Toward an Understanding of “Transformation”

From Commentaries On…A COURSE IN MIRACLES, Tara Singh, ©1986 Life Action Press, pp. 211-212.

“The daily [A COURSE IN MIRACLES] lesson imparts something new and unknown to the computer brain. Like all things physical, the body and brain are subject to evolution. But the spirit is not. At the level of spirit, we work with the faculty of the mind [a distinction is made between mind and brain—the latter sometimes termed brain-mind], which is not physical, but rather, pure and perfect.

[In Advaita Vedanta an important distinction is made between Awareness and Consciousness. Consciousness—the irreducible sense "I am" with the physical mind/brain-mind as the aggregate of added/conditioned conscious phenominalogical impressions, in all their permutations as stored facts, memories, concepts, opinions and prejudices, both conscious and unconscious—versus Awareness, the pure infinite ineffable ground...Truth. So what is Truth? The non-dualists say it can't be told; it's what is, after all falsehood is taken away. And how to remove all falsehood—if you are want to inquire...Don't give it another thought. Be yourself here now in the present moment. All is forgiven.]

“Since each minute the body cells change and renew themselves, what is it that prevents the transformation of self? We are continually conditioning the new cells with the prejudices and fears born out of separation [from Source]. Thus we keep the old alive and prevent the renewal in ourselves as well as in the next generation. Henry David Thoreau said that whatever we call progress is but improved means to unimproved ends. And so, fear remains fear, ambition remains ambition and insecurity remains insecurity from one generation to the next. These have changed names and forms in the external but little improvement has been made.

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. There is nothing in-between. It is not a matter of degrees. Saying we are becoming less ambitious is part of the illusion because the gradual process boosts our temperament and we remain quite satisfied. We are either ambitious or we are not.

“This decision [to orient toward Truth] is made at the level which is independent of evolution and conditioning. Therefore, once again you come to, [acknowledging/embracing the daily lesson] The power of decision is my own…then the new cells will remain new because you are not contaminating them further. This is called transformation.

“But what good would it do having all this as information or even being able to speak eloquently about it? Relative knowledge has no meaning — except to be commercialized or to deceive people. Having first deceived yourself, then what you share would be forever loveless. Therefore, you have to drug yourself with the belief that you are helping another. See how the lie becomes the truth.

“In reality you extend what you are regardless of what you plan. If you are miserable, you extend misery. If you are joyous, you extend joy. Can you see the simplicity of this? We plan when we do not have the resources within. Generally, helping another is something we plan ahead of time and when we want to implement it. We project the illusion of ideals and these we seek to fulfill. But there is a state where an extending takes place which has no ideals at all. It just is [Truth].”

The central and ultimate lesson in A COURSE IN MIRACLES is stated as…

What’s real can’t be threatened.
What’s unreal, doesn’t exit.
Herein lies the peace of God.


Elvis and Me



I had an Elvis “sighting.” Nearly turned into a “Slighting.”

Some background. The prime time television special “Singer Presents Elvis” was programmed in late 1968 to a record audience. This was Mr. Presley’s first public appearance since 1961 and considered to be his comeback show.

That was just one of the many prime time television specials the Singer Consumer Products Division, under the direction of Alfred di Scipio, executive produced and sponsored. Singer Presents…Tony Bennett…Burt Bacharach…Patsy Kline...The Wizard of Oz. You probably know — even some will recall — that time was when a lot of television programming was directly produced by sponsoring companies; think, soap operas. Later on, companies would underwrite special productions (Hallmark, Mobil, IBM). And now, programs are almost all produced by independent production companies with the commercial time sold by the programmers.

Singer would probably have backed an Ella Fitzgerald special. I was with Al’s entourage at a night club where Ella Fitzgerald was performing. He spoke with her privately after the show. Alas, nothing came of it further to television. I got to be part of that scene after attending the December 31, 1969 New Year’s Eve Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at 30 Rock. 

My reason for being there was to be sure that upon arrival at the ground floor entrance to the NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Mr. di Scipio and his party would be seamlessly wisked up by elevator to the stage floor and seated. Any hitch and it would be my very life. That night Singer had all the network commercial spots for its advertisements. A big promotional deal, for sure. They had already been a regular weekly advertiser on the Tonight Show; that was during the time when Ed McMahon would do the commercials live. I once attended a rehearsal for one of those spots. Ed seemed to be a bit of a prima donna; only just one quick read and only a special ad agency copywriter to deal directly with the talent. Egg shells everywhere. Careers on the line.

I promise you I will get to the Elvis “thing” very soon. But, you must be wondering how come I came to be part of those goings on. In 1968, the year of its 100th Anniversary, I joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City. My very first assignment as account executive was to the Singer account. In that role I was also involved with all the advertising that was produced and placed to promote the TV specials.

So, in the fall of 1968 the big push was to get the Singer Presents Elvis special ready with a big audience for its December 3, 1968 air date. The agency art department was given a file of show photos to use in its tune in print ads. There was one photo which was selected which featured Elvis in his bad boy, black leather jacket and pants. Looking back on some of the footage of him in the show it is hard to get why the fuss from the parents of those screaming teen age girls. He is such a handsome, clean cut devil. (Same like with the Beatles … such nicely trimmed, if long, haircuts and angel faces.) I guess it was the “devil” that was there in the leathers that was all the concern.

Well, it turns out that there was something majorly wrong with the photo. I’m talking the kind of problem that, if not corrected, could leave even an Ad Biggie like my über-boss, Gene Secunda, out in front of Bloomies selling pencils. (Anyone remember that guy who was always at the southwest corner of Bloomindale’s on the Lexington Avenue side selling No.2 yellow leads? Or, an even more obscure memory … that heavy set fellow seemingly always at the corner on 5th Avenue and 50th in front of Alfred Dunhill always in a long overcoat, fedora and earmuffs with a sandwich board with lengthy hand scribbled message decrying the injustice of his divorce. Who was he really? An undercover cop? An angel? Or, just some nut?) Here's his picture. His name is Harry Britton. Look him up.

OK, the photo. But, first, you have to get a feel for the sensitivity of things around all matters Elvis. He was a superstar already and, as such, commanded special handling. Then add in the Colonel Parker factor. Iron-fisted-manager. His reputation is a thing in itself, and is fully documented by many others should you choose to browse into that. My only taste of the Colonel’s temperament was hearing from my colleague, Ray Castner, after he came back from a trip to Las Vegas where he travelled to get the Colonel’s approval on a layout of an ad to promote the show. As one layout was being lifted out of the carrying case, it fell to the ground. Colonel Parker flatly said, “Leave it there.” A whole trip to LV from NYC just to have your work dismissed over a slight slip. There was another ad version and it was approved. But with also an indelible impression that Colonel Parker was not shy about letting you know who was BOSS. Mistakes would not be tolerated. The little people were dispensable.

So, finally, with that background, get this. It turns out that, in the photo being used in the ads to promote the show, there’s Elvis, all in black. He is turned with his right side to the camera, microphone in his right hand. He is standing in a dark background, the audience in low light. His left arm is obviously not visible from that viewpoint, but his relaxed hand can be seen just in front of his body, looking like some sort of long “thing” hanging out from his pants fly. You get the picture. Well, this would not do. At all. Ever!

