlights, 4 speed tranny, and 327 horses under the hood. Have mercy, I was so proud of that car. After two or three close scrapes with death (they don’t call me Lucky for nothing) I began to question my judgement. Maybe this was too much car for me.

Death trap?

It was around this time that I got married for the first time, put away childish (and dangerous things) sold the Camaro, and bought a milque-toasty little Fiat 850 sport coupe. Although kind of cute, it could barely maintain freeway speeds, but it did get close to 40mpg. Gas was probably about 50 cents a gallon then (1970), so who cared about that.

I actually chose this bright yellow color to prevent being ignored and run over by bigger cars. It didn’t work that well.

As I said, there have been lots of cars in my life and there are lots more to come in part two.

One of the main subplots of the continuing story of life as I know it (as seen on my blog) is the work in progress I share with author, Robert Nichols, to illustrate his story, “Rosie of the Rialto”.  For reasons I described briefly in https://mongrel4u.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/the-story-of-bob/, we will have to ramp up this process as much as possible. I made my weekly visit to see Bob this past Tuesday, we discussed some of the recent sketches I’ve done and the need to create a mock-up of the design we hope to give the book. As usual I managed to change the subject to talk about his career. We talked about the many other unsung heroes, the character actors he’d worked with over the almost six decades of his life in film, television and theater. We also persuaded his friend, Mikie, to take a picture of us. I hope to use this picture on the flap of the book when we get it published.

Two handsome guys trying to make a book.

I know I shouldn’t try to change the subject during our weekly meetings but let me relate one anecdote Bob recently  shared with me to show why it is so tempting to get him talking about his movie experiences.  While on the set of an episode of the much underrated fifties Disney series, “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca”, Bob and James Coburn (in his first film effort) were on horseback riding toward Arthur Hunnicutt.

Vitamin C Addict?

 

Director George Sherman had so feared that Hunnicutt’s drinking would impair his performance that he had assigned an aide to monitor his behavior and make sure no bottles or flasks were available to him.

As Bob and Coburn continued to approach Hunnicutt they noticed he was showing signs of instability in the saddle. Just as they reached him for the intended dialogue, he rolled to the side and fell off the horse and onto the ground with a dusty thud. As he remained motionless director Sherman rushed onto the scene yelling  at everyone but mostly at the aide who had been entrusted with keeping an eye on Hunnicutt. “I thought I told you to stop him from drinking. Didn’t you see him in the act?”  The aide responded, “I never saw him with a bottle all day. He was just eating a lot of oranges between shots.” Of course when they examined the orange peels they smelled the subtle scent of vodka. He’d been injecting the fruit with alcohol as I later did in college. See what I mean. Good stories.

To hell and back to Hollywood.

This war hero’s heroism was documented in a movie, “To Hell and Back”, in which he starred. He went on to make several more films, including a filmization of Steven Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage”. I just found out recently that my friend, Bob Nichols, played a small part in this John Huston film.

Wikipedia:

Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1924 – May 28, 1971) was a fifth grade dropout from an extremely poor family who became the most decorated American soldier of World War II. After the war he became a celebrated movie star for over two decades, appearing in 44 films. He also found some success as a country music composer.

Murphy became known as the most decorated United States soldier of the war during twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre. He received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including five from France and one from Belgium.

Murphy’s successful movie career included To Hell and Back (1955), based on his book of the same title (1949) . He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was interred, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery.