Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Future in One Picture

My former son in law, Darrell Forde scanned some pictures of my grandchildren and posted them on Facebook. I thought this one was particularily good. It was taken around 7 or 8 years ago, how time flies.

Nova, on the left, if he has his druthers, will be a world famous free climber. I expect him to be on the face of El Capitan in a few years breaking the record for the fastest climb. Lucrative sponsorships will follow and a free climb of Fitzroy in Patagonia (never been done) then he'll conquer other challenges. Until then if he can simply turn in his reading lists his mother will be happy. He reads all the time and told his mom, "the teachers all ready know I read alot of books." I suggested that a good lesson is "the jobs not done until the paperwork is done!" When he gets back to Santa Cruz after spending time with his other grandparents, he's off to Survival Camp.

Sophia just finished her Junior year at UCLA at 19. On her blog and Facebook page she lists herself as a bicycle mechanic, which, in fact, she she is. (the only woman mechanic at the UCLA Bike Exchange) Ms S is heading for Copenhagen to spend a year at the Urban Design School, when she finishes in Denmark, she'll have her degree and then graduate school. She can do anything she sets her sights on. She has already biked for 4 weeks in Europe and worked on an organic farm in Tuscany. She routinely bikes Centuries in under 8 hours. At her age I was lucky to get to Maple Lake and back.

Dory, the sleepy boy, the baby. Inquisitive, good with tools, voracious reader and fisherman. A few years ago, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he said, "a tool belt". I got him a set of Stanley Tools for kids. He can discuss anything from Elephant Seals and their mating habits, race car aerodynamics (ask Mike Griffin, former owner of the Panther Indy Car team) to micro climates. And he is a damn good cook. Cakes and I are taking him to Westport for a week next month. He and gramps are going to cook, fish, beach comb, ride our bikes, build fires at night and read, read, read.

If children are the future, these three will be big contributors. We need to help them as much as we can and leave them something to work with, like clean and abundant water, clean air and sustainable resources. They are our legacy and we owe it to them.

In a future post, you'll meet Grace Dickson, my NYU granddaughter. She is a force of nature.

Jan, (the Cakes) my wife has no blood in this, but you'd never know it. She loves these kids beyond recall and would throw down her life for them!

Everytime I get down, angry or pissed off at the world, I realize how fortunate I am.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What a freakin' week!

I'm exhausted, haven't slept all week. I lay in bed in a semi concious's been so bad I've moved into the guest room so I don't have to listen to Cake's say, "Shut out the light, shut it off, I heard you snore, you need to meditate, you're sleeping!" By 11 in the morning I'm half asleep at my desk. In the late afternoon I perk up and I'm not tired at bedtime. At least I'm getting some reading done. Since last Friday, I've read the Cronkite biography, a book on WW2 dis-information networks and 2 Walter Mosley 'Easy Rawlins" mysteries. Mom would be proud. And I'm tired, dammit.

Yesterday, a guy stuck his head into my office, an old dude. His name is Jere Kitzmiller. Jere was the Sales Manager of Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors. When he hit the GM mandatory retirement age he went to work Penske Corporation. Jere had heard about DRIVE! and wanted to see it for himself. We had a wonderful chat and we are going to get together again soon.
He said, "If Iwasn't so damn old (79) I get involved in this with you." I'll take that as a complement, Jere. Kitzmiller was widowed last fall, his wife was his highschool sweetheart, the old boy winked at me and said, I'm going on my first date tonight since highschool. Jere's date is a "babygirl", she is 65!

Jere told me an interesting story. Back in the 70's he bought a Mercedes and a BMW and brought them to a Caddy sales meeting at GM headquaters. He pointed out that those cars were the future and if Cadillac continued to produce (in his words) luxo-barges they'd be out of business. Jere laughed and said it only took them 30 years to pay attention! This kind of a caddy was Jere's dream.

 BTW, Jere has a CTS-V station wagon and a Z06 Corvette. I hope he gets "lucky" on his first date!

There is the old joke about a guy on tour of heaven with St. Peter and he notices a huge glass wall stretching to infinity. Behind the wall are thousands of people screaming and carrying signs. The guy asks St. Peter who they are. St. Peter tells him, "They are evangelicals, domininists and other assorted tright wing christians, they are never happy about anything!"

I imagine if Roe v. Wade ever gets overturned, there'll be right wing freak outs over why "a child has to carry her rapist's baby to term."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Research Project conducted in South Carolina

My friend Eric is economically marooned in Columbia SC. After three years of running a small cluster of radio stations, the stations have been sold and he's stuck.
Over the past few months he has been reviewing his experiences as a Boston guy living in SC. He called me today and told me after 3 years of observation, he has concluded there is no (other than color) discernible difference between a black middle aged guy named Bubba and a white middle aged guy named Bubba. Here are Eric's observations:

1. Blue collar and earn about the same money.
2. Both drive pickups, equal distribution between Ford, Chevy and Dodge
3. Both have questionable hygiene
4. Wear work jeans and Carhardt work clothes topped with baseball hats. Hard hats at work.
5. Both favor Redwing boots
6. Both live in small ranch houses or on a piece of land with a double wide trailer.
7. They eat ribs, chicken, pulled pork and drink beer chased with whiskey.
8. Their wives are over weight and they both have fathered too many kids
9. They are belligerent at their kid's sports games and both love football.
10. Both still play softball.
11. They diverge musically except they both like R&B, Motown, Ray Charles and the Allman Brothers.
12. Oh, and they both hate Mexicans.
13. All their kids are called by first and middle names.
14. They both have too many dogs.
15. They take care of their tools.
16. They fish and hunt and carry a pistol in their trucks.
17. They bitch about the same things.
18. Their ministers yell at them in church and instill huge amounts of guilt.
19. They both have bad backs and shitty health insurance.
20. Never been anywhere, except for the time they spent in the military.

Additional Observation: They nap in their pickups while their wives shop at Walmart.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Morning Stuff

Something to get very serious about!

I'm not a climate change skeptic. Over the past 10,000 years the average temperature on the earth has increased .8 degrees centigrade. Not a big deal, right? Who would notice? We are on track this century to move to an increase of 2 degrees centigrade. What the hell, that's not a big deal either. Except the increase of .8 happened not over the 10,000 year period, its happened since the industrial revolution. When, not if,  we hit the 2 degree increase there will be 100 million refugees in the world and 40 percent of the arable land will no longer support crops. Ever been to Miami? It will be under water at a 2 degree increase. That increase will happen this century and to put it in perspective, I'll have great grand children wandering around wondering why the hell we didn't do something about it. If we hit six degrees in another couple of centuries, the average temperature will be 170 degrees Fahrenheit. More perspective, that's less time than my mom's side of the family has lived in North America. Scientists call this a closed feedback loop, an example: the perma-frost in Siberia melts, releases methane gas into the atmosphere, which in turn creates more melting of perma frost.

                                                             Enviro Sidebars.

SoCal is loaded with wonderful old cars. Last Saturday Cakes and I were sitting at a light, with our windows were down since it was about 74 degrees and sunny. We had stopped behind an absolutely perfect 68 Pontiac GTO. Both of us noticed a smell in the air and it was coming from the tailpipes of the pre-emission controls GTO. Cakes said what's the matter with that car? I told her nothing, that's the way all cars used to smell as they pumped emissions into the air. I told one of my student's Dad about it, he said when he grew up in the San Fernando Valley you couldn't see the sun most of the time, the sky was a brownish yellow from all the emissions. Its better now and so are our cars. I can remember the screams of the Luddites about emission controls, dumb bastards!

And another thing...or two.

In 2010 we had a two week series of rainstorms in SoCal. The storm sewer systems funneled the rainwater into the ocean. In fact so much rainwater was sent out to sea, if it had been retained it would have supplied SoCal with 80% of our water needs for 12 months. The cluster of buildings in the lower left corner of the photo is downtown LA.

I had a thermometer in my garage when we lived in Phoenix, one afternoon about 5 o'clock with the unrelenting Arizona sun beating down on our house from the western sky. I opened the door from the laundry room to garage and looked at the thermometer. It was 107 outside, 82 in the house and 131 degrees in the garage. I swear to god the tires were melting on our cars and the garbage was slow cooking in the plastic trash barrel. Phoenix would be a wide spot in the road with out A/C and with out the big power generating dams built by "socialists" there'd be no A/C.

Okay then, I've got a class!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bidness, Bidness, Bidness!

It's Bidness! Bitches!

I'm a businessman, have been for years. I've done okay, great a few times. It's really kind of simple, develop a product that has value and sell it to people who want it, need it or desire it.

Mitt Romney said "there should be a requirement that someone running for president should have business experience", what the hell? Okay then Mitt, the Chinese guy who does our dry cleaning has business experience, lots of it, he's been in business for over 30 years. My beloved Mercedes mechanic after toiling for 35 years for a dealership has been a businessman now for 6. The guy whose crew maintains the common area in my neighborhood is a businessman, too. I'd bet what Mitt really means is a businessman like him, venture capitalist and private equity man, not an actual, you know, guy who runs his own fucking business.

Bidness and Edumacation

The University of Virgina has canned their President at the behest of a donor, who is a businessman. He thinks the University should be more business oriented. Thomas Jefferson is in his grave yelling "just wait a minute, god dammit!" The University of Missouri's new prez is a businessman, a young aggressive software guy with a bachelor's degree in personnel management. He should be great in meetings with the head of the medical school or the history department. And last, but least. The former Bush Administration Budget Director and current Governor of Indiana Mitch (I sold the toll road!) Daniels has been chosen by the Trustees (most of whom he appointed) to be the new President of Purdue University. Even life long politico Daniels has some business experience, he sold pot in college. He got the charges reduced to personal possession even though his stash was 5 pounds. I can't wait until Daniels holds a press conference announcing Purdue's new Monsanto School of Plant Biology or the Eli Lilly School of Pharmacy.

What did Lenin say, "a capitalist businessman will sell me the rope I'll use to hang him."

Radio Newessss Bidness

Speaking of businessmen, Harvard MBA Lew Dickey, the founder, president, chairman of board, lucky sperm club member and big fucking deal at Cumulus Media was able (in less than 18 months) to completely and forever shit can KGO Radio in San Francisco, a station that for over 25 years was number in ratings and revenue in the Bay Area. The last rating book KGO was a falling number 8 in the market and moving toward terminal velocity. Good job Lew! At his last Wall Street conference call, none of the smart Wall Street guys even mentioned KGO, they were all talking about Lew's "visionary" digital platforms. Let me know when Lew's new concept starts to bill the 45 million a year KGO did.

Bankers as Gods

Anyone else notice the Republicans on the panel listening to testimony from Jamie Dimon the head of J P Morgan/Citi were ready to drop to their knees and reach for his zipper? I'm surprised they didn't leave the hearing room wiping their chins and lips.Maybe they swallowed?

And that's the way it is Thursday, June 21st, 2012 (Thanks Mr. Cronkite)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Random Musing

The Old "Them" vs. The New "Them"

 Talking with a friend the other day, the immigration issue came up and he was uncomfortable (unlike 64% of his fellow Americans) with President Obama's Executive Order allowing children of illegals, under 30 without any criminal record, are enrolled in school, served in the military, graduated from school, etc be given 24 months without deportation orders being issued.

Hopefully sometime over the next 24 months we can come up with a sane immigration policy. Without coming right out and saying it, what my friend is really uncomfortable about is these people are, for the most part brown. Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans and Asians from many different countries. "They" just don't look like "Us". I get that, but what he doesn't understand is the people who look like us don't even consider immigrating here anymore. Legal or otherwise. If you are  German, Swedish, French, Italian, English or heaven forbid Spanish, why the hell would you even consider moving here? Everyone of those countries have more income mobility and social mobility than the USA. We're the country that invented them fer christ's sake! Throw in good pay, health care, affordable higher education, the occasional high speed train and decent public transportation, they decide to stay on the other side of the Statue Of Liberty, who can blame them.

Short Thoughts:


How can a God Fearing, Jesus loving Christian like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina (too big to be an insane asylum, too small to be a country) say something like this: It would be immoral to expand the food stamp program, it undermines these people. (This was a during a discussion about increasing the program 10 dollars a week.)

Damned Confederates, we should have hung Jefferson Davis and the rest of them for treason when we had the chance. Life would would have been much easier for the country, black and white!

Mitt Romney says what we have to do is secure the border first. Okay, Mitt what are you going to do when the low bid contractor to rebuild the border fence in the San Diego hired illegals to build it.. The Obama Justice Department tried him, fined him and put an ankle bracelet on him for 24 months? Your idea? Shoot him? Oh, probably not. The contractor is a Republican. Mitt would rather just deport the poor bastards working on the fence.

Drill rig in the Badlands
My home state of North Dakota (a state with a billion dollar surplus and 600 thousand residents, do the math) gets about 4 million a day in oil revenue. How much do you think the oil companies are getting? If the state would have asked for 8 million a day they'd still be drilling. ND has the the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Wages are up, the state is flush with cash. On the other hand the prices of homes, services, food are up and so is crime. I wonder what the plan is for the future when the Bakken Formation is a mature oil field and the jobs are gone, the schools are empty, shopping malls are covered with "For lease" signs and homes are empty with doors blowing in the wind. They don't have to go far to find out, only 500 miles. Drive out and take a look at Butte Montana?

Staying in the state of the "cattle and the wheat and the folks that can't be beat"
This is Father John Shea, the President of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Father Shea runs a tax exempt educational institution owned by the church via an order of nuns. My old home state had a ballot measure that would allow "persons of conscience" to be able to refuse service. (birth control) to anyone for any reason if it violated their personal beliefs. Father Shea was all over television, radio and the papers urging the voters to pass this measure. Actually Father Shea, you were in violation of the constitution, unless of course you'd like your University to give up its tax exempt status.

Speaking of Catholics!

If you are a Catholic this guy invited you to leave the Church today, if you are unwilling to follow the exact dictates of the Nazi pope and bishops. If you are the least bit liberal, a priest, nun or lay person he pretty much said 'get out and don't let the door hit you in the ass". Bill Donahue the president of the Catholic League doesn't like you and you should pack your rosary and beat it. I think if you are Catholic you should. Join the Episcopal Church or any religious institution that isn't operated by old guys parading around in medieval costumes attempting to drag you back to the 16th century. I'd have a hell of a lot more respect for my Catholic friends if they'd demand Ratzinger send Cardinal Law back to Massachusetts so he can answer to state and federal charges against him, rather than have him hide in the Vatican. Too bad you guys can't get rid of that rat bastard Dolan, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lessons from the Old Man

Father's Day, 2012. I've been on the phone with both my girls and my UCLA granddaughter. Jan called her Dad. We're all good.

The Cakes (Jan's nickname) went back to bed, so I'll wait to cook blueberry pancakes until she reappears in a couple of hours. I worked through a nasty hangover yesterday and Tim got our phone problem straightened out. The burglar alarm company bungled the installation of their automatic call system and it screwed up our roll over lines. No wonder I was missing calls!

I think of my Dad a lot. Things trigger memories and I get private smiles and sometimes sad thoughts about the old boy. I was the oldest of 4 kids and my parents experimented on me trying to get parenting down. I felt like I was one of the monkeys NASA used to shoot into space to find out if Alan Shepard was going to survive. He did and so have I.

When I got into management at the age of 25, I couldn't find my ass with a compass and I called Dad and asked for advice. He said "Don't treat the hired help like the hired help." A few days later I had to do my first firing. I called Dad again, "Anything you say beyond the facts is only you trying to make yourself feel better, he is going to feel like shit no matter what you say."

My partner Ralph tells this story, when he was in his early 20's he went to my Dad and told him he wanted to get in the car business. Dad had known Ralph since he was a little kid. The old man told Ralph, "If this what you really want to do, you have to learn the used car side and I'll teach you." Dad did and the rest is history because learning 'the used car side" made it possible for Ralph to be one of the youngest Chevy dealers in the country a few short years later. When RT told me that story, we both got a little teary. He said my Dad was one of the best.

I told Ralph about working for his Dad at one of his markets. What a stickler his old man was about wrapping the meat and cold cuts correctly! He inspected every package until I was an expert. The skill I learned from his Dad at 13 has lived on as I have personally trained many butchers in proper wrapping technique. The guy at Von's a few weeks ago was stunned when I said "Let me show you how to do that right." The other meat cutter laughed because I had shown him Ralph's dad's technique a couple of years ago. I looked at him and said "why didn't you show him how to do it?" Ralph's dad was one of the best.

My Dad was tough on me. I bought a pristine 51 Chevy Belair hardtop the summer I was 14. Ralph and I had a popcorn stand and we were making a killing. I bought the car on a Thursday, took it to the dealership and detailed it. On Friday my family was leaving for the cabin and Dad said "don't drive that car this weekend it won't have insurance on it until Monday, use your mother's car." Of course I drove my new car all weekend long, back and forth to the popcorn stand, cruised with my friends, I probably put 500 miles on it. Monday morning I saw the old man talking to our neighbor. Dad came in the house and said, "Give me the keys." He drove my car to work, sold it and kept my money until September. I drove Mom's station wagon all summer long.

Dad had a real skill in finding me really shitty jobs and keeping me busy and out of trouble. He sent me to work on the farm for my Grandpa when I was 11. There was a bumper crop of wheat that year and the yield was so high the trucks couldn't keep up with the combine. I drove a Farmall tractor pulling a big wagon. We off loaded wheat into the wagon, when a truck came back from the elevator I had to shovel the wheat from the wagon to the truck. I have never done anything since as hard as that. It was hot, dusty, sticky and nasty. I remember crying as I shoveled. When the harvest was finally over, Dad came to pick me up, we drove out of the farm yard and Dad handed me an envelope. In it were 6 $20 dollar bills and a note from Grandpa. "Good job" was all it said. Grandpa was tough, too.

I was living in Boston when Dad died. I got on a plane at 7 in the morning and walked into the funeral home at 4 in the afternoon. My mother said to me, "Your father's face doesn't look right." I walked over to his casket and fixed it. It was the least I could do for him.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

18 years left according to the Social Security Administration

                                          Charles Deering by John Singer Sargent

I'll be 67 on Monday. Interesting, I've lived 18 years longer than my Dad and according to the actuarial tables I have 18 years left to live.

The question, how to spend those years? A good question, hard to answer in many ways, particularily if you are honest with yourself. Which most of us have a hard time doing!

Here are a few things I know for sure.

1. Don't stop working. The reason, every older guy I know has said "friends of mine who retired, turned into old men within 4 or 5 years and died within 10." We lived in Palm Beach Gardens and I know that's true from personal observation.

2. If you continue to work, put yourself into it, but play hard too. Take more time off than you did when you were young and do things you've never done before. I love going to work everyday, I like the school, I like the kids, I like the parents and I like the folks who work with me.

3. Stay active. I used to ride my bike 120-150 miles a week. I have to start again. This afternoon. The bike along with low wieght, high rep workouts can allow an old duffer to tie his shoes without blacking out.

4. Ouit smoking! I didn't smoke for almost 24 years and after I started to smoke cigars, I got hooked on nicotine again (Cigar Affectionado lies) and just for grins I bought a pack of Merits at 1 0'clock in the morning, the next thing I knew I was smoking close to a pack a day. I'm quitting right now, it will be a total bitch but I owe it to myself, Jan, my daughters and grandkids.

5. Lose weight. I've lost 11 pounds since April and knocked two inches off my waist. The goal is to weigh 205. That's 25 pounds heavier than when I was 18. At 205 I'll have a 34 inch waist and that means I have two inches to go. When I hit 34 and stick with it for a couple of months all the 36 and 38 inch pants are marching off to Goodwill.

6. Stay informed, curious and read books like you're going to die early next week.

7. Continue to question authority and don't listen to bullshit from people who don't know what they are talking about. Truth to power is very important. It is as simple as asking your Doctor questions for Christ's sake!

8. Get Zen, live in the moment, enjoy each one. When you get into a Zen space (it's not easy to do)
life tastes like chocolate or good wine or both at the same time.

9. Try new stuff, all the time and never stop!

10. Don't live in the past. We all have made huge, stupid mistakes. Don't relive them or second guess yourself. Its nice to remember good times and great success too, but today is today and you can't relive your life good or bad. Just freaking stop it, dammit!

Mt. Whitney is on my "To-Do" list, I am going to climb it with my grandsons. See number three above as a reference. When we finish Whitney we are going to the Bugaboos!

Jan and I are going to spend two weeks in Tuscany. My grand kid Sophia spent a month there and she is only 20! 

Oh, I'm also going to change the way kids learn to drive, because I can! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Things Change-Get Used to it!

                                                            Know who this guy is?

He is John Francis Fitzgerald, the first Irish Catholic Mayor of Boston. "Honey Fitz" attended Boston Latin High School and Boston College. He started Harvard Medical School and dropped out after a year because of the death of his father. He was a huge baseball fan and threw out the first pitch at the brand new Fenway Park in 1912. His great granddaugther Caroline Kennedy threw out the first pitch on the 100th anniversary of Fenway this year. Fitzgerald was elected mayor of Boston 3 times, in 1906 and again in 1910 and 1912. His election as mayor broke the back of the old money, old family control of the Boston Brahmin's and local politics would never be the same. One of his supporters was confronted by a Brahmani who exclaimed "How did this happen?' The supporter said, "We vote more and fuck more than your people do!" Finally the Irish in Boston, the people who scrubbed the floors, did the laundry, unloaded the ships, swept the streets and had faced the "No Irish need apply" signs had one of their own as mayor. It was hard for the old line to accept, but accept it they did and life moved forward. When "Honey Fitz" died in 1950 a Saltonstall and a Lodge were among the pallbearers.

                            LA fans cheer the KINGS at Stanley Cup Victory Parade in LA.

Notice anything different about these fans? I thought so. I'm not surprised since my wife said the topic of conversation for the past month in Urban Home's huge warehouse was Kings, Kings, Kings.

99% of the guys who unload, load and deliver the furniture are Latinos. They are nuts about soccer, baseball, basketball and college sports, too.

                                            Even more diversity from King fandom:

                                                                  Cuba Gooding Jr.

Random and assorted hockey fans

                        She is pretty famous and goes to as many Kings games as she can.
I'd guess Taylor didn't grow up in a hockey hotbed. Neither didher friend Ms Delorenzo.

In my home state, baby boomers were at best one generation removed from families who spoke Norwegian, Swedish, Polish and German in the home. I remember my grandmother speaking on the phone in Norwegian all through my childhood and visiting homes with her where only Norwegian was spoken. Friends my age from Boston remember the same things only in Italian, French or in dialects direct from Ireland. Here in SoCal and all across the country, Hispanic families are going through the same process as our families did. Why speak Spanish in the home? Because that's what grandma speaks and that's what mom and dad grew up with. Young Hispanics in California speak perfect English and they retain Spanish for the same reason my grandmother retained her Norwegian. This generation of Hispanics, like my relatives are not passing on the language to their kids. Storekeepers used to speak Norwegian to their Norwegian customers. Italian bakers in Boston's North End spoke Italian to theirs. As Americans this is an ongoing process that is over 2 centuries old and you'd think we'd be used to it by now.

Phil and Tony Esposito's Italian immigrant parents didn't know a hockey puck from a boccie ball. Didn't stop their sons from being great players, did it?

                                          The 5 foot 5 Japanese basketball coach!

Japanese American Yutaka Shimuza, long time SoCal high school basketball coach recently died at 89. He coached and consulted his entire life. He was Sydney Wicks High School coach. Derrick Taylor the coach at Woodland Hills Taft was working with Shimuza and tells this story:

When Taylor was coaching in the 2007 McDonald's All-American game and walked into a room for breakfast with Shimizu, a familiar voice spoke up: "Coach Shimizu."
It was John Wooden, the former UCLA coach. "That's when you know you're the man, when the ultimate coach calls you over,"

Coach Shimuza was interned during WW2 for being a Japanese American.

I think its about time all of us old white guys just get the fuck over ourselves, don't you?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Bad News Phone Call and Thoughts on Cancer

When we moved to California, Jan and I were adopted by the Anderson family. Joni Anderson is a great friend and shared her family with us. Holidays, birthdays and many parties thrown just for the hell of it. Joni's mother Jan Anderson is a wonderful woman, warm, gracious, a great sense of humor and even in her 70's she can hang in there with us, the "kids" in our 40's, 50's and (ahem) 60's. We'd bring Jan a nice white wine, she'd sip it, laugh, tell stories and share her life with us. Jan and I call her "Mom"....Jan Anderson is a cancer survivor, until today. It's back and it's not pretty. We talked on the phone she passed on the details to both of us and then launched into plans for my birthday party this weekend. You know what? It's going to be Jan's party, not mine. If we have to, we are going to give her a party every weekend from now on.

The first time I ever heard of cancer was in grade school, my Dad's Uncle Alvin was diagnosed with lung cancer. Al died. It was ugly. A big, smiling, tough Norwegian farmer looked tiny in his casket. If I close my eyes I can still see him at the funeral home.

One of my students, a kid with a great family. Mom, Dad and younger sister, all healthy and happy in February when Aron started his training. Aron was so excited to start driving. His parents and I planned the training schedule so Aron would be far enough along to do some of the driving on their long planned trip to Oregon this month for a week of rafting and camping on the Rouge River. Aron's Dad was diagnosed with cancer in April. The trip is off. Young Aron has gone from being a handsome, focused, bright kid to one with nervous tics and he looks like like he hasn't slept in months. The family is hopeful and so am I.

I lost my brother in law, Harry in 1983. He was diagnosed in January and died at the Mayo Clinic in August. Harry and I were close, real close. Towards the end the only people he would see were my sister Margo, my ex-wife and I. My niece Suzy was 4 and he wouldn't allow her to see him. He didn't want her to remember him as a victim. Harry was a college athlete, a coach, a teacher and was very successful in his new career as a landman in the oil business. I spent the day before he died with him at Mayo. I pushed him to radiation treatment that day and on the way back to his room, he pushed his hoodie covered head back against my chest as we waited for the elevator. The TV in his room was on and they were running promos for the upcoming football season. Harry turned to me and said "you know what's really fucked up? I'll never see any of those games." When I think of Harry now, I don't see the shell he had become. I see the strong guy my sister fell in love with in high school. I see the guy his teammates called "Harry the Horse" because he was the guy who got the ball in the final seconds, put them on his back and carried them to victory. I see the guy, who with the first money he made, got his Mom out of the basement apartment he was raised in. I see him in my niece, who was a college athlete, a coach and a teacher and was the one who got the ball at the end of the game. He would be so proud of her. Suzy married her husband Sam a few years ago, Sam's dad died of cancer, too. While Suzy coaches and teaches Sam is finishing his residency in Pediatric Oncology. Why would anyone want to be around kids with cancer? Sam says "because we can save them and what we learn from treating these kids is invaluable, it will lead to better and more workable treatment for all cancer patients." I know Harry would be proud to have Sam as a son in law.

My Mom was a cancer survivor, my sister Margo is a cancer survivor, Friends, Darrell, George and Eddie are cancer survivors as is my friend Lance.  My Mom's brother Jerry died of cancer. Darrell's wife Charlotte is gone and my friend Howard is gone. Both had long, terrible, ugly struggles with cancer. Howard's 2nd wife Brenda went through years of cancer and finally the death of her first husband. Brenda fell in love with Howard, had a few happy years and found herself dealing with cancer again when Howard was diagnosed.

Jan's Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago, went through treatment, radiation and chemotherapy. Nancy is now cancer free. Her cancer followed one of those silent heart attacks that happen to so many women. My mother in law had a few bad years and now is back and we are relieved and grateful to have her.

Our family and friends were fortunate enough to have decent insurance, the out of pocket was still enough to rock their finances. I can't imagine what it must be like to have a wife or child diagnosed with cancer and have no insurance, to have faceless, insurance company people combing your records looking for a way not to pay for your treatment. Or to be one of Sam's young patients, cancer free for years and years to sometime in the future be turned down for insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

Jan Anderson is on Medicare, she doesn't have to worry about the financial considerations of her cancer's return. Nancy Hall was on Medicare so my mother and father in law's life wasn't turned upside down when it struck. Over half the bankruptcies in this country are caused by the cost of medical care. It drives me crazy that doctors who own laser eye clinics, doctors who give free treatment to multimillion athletes so he can put their pictures on his office walls or plastic surgeons who hang fake breasts on women, do tummy tucks, nose jobs and face lifts will be paid millions and millions of dollars over their careers more than a young oncologist like Dr. Sam Milanovitch ever earn, even though he deserves the money and financial security more than they do.

I have Canadian friends, one in England and a friend in Germany who wouldn't trade their Health Care system for ours. They never have a thought about the financial considerations of getting ill much less losing everything they have because of something they can't control. All I know is that 99% of the children in Massachusetts are covered by insurance. Covered by the plan that was engineered by the guy who now rejects it. And almost 90% of adults are covered too. It's popular, its cheaper and has high approval ratings from everyone involved, patients, doctors, hospitals, employers and the insurance companies. "Obamacare" is an identical plan and we need it now, more than ever.

All I know is when my time comes, I want to have a massive heart attack like the one that killed my father.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tea Bag Hypocrites and Life with the Romneys

This kind of looks like one of those cheesy Thomas (The painter of Light) Kinkcaid paintings, doesn't it? I'll attempt to keep you updated on the court proceedings between his mistress and his estranged wife as they battle over his estate. Thomas had a habit of chasing valium with booze and it finally caught up with him. Broke the hearts of tens of thousands of "art lovers" in towns big and small all across Amurika.

This is really a shot of the wildfires in Colorado. Colorado Congressmen: Rep. Scott Tipton (R -3d CD), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-4th CD), Rep, Mike Coffman (R-6th CD). Tea Baggers all, voted for the Paul (Hey, let's gut America, just for the hell of it) Ryan Budget in congress. Which would slash federal programs that help states deal with disasters like this. The three of them are now begging the federal government for cash (?) and help in fighting the fires. Hey guys, maybe if enough of your constituents homes burn down, their cattle get barbecued and they experience mudslides after the next rain, they'll wise up and not vote for asshats like you.

On to my former Governor Mitt Romney.

This is Mitt Romney, he is the presumptive Republican nominee for President. Mitt has been speaking about a bunch of things lately. First he got in an argument with actual teachers in Philly over class size, Mitt tossed out some BS that class size doesn't matter, of course the teachers handed Mitt his ass and he split. Mitt had said classes should be around 40 students! Great press op Mitt!

These guys, Mitt's 5 boys, went to a prep school that advertises that "all classes have 12 or fewer students".

The young Romneys, all "successful young business men" were given a little help by their Dad. So they could get started in life....$100,000,000 worth of help. Eldest son, Tagg got another $10,000,000 from his daddy. Mitt also handed him his Rolodex and got his old partners from Bain to toss in more millions. Tagg started his own venture fund and guess what? He invested in a solar company partially backed with federal funding. That runs in the family, when Tagg's dad "saved" the Winter Olympics after the crooked "businessmen" in Salt Lake looted the games and got indicted. Mitt swooped in and saved the day with 2 billion in federal funds.

Take a look at this picture. Not one of these people will EVER have to worry about paying the electric bill, worry about the price of gas, how to wrangle a business loan, pay for health insurance or go a day in their lives just a little hungry. Of course they completely understand how America works. For them! You can project this scenario for generations into the future. As nice as they all look, clean cut, happy, all American....they don't have a clue. Mitt and Ann suffered as a young married couple in college, they had to live off the stock Mitt's Dad gave him.

Mitt has produced his own Mormon Stake, think what he could have done if polygamy hadn't been outlawed and his grandpa wouldn't have had to move to Mexico so he could hang onto all those sister wives.

Mitt has a habit of saying "Obama spent too much time at Harvard". Mitt went to school at Harvard longer than the president did and he sent all 5 of his sons there.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Where can Karting take a good young driver?

Generally nowhere!

For a kid with a few bucks from his family the next step could be the Skip Barber Series. They have an annual "Shoot Out" kart race and the winner gets a full season with Barber Motorsports. This is the car they race after they are trained to move from karts to an open wheeled racer. A kid as young as 13 can make the move up. None have, but a couple of 16 year olds have won it. By the way, the upper age limit is 25.

The Barber Series is sponsored by Mazda and the full season scholarship is worth over $200,000. 200K covers no more than 14 races and the winner can pick and choose when and where to participate. The money covers the car, the crew and it's transport, care and feeding. The winner pays for their own travel and food. Considering the races are held coast to coast and in Canada and are scheduled about every two weeks, sending a kid and a chaperon from California to Quebec and back and then to Atlanta two weeks later is costly.

Three things are important for the young driver, win races, don't crash and don't break the cars. Not much else matters. Sure they give prizes for "most improved driver", "fastest qualifier" but winning, no wrecks and not breaking the car are the things that really count. Other than the scholarship winner's full season, Barber awards some partial rides. Most of the fields at the races are made of "wannabees" who rent the car for a few races a season just for the hell of it.  The rental of a Barber car is $3,750. for the weekend, practice, time trials and two races. To qualify for a rental you have to take one of Barber's schools for about 3 grand. Any kid with big aspirations doesn't spend much time in the Barber Series. So, where does our fictional 16 year old go next?

If they are really good they may get a test with a development program operated by a big time racing team like Roush-Fenway, Andretti, Rayhal and a few young Americans get Formula 3 looks in Europe or get a shot with the development programs of the Formula 1 teams. What if a good young driver, our 16 year old from California let's say. Great record in karts, won the Barber Scholarship and finished just out of the top 5. The book on our fictional kid is he or she needs more wheel time and track time. Here is where they go if the family is wealthy, really wealthy.

Formula 1000

This series runs 24 races most years in conjunction with various other events. Half the races are in the east a few in the Midwest and the balance on the West Coast. Outside the series these cars qualify as Formula B in SCCA, so additional races can be run. The cars cost around 50k and an additional 35 for an engine contract with one of the manufacturers. The engines are sealed, if they break they are exchanged. The number of tires for each event is limited to 6 and crews are limited to 4 members. All of the rules and limits are designed to hold costs down. To participate the average team spends over $500,000 dollars. Is it any wonder the field is made up of older rich guys and the sons and daughters of wealthy families? The prize money wouldn't pay for the diesel fuel for the team transport! Let's say our kid wins in Formula 1000, what's next?

Indy Lights

This is the professional ranks, our kid probably won't get a look until he is at least 18 and has won a lot of races in open wheel cars. You don't need to be rich to race here, just really, really good. There are rumors that a few people have bought their way in to Indy Lights as they are with some of the other pro series and even Formula One. I've often wondered about drivers who spend entire careers at the back of the pack, haven't you? If you are a winner in Indy Lights you are going to get a ride in the big show, unless once again, you don't win, crash cars and break them, too. You have to race a bunch to get to Lights and that costs big, big money. Indy Lights is the equivalent of AAA baseball, you have to be skilled, tough and have enough talent to make the big league club and you can have all that and never make it, ever.

Then there are the various NASCAR series, Nationwide, the truck series, ARCA and so on. The same rules apply. The day when a kid could build a reputation on a local dirt track and end up at Indy is over. Accordingly, the days when a guy like Phil Hill could run on road racing courses in California, get noticed and end up winning the World Championship are gone too. There are 3 young Americans working their way through the politics of the European racing world this season, I hope they make it.

As Parnelli Jones once said, "you have to drive something fast, loud and make them notice you" all that Parnelli, and you still have to win, don't crash and never break a car!

If anybody has a spare 3-4 million, give me a call. I have two grandsons, who are smart, tough, athletic and are willing to learn. If they win races, don't crash and never break a car who knows you might end up with a piece of a American Formula One World Champion.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thinking about Karting and my short career as a winning driver.

What's with all my automotive posts anyway? I love cars, I was raised in a car dealership and I now own a driving school, plus given the choice I'd drive to Boston from LA rather than fly.

I follow Formula 1, Indycar, DTM and NASCAR racing. I'll get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to watch a Formula 1 race live on Speed. (I don't follow the races around the country and if I had a motorhome I wouldn't drive to Talledega for a race and get caught on YouTube pissing off the roof or anything like that. I did suggest, to my wife that if she wanted to go to England, it would be nice if we scheduled the trip around the Goodwood Festival of  Speed.) 

There is one thing that all successful modern drivers have in common, from Jimmy Johnson to Lewis Hamilton, no matter what they are racing now they started in karts.

This is the very first Go Kart, built in 1956, powered by a small West Bend 2 stroke engine. Note the hand brake.

This is what the early Kart races looked like:

I remember these races well because I raced in them, the engine in my first Kart had 21/2 horsepower and I thought it was a rocket ship. The first summer I raced against adults and a few other kids, I was 11 years old. I won more than I lost. Over the winter my Dad and I built a new Fox with a 9 hp West Bend 2 stroke. We tested it in March and yes it was much faster. Because at 12 I weighed half as much as the adults I raced against, they'd yell at me all the time, then as it is today, light is faster! The new Fox was fast, but I wanted  a faster cart. I sold the 3 month old Fox and built (I was now a much better kart mechanic than the old man) another new Fox with a live rear axle and twin West Bends. I bought 2 new 9hp engines, had a machine shop port and relieve them, added tuned exhaust and highly modified diaphragm carburetors. According to the manuals and tuning magazines I read and re-read the little engines were now putting out about 11hp each. The Kart was a monster and I won a lot of races on a regional level in the Midwest. I figured in a few years I'd be racing at Indy or joining Dan Gurney at All American Racers. A kid can dream, right?

Off the track, I drag raced a 409 Chevy Super Sport from a rolling start and murdered him. One night at midnight, a couple of friends of mine and I loaded the kart into my Mom's station wagon (no driver's licenses yet) drove it out to 32nd Ave South and Belmont Rd. I fired it up and drove it back down Belmont to our house at 816 and straight into the garage. Imagine a quiet summer night and you hear two screaming chainsaws flying by your house at 80mph. Cops were everywhere searching, my friends and I were sitting on the front porch watching them and laughing. Never got caught.

I built a "chain gang" by adding a third engine to my kart, when you could get the engines in synch it was unreal. I remember practicing and trying to adjust the carbs while negotiating the track, too much trouble to try to keep it running. I raced it at Brainerd Speedway, won the pole and couldn't finish the race. In frustration I had pitted and took the chain off the middle engine, then pushed the kart so hard the right hand engine blew a rod. I still have the dent in my right elbow where a chunk of aluminum from the engine tore through my jacket.

My karting career ended with my Dad's first heart attack, he was on his back for a long time and there was no money for racing or much of anything for awhile. I learned a lot while karting, I got handy with tools, got a good grasp of how things work and best of all it made me a much better, safer and defensive driver.

Here is what a modern racing Kart looks like, the 2012 Lotus powered by a Rotax snow machine engine.
Carbon fiber, adjustable suspension, disc brakes and with certain engine and transmission combinations speeds to over 150mph. Damn I'd love to drive one!