That was not the least of the problem. Compounding the photo problem itself was the fact that the ads were already on press with the magazines. The most problematic was the two page, 4-color bleed, letterpress engraved version being printed into the November 28, 1968 edition of Life Magazine. As explained to me, there were four color plates with black in each. So every plate at the magazine print facility had to be “punched up” to blot out the offending section of the image. This was before computer technology in the printing process; the correction was all by hand, requiring the touch of a diamond cutter. Fortunately for all of us, the correction was made successfully. If not, the ad would have to be pulled. Muchollato dinero, señor. So it went unnoticed. No one to the wiser, as my mother would say about keeping mum to mistakes that were corrected so no one need be told.

I'm feeling the statute of limitations are off this little episode. So, if you can get your hands on a copy of that ad you can look carefully and see that in the area where the problem was corrected, there is a dark muddy looking patch; like not such a good retouch job. But it passed. 

Whew! Viva Las Vegas! Elvis, pray for me!

(Just where the 4 X 5 color chrome of that photograph is…don’t ask. But, it ain’t me, for sure!)

***Remembering my one other time at the Tonight Show in NYC sometime in around 1969-1970. My then fiancé and I were sharing a little private moment during the show, when this little old lady turns around and quite sternly shushes us. Well, what an honor! It was none other than Miss Miller herself!



Words and Phrases We Can Do Without From Now On…

“It is what it is”
This is one of those word clusters that seems to have an irrefutable meaning; after being spoken, it renders all further discussion closed. It presumes that it is understood and commonly agreed on what, in fact, is. That is the left out portion. Just what is it that is? And…says who?

If you are fond of using this sound bite as a form of praise whenever your child does just about anything, then you as a parent are probably an unintentional idiot. (And, conditioning your little precious to follow in your footsteps.) Enough has already been said about this toxic habit of raising children. If you don’t get it yet, and are open to some self-critical examination (no “yeah!” for your “yeah’s!”) search…”overly praising children.”

“Make a Difference” / “Making a Difference”
This falls in the under the unexamined embrace of the myth of progress, as in making the world a better place. Most of us would simply nod in assent that making a difference is something desirable to want to do. Upon examination, however, certain questions arise. What is progress? To what? From what? Says who! More deeply…Where are we going? From where? What for? Then if you can set yourself aside from the quotidian rush for a little while…Who am I, really? Or, more precisely, What am I? Having answered those questions (for the time constrained, simply do a search on “meaning of life.”) then come back to the notion of “making a difference.” If you then still want to make that difference, go ahead. God’s speed. It don’t make a difference, really. Do what you’re going to do. It is what it is. And whatever it is, yeah!

"At the end of the day"
People who toss this one out I believe do so to appear au courant and thoughtful. It is a mindless go to phrase for all the political pundits in the media. "After all is said and done" or "in the end" are two other  more complex expressions of the same idea. "At the end of the day" has a been of smart smugness, a phrase the anointed tend to use. Drop it, chief.

"That having been said . . . "

Usually followed with something exactly opposite, or different.

"Synergize", "Maximize", "Optimize"
When I was in advertising these were the words that peppered every marketing and advertising plan. I have heard and read my limit on those boosterish superlatives.

"Net, net"
After all is taken into account. We hear it less these days, but I once worked for a fellow in advertising who used it in virtually every fifth sentence, and I for one have had my fill.

We're wondering whether the folks who use that acronym are in fact really laughing out loud.

Some many things are "awesome" these days there is no room left for ordinary and regular. Isn't that an "awesome" idea?

"Amazing" "Fantastic" "Incredible"
And just about any other superlative word used to merely emphasize one likes something or somebody in ordinary conversation. The Hollywood promoters have been using hyper-superlatives for years. There's a place for this, but mostly it's used in the service of putting asses in seats = dollars in pockets. Isn't that a fantastic thing to know?


Gravity…You’ll Get There

Wait for It

Several years ago I changed careers. It was not some easy shift to the side, but a radical and completely wholesale change. Not like going from making cars to selling them. Or even, from scrubbing floors to selling flooring. Or, from selling brushes to painting. You get it, yes? More like, “and, now for something completely different,” as the Python’s used to say. It made it an even more exciting transition for me that my divorce was also in play at the time.

Toward the end of my twelve year career as an AdBiggie on MadAv—my soul almost completely co-opted to commerce—I woke up. There’s the classic advertising joke about a guy who dies and his contemporaries in the business are talking over drinks about his passing…”Oh, yah, so he died, did he? What did he have?” “Oh, Over-The-Counter from J&J and Business Travel from AA.” As the much beloved Bob Crandall, former President and Chairman of American Airlines would say to move the meeting on from some squashed idea…”Dumb! Done! Next?” I realized that a future in that business would come to an inauspicious end and, at best summed up with a quick toast from the boys at the end of the day at Sardi’s.

I have to get something clear before going on. The Ad Biz was not where my heart was. Continuing on any longer would have only guaranteed me a seamless transition straight to hell. Whether that is true for anyone else is not for me to say. I have my thoughts on that; but in these post-modern—dare I say, nihilistic—times, as my old friend Toby Needler used to say, “Everything is loosey goosey.” So don’t listen to that quaint old fashioned Pope Benedict XVI when he excoriates current trends saying, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires...” To each his own. Whatever, dude. (In Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980): the scene opens with Allen sitting on a stationary train. A ticking clock and a man openly weeping. The carriage is full of the most sober and miserable. He looks out of his window and sees that the train opposite is full of beautiful people, dressed in their best, having a party. One gorgeous woman (why, it’s Sharon Stone!) blows him a kiss. As his train departs, Allen struggles to get off; but, to no avail. He is trapped with the other depressed souls for the ride (of his life?). Then, at long last, both trains arrive at the end of the line simultaneously. At a garbage dump.***

If you are losing faith that this is going nowhere, well, you may be on to me. Drop out whenever. Whatever. But, are you so sure that nowhere is so bad? Consider.

But, for those still with me:

Part of my waking up experience was the simple recognition that I wasn’t taking such good care of myself—physically, mentally, or spiritually. For the immediate pinch (ouch!) I sought out a top Rolfer in NYC, Roshanna Evans. If I was awake before I started, well…the series of Rolfing sessions really opened my eyes. It was like landing on planet earth, literally. Half way through I got back up on my feet after the session and felt my consciousness gently drop down into my body. Like honey pouring off a spoon. It was like I had been living in some sort of thought bubble over and to the side of my head. There was a shift. Now everything lined up. The straightforward feeling of basic physicality. I danced with joy. Frisky monkey! Home!

As you should know by now Rolfing—or, better, Structural Integration (The “Rolfing” comes from the originator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf)—has to do with balancing the whole body along the line of gravity. It doesn’t sound like much, at first glance. But, the proof is in the pudding. Most of us live with only a rough approximation of true balance and (still!?) don’t seem to get that how the body stacks up structurally MAY have some effects on health and performance. You surely notice if that pricey painting on the wall is off kilter. Take a look in the mirror. Now go for Structural Integration. So it shouldn’t be a total loss. Do some good for a change! And, please, before “something” happens.

OK, so now I’ve seen the light. And, now what? As a marketing guy looking for something to get behind to make a living, Rolf Structural Integration had the most bang for the buck. I knew it in my bones. Time has taught me that bringing Structural Integration into the mainstream is not really a marketing proposition. Balance. Who’s not for that? But, doing something about it in one’s own life takes some doing. Alas, poor Yorick, there’s the rub.

I have become completely disillusioned to the notion that getting Structural Integration across is a function of le mot juste. Regardless of how obviously sensible something may be, acceptance of it isn’t a done deal on logical grounds alone. Look at the current political scene…one man’s garbage is another’s prune Danish. You say Potato. I say…off with your head! (Completely off the point…Oh, where can you get a really good Danish, anyway?)

And when it comes to Structural Integration, we are not talking some simple fashion change. When your body gets balanced, that’s permanent. I once discussed Structural Integration with his nibs, Garrison Keillor. He wouldn’t get into it because he said he was concerned that he “wouldn’t be funny” [any more]. Well, Mr. K…as if. He explained that he knew too many laid back, do nothing California types who lost their drive after doing all that “working on yourself” stuff. He had a point. As I got it, he was saying that he was capitalizing on his eccentricity. Like the folks in Pisa, Italia. “Don’t you dare straighten that thing. It’s a money maker the way it is.” To put a point on it, Mr.Garrison Keillor, if you had the benefit of Structural Integration, did you ever think you might be funnier. Hah!

Now here is where I am tempted to get into an extended riff to sell you on bringing a good dose of plain old basic structural balance into your life. Forget it. I trust you’ll do the right thing, regardless of what that may be and especially regardless of what I may think. But, remember, everyone has the right to their own opinion; no one has the right to be ignorant of the truth. Verbum Sap Sat. Consult the nearest mirror. As Mr. Jackson said:

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

*** For all you nihilists out there...

Rolfing New Jersey
Rolfer New Jersey
Structural Integration New Jersey
Rolfing Montclair, New Jersey
Rolfer Montclair, New Jersey
Structural Integration Montclair, New Jersey

“Well, my daddy, he didn`t leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this, he did say, ‘Son,’ he said, ‘you know it`s possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you, and if that happens, God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways.’“
Bob Dylan…from his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 1991

Hey hey hey the end is near
On a good day you can see the end from here
But I won't turn back now though the way is clear
I will stay for the remainder

I saw a life and I called it mine
I saw it drawn so sweet and fine
And I had begun to fill in all the lines
Right down to what we'd name her

Our nature does not change by will
In the Winter 'round the ruined mill
The creek is lying flat and still
It is water though it's frozen

So, across the years and miles and through
On a good day you can feel my love for you
Will you leave me be so that we can stay true
To the path that you have chosen?



The King...

The Prince...

The Queen...

The Princess...


Now Everyone!...

Not to be Forgotten...

Don’t be a “Googlehead”

I recently went into a specialty coffee store to buy a part for my espresso maker; the small rubber gasket needed replacing. The sales girl asked for the cup size of the pot. I didn’t know the number of cups, but I did have the gasket to show her and gave her the dimension. In spite of the evidence in front of her face, it seemed that we couldn’t get any further in the transaction unless the cup size of the pot was known.

On the David Letterman show recently his British guest, the lovely Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, was remarking on the difficulties at school in the US with communicating  because of the different idioms between the two countries. There was the time she had cut herself and, quite obviously bleeding, was asking for a “plaster.” Her school mates couldn’t get that she was after a band aid. Letterman remarked that was the trouble with US kids today---can’t put together what is in front of their face.

Or, just like asking your way to the pool at the resort. You show up with your bathing suit and a towel and ask a hotel staffer for directions. You arrive poolside only to find that it is empty. You come across the staff person and confront him about not telling you that the pool was empty. “Well, sir, you asked for directions, you didn’t ask if it was ready for swimming.”

Or...or, jumping through the hoops on the telephone call-in menu of some corporations and not getting through because your issue doesn't match any of the options, or sub-options, or sub-sub-options, or...

And, just like when you go to search on Google. If it isn’t just so you, no result.

The American Dialect Society deemed “google” to be the Word of the Decade for 2000-09. I nominate “googlehead”—a mentality with solid, non-porous walls between each little compartment.

Don’t be a googlehead. Learn to put two and two together. Connect the dots. Take a firm grasp of the obvious. Thimk!

There's the joke about the fellow who goes into a restaurant and orders a cup of coffee without cream. The waitress says that they don't have that. "How come?" asks the man. "Well, we don't have any cream. I can give you a cup of coffee without milk, if you like."



Don’t Postpone Prosperity. Liquidate Your Assets

My dear departed, sainted mother passed a lot of folk wisdom my way as I grew up; frequently saying things like “a stitch in time saves nine” or “don’t cry over spilt milk” or “early to bed and early to rise makes Jack healthy, wealthy and wise” or “children should be seen and not heard.” That last one used to burn me every time she would use it, usually when she thought I was “speaking up” too much. Now with children of my own, I do see her point. Her cornerstone phrase, ”silence is golden.” In her very later years I asked her if her silence was golden and she replied, ever so sweetly, “Yes, sometimes.” It is a blessing to see your loved ones at peace.

In more recent times the phrase of the moment is, “Those who know don’t say.” I have seen more than my share of idiots in high places who have adopted that as a veneer for knowing. So, beware, just because someone isn’t saying, doesn’t necessarily mean that they be knowing. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. (I used to think that all people of Chinese or Indian descent were imbued with the wisdom of the ages.)

The other thing mom used to often say is, “health is wealth.” She taught me to ask God to give good health to my family members (and, lastly myself) as part of my nighttime prayer and it stuck with me as a habit into my adult years. Problem is that most of my family members didn’t seem to be enjoying very much good health. (George to Gracie…”Did your parents enjoy good health?” Gracie…”Oh, Yes! They loved it.”) I have never given up on God, but apparently not having my prayers answered has led me to ask some basic questions. Aside from the usual ones—which most everyone already has answered—like…who is God?, who am I?, where do I come from?, where am I going?, what’s it all about?...I have spent a good deal of time exploring health; just what is it in the first place, and how do you get it? And, if you got it, how do you keep it? I think everyone also has the answer to that as well.

Yes, we’ve heard it all before. Do…eat right, get enough rest, exercise. But, who has time for that. There are more important things to do. And, the classic don’ smoking, drinking (too much), carousing. Yah, right. Sure. What’s life for then? Spring break! 24/7. Yeah! That would be just fine if we could keep it up. Reminds me of what a friend of mine turning 60 years of age said, “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”

So, what is health? No symptoms seems to be the common notion of what health is. And our health care system is mostly geared to provide that. As an illustrious member of the medical fraternity put it, “the American healthcare system is very good at keeping sick people alive.” Don’t yell at me; someone else said it (and in the NY Times to boot.) Look it up. The American healthcare system is at its best in what I call crisis care—when there’s an accident or, when something breaks. The technology to address those kinds of situations is miraculous. But, health care in general? Chris Rock said, “Follow the money. There ain’t no money in a cure, there’s money in drugs.” So let’s be frank, drugs is mainly to take the edge off, cover over the problem. Not, make it go away. My barber, the great Richard of Phoenix, predicted that the next new great drug will be called “copacetic”—if the smile lasts for more than 4 hours, call your doctor. (I really like the way Viagra has made a mandatory negative side effect disclosure into a positive selling point…”If it lasts for more than 4 hours.” The comedian Dennis Miller said, “If I have an erection that lasts for more than 4 hours, I’m calling all my friends.”)

My dear dad complained of being sick almost every day of his life that I remember. He was the best informed man I ever met; from reading all those magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. When he passed away I had to dispose of multiple jars full of assorted pills. Actually, I had a doctor friend of mine carry the bag full of those jars to the trash can; he didn’t know what was inside. I kept the poetic irony of his deed as my little secret.

That may have something to do with the fact that I have gone into the health care profession. My particular line of development has to do with working with modalities that first seek natural and innately available means. With Reiki healing it is the vital force itself and with Rolf Structural Integration it is the force of gravity. Most people ask, just what is the vital force? Well, the difference between a living human being and a corpse, that's the vital force. And gravity, so commonplace and ubiquitous, but so overlooked—in terms of its impact on health and performance.

But, that’s a whole nother thing.
Me and My Cars
Me and My Cars

[With Some Side Roads Along the Way]

Not me, but close.

My 1966 Morgan Plus 4 Drop Head Coupe

You should know, I haven't owned every car discussed or pictured in this piece. Not, anyway, in the have-the-title-in-my-wallet sense. But, certainly in my heart, and imagination. 

Those which I did own, I specify. But, if you like automobiles like me, you probably have fantasies and memories of vehicles which drove through your life at one time or another. In one way or the other. 

Here is my list.

I grew up in a car town. No, make that, THE car town. MoTown. Detroit, Michigan. "During the day we make the cars; at night, we make the bars." My first job was in HF I's factory, the first assembly line plant in the world, in Highland Park, Michigan. 

The assembly line I believe is Henry’s contribution to the quest to amass a fortune at the expense of the working man. Think of those archival images of Model T’s coming off the line. By the time I arrived in 1965 after graduating from college the place was so old and so dark. Lit with incandescent bulbs and every surface brown/black with oil, and the whole place a noisy racket and smelling of dirt, oil, smoke, and perspiration. Once you take a whiff, you know . . . I don't know what, but you know. A multi-sensory time travel. 

If the dehumanizing setting weren’t enough, the story goes that Ol’ Henry was such a hump that if you were on the commode he could drop in to see what you were making. Better have something to show the MAN. Later, of course, there were the unions and I am a proud former member of the UAW. When later I worked in the FoMoCo Surface Coatings Division R&D lab, in homage to Henry, the bunch of us crammed into the  lavatory stall to get the boss’s signature on an important document. Boys will be ... 

Here is an historic postcard of the Highland Park Plant. 

I kid. That's not me. 

When I was a boy the annual automobile show at Cobo Hall downtown was a DAY in my life. Every year me and my sidekick, Cousin Kenny, got an eyeful of all the new car models; some concept futurifics; and all those gorgeous, straplessly begowned models on the turntables with their graceful hands pointing out the car features. We came home with shopping bags full of brochures; full color on heavy shiny coated paper. In the mid-1950s I could list for you all the details of every model. (Kind of like how Corvette, Ferrari, Morgan, Jaguar, and Porsche aficionados are today. Or, those baseball fans who can tell you who batted last in any inning of any particular game in any given year. And … batting averages, life histories, and every other stat too. How about those Tigers?)    

In younger days I also made the rounds of the many car dealers, domestic and foreign. My tastes went primarily to the imports. My Aunt and Uncle lived near a foreign car service shop and when we visited on Sundays I would mosey on over and sit in the cars in the service lot. 

I was always on my bike exploring Detroit and suburbs and stopping in on the car dealerships. I remember a car salesman at a Fiat dealership. My bike (French Rochet Track...single fixed gear, no brakes) propped up outside the showroom window and me looking over a Fiat Abarth Zagato. Bright red with those unique twin bulges on the top, carried down to the back. Without any apparent reason he told me to go away and come back when I had some money. No goodwill created there. Thank God that car sales people nowadays are such wonderful enlightened examples of the species. Later when I had a license to drive I made more than a few visits to test drive some imported exotics. A Triumph TR3 and (almost) a Porsche Speedster. 

I fondly remember cars in the neighborhood too. The 1947 Chrysler Town and Country Convertible and the 1953 Cadillac Convertible owned by some of the local young bachelors. 

My father owned a 1947 Chrysler Windsor and the most memorable things about that car, besides the huge back seat, were the dash and the "Highlander" plaid insert upholstery. 

After that we owned a 1953 Chrysler Windsor four door. It was a bright cherry red with a white top and wide white sidewall tires. "Snazzy" it was, indeed. Same interior as in the 1947. I remember when my father bought that car. In those days the dealers affixed metal dealer tags on the back trunk lid. Even at that young age I was willing to forego the privilege of driving around advertising the dealership. I prevailed and saved having holes drilled in our classy new car.

And the very shiny black Hudson Hornet Convertible owned by an old man down the block. I used to go over and watch him wash and polish the car.

Or the Chrysler Airflow meticulously restored by a neighbor in my Cousin's neighborhood.

And the always snazzy Uncle Max and his snazzy fully loaded 1953 Pontiac Chieftain Eight Deluxe Convertible. As sporty as Uncle Max was, he never gave me the time of day. What a prick. Nice taste in cars though. Maybe some compensation going on there?

My Uncle Phil and Aunt Genevieve lived on Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Point Farms. (Phil was a baker [read about my time as his weekend baker boy] and he did very well for himself. "The flour gets in your blood" is something he once shared with me talking about his love for his craft. Aunt Gene was an amazing cake decorator and was in charge of the front of the house, with a small army of sales ladies on every Saturday. I visited them often. Aunt Gene was always most kind to me (the only person in the universe who will ever be allowed to call me "Davie." RIP Aunt Gene.) It also helped that they had a badminton court in the back yard and lived right across from the GP Farms Park. Summer splash time. 

Anyway, I vividly remember the times seeing Mrs. Fisher (Fisher Body 
 General Motors) driving carefully on Lake Shore Drive in a Detroit Electric; my estimate, 1916 vintage. I always got the distinct impression that the old lady toodling about in that old thing was not just going for a joy ride. But that she was making a statement. I took it as a hint from her to not forget electromotive technology as an option. 

So now it's the 21st century and look how plugged in everything is.

Speaking about Uncle Phil. He owned a Lincoln Cosmopolitan. Big shot car.

A vivid memory about that car was the time I was seated up front between him and Aunt Gene. It was a long drive from Detroit to the Port Sanilac area in Michigan for a weekend at a family cottage compound on Lake Huron. I fell asleep, and my foot accidentally fell on his. Phil was a scary guy to me. Always blustering and overbearing. (He would typically greet me with a withering handshake, rubbing the cut stub of his middle finger into the palm of my hand. Yuck!) He made a big dramatic display. I was chagrined.

The other memory with that car was sitting in back next to a teenage girl Cousin. She was, as they say, "budding". I stole several side glances into the secret precincts of her sleeveless blouse. Secret thrills of my errant youth. 

She's also the one I embarrassed on a later public occasion. She was going into the water for a swim at a crowed beach. I noticed that the back of her one piece was unzipped. I made a big fuss, yelling at her to, "Quick, get into the water". Naturally, everyone saw her. She took it that I was stupidly naive. Never suspected my devilish intent. Oh, there was payback. Once at lunch with her at her home I was served Lemonade. In one of those colorful aluminum drinking glasses. It tasted to high heaven of dish washing liquid. I drank it; or, some of it. Didn't say anything. It took some years to figure out that she spiked my drink. 

Looking in other directions. More boob fascination.

Is there as beautiful a shape on a car as the "Jayne Mansfield", bullet bumper on the early 1950's Cadillac?

Well, I don't always get it right. Memory is a tricky thing. Though my heart was in the right place, seems that the bullet bumpers of the day were called "Dagmars" (per a comment from a reader). I checked in an Internet search and the only reference to Jayne Mansfied and bumpers is my own photo! That's how history gets made!

Anyhow, you can understand from the accompanying photo how the term "Dagmar" came to be. 

Or the "gun sight" tail lights on the 1955 Chrysler Crown Imperial (one flipped to the side to access the gas filler cap). 

Or the radiator on any Bugatti.

When I was grade school the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild competition filled my imagination. I never got far enough into the process to submit an entry. For a lot of years I would visit the GM Building on West Grand Boulevard to ogle the beautiful futuristic winning models. I did spend a lot of time drawing side view renderings of my own car creations. 

For some reason the scooped out wheel well made a big impression on me. Here is a 1954 Buick Skylark Convertible beautifully showing off that styling point.

In the 1950s American cars were pure styling, with nothing functional about it. Well, maybe, except the light shapes and the grill opening to let air in to help cool the engine. A prime example, those wheel wells on the Buick. Keeping them clean would be a nightmare. The wire wheel bolted on despite the knockoff spinners.

Yet, that style point was all around. Here in a 1961 Fisher Body Craftsman Guild winner by Ron Will. 

Sometime in the early 1950s my brother Arnold came home with a Ford Model A. It was in so-called "original condition," with all its 30 years of use still there. A mixed blessing. But, it seemed really old to me then. Not like cars from the 50s and 60s or 70s seem to me today. I think that was because there were several large steps of design and style in the first half of the century. Several more since the fifties to be sure, just somehow those automobiles still got it going on. (Or maybe it's about when you come into the world. Everything that came before was old by definition.) I also believe there wasn't that great a desire to keep old vehicles up. The newness of things had people trading in and trading up regularly. Like with iPhones and other electronic devices in the current decade.

My brother Arnold was in the US Air Force in the early 1950s, stationed in Germany . He brought back two very nice things with him after being discharged. First and foremost, and still after all these years, his most beautiful wife Hely. Second, a snazzy 1956 Volkswagen convertible. Since he had a special deal as a serviceman, my brother got the car shipped courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Just for the record in case some don't know, the turn signals on that car were semaphores; levers with lights that swung out from concealed niches on the sides to indicate turning.

If you know from VW's there are certain watershed moments in the marque's history. "Marque?" VW, a marque? Well you get it, or you don't. Nothing more to say. The big divide in Volkwagen chronology is 1967-1968. Anybody who knows from anything VW-wise is squarely on the pre-1968 side of things. After 1967 things started to get more "up to date". Meaning, plastic and less original 1950's styling.

1967 was also the last year of the split window bus, and the end of the original first generation styling for the vans. As you will read later, I owned a 1973 Camper and it was still a great vehicle. But, a 1967 Camper, that's the cats nuts (to borrow a phrase from my dad when he commented on the new paint job I did on one of my other cars... "Shines like cat's nuts." Still don't know what that means.)

Also, after 1967, with the Beetles, the old-school bumpers were gone for good and the cars began to get larger into succeeding years. Now, when it comes to Beetles, there are other critical periods along the way, particularly noticeable in the evolution of the rear window. First, and most prized by collectors, the split rear window (1938-1953). 

Then the oval rear window (1953-1958), also a lovely thing. After that the rear window was a large rectangle that kept on getting larger, as did all the other glass. I stopped tracking after the move to the rear rectangle. I did try to like it (after all, there was more visibility) but when even that started to get bigger, I was done.

The rig my brother brought back from Germany with him was a convertible. In the most beautiful shade of dark butterscotch brown. As near as I can figure the factory term for the color was "coral red". Maybe burnt umber. But, if you recall the color of the skin on your dish of home cooked butterscotch pudding, you will have the right idea. Here is a butterscotch Crème brûlée that I whipped up just to give the exact picture.

Whatever. It was fab. With cream colored accents on the wheels. The vehicle may or may not have been an export model. It was purchased in Germany and originally licensed there. I mention this because the unit had semaphore turn signals which didn't come over that year on the export versions. 

In those times the convertible bodies were made separately by Karmann (of Karmann Ghia fame, with the still up to date styling of those sporty coupes and convertibles.)

Besides the dated semaphore turn signals, the single most memorable thing about that convertible car was that the top had an inner lining. Most American convertible tops in the 1950s were some sort of canvas supported by the usual folding metal framework, but with no inner lining. When the top was up, the frame structure was visible. The canvas buffeted and there was wind noise. No insulation. 

With the VW convertible, there was a headliner and when the top was up it looked like, and felt like, a sedan. I mention this because it was a point of luxury to have that in a convertible. Unexpected, in a budget priced vehicle like the VW. It certainly made for a quieter ride. (Later, my Porsche 356A Cabriolet had the same treatment and it was very elegant driving, all snug and secure.) The only downside to those interior padded tops was their bulk. On both the VW and the Porsche, folded down, they perched on the back and didn't disappear like you would want for the coolest possible look. But, hey, you have to be cool to be square, n'est-ce pas?

I remember not too many years later a visit to the Ford Rotunda

It was a FoMoCo public relations center featuring displays of cars and technology. The highlight that day was a drive on a specially constructed banked track in a Lincoln Continental convertible. No seat belts. Just me and my Aunt Adele and Cousins sitting in that big old boat hurling at speed around this steep banked closed circuit course. Top down! Those were the days, for sure. I have to stress that, to even little wet-behind-the-ears me, I was totally blown away that Ford would have the nerve to give this kind of dangerous ride to anyone who got in line. Simpler times.

Just because times may have been simple, didn't stop the youth of America from innovating with their rides. At first, one of the single coolest things you could do was to lower the back end. Add bubble skirts, and some glass-pack mufflers. All that on a convertible, and with a continental kit...chick magnet guaranteed. After the lowered rear treatment was around for a while, then came the front lowered---"on the prowl," "on the sniff." Then back and front lowered. Think low rider. Then the back end and front end both went up.The one I never quite got was the front-only raised. It did have a pop the clutch comin' fast off the line kind of look, though.

In a category all by itself, moon hub caps. Chrome or hairline spun aluminum. Full moon's; later, baby moon's. Aero-dynamic!

Here is a photo (Unretouched, I swear! I kid.) of young grandson George and his truck outfitted with moon's. The boy seems to have inherited some of my genetics for cars and other wheeled vehicles. (They're hoping that's the extent of it.)

If you wanted to send the message that you were packing some serious heat under the hood, exhaust cutouts would do the deed. The basic setup was a short branch off the exhaust pipe sticking out just behind the front wheel well under the rocker panel, sealed with a three bolt cap until ready for use. Take off the cap and you get some heavy breathing and a HP boost. Illegal on the street. The work around for that was to have a in-cockpit remote mechanical switch setup. When you must have a race on the street, flip the switch. No need to get out and unbolt the cap; like you would do at the drag strip. After the action, switch it back. No one the wiser.

Speaking of "youth modifications." There was my grade school classmate, Fuzzy. Fuzzy Fachinni. His older brother was first called Fuzzy, and the nickname was handed down the line. Fuzzy was short, with his thick black hair greased heavily to hold a world record DA. Really, just like the Fonz. Before there was the Fonz ... there was The Fuzzy Fachini. In high school he had a hot rod 1949 Ford. I remember all us guys standing around watching him install some clear red plastic fuel lines. The air cleaner was off. When he started the car, whooh! Picture a 3 foot column of pure flame shooting straight up out of the top of the carb. Fuzzy lost some cool factor there. Eyebrows intact. Whew!

Still my all time favorite hot rod, jet black 1950 Mercury coupe. Lowered, chopped, and channeled. No badges or door handles...sanno!

Marvin Coleys 1950 Mercury  
Mercury + 1950 Buick grille

= The Ultimate Hot Rod

Be sure there's a flathead V8 under there.

Here's another photo that you might also like. Nice grill, huh? (Also, notice those long "leggy" cut outs.)

There were some friends and associates who drove some pritteey, pritteey, pritteey fancy rigs. [In the parlance of that ever so humorous Mr. Larry David. Hey, Larry. How's Jerry Seinfeld?]

In the high school years a school mate lived near me and I remember him getting to drive this big, heavy Jaguar Mark VII to school once in a while. The car was gray with cherry red leather upholstery. I have never since been in an automobile as plush in ride and interior as that behemoth. The feel and smell of those cushy wrinkled leather seats, the sight of the burled walnut dash, the soft rumble of that DOHC straight 6, the floating on a cloud ride. So foreign, so mysterious, so exotic. Those were the enthusiast days when motoring was a joy in itself and the right vehicle was a fully sensual experience.

Then there were these brothers who lived in that longed for garden of wonderfullness, Grosse Pointe, whose father was a FoMoCo executive. They drove a 1936 Ford Deluxe Phaeton to summer classes at the University of Detroit [speed reading courses were all the rage then]. The vehicle was painted a medium gray with red interior. Breezily breezing is the kind of warm weather ride you got. That car was in very, very excellent condition; both mechanically and cosmetically. Not like the kind of jewelry you see at the Barrett-Jackson auction; but a really nice "daily driver." I speculated because dad was with Ford, they may have had an inside deal for parts and refinishing.

Last, also in summer school, was the prettiest girl that until then I had ever seen. Her name was Heide: a blond angel. She and her (not so much) sister would show up from the rarified precincts of Bloomfield Hills in either a big black Cadillac limousine or, alternatively, some big old tank; also a black limo, but 1940's vintage. Alas, Heide had a boyfriend as good looking as she was; I didn't see I had a chance; that is, with Heide. But, a ride in one of those limo's would have been nice too. All that, it was never meant to be. Heide, if you are reading this, I love you! From afar.

You know, you can have a from-afar relationship with a car the same way you have a relationship with a beautiful woman whom you've never met directly. There's my Heide. Also, Paris Hilton, Carla Gugino, and Marisa Tomei; to name some of my top tier faves.

I made it a habit to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. An absolute must see when visiting Detroit. A collection of just about everything American; especially industrial. Of course, cars. I remember at a very early first sports car show seeing up close my first Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Coupe. German racing silver. Red plaid interior. Wow! Even now, wow!

On permanent display there is a one-of-a-kind 1930 type 41 Bugatti Royale. The biggest thing you will ever see. Yet so graceful. And exciting. Think Mae West meets Marilyn Monroe.

Once at a family party one of the guests came in a gray 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible, red interior. I still prefer the 1954-56 styling. The fins on the '57 were just not right. Oh, and that porthole on the side of the removable metal top ... lose it. That didn't stop me and my pal, Cousin Kenny, from asking for the keys and taking it for a spin. Pretty snazzy tooling around swell Grosse Pointe with the top down.

I am reminded of the time, also at a family get together, that my Cousin Theresa's husband, Richard Mazur, "let" [I hear tell Cousin Richard is doing very well for himself financial-wise. Didn't get there by throwing too much money around. Eh, Richard?] us polish his big white Buick convertible. No tipping required. It was just a treat for me and Ken to put our hands on that classy big rig. We used Simonize. And, if you know anything about the old type Simonize, you know what "elbow grease" means. 

You're supposed to put a patch of wax on a small area of the car and immediately start wiping it to a gloss. Well, I had a better idea (my first time out with the product). We would apply the wax to the entire car, then wipe it off. Signs of brilliance even at that tender young age. Well, I don't think we ever got to finish it. When that stuff dries it's bulletproof. The pisser was that I thought it would also be a smart idea to wax the windshield too. I like to be thorough. Richard was not impressed. I never saw that car again; not much of Richard either. He must have been cursing us up and down on his drive home having to look through that cloudy windshield.

Then in my teens the reigning drag strip street machine “Triple Threat.” A jet black 1958 Chevrolet two door hard top packing three 2-barrel carburetion with a progressive linkage. Progressive linkage lets you drive on on carburetor in regular street mode. But, when you stomp on it, all three carburetors fire up at once. Economic, and boss. 

1958 was the 50th anniversary year for GM and they went full tilt on all the models with probably the most chrome ornamentation ever and, the likes of which will never be seen again.

In the mid-1950s there was an intersection on the east side of Detroit with a gas station on every corner. Price wars! One summer the price per gallon got down to 14.9 cents. Ken and I pooled our allowance money and took his dad's Plymouth Fury for a day’s spin. Cruisin'.
My friend John Medicus' dad worked for GM. Mr. Medicus was in the paint area; starting out pin striping wood spoke wheels and moving on up to be on the team that developed the first Corvette. [Ken and I used to visit the old General Motors Building on West Grand Boulevard and one day got to sit in the a first year 1953 Corvette! How cool is that? Pure white with a red interior.] 

One summer in college John, another friend and I drove over to New York City for a week of adventure. We got to use his dad's car. A 1963 Chevrolet Impala Convertible. Dark maroon metallic with black bucket seats. Since Mr. Medicus had executive pull at GM he got to select his vehicle and, after a few thousand miles driven as a company car, he would take delivery of the vehicle at a substantial discount. The big deal on the car was that it had factory air conditioning. In the mid-1960s air conditioning was a pricey option. To have it on a convertible was over the top.

At one point we owned a Plymouth Valiant. Ours was silver 4-door with red interior. Plaid inserts, too. Push button automatic transmission.

My dad gave me some license with the car and so I made some "youth modifications" of my own. Red checkerboad for the egg crate grille. Replacing the sharp oval tail light lenses with flat red plexiglass. Not so bright, but ever so cool. And the really unique touch ... the wheel wells, the gas tank, and the rear differential in bright red. Not noticeable by day, but at night illuminated by others' headlights ... stunning. But, still, it was a Valiant. What it lacked in real cool factor I made up for in my imagination.

When the tranny went on the Valiant we limped it in to the dealership to trade (up) to a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. (Pictured is the GTO. Speedy version, but same lines.)

Bright solid cherry red with black "naugahyde" interior with bucket seats and a shifter (no, it was automatic.) on the floor. And it was a two door hard top. No pillar between the front and rear side windows. A super cool feature. [Also ours was not a GTO. If it were, I don't think I would be here to tell the story.

It was a regular thing to pick up an "ad hoc" drag race on weekend nights prowling the town . Sometimes on the quite stretch of 8 Mile Road east of Gratiot or on the premiere road, Woodward Avenue on the way up to Ted's drive-in going north of Detroit. You would pull up or be pulled up on by another car, challenges exchanged, and the game was on. After waiting for traffic to disappear, both drivers would come to a full stop in the middle of the road and, on the count of three, put the "pedal to the metal" until one car was distinctly ahead of the other. No prize. Just lucky to survive to tell the tale. And an ego boost ... or, bust, more often than not.

I once borrowed my Cousin Ken's 1964 Pontiac Bonneville hard top for a Saturday date. On the way to fetch the lucky young lady, I took the opportunity to test the car's speed in a short street race. Hurtling down the street car to car, who should we pass going in the opposite lane: John Law. I took the next right and pulled over curbside and turned off the lights. Well guess who comes up beside me. The policeman asked me what exactly I thought I was doing. I flatly stated that I was trying to escape him. He let me off. Honesty is the best policy, my sainted mom used to say. True that. (If I was really bold I would have turned into someone's driveway instead of stopping on the street. I'll remember that next time I have to elude the law after a too quick ride down the lane.)

My most shameful automotive memory was one night on Telegraph Road coming back to Detroit after a night of drinking mass quantitiies at Mr. Winter's. He was the father of a college friend and entertained the boys lavishly whenever we came by for a visit. Mr. Winter lived on a small lake near Pontiac, Michigan. There was even a wood hull Garwood speedbout parked at the dock outside the house. He was a true original, and eccentric guy. Lived completely free to follow his interests. I think he had inherited money from a family member who was to have invented the rocker arm (?); or, something or other essential to the internal combustion engine. He was a car guy. In his museum garage there was a jet black Jaguar XKE, a 4 door Lincoln Continental convertible with an blown engine. (Not broken, blown; supercharged = blown.) Also, an American Underslung roadster. Fully restored. Same color scheme as in this picture.

Also, this most exquisite Indian motorcycle, jet black and spotless everwhere. It was supposed to have been an award winner. Named, "Black Beauty."


Mr. Winter also had in storage a large new motorcycle parts inventory, enough supposedly to build several complete additional Indian's. Boy, talk about coveting your neighbor's property. The last I remember about Mr. Winter was that, out of an interest in late 19th/early 20th century farm equipment, in his travels to search out pieces to collect at country auctions, he became an autioneer. His younger son I think may still be in the business.

Well, back to the tale. My friends and I were driving home late one night on Telegraph Road. Mr. Winter kept a custom refrigerated cabinet just for a half keg of beer with a tap on top. Our state was slightly well lubricated that night. You should also know that this was a notorious road for accidents. "Bloody Telegraph" was the nickname. We were in two cars. I had this bright idea that we should pull up alongside the guys in the other car and moon them. My first and only attempt. 

Well there we were, one fellow in front on the passenger side and me in back. Pete was driving and was having a big laugh at the sight of the two of us exposing our backsides to the shock of our buddies in the other car. Well, Pete forgot to keep his eyes on the road straight ahead. Not too far ahead was another car stopped at a red light. He slammed on the brakes, but not soon enough. We smashed into the back end of the stopped car; thankfully, not too badly. As we sat there pants down terrified in our seats, this old man comes out from the other car and peeks in to have a word with the driver. Me and the other perpetrator just sitting there hoping the gentleman would not notice how we were wearing our pants. Youth! Pete came to the fraternity dinner dance the following night with a gigantic busted lip. It was in the dog house for me and the other moonie. I remember cracking wise about the wonderfull full moon visible just outside during dinner. Ha, ha. Pete was not amused. No irony that night.

Now, forget about all that...

I have had the pleasure to own a nice string of cars over the years. Here is the list and few thoughts on each.

My first car was a 1953 Hudson Jet which I bought from my older brother Arnold when I was 16 and just obtained my driver’s license.

Arguably, the Jet was one of the first of the US compacts. Unibody construction and economical on the mileage. I paid my brother $450, all my savings from working in a butcher shop on weekends at Gratiot Central Market. My dad told me that the car wasn't worth it, but my brother needed the money. What ... huh? Ouch! But, it was through my brother that I got the job; so, now in my wiser years, I chalk the high price up as his earned commission.

Like all kids everywhere and at all times, the temptation to add what's called "youth modifications" compelled me to strip the front hood and back trunk lid ornaments and fill in the holes with Bondo putty. That hot rodded customization never got past primer stage. 

I nearly veered off into a life of juvenile delinquency in that car. Shortly after getting my license, there I was, racing through the woods on Bell Isle one summer night. The police pulled me over and my license, the ink barely dry, was suspended. They didn't search the car to find the stash of fireworks I quickly shoved under the seat. 

Fireworks . . . I remember my dad packing me and my Cousins into the car for a trip to Toledo, Ohio just before the 4th to buy fireworks with our saved allowances. Legal in Ohio, not in Michigan. Imagine a kid buying a whole box containing a gross of what we called M80s and Cherry Bombs. Let's put it this way, in either configuration one firecracker was something like a good chunk of a piece of dynamite. My dad was a good man and a caring father. We just lived in a less controlled time. And there were no seat belts on the way either. I remember too, my Cousin Ken lived in the suburbs about two blocks away from the police station. One afternoon we set off this firework that shot up a hundred feet into the sky then exploded really like a stick of dynamite. We stayed indoors the rest of the day. Kids, huh!? Stupid innocence.

My first brand new car was a 1966 Morgan +4 Drop Head Coupe. That's the actual car is pictured. How about that?

I went on a waiting list and in 6 months took delivery from Metro Motors in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Mr. Curley Ellis was the sales agent. It was quite a treat to take the car though the tunnel to Windsor on Saturdays for maintenance (I would stop by the duty free shop to bring the boys a nice bottle) and tag along to the pub for lunch. Canadian beer is the very best. At the pub (segregated — men-only and ladies-with-escorts) the waiter would come around with a tray loaded with slim glasses of draft for 15 cents each and all you did was tell him how many and pay the price. He would come around again and again and replace the empties. Pay as you go, hopefully not before you were went.

Even in the Mid-1960s sports cars on the road were rare. When you owned one you were in a special unofficial club. I remember how when you saw another sports car driver on the road you honked and waved. If it was another Morgan, well … you would stop and have a chat. If the other Morgan owner was female, you could have an extended conversation at the nearest motel. (Fat chance. Back then I had never seen a Morgan owner who was female.) Not especially pointing at the ladies, but these days all you need is cash to buy just about any type of exotic transportation your heart desires. If one of those philistines sees another sports car on the road, all they do is sniff a bit and size up who’s got the flashier rig.

For those who may have heard the urban legend, Morgan’s are not built on wood frames. The chassis is steel just like any other such car. The ash wood framing was built up on the chassis and gave support and shape to the body. "Coach built" is the term. The Morgan Car Company has a long history, still building in the same way, only now with an additional line of very exotic and very expensive handmade super cars using the latest materials and technology.

I sold the Morgan shortly after moving to New York City. A friend kept the car at his home in Connecticut. He was tempted to buy it himself, but didn’t. He later bought a Morgan +8, the same as mine only with a ten times more powerful engine. (I understand there is a trend in some circles to what is called “slow car.” There is no denying that raw speed is a kick of its own, but there is the simple pleasure of running through the gears in an automobile with just enough for a peppy ride but designed with a nicely balanced power to weight ratio. Besides, where you gonna go at plus 80 mph?)

When I bought the Morgan my Cousin Ken, who was a Corvette guy, was puzzled over my seemingly impractical choice. Well, it was. The heater made more of a sound from the fan than any real heat. No windshield washers (I rigged up my own with some tubing, glass laboratory T connectors and a one way squeeze bulb). And rain leaked into the passenger compartment. Sometimes at speed the fasteners at the top of the windshield would work loose and the top would fly off. Did I mention that the Morgan was notoriously harsh riding. Even had a hand crank to start the engine in extremis. 

Well, as you know, a car is more than a practical conveyance. There’s the see-and-be-seen factor. The joy of ownership. The satisfaction of belonging to a select club. And, of course, the impression it makes on the ladies. But, mainly, it's the driving experience itself. 

Now, after all these years, Kenny is writing me about all the wonderful news items he finds about Morgan’s. It’s not easy being ahead of the times. It also seems that the car is a strong link to old acquaintances. When I finally located my long lost friend Joe Palazzolo (couldn’t for the life of me remember how many l’s and z’s) the very next thing he does is send me a framed 16X20 photo portrait of the car. Kenny had sent me the slides we took on our weekend drive to NYC from Detroit (me posed in a beret with the UN in the background). And very recently a work associate from FoMoCo emailed me with a set of pictures of the Morgan factory. Out of the blue. Why, I don’t know. Apparently I gave his daughter a ride in the car (didn’t lay a hand, honest). It probably made her day. Maybe even changed her life. Some things are unknowable.

My first New York City car was a Citroen 2CV. Actual is pictured.

It’s something that you either get it or you don’t. Centrifugal clutch; it would automatically disengage at idle. Right headlamp turned with the wheels to see around corners. Full sun roof. A suspension that was like floating on a cloud. 40+ mpg. And a body with probably less impact protection than a sardine can. Directly opposite the kind of confidence you get from driving a full size SUV.

Soon after moving to the New Jersey suburbs I found a 1958 Porsche 365B Cabriolet in the local classifieds. Less than $2,000 then. Today, if you want a nice example, pony up $125,000+. 

Totally different driving experience from the Morgan +4. 

When I arrived at the seller's the car was under a cover like some kind of jewel. Owned and apparently meticulously maintained by a dentist. (When I took it to a repair shop they were reluctant to hoist it up lest the suspension would fall off. The car was completely structured out of sheet steel and rust was the big bugaboo. It turned out that the dentist was more cosmetic than practical. The underside was fairly nicely rusted. Lesson — look under the hood . . . and under the skirt, if you know what I mean.) Nice, nonetheless, and many miles of delightful motoring. Two tops, convertible and hard top. Just like the Morgan it was jet black with a cherry red leather interior. So very different from the English vehicle though. Smooth, refined. Shift lever action so light and, well, vague. (The Morgan’s shifter, stiff and notchy. Crrr-unch.) Both a true blast to drive. I couldn’t say which was better. Just each different in very unique ways. One British and one — how they say — Teutonic. The "coach built " Morgan drove like a buggy; very loose in all the joints, with a scary amount of flex in the chassis. The Porsche was one solid hunk; my first taste of a taught, one piece feel in an automobile. But, you’d really have to drive them to see the difference for yourself.

The kids started to show up and I just couldn’t conscience driving them around in those things. (We once drove 14 hours straight in the Porsche to visit the in-laws. Baby Kate in a kiddy seat on the floor on the passenger side. Besides the questionable safety factor, there was a leak coming in from under the dash dripping on our little precious. I was crestfallen at the indignity I had inflicted on that innocent creature. By the way, she grew up just fine in spite of me, and is now raising her own little precious.)

So next was the 1972 Citroen D Special.

Brand new. Four cylinder, stick. Very high tech with a hydraulic suspension; very comfortable ride too. Slightly underpowered. Citroen first introduced that body style in the mid-1950’s and it stayed in production into the late 70’s. And it is still a great looking car. Very aerodynamic shape. Dealer service network however, almost non-existent.

The gas crisis of 1974 also arrived and it got me thinking about being strapped to too much of a high tech vehicle, so we traded for a 1974 Land Rover 88.

From Zagata Motors in western New Jersey. Mr. Zagata was an off road and camping enthusiast and his own Land Rover cab coupe was painted in Zebra strips. Parking on the streets of Brooklyn the LR proved itself the sturdy beast I expected it to be. However, 17 mpg was a shock and top speed only 55 mph. Trade off, the satisfaction of somehow imagining myself close to a more rugged, self-reliant life style. Everybody would constantly question my sanity for having an off-road vehicle in the city. You take a ride around  those mean streets, then decide for yourself. And, now take a look at all those 4WDs and SUV whizzing by these days. Impractical, or forward thinking. You decide.

I sold the Land Rover to cover expenses training into a whole new career field. Living in NYC there isn’t really much of a need for an automobile. So I went carless for several years until it was time to find new digs outside the Big Apple. [My own take on why they call it that is because it is so full of temptations. You know … Adam and Eve … the Apple. Only bigger. OK, not such an original idea, but just in case it is really my original thought. Give credit where due.]

The vehicle of choice for a sojourn across the great USA was a Volkswagen Camper Van. 1973 vintage.

Bought it in South Dakota based on pictures and telephone calls. No disappointment. Rust free, beautifully restored to original and a souped up engine. That baby could boogie. For a VW van anyway. We spent three months driving west and camping in deserts and mountains to finally land in Phoenix, Arizona.
I have to say that van was probably my favorite of all the vehicles. So much living in it. If you fondly remember "getting it on" in the back seat of some old sedan, just imagine what get's on in a Volkswagen Camper Van with a full bed and privacy curtains.
We happened to be at a campsite in the mountains overlooking Boulder Colorado Thanksgiving-time in 1994. Bathroom facilities and a really hot tub a short walk in the cold snow, mountain lions reportedly prowling the premises. We got pretty good at camp cooking on the trusty Coleman stove and even hosted a friend one morning for breakfast around the small table in the van. Also, since it was that time of year, we met up with Santa (the real one, mind you; it was Boulder after all: that town where fantasy and reality are thoroughly mixed) and we have a great picture of the Big Man posing in the VW. I'll post it as soon as I can get into the file of film images.
On another occasion coming back north to Phoenix after the Tuscson gem show, our natural high from being around all that rarified crystalline energy was flattened by a most vigorous hail storm. Imagine all that roof on the van and all that hail. Fortunately the storm didn't put any real dents into the situation, but the din did give us a fright.
There is still a great vintage VW following in the rust-free states. After a few years ownership we sold it and recovered all the money we invested. Not too shabby. The van was wonderful in every way. Except in driving in city traffic, the manual transmission was a handful.
Soon began looking for a more everyday driver. The 1977 Mercedes Benz 300D was the ticket.

D for diesel. I was originally looking for a trusty Volvo but someone along the way said the MB was the better choice. A little skittish about the diesel; where do you get the fuel? Once you own one you begin to see the stations that, before you had the need, you didn’t notice. (Sort of like not ever seeing stores that sell monkeys until you wrap your mind around owning one. When I retire I plan to open a store that places cage captive, mature chimpanzees to worthy homes. Just back up the truck, open the front door, and let your new buddy loose. Live the barrel-of-monkeys experience! I kid.)

Well, back to the Mercedes. Bought it from an airline pilot. He had a neatly printed log of everything he ever did to the vehicle. It’s great to buy a pre-owned vehicle with that kind of documentation. At 177,000 clicks it was still only nearly broken in. MB diesels are famously bullet proof and live to 500,000 and beyond. My car was non-turbo and just about the slowest thing on the road. We drove it for another 100 thousand before selling it to trade up to the big boy, a 1982 300SD.

With 160,000 miles, more room for Big Dave in the seats. Longer wheel base, comfortable, and a turbo. Starts in half a crank and jets down the trail. I still prefer the smaller 124 body 300D for its tight agility. The bigger 126 chassis is plush. That 300SD stickered at $37,000 in 1982! We're talking plush.

That’s it so far.

I do have fantasies about future auto possibilities, however. Click here for a view.

The song below kind of catches us up on the current situation in Detroit. It remembers a time when a kid like me could bicycle free everywhere. Summers, I would leave home in the morning and come back for supper. Just roaming around on my bike, exploring. Not a care in the world.