Hello again.
Anybody know what day this is?
I mean without looking at your computer screen or iphone.
Yeah, the days all seem to all be running together like a slurry (look it up) and the good news here is that I'm getting a lot done on the new book (really!) seeing as how there's not much else to do. Watching a lot of old black-and-white movies on TCM (although once you've seen some of the great ones, a lot of the rest are pretty lame) along with some newer stuff of varying quality and entertainment value. If you like tongue-in-cheek, sometimes funnt, sometimes edge-of-your-seat, "what the hell's gonna happen next" thrillers, may I suggest "The Game" with Michael Douglas and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Speaking of Michael Douglas (and Alan Arkin, whom I think is a fabulous actor), check out the Netflix series "The Kominsky Method." Sure, I'm prejudiced (our daughter is involved on the casting end) but it's excellent, intelligent and entertaining. End of commercial.
I should also give a nod to Val Kilmer (not that he would care) as I think he was brilliant in "Tombstone." Great movie.
Carol and I also got sucked into the British old-people romance series "Last Tango in Halifax." Not for everyone, but we like it a lot in our house.
Also trying to keep CURRENT NEWS consumption down to an hour a day. You figure you ought to know what's going on, right? And then you see it and hear it and it makes you miserable all over again. That's why people are spending their government stimulus checks on vodka...

For CAR GUY (or GIRL) entertainment, I heartily recommend my friend Steve Belfer's racecar-in-the-garage/TR3 engine rebuild during the coronavirus pandemic video series. As you will see, Steve's a talented animator and musician and a very clever, funny and creative guy. I used to race against his dad's team when he was a wee tad (they had the TR3 that, unlike mine, went fast and didn't fracture, blow up or catch fire). More on that bunch in the next e-blast. In the meantime, check out his video series here: 
I think you'll enjoy them.

If that's not enough for you, here are a pair of hopefully entertaining "Early BS" videos you might like:

Then again, you might not. But you'll never know unless you take a peek, will you? 

And now, it's time to get serious...

Ok, quick trivia: Who is dis guy?
Had a LOT of comments on the last e-blast, which, under the current laid-back-in-a-hammock-on-the-edge-of-a-terrifying-abyss conditions, waxed a bit philosophical and even theological after I ran over a ground squirrel on our bike path and killed the poor thing. If you didn't read it or are new to these e-blasts (I keep adding names every week), you can review/bring yourself up to speed here:
Now Carol thought I was straying beyond the realm of good taste, good conscience and respect for other people's beliefs, and she was afraid that I'd get a lot of negative feedback like:
But, believe it or not, everyone who reached out had supportive and/or encouraging things to say. Or similar tales to share. Like my onetime editor/publisher Dave Destler at BRITISH CAR magazine (now sadly only available at that big newsstand in the sky). Dave emailed as follows:
On February 12, my faithful canine companion, Roxie, died in my arms at home, the day before I was going to take her to get euthanized. Like she knew, right? She'd just passed her 17th birthday 5 days before. Nothing I could do but try to make her comfortable and not feel alone...
Whew. Says it all.
Also got a greatly appreciated note from Linda C. You need to know that she grew up two houses down from me on Woodland Ave (and directly across the street from New Trier High School, which we both later attended). You also need to know that she was my first big crush (we're talking 3rd-through-maybe-6th grade here) and she was smart and pretty and possessed of what I still believe was--and is--an uncommonly pure heart. Her folks were both teachers at New Trier, and she ultimately went on to a church career teaching preachers how to preach. Really. Anyhow, she sent me a very nice email that essentially accused me of becoming a theologian.
Me and Rodney Dangerfield...
But it was a nice pat on the head (I think) and she also pointed out that some ancient dude named Xenophanes made a similar observation (circa 475 BC) about people fashioning their God (if you add the "s" and make it plural, then I guess you're supposed to use the small "g") in their own image rather than the  other way 'round. To wit:
"But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the work that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves."
So there's nothing new under the sun, eh? Including that well-worn observation.

CAR STUFF!!! (and about effing time, too!):
Lest we wax too serious here, let me also mention that Linda's folks' house was directly across the street from the New Trier High School teachers' parking lot. And that lot was the scene of one of the most pivotal, provocative and pleasurable scenes of my entire life. Pre-puberty, anyway...
I can't tell you exactly when or how I came down with the racing bug (Lord knows I didn't catch it off my parents!), but my early tween years were spent building fanciful AMT plastic models of '32 Ford "Deuce Coupes," '34 Fords with that great, warrior-shield grille and "T-Bucket" roadsters, all in drooling, thickly-painted and fingerprint-festooned shades of Candy Apple Red, Blue and Green, along with the inevitable gloss black (well, mostly gloss, anyway) '40 Fords with flame jobs and turned-down spotlights at either end of the windshield.

But it wasn't nearly enough, you know?
So I started bugging my folks about a go-kart. Go Karting was a fairly new phenomenon at the time, and the one thing my folks knew for certain was that the police frowned on them and there was no handy legal place where you could run one without attracting their attention. And disapproval.
But youth is not to be denied (especially if you're devious and sneaky about it) and I salivated over all the ads in the Hot Rod magazines for ready-to-race Go Karts that I could never dream of affording:

Only then I saw this small ad way in the back pages for a ready-to-go (at least if you bought yourself an engine and wheels and tires and all the other parts you'd need and pieced it all together) go kart frame for a paltry $39.95 plus freight. Now that was a sum I could actually wrap my brain around (if not my bank balance or the change in the little china elephant thing on my dresser). So a plot was hatched with my similarly devious and sneaky friend Frank (last name withheld in case his folks are still alive), whereby he raided his college fund for the necessary $$$ (or maybe it was more like a single $), and we arranged to have the thing shipped to my house so his folks wouldn't know.

I'll never forget the day it arrived. My mom in her apron asking in her pleasant, singsong voice "There's a big box out on the front porch, dear. Do you have any idea what it is?"
That didn't seem to satisfy her, so I told her it was "some parts for a project Frank and I are working on."
Fortunately, she was busy cooking or baking or something (my mom was one hell of a kitchen whiz and homemaker) and I managed to wrestle the package around to the side of the house, unpacked it--JESUS! IT'S EFFING RED!!!!--and fumble/crash it down the steps to the basement. Then I just stood there admiring it and basking in the glow of that shiny (well, mostly shiny) red paint. Damn, I could feel the heat off of it!

My dad came home with a head full of the day's business downtown, and he pretty much grunted when I showed it to him in the basement. Then he headed wearily back upstairs for a pre-dinner drink.
We'd gotten away with it!!!
Only maybe that was because it didn't look particularly threatening in its current condition. In fact, it didn't look like much at all. Just this naked red frame with a cheap, bent-metal yoke for a steering wheel, naked stub axles all around and a clunky,  L-shaped piece of steel below the engine-mounting pad I didn't have an engine for and connected to the brake pedal by a long, willowy length of metal rod. It took me awhile to figure it out, but the lightbulb finally came on. The engine (should I actually ever get one) would drive the right rear wheel via a chain and two sprockets, a small one on the engine p.t.o. shaft and a big one on the wheel I didn't have either, and the finished contraption was intended to slow down by that L-shaped chunk of metal pivoting into and scraping against (with a great shower of sparks, most likely) the large, wheel-mounted chain sprocket. So I not only had right-rear wheel drive, I had right-rear wheel braking as well!
If I ever got it put together, that is...

For the next many weeks, I combed the ads for whatever wheels/tire combinations I could afford (there were none. Then again, I had no concept of deficit spending at the time, but would later become adept and even expert at it). Maybe I should have pursued a career in Washington?
In the meantime, I'd put that bright red frame up on a couple sawhorses in the basement, and I'd go down there when my folks were busy upstairs, climb up on that kart's driver's seat, squint my eyes, hunch my shoulders forward, clutch that steering yoke so tight that the blood drained from my knuckles and make engine sounds reminiscent of a bull walrus playing a kazoo...

