Friday, December 29, 2017

Let's Take a Peek Inside the Car Business

I took classes, live and on line, I went to seminars, had lengthy discussions with engineers, marketing people and sales consultants during my time in the automobile business. I consumed reviews, road tests, comparison tests and consumer reviews of cars. I worked at it. I even took classes on "phone techniques"!

Here's a few things I learned:

The number one complaint people have upon the delivery of their new car is so stupid, I couldn't, still can't, believe it.

                                                   THE WINDOWS WERE DIRTY!

Survey after survey of customers post delivery, all over the country, every make, every model, every brand the number one "piss me off" is dirty windows. It has been for years and nobody does anything about it. That is so easy to fix, it's mind boggling. You get a clean shop cloth, a bottle of window cleaner and clean the damn windows, all of them. Takes no more than 5 minutes.

Another complaint, "the tires didn't look shiny". How hard is to wipe the tires down with Armour All? Squirt each tire and wipe. About a minute a tire.

Another complaint, "my cell phone wasn't hooked up". This takes longer to do, but it isn't brain surgery. Walk the customer through the process, make sure their phone works and they have a grasp on the process and remind them the owners manual and the accompanying DVD has all the information in an easily understandable, step by step form. Mark the page with the instructions with a paper clip or post it note.

Another complaint, "the sales person wasn't knowledgeable about the car". Once again, there's a lot of down time in any job, the car business has more than most. Most of my associates in the sales department, shot the shit with each other all day long, they stood around, playing grab ass, talking about sports, sex and staring at heir phones and then they'd share some stupid video with the other guys. You know what would happen?They'd get an "up" bump into the wall when they couldn't answer a question about something and they'd come and get me or the one other sales guy who knew "stuff" about a truck or a car they were attempting to sell. It happened every day! The result? I'd get half of the deal, one month I had 9 half deals, because I knew "stuff".

When I decided to sell cars out of a combination of utter boredom, depression and the desire to help my wife with her start-up agency business, I talked at length with my retired car dealer friend Ralph Thomas. Ralph told me the biggest problem with the car business is the management. He was right. If you look at the top four customer complaints all are an easy fix, by management. Maybe they are too easy, so easy that nobody pays any attention

Another thing.

Part of the pay plan for sales people, managers and the dealership is based on something called CSI or Customer Satisfaction Index, it's a sliding scale with 10 being an A. The problem is a 9 is an F. It's an ongoing survey that tells the manufacturer, the dealer, the management and the sales person nothing about their performance, useless. You know who loses the most from bad CSI? The sales person. Bad CSI slashes not only the pay per unit, it knocks back or eliminates bonus money.

I had perfect CSI, why? Because I tried.

I was taken aside one day and told by an idiot sales manager, "You know you've got a problem." I asked him what it was? His reply, "You know too damn much about these cars!" This was the same guy who when I asked how he evaluated used cars, he told me, "You don't need to know any of that.",  Over time I learned how he did it. He quickly looked over the car, then went on line to the Kelly Blue Book regional auction price site, put in the car's parameters  and offered the lowest price to the customer. Used car expert, right?

I could go on but it makes my head hurt too much...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas at a Car Store

in the 50’s when I was a little kid, my Dad was the General Sales Manager of a Lincoln Mercury dealership, my Mom dropped me off at the dealership after hockey practice so she could wrap up her Christmas shopping. 

I wandered around in the shop for awhile, sat at the old man’s desk upstairs, got bored and climbed in the front seat of a red Lincoln Capri convertible next to the big Christmas tree in the showroom. I was tired from school and hockey and laid down on the front seat, 

I was dozing off when I heard a woman say, “Does this little boy come with the car?” One of dad’s salesman answered, “He’s the Boss’s son, I’m pretty sure I can get him to throw the kid in the deal.”

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Whitey Whiskers Kills Christmas

I only had one cat when I was a kid. My farm Grandmother Clara picked out a kitten for me when I was 4, it was my birthday present. He was a barn cat. When the kitten was weaned, she sand box trained him and handed him over. He was perfectly white and I named him Whitey Whiskers, I loved him, Mom hated him.

Whitey followed me around, Whitey slept with me.Damn I loved that cat!

On Christmas Eve, we came home to our little GI Bill house, full of family Christmas Cheer. I'm hauling in my presents. I got a lot, I was the only grand kid on both sides. Mom unlocked the door, went in. Dad and I heard a scream.

Whitey had climbed the Christmas tree, he had pulled it over, lights and bulbs smashed, water from the stand all over the floor. Mom was over the moon pissed. Dad and I exchanged uncomfortable looks, then he started to laugh and so did I, our behavior cranked Mom to 11.

"That's it the damn cat is going." Mom was in tears, Dad and I were laughing. "I've never liked cats, I hate cats, always have."

Whitey was smart, he was no where to be seen. Mom turned on me, "Do you think Santa Claus is going to come tonight? Your cat destroyed our tree and Santa doesn't have anyplace to leave your presents!" That knocked the buzz off my Christmas.

Dad and I cleaned up, Mom went to bed, she slammed the bedroom door too. Once the tree was back up, it didn't look too bad. Dad poured himself a drink, I had milk and Grandma's Christmas cookies. and Whitey stuck his head out from behind the sofa, ran over and jumped on my lap, I let him lap some of my milk.

We finally went to bed. It took Dad a while to get in the bedroom, Whitey slept on my pillow as usual.Santa did show up and things seemed fine.

Whitey went back to the farm on Christmas Day. he moved into the barn and became a top flight mouser. He was still my cat, every time I was at the farm Whitey would climb all over me. He lived a good life for a long time, probably sired 50 litters over his lifetime. He was happy doing what he was born to do.

Never had another cat, but I did get a Cocker Spaniel that spring, plenty of Dusty the Dog stories are in the memory bank. Mom liked dogs a lot more than she liked cats, that was a relief.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas America, put this in your Stocking

I was making $68,000 a year in base salary in 1979. Using the CPI Index from the US Bureau of Labor my old job would pay $242,581.86. It doesn't, not even close.
My first radio job paid $200 a week in 1969, the same job today would pay $40,187. It doesn't
I paid $39,900 for my first house in 1974. That same house sold 4 years ago for just over $700,000. Nothing has been done to it except paint, new appliances and floor coverings. It now has a yard and the trees are bigger too.
Cakes made about $60,000 in the 80's flying International flights. That same job today would pay $133,000. It doesn't
Toyota pays $17.50 an hour after 3 years at their US factories, a Toyota worker makes around $35,000. yearly with minimum benefits.30 years ago Union Auto workers made twice that and more. Today US Union Auto workers average $33 an hour, Germany Auto Workers make $67 average
A minimum wage worker in the US making 7.50 an hour makes $15,000 a year, only IF they work 40 hours a week. Most employers hold them to under 40 so they aren't classified as full time. The minimum wage in Germany is $14.81. Norway? $16 to 21 an hour depending the job and time on the job. Every other developed nation has higher minimum wages than the US.
The question is, who is getting the money? It isn't the poor or the working poor and it sure as hell isn't the middle or upper middle class.
1% of the US population has 40% of the money, The top 20% have 90% of the money.To squeak on the very bottom of that top 20% list you have to have a minimum net worth of $740,000, that's total asserts less debt.
The new tax bill the republicans passed slashed taxes on the people who don't need a break, it throws a few of us some crumbs short term.
Interesting thing hidden in the tax bill, I haven't heard anyone talking about. If you are a married couple with an income of $150,000 a year, your standard deduction is $10,000. Nice. Better if you're you're a couple just living together (in sin?) making the same $150,000. you can deduct $20,000. Why get married?

You don't even want to think about the details of the Inheritance tax slash, you've just made the life of this guy even better than it's always been...he's Wyatt Koch, perpetual rich kid. He just sued his fiancee to get his $250,000 engagement ring back.
Merry Christmas,USA, USA, USA!

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Christmas Eve Party and the Old Man nails it!

Some time in the early 70's...

It's Noon on Christmas Eve, the word goes out that at three we're having a little Christmas Cheer at the hotel across the parking lot from the radio station, that perks everybody up, free drinks for everybody, except for the guy in the newsroom and the poor bastards on the air!

The entire staff runs across the lot at three sharp and settles in for the free stuff, snacks, drinks all on the house. Everybody is there, from the owner's ancient private secretary to a couple of the geeky engineers.

By 5 things are really rolling, the General Manager of the hotel tries to close the bar at 5 so his people could go home, we all shout "Hell no, we won't go!" He relents, puts a dozen bottles of booze up on the bar, locks the rest up, takes the coin box out of the juke box so it will play for free. He locks the door, on the way out he tells his pal, our sales manager, don't let anyone in and make sure the door is locked when you leave. The party roars on. A few of the staff ladies are dancing on the bar by 7, I danced with the owners ancient secretary, ever been ground on the dance floor by a woman the same age as your grandmother?

A  few hotel guests, lonely guys, stare through the glass in the locked door and then wander off to do whatever guys stuck in hotels do on Christmas Eve.

I look at my watch, "Shit it's almost 8, I said I'd be home by 5:30!" I find George, he's riding with me, I pull him out and we slip and slide across the parking lot back to the station and get in the car, just as I'm pulling out of the parking lot, Geo says, "Shit, I left my wife's present in my office!" he goes in and gets a microwave oven, all wrapped up for Christmas. I stick it in the trunk and we head out on the slippery, icy streets. The only reason we are both alive today is I grew up driving on that kind of shit and there was zero traffic on Christmas Eve.

We get to Geo's house, it's sleeting and his driveway is slick. I unlock the trunk and Geo gets the microwave, he slips backwards and the oven goes in the air, it revolves in slow motion about six times and crashes to the hard concrete. The Christmas wrapping looks like shit, Geo says "Merry Christmas Baaaabeee" picks up the microwave and stumbles in the house and I head home.

When I get home, I'm greeted by a very pissed off wife, my daughters are on the verge of tears, my mother is more angry than my wife, my high school brother and sister are smirking and my father  pushes through the crowd standing in the hall and says, "ROBERT YOU"RE AN ASSHOLE!"

I spent the balance of the evening with glazed eyes, being ignored by everyone other than my father who spends the next three hours giving dirty looks. Geo had gone straight to bed when he got home and his younger brother who'd flown in from Winnipeg for Christmas spent all night putting Geo's kids toys together.

We both were in deep trouble for the balance of the year for all the right reasons, too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Very, Very Thunderbird Christmas

When I was a Junior in high school I had my first "real girlfriend". I had started dating her in the summer, I'd had my eye on her for awhile and I finally got up the nerve to ask her to dance at one of the Park Board's Summer Tennis Court Dances, we hit it off and became a couple. By the time Christmas rolled around, we were pretty "thick" as my Mom used to say. Lots and lots of kissy face and my clumsy first base moves were happening.

Our family Christmas was traditionally Christmas Eve at my dad's folks house and Christmas Day at my mom's parents. I invited my girl friend, she accepted with the condition that we leave early enough to get to her house so we could open presents with her parents and her younger sister. Perfect.

My dad was feeling the spirit of the season and offered to let me take any car I wanted off the used car lot to drive over the holiday, I picked this one.

A 1960 Thunderbird Coupe, 390 V8 with black and white leather interior, was my girl impressed? She was. I wore a blue blazer, gray slacks, crew neck gray sweater and had a shirt and tie on underneath the jacket and sweater. She wore a red Bobby Brooks sweater and skirt combo.(remember the line from John Mellencamp's Jack and Diane?)

She was a hit at the Christmas Eve celebration, she played piano with my grandmother, sang hymns and smiled sweetly as I did my annual bible reading. We ate, opened presents and hit the road for the 26 mile drive to her house. It was Christmas cold, 20 below and clear as a bell. We stopped and parked. The Thunderbird had a terrific heater, it was on full blast. The Bird had front bucket seats so we climbed in the back. We started kissing and one thing lead to another, the next thing we knew all of our clothes .were in the front seat and we were as naked as the baby Jesus in the back. It was great, first time for me and for her, being naked that is. We didn't do anything beyond kissing and enjoying our skin touching. What a Christmas present! From that Christmas on we were always naked, in the car, in her bed, on my bed, in the cabin or on the boat at the lake, on top of the ski jump in Lincoln Park and too many picnic tables to remember.

Funny thing is that we went together for almost 3 years and never actually had sex. But we sure made love in every other way possible.

So Merry Christmas Ms X, hope your memory of that remarkable Christmas Eve is as good as mine.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Spirit in the Sky...

When I was in grade school, the mother of one of the kids I hung with was a religious nut job. After hanging out with him after school, I'd be heading home and I'd find a religious pamphlet or card in my jacket pocket. I'd stop and read them and frankly, some of them scared the shit out of the 10 year old me. One day I showed one to my mom. She went nuts, picked up the phone and gave my friend's mother a royal chewing out. My mom, at the time, was a Sunday school teacher at the First Presbyterian Church.

When I started confirmation, I asked a lot of questions and was told time and again I just needed faith, I quit. I un-churched myself at 12. When I explained my reasoning to my parents, they said okay.

Since then I've searched around, I was married to a Catholic, tried that for a while, Took a look at Buddhism, enjoyed the philosophy and meditation, then moved on. I was talked into going to a "Prosperity Gospel" Church for a Sunday service, it was appalling. Tried one of those hip christian churches, the band sucked and so did the lyrics. As an aside, have you ever listened to Christian Rock music? Imagine "Love to Love you Baby" only written about Jesus.

I read this by Stu Rothenberger the other day, he's hitting all the political notes, but...

"For many white evangelicals, their religious and political views are so strongly intertwined that it is almost impossible to separate them. When their views of religion and morality collide with politics, politics often wins out. That’s why it’s naïve to ask why so many white evangelicals continue to support Donald Trump or Roy Moore.
Remember physician Scott DesJarlais (R-TN 4), the pro-life, tea party conservative first elected to Congress in 2010?
DesJarlais admitted pressuring his mistress to have an abortion and acknowledged he had multiple sexual relationships with patients and co-workers. His wife had two abortions. And yet, the Family Research Council, which promotes “traditional marriage and family and advocates for policies that uphold Judeo-Christian values” (according to the Almanac of American Politics, 2016), gave the congressman a 100% rating for 2014. Even more amazing, voters re-elected the Republican in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
The congressman’s hypocrisy is obvious, but no more so than the political behavior of his conservative, evangelical supporters."
When I was a kid, (and as an adult) I noticed that people who were the most "Jesused Up" didn't behave like Jesus would want them too. I know from experience that religious broadcasters are more interested in fleecing their flock than promoting Peace and Love. I had a drink one night with a major market "Christian" broadcaster. After his 3rd whiskey he said, "All you need is an Evangelical in a white suit to front the station and a few cripples in wheelchairs to put the tapes on." His stations got busted for speeding up the tapes, so his white suited Evangelical could stick a few extra commercials in every hour.  The hypocrite had two houses, a collection of classic Rolls Royce automobiles and a condo on the beach. If there is a hell I hope he is burning in the lowest circle. 

A long time friend of mine "found Jesus" quit his job and went to work for Pat Robertson's CBN. The pay was so bad he asked Pat for a raise. Pat said, "let's pray on it." He didn't get the raise!
My friend Walt Wieder, a retired, PhD Unitarian minister, once told me "There is a different view you know."  I get it Walt, I get it.

H/T to Norman Greenbaum for the title...

Monday, November 27, 2017

"What's Goin On"

Interview with with a young "edgy" Nazi in suburban Dayton, Ohio...

“I think he was a guy who really believed in his cause,” he said of Hitler. “He really believed he was fighting for his people and doing what he thought was right.”

Just a normal everyday American with a wife and a cute dog...wears jeans and 100% cotton t-shirts. Yeah and the Auschwitz guards loved their wives and kids too and obviously didn't bring their work home either. 

....The New York Times, for God's sake...they tried to normalize the son of a bitch.

See the nice young man chanting about Jews in Charlottesville? The Aryan looking guy, He's right up front, you can't miss him. He whined that his fellow students ostracized him when he got back to school after returning from the little Nazi get together last summer. Too bad asshole.

Our president* said "There's fine people on both sides." No there aren't you dimwit.

I grew up knowing for sure Nazis were bad. Then again how bad could they be when their uniform buttons bore the inscription "Gott mit uns". In case your German is shaky it means "God is with us".

They were good Christians just like you and your neighbors. So how bad could they really be?

The guy in the Times story has a dog he loves, just like you do, obviously he can't be a bad guy can he? he's a dog lover, So was Adolf fucking Hitler!

This is not start with Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Alex Jones and you end up in the Storm Front sewer. And you end up with this guy as an Assistant to the president*? Of course he's been shit canned...but.

The medal on the right is his father's Nazi collaboration medal.

A final note...look and sound familiar?

I rest my case, I can't wait for the "yooouge" military parades, how about you?

...Thanks to Marvin Gaye for the title.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Old man take a look at your life...

When I was a young (26) manager in the radio business we had a Junior Achievement program at the station. I ran some of the sessions with the 12 kids in the program. There was one girl, 17 years old, who was incredibly attractive and sexy beyond her years. A few weeks after the program ended, she showed up at my office one afternoon with a Thank You card and a small gift. She came around the side of my desk while I was looking at the card and the gift and laid a wet kiss with plenty of tongue on me. I didn't return the kiss, I was shocked. Then she said "we should go out sometime" I told he no we shouldn't.

Later in life I told a woman I knew quite well about the incident, she agreed that I did the right thing and added, "Of course if you had taken advantage of her, you would have never told me about it." At first I was insulted at her response, but the more I thought about it she was right. Then I told my friend for the longest time I had wondered who was taking advantage of whom. She thought about for a bit and said, "Doesn't matter you were the adult in the room."

I know a guy who lost his wife over an affair with their teen aged neighbor.. He was in his 30's, the relationship started when she was 16 and lasted for two years. He cultivated her for a year before the physical stuff started. He seemed to be extremely proud of it. On the surface he appeared to be completely normal and a bit of a little fuddy-duddy harmless guy. He wasn't.

Another guy told me about being seduced by a mutual friend's wife, they carried on the mutual affair for a year or so. One night while having dinner with the wife and her husband in New York, the  husband told the guy how much he enjoyed watching him make love to his wife. The husband had watched through a louvered closet door. He then proposed a threesome. I was stunned. I really couldn't believe it. Did the threesome happen? It did, more than once.

When I was single, living in Boston I used to play wing man for a lipstick lesbian friend. She was a very attractive woman and some of the lines guys used on her made me ashamed to be a man, some were clumsy, some were funny, some were stupid and more than a few were out and out threatening. That was an experience.

Another friend's son came out of the closet when he was a senior in high school. His parents were devastated, then they were mad, then they blamed themselves. When they finally came to their senses, I suggested they have their son talk to a really good man I knew who happened to be gay. Know what the older gay man told the kid? Stay the hell away from older gay men. Find some friends your age, hang out, go to movies, shoot hoops, play pool, arrange flowers, have some fun until you figure out who the hell you are. Just stay away from old guys looking for "chickens". Good advice if you're gay or straight.

I know plenty of men and women who've had affairs, some of them have repaired their relationships, some haven't. The one thing that got them all in the end was the lying. Lying to their partners and to themselves. The couples who put it back together stopped lying, the couples who didn't broke up.

Life is full of bullshit, when I was in college I was sleeping with a girl who would always say, "we have to stop doing this." Right after she'd say it, she'd start things going again. I hope she has been able to unload that psychological burden after all these years.

What I cannot imagine is what goes on in the mid of a guy who thinks forcing a woman to kiss him, or exposing himself or masturbating in front of them or groping them is going to get him. I read somewhere it's not about sex it's about power.

I could write a book about this stuff, but I won't. Thanks to Neil Young for the title.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Few Things I'm Sure of...

Some guys are disgusting pigs and not just famous powerful guys either...

I know more than a few who look at women as mere objects, guys who have done and said incredibly disgusting things to and at women. An example, I worked with a guy who crawled on his hands and knees into a news booth and fondled a woman while she was reading the news on the air, on the number one station in the market. With tens of thousands of people listening, she calmly pressed the cough button, slapped his face and told him to get the hell out of the booth. She reported him and nothing happened. His excuse? "I was drunk."

I know for sure he is a disgusting son of a bitch.

I've watched guys in bars hit on woman after woman using the same cliched lines on each and everyone one of them as they worked their way around the bar. Did some women buy the bullshit? Probably a few.

I know for sure the evening didn't end well for either one of them.

When I was younger did I participate in misogynistic discussions with other guys? I sure did.

I know for sure I don't anymore, I'd like to think that I've done some growing up after all these years.

When I was single, I was so laid back around women I was asked by one on our third or forth date if I was gay.

I know for sure I'm not gay and so does she.

Have I ever been a disgusting son of a bitch? I have, I cheated on my first wife. I ran through all the the stupid guy excuses, running the gamut of "Everybody does it." to "My wife doesn't understand me." On the the other hand I never pushed the other woman into a relationship, I was an asshole, but nice about it. Not much but it's something, maybe?

I know for sure I regret it. My first wife and I had enough problems without me throwing gasoline on the fire.

Are there females who are disgusting? Yes, I met one, I fell in love with her within a couple of months. After a few more months she told me she was married. It's an ugly story. A movie could be made.

I know for sure that it taught me a lesson, A lesson I should have learned years and years earlier. It set me on a better path in life.

I've always had women friends, friends in the best sense of the word. Friendships that have endured over the years, some of them have lasted from childhood. I cherish them all.

I know for sure a man can have a relationship with a woman that isn't based on getting laid or trying to get laid, know what I mean? It's a nice thing to have in your life.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

“If I had 5 dollars, Ralph had $50.”

The summer between the 8th and 9th grade I was a partner in a popcorn stand with my boyhood friend Ralph Thomas. We paid $50.00 for an old popcorn wagon. We cleaned it, we painted it. We bought 10 gallons of coconut oil, a bag of popcorn salt and 2 50 pound bags of popcorn. We bought boxes of candy bars, cases of pop and we learned how to make cotton candy and caramel apples. We parked our stand in the parking lot of a roadside market owned by Ralph’s dad. The rent for our space, we had to work in the market during the day. We sold watermelons, corn, locally gown vegetables and I learned to work the deli counter. To this day I can wrap meat better than the guys at our SoCal grocery stores, thanks to Ralph’s dad, Ralph Senior.

Our location was brilliant; a quarter of a mile from the “Starlite” drive in theater. The Starlite’s popcorn cost 50 cents a box. We sold the same box for a quarter. Ralph and I killed them. In an era when the minimum wage was whatever you got paid. Ralph and I were making 75 to a hundred dollars a week selling popcorn, candy and soda. In a few weeks we paid off the startup costs and pocketed the rest.

The business was Ralph’s idea. From that summer on he never stopped. Not for a minute.

Ralph grew up in a boarding house, his mother renting rooms and cooking for strangers. As Ralph said, “I never knew who we were going to eat dinner with.” How far did Ralph go from that boarding house in Grand Forks? A long, long way, here’s an example, Ralph, his wife Carolee, Jan and I had dinner at Spago in Beverley Hills. Wolfgang Puck sat with us over after dinner drinks. Wolfgang wasn’t a stranger to Ralph and Carolee.

Ralph dropped out of school, he joined the Marines. Later in life, we were having a drink at a LA hotel. Ralph told me, he was dyslectic. He said he could never figure out why it was so hard for him to read. In those days, dyslectic kids were rarely diagnosed, they were considered slow or just dumb. The only way he could get a C was to literally memorize every word the teacher said.

Ralph got out of the Marines armed with his GED and a burning desire to be successful and he was. He went into the car business with my dad’s help. In a few years he was a sales manager and it wasn’t long before he owned his first car store, a tiny Chevy dealership that he, Carolee and his brother Pat staffed. Soon he had another, another and another. 30 years ago he sold all but one of his dealerships. He told me it was time. He held on to one, Gateway GM in Fargo. Why would a guy who had owned and operated dealerships in major markets go to Fargo? As he told me it was all about location. General Motors likes to have dealers operate in a market area with population base of 100-125 thousand. Fargo has a population of just over a hundred thousand, but the marketing area has well over 250,000 people. The closest Chevy dealer north of Fargo is Rydell’s and as Ralph said, “Who in their right mind is going to drive a 160 mile round trip to buy an Impala?” At over 500 cars a month, he was right again. It was the popcorn stand all over again.

When he left the car business, Ralph got involved in real estate investment and development and many other ventures. He got back into the car business again when he built Metro Auto Auctions in Phoenix and Dallas. First class operations and successful enough he sold them a few years ago to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. Ralph’s philosophy was if people are buying 13-15 million new cars a year, that means there are a lot of used cars around and used cars are where the money is. Then he told me he learned that from my Dad.

I’m going to miss Ralph, his intelligence, his counsel, his friendship.
I’m going to miss his incredible memory as well, one afternoon driving back from lunch in Phoenix, he quoted the entire pitch of the barker for Margie the Wham-Wham Girl’s cheesy strip show at a carnival we went to in junior high…part of it went ”She shakes it to the North, she shakes it to the south, she shakes it from the east and to the west aaaaannndd she shakes it where it shakes the best.” Ralph turned to me and said, “What was that damn song they played?” I said, “Preston Epp’s “Bongo Rock”. We both laughed like adolescent boys.

Ralph died yesterday in Scottsdale.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hefner is dead

Hugh Hefner is dead at 91.

I remember the first time I saw a Playboy magazine. I was 11 years old tagging along on a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with my Dad and his friends. One of them brought a Playboy. They were drinking and playing poker on one of the nights we spent at the Trail’s End Resort and I snuck a peek at the magazine. Diane Webber was the Playmate of the Month. Diane was 25 years old at the time of the photoshoot. (She died a few years ago in Santa Monica. After a few roles in movies and doing Middle Eastern dancing and instruction, Diane worked as a law librarian for Santa Monica Law Firm.) Her pictures were very innocent by today’s standards, Diane was certainly a beautiful woman and for the first time in my life I began to imagine the possibilities.

In the 50’s the covers of men’s magazines and detective magazines all seemed to be devoted to bondage shots, rape fantasy and other misogynistic themes. I remember looking at those covers at the Bike Shop’s news stand while buying comic books when I was a little kid. Widman’s Candy’s news stand carried them too. I didn’t like those covers at all. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine changed that, the Playmates were natural, girl next door types for the most part, cute, clean and All American sexy, like women you’d see on the street or in school. As strange as it may seem now, that was a big, big change.

When I was a young kid, those Playmates seemed out of reach and distant, more like my Mom’s friends than girls I knew. When I was a junior in high school that all changed with Christa Speck’s appearance as a Playmate and later as Playmate of the Year. Christa was 18, only two years older than I was. Men my age all remember Christa. (Christa later married TV Producer Marty Kroft) She was one of us.

I worked with a guy who had a long relationship with a former Playmate of the Month. She was a nice, smart, gorgeous woman. They broke up, he was an idiot and she wasn't.

I did read the articles, some of the monthly interviews were great reading. The reporting, the fiction, the music commentary and of course, the joke page were usually all good reads.

Hefner made it okay for all of us to be more open about our sexual nature. He dealt in fantasy for the most part but, he opened the conversation that it’s okay for women to be open about enjoying sexual relations. He opened men’s minds to understand that you have to give to receive and that it’s okay for women to ask a man for what they want in in an intimate relationship. He was outspoken on AIDS and Gay Marriage. He integrated Playboy early on by featuring black Playmates and Asian Playmates

I have no idea what Heffner was like in his personal relationships. I thought he was crazy not to marry Barbie Benton, I thought it was sleazy to devote damn near an entire issue to photoshoots of his fiancée, Kimberly Conrad. On the other hand, he bought the house next door to the mansion and gave it to her after their divorce, so he could be close to his children.

Hefner handed the reins of the corporation to his daughter Christie who has been the CEO for years.

The Hugh Hefner story, like the man, is complicated. The last 20 years or so he was strange in so many ways. Google Holly Madison. Read excerpts from her book for some insight.

Somebody once said, “The only reason Playboy has the articles is so guys can get them in the house.” Probably true, but the articles were almost always as good as the pictures. And the pictures were always good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

History by Sir Winston

I’m re-reading Winston Churchill’s “A History of the English Speaking Peoples”. I’m halfway through volume 4 at the moment. The series begins in 55BC with the Roman invasion of the England and covers the highlights up to the beginning of WWI.

Sir Winston was not a professional historian, he was a true student of history. Churchill like all great, thoughtful and astute leaders understood, maybe more than most, the lessons of history and the guidance history can provide for future generations.

When you read Churchill’s work, you get an English-centric view of history. It is good to get a view from the other side of the Atlantic of the emergence of our country during the revolution and the events leading up to our civil war. All of it grounded in real, unvarnished historical fact. Good reading for any American.

As I re-read the books I was again astonished at the bloodshed, carnage and chaos created by religion in England, France, Spain and other countries and regions all over the world for centuries. It is no wonder our Founding fathers wrote “freedom of religion” into our constitution, I only wish they would have written “freedom from religion”.

Churchill had a great interest in military history. His telling of how we won our revolution by winning so few battles against the English is refreshing.

Churchill lays out why the North won the civil war, not only because the North was on the right side of history, but because of the geographical and industrial advantages that doomed the Confederacy from the opening days of the conflict.

Churchill writes the South had arrogantly expected Britain and Europe to come to their aid and he reminds us that no foreign power recognized the Confederacy during the conflict.

Churchill’s thoughts on Robert E. Lee point out that Lee was conflicted at the beginning of succession and even after a long consultation with President Lincoln where he was offered command of the Union Army, Lee made his choice to resign and go home to Virginia to become a traitor to his nation and his entire, illustrious career as a soldier for the United States of America. Churchill felt Lee lost his chance at greatness the day he rode across the Potomac.

In earlier volumes Churchill writes of feudalism’s roots in the Roman system of government in every part of the Roman Empire.

He writes of religion’s caustic effects on civil society across the world.

He writes of  beginning and growth of the rights of average citizens to have a say in the way they are governed in English Common Law and how the American and French Revolutions spurred that thinking world-wide.

“A History of the English Speaking Peoples” is well worth reading. If for no other reason than it reinforces :

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My father fought the Nazis

Toward the end of World War II, my Dad flew the 2nd Glider across the Rhine during opening moments of Operation Varsity. (Varsity was and is the largest airborne operation in history.) Operation Varsity was the first phase of the invasion of Germany early in 1945.

The Army Air Corps learned from airborne operations earlier in the war to form up the glider pilots and glider crews into infantry units and put them in the fight after they were on the ground. My father fought in a battle that was pivotal during Operation Varsity. It was called “Burp Gun Corner.” The pilots were ordered to hold a critical crossroad near Wesel. My Dad’s company of glider pilots accomplished their mission by blowing up a Panzer tank on a narrow city street and that disabled tank stalled a Nazi counter attack allowing the Allie’s offensive to continue.

Here is what General Bereton, Commander of the 1st Airborne Army had to say:

“The conduct of glider pilots, in general, is beyond written words of commendation. Not only did they deliver a magnificent and well-coordinated landing which in many cases was in the midst of hostile positions, but were immediately engaged with the Airborne associates in the hottest kind of hand-to-hand fighting. In one instance, a glider pilot serial immediately organized for all-around defense and withstood heavy counter-attacks with the weapons at their disposal, putting one enemy tank out of action in this engagement. The discipline and combat efficiency of these glider pilots has called forth the highest praise of Division and Regimental officers."

When Dad came home from the war, he had his B-4 bag of uniforms, a duffel bag of flight suits and other pilot gear and 2 two foot lockers. In one of the foot lockers he carried home some Nazi memorabilia, two large Nazi flags, a small flag from the disabled tank, signed by his fellow pilots turned infantry men. A Nazi officer’s cap and dress belt and dagger and a Nazi army steel helmet.

No matter how many times my friends and I played “Army” none of us would ever use any of dad’s “Nazi stuff” to enhance our war play along the banks of the Red River. I remember putting on the Nazi helmet once and getting a strange feeling as I looked at my child face in the mirror.

I can’t recall my Dad ever looking at his little collection. Like every combat vet, he didn’t talk about actual fighting. He did tell plenty of great stories about London and Paris though. The best was his co-pilot getting a bloody nose when he walked into the glass door of a small Paris bistro or getting blown out of his bed in a London hotel during a Luftwaffe bombing raid on the city or listening to a speech on a French airstrip given by General Eisenhower after the Nazi surrender.

This past week I’ve often thought what my Dad would think of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, Nazis marching and chanting by torchlight or the president’s defense of white supremacy. Dad hated everything the Nazi regime stood for. He knew and loved his fellow pilots who died or were wounded during his time in the Army Air Corps. He felt he was fortunate to come home alive to Mom and his family and to me. He went into battle knowing mom was pregnant with me, I’ve often wondered how that weighed on his mind. His letters to mom were upbeat and positive. He never sounded tense or afraid. I know he was from my conversations later in life with his friend Bob Anton, who spent his time at war as an Army tanker. Anton and Dad would sit and talk over Seagram’s VO from time to time, if I’d show up the conversation would stop. They were talking about the war, their war.

The only time I remember dad saying anything about Nazis was when George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi party was scheduled to speak at the University back in the 60’s. All Dad said was “he’s a Nazi son of a bitch.”

I think he’d feel the same today, I know I do.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memo to Mom

To: Mom (Mother, Ma, Maw, etc)
From: Oldest Son
Re: Mother’s Day
5/11/2014 (still works)
I’m sure you enjoy being a spark in the Universe, you always liked to travel. Have you caught up with the old man yet? I’d have liked to have witnessed that first meeting because you had a lot to say to him, I’d also like have seen you two hug, kiss and make up and have some fun again.
Things are interesting here, Cakes (I know you hated me calling her that) has a new job and is kicking ass. I’m sitting around trying to figure out what to do. Don’t worry I’ll get it figured out sooner or later. I always have.
The kids are fine, Stephanie is in Costa Rica, I can hear you right now, “What the hell is she doing down there!” relax Mom, she’s in love and sounds happy as a lark. Kristen’s business is taking wing after a lot of hard work and lessons learned. You’d be proud of her. Your great grandchildren are spectacular, the girls have finished college. The boys are a couple of little shit heels just like I was. (pause)I know, I know, I was just kidding. They’re doing fine and they even enjoy brief visits from me. Bruce, Kathy and Margo are fine, so are all the kids. You’d be pleased to know that your name comes up all the time. So your memory lives on and will. Liz is still a pain in the ass and is a great grandmother, but I’m sure you know that story
I’ve read some great books lately. I miss our “Book Club”. You’d love “Game of Thrones”. BTW, I’ve read 7 Vonnegut’s over the past two weeks, I know you thought he was nuts and we argued about him for years. I still think you’re nuts to think he was nuts, so don’t even talk to me about it anymore, god dammit! Hope you run into him, tell him just how nuts you think he is and he tells you are just another deranged, misguided lunatic from his generation carrying around a bucket full of loose screws, who wouldn’t know a screwdriver from a thermonuclear device. Serves you both right.
Hey Ma thanks for visiting me in a dream the other night and reminding me to pay my American Express bill, you were always good about stuff like that.
Cakes (I know you hate that) is still sleeping, otherwise I’d put her on. I noticed the other day she picked up your picture and her mother’s picture from the English desk and stood there looking at the both of you. I didn’t ask what she was doing. I knew.
It’s a nice day Mom, wish you were here. We could sit in the sand at the beach, eat some seafood at Neptune’s Net, come home, take a nap. Have a nice light dinner and watch Game of Thrones together. You can have the new chair, it’s a wingback and you always loved those.
Love, hugs and kisses,
Your first kid.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bill O'Rieilly is a Dick

Bill O’ was up for spending a few days in the Florida sunshine. Our AM in South Florida carried his radio show from Westwood One. Bill needed a place to do his daily show live, we provided him a studio, we provided him a hotel and a limo. He owned a condo in Fort Lauderdale, but he needed a hotel suite, more on that in a minute.

A couple of hours before O’Reilly’s appearance, his producer showed up at the station, nice young guy, easy to work with. He and our producer, the highly competent Lupe Soto worked everything out. Then O’Reilly showed up 10 minutes before the first show and pretty much threw a grenade in the room, slammed the door, waited a minute or two and then proceeded to scream at his producer and our staff. No one could figure what he was pissed off about. He was just pissed. He was angry. He was a dick. According to Bill O, nothing was right, nothing worked to his satisfaction. Somehow our station, a radio station that operated like a fine watch 24/7 was a smoking, steaming pile of shit.

After the show got under way, I left for lunch, I walked out in the parking lot, noticed a black town car idling in the hot Florida sunshine. Sitting in the back seat was a young woman filing her nails. I realized at that moment why Bill needed that suite at the hotel and wasn’t using his family condo.

We did a meet and greet with a few clients and listeners after his show the next day. Bill O was a dick to them too. He was short, ill-tempered and treated them with contempt.

As he closed his last show he told his loyal audience that he was meeting his family for the weekend at their Florida condo as he closed the “Factor”. Never mentioned the station, never mentioned our staff. As he walked out the door, he didn’t shake a hand or bother to say goodbye.

Bill O’Reilly is and was a massive dick. Worse than Michael (Wiener) Savage, who spent his time in South Florida wearing a heavy coat and a long scarf, at least Savage didn’t shit all over our staff.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

No Trumpets before 9 AM


On a warm and sunny day in Southern California, a man is sitting at a table, across from him is an earnest young woman with a tape recorder. It begins

“I have no idea why anyone would be interested in any of this or what I think about what’s happened to the radio business.”

“You spent most of your life in it, your opinions and thoughts matter. They’re a part of the history of the business. You were there at the beginning, as a participant.” She said.

“I wasn’t there at the beginning, when I showed up and got involved it was a few years after it began, So I wasn't a pioneer, that’s for damn sure." The man lighted a cigarette, an American Spirit Yellow.
"The opportunity for change was there, the big guys, the smart money, just couldn’t see it. Think of it this way, the fire was ready to burn and a few of us showed up with the matches, all you had to do was strike one and light the kindling. The smart guys didn’t even think the stack of wood would burn, to the point of denying that it was even burning, after it started. Some couldn't even feel the heat.”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“It was obvious at the time FM would work, there were beautiful music stations on FM all over the country generating huge listening audiences, some of the money men and the smart guys, the big companies, owned the damn things, who knows what they were thinking? A company has a facility. Let’s say in San Francisco, the fucking thing is number one or two in the market. At that point in time, almost nobody owns an FM receiver, but somehow the station is generating a huge audience. I used to wonder what the hell went on in the board meetings. I had dinner one night with the father of beautiful music, the guy they were paying to create the programming. I asked him, you know what he said?”

“I haven’t a clue.” She said.

“He said nothing, he just shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know either."

“So what happened?”

“The music changed for one thing, that was the catalyst. The music needed an outlet. It sure as hell wasn’t going to get it on sixties era Top 40. Stations at the time tried to play an edited version of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. The listeners revolted and forced them to play the song unedited, all 5 minutes and 56 seconds of it. That happened in the mid 60’s and it was a big deal in an era of record companies editing songs down just for radio, shit they used to cut old Beach Boys songs to under 2 minutes. I can’t remember which of the Beach Boys songs it was, whatever it was, I think the original was 2 minutes 36 seconds long. They cut it to 1:56." The man took a long drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke up in the warm air. 

"Capitol actually put out radio only albums called “short cuts”. Really, really stupid and the listeners wouldn’t put up with it anymore. The people running the radio stations at that time couldn’t understand what was happening. Actually, the silly bastards didn’t want to understand, they couldn’t get their heads around the fact things were changing, that they could no longer dictate musical tastes or control it anymore. Neither did the record companies."

"Our generation certainly wasn’t having or taking it anymore. There had to be a medium where what the listener could hear what they wanted to hear, demanded to hear. The un-loved, underutilized step child FM signals were the solution. Somebody once called them, the funny little stations down the hall.”

“Only took about 5 years for them to stop laughing. A few of them never got it.”

“Want another cup of coffee?” The man asked.

The woman nodded, yes.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Our family's unknown man is my Great, Grandfather Harris, he was killed in a coal mining accident in Illinois. He left a young wife and two little girls. Why was he in Illinois? He immigrated because the Welsh village he grew up was devastated by a mine explosion and collapse. Devastated to the point that the village ceased to exist. They called it a disaster and it was. Young Harris moved from one disaster zone to another. He survived the first, not the second.

Coal mining has always been a dirty, nasty job. If you weren't killed underground you died later of the effects of black lung or of the injuries connected to your job.

Our republican President has promised that coal is coning back, it isn't and now this has happened:

Almost 23,000 retired coal miners and their dependents on Wednesday received official notification that they could lose their health care benefits by April 30.
“This is causing tremendous mental and in some cases physical trauma to these senior citizens,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said Wednesday. “They will now have to begin contemplating whether to continue to get medicines and treatments they need to live or to buy groceries. They will now have to wonder if they can go see a doctor for chronic conditions like black lung or cancer or pay the mortgage.”
For the last year, U.S. senators representing Ohio and West Virginia have worked to preserve health care coverage and pensions for retired coal miners. Roberts and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the health care coverage was originally slated to expire at the end of 2016, but Congress passed a four-month extension at that time.

Then the turd in the punch bowl floated to the surface...

When KY Sen. Mitch McConnell strode into the Capitol for last month’s State of the Union speech, he took with him a guest whose presence was sure to be seen as a slap against the Obama administration and its policies on coal.

“I brought along this unemployed coal miner here,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said, gesturing to fourth-generation mineworker Howard Abshire, “to see the person who put him out of work.”
The Senate majority leader said he wanted to call attention to President Obama’s “heartless” regulations that he argues have devastated communities in Abshire’s native eastern Kentucky. Yet just weeks earlier, McConnell’s office had delivered its own blow to Appalachian coal towns: It blocked efforts to rescue health and pension funds on which thousands of retired and disabled miners rely.

A plan that would ensure the solvency of the funds nearly made it through Congress in December as part of the bipartisan budget deal that cleared both chambers. But the bailout attempt — backed by key lawmakers from both political parties — was excluded from the deal at McConnell’s request, according to four Senate officials directly familiar with the events.
McConnell’s spokesman does not dispute that telling of events. And McConnell has not publicly explained his opposition to the measure.

Add to that, deregulation of existing mines, (read that as lax safety standards) lowering of water standards and increased mountain top removal operations and you get not only a perfect recipe for disaster you get zero no jobs because there is NO MARKET for COAL.

I wish some country singer would pen a song about "Coal aunt Comin' Back" or "Piss off Mitch" rather than more nonsensical bullshit about pickup trucks, beer and country girls in Daisy Dukes.

Patti Loveless wrote one...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Thoughts and insight from the “New Career” files…

I have a friend who built a formidable fortune in the car business. He is still involved in selling cars via his auto auctions.

Here are some insights he gave me about the business.

“The biggest problem in the car business is poor management.”

“Dealers hate the manufacturers and the manufacturers hate the dealers.”

“Some dealers are afraid of the internet and some embrace it. If a customer shows up with a print out from a website, they’ve already bought the car, show it to them, test drive them and write the deal up.”

After 7 months selling cars (or as my sister says, “trying to prove something to Dad”) I have some thoughts as well.

Customers need to do the math. You can’t buy a $50,000 car for $400 a month unless you have a superb, paid for trade-in or are ready to put 30k down on the new car. The rough rule of thumb is $22. a thousand financed over 60 months or 220 a month for every ten thousand financed.

You won’t get a discount for cash. Paying cash for a car makes no difference. Yes, the dealer makes money on the financing from the bank, not a lot, but some.

Leasing makes sense if you drive 15k a year or less. You always have a fresh, up to date car and you only pay for your use of it. Research the residual value of cars you are interested in. For instance a Jeep Wrangler Sport has an extremely high residual and that has a huge effect on the lease payments.

If you finance a new car, know you are going to be “upside down” for a long time. Remember the bank always gets paid first. Essentially you are “buried” for the first 3 or 4 years in a long term auto loan.

Nobody is trying to “screw” you at a legitimate car store. It’s illegal and if a dealer does it, they get huge fines and can lose the right to business.

Buying a car is generally the 2nd largest purchase you’ll make, there are a lot of details to take care of, a lot of papers to sign and it takes time to do it right, Don’t rush it and ask questions if you don’t understand something. If there is something that needs attention, get it in writing and get it confirmed by management, before you sign off on the car.

The credit application has to be filled out correctly, no fudging on income, nothing can be crossed out and leave nothing essential blank. Never let the salesperson or manager fill anything in for you. Never! The credit application generates your car’s registration so it is doubly important.

You’ll never know what your payment is going to be until your credit is run. Payments are determined by the car you’re buying and your credit history. I will get you a ball park number if you know your credit score, not exact but close. Be aware the management hates it when I come in and ask them to run a number without a credit app. However, if you hand me a recent copy of your credit report it’s less of a hassle. Don’t ever go from dealer to dealer and let them run your credit. It’s dumb and it drives your score down.

I sell a lot of trucks. My clients buy trucks for many difference reasons. Here are a few truck tips, unless you drive over 17,000 miles a year don’t opt for the diesel engine, the fuel savings don’t add up. The more miles you drive the quicker the diesel pays off. The Cummins diesel option on the Ram 2500 costs almost 10k more than the V8, think about it. The diesel gets better mileage and has more power, but unless you drive a lot or tow heavy things around on a regular basis you are be spending money you don’t need to spend.

If you buy a truck to tow a boat or a trailer calculate the towing capability this way, use 70% of the towing capacity as the holy grail of towing. Here’s why, add up all the things you are going to be carrying in your trailer, fresh water, black water, food, ice, clothing, etc, etc. Now your 6,000 lb trailer weighs 7,000. Then add people to your truck, 4 people at 150 each. Now add coolers, luggage, bikes, tools, lawn chairs and your dog. Now you’ve added another 700 lbs to the load. If your truck is rated at 8500 lbs towing capacity you are pushing it. Be like a pilot and leave a large margin of error.

One last thing…

Buying a car is the balance between need and desire. That said, there is nothing like owning a car (or truck) that puts a smile on your face every time you start the engine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Single handed

 I was 11 years old when I read Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Around the World Alone”. I’ve read it at least 5 times since. I like to sail alone too. I’d like to sail around the world but it’s too late, at least I think it is.

Webb Chiles has sailed around the world 6 times, alone. One circumnavigation he didn’t finish, he quit in the Canary Islands. Chiles made that trip in an open 18 foot boat, San Diego to New Zealand to Africa to the Red Sea. Chiles was arrested in Saudi Arabia for being a “spy”. He spent two weeks in jail and his boat was confiscated. He got a new one and continued his trip only to have it end in the Canaries.

Later Chiles and his wife Jill left New Zealand, sailed around Cape Horn and up the South American coast to Montevideo, Uruguay. They continued on to Key West.  

In Key West Jill left him. Chiles continued his trip alone.

Off Fort Lauderdale, he made a decision. He opened the sea cocks on his 37 foot boat and sailed it until it sunk. At the last moment Chiles stepped off the boat and into the Gulf Stream wearing a tee shirt and shorts. He had committed himself to dying at sea. He took off his glasses. He unstrapped his watch and let it go into the water. It was 11 at night. The next morning he was still treading water. He made another decision, he started to swim, he swam all day and all night. 26 hours and 125 miles north of Fort Lauderdale he was rescued by two young fishermen.

Since then Chiles has married his 6th wife and circumnavigated once again in a Moore 24.

Webb Chiles is almost 75 years old, he listens to classical music, reads and enjoys his daily drink of scotch from a crystal high ball glass, whether ashore or at sea.

Chiles writes…

“Old men should be explorers.”  I first read that in a book by Jan de Hartog, but subsequently came across it in T. S. Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS, which predates Hartog by several decades.”

A life well lived.