Time passed, as it does, and imagining/pantomiming feats of 4-wheeled derring-do began to lose its luster. Through some go-kart owning friends at school (including a tall and extremely clever mechanical whiz-type named Doug Bethke, who went on to build his own, highly innovative go-karts and later won an SCCA AP national championship in a big-block Corvette roadster of his own design and fabrication), my father and I became acquainted with the B&G Twelfth Street Garage, which sat on an alley in the shadow of the "L" tracks. They worked on a lot of weird and wonderful cars (I got my first-ever ride in a racecar there, when one of the owners took me for a hair-raising, high G-force spin in yowling and crackling HProd Berkeley...I was certain immediately afterwards that it was the fastest automobile on earth...)
They also did a thriving and lucrative business in overpriced go-kart stuff. With my dad's less-than-enthusiastic financial assistance, that's where I bought the cast-off set of monster, hard-as-firebrick slicks for the two back stub axles and, a couple weeks later, the much smaller dirt knobbies for the front. Thereby ensuring, should I ever actually complete the project, that I would have a vehicle totally unsuited, at one end or the other, to any manner of pavement or terrain known to man.
But I didn't care! Because now...IT WOULD ROLL!!!!

And so, dear friends, I took to rolling that engine-less contraption across the street, through that teachers' parking lot I told you about, around the side of the next building and to the story-high concrete ramp to the loading dock in back. And now you can surely visualize me (any tubby little kid will do) pushing my engine-less, most likely brake-less go-kart up that ramp, getting into it at the top, taking a deep breath, shoving off with my hands luge-fashion and plummeting downhill (okay, maybe "plummeting" is a bit strong here...make that "meandering but acquiring additional speed all the time") and then, as the final, fulminating climax, making a hard right at the bottom so I could, however briefly, feel the rear end skate out behind me!
It was pure rapture. Albeit in eyedropper-sized doses...
And then I'd push it up the hill so's I could do it all over again!

I don't know why, but my dad eventually took pity on me, and I'll never forget our trip back to the B&G Twelfth Street Garage to buy an engine. And, if you must know, an engine installation, since between us my father and I had the total mechanical skill set and aptitude of your average mud newt.
There were several potential motors to choose from, and I looked them all over with a connoisseur's careful and discerning eye. There was also a price consideration, as the popular and powerful McCulloch, Power Products and West Bend models were well outside our price range. Especially since the garage's owner had advised my father that we should maybe do something about the as-delivered braking setup, which he described, if I remember correctly, as "lethal." To demonstrate, he painted a mental picture of me tearing around in our driveway or some nearby parking lot and my dad standing there watching and occasionally waving me on. and then I'd head over for more gas or a chitchat. Only I wouldn't be able to stop the damn thing--not at all--and I'd crash right into him and cut him off at the knees. Or everything below the knees, to be more accurate.
As a result, a cheap and simple but serviceable new "flipper style" brake setup that applied metal pads to BOTH rear tires (now there's a novel concept!) was added to the bill.
In the end, I chose a rare but not particularly powerful, well-regarded or valuable (sounds like a description of one of Lou's cars) Clinton E-60, because it was cheap and I adored the lovely shade of frog-skin metallic green it was painted. Oh, and the graceful, gooseneck sweep of the air filter elbow, too...

I can still remember the midsummer afternoon, ransom paid in full, that we brought it home from the shop. It was half-in/half-out of the trunk of my mom's Dodge with the usual network of wire and twine holding it in, and I guess it must have been a Saturday, because the teachers' parking lot across the street was totally empty. Now my dad wasn't especially keen on trying it out on school property (or anywhere else, if you want the truth of it) but I was whiny and begging and beseeching and borderline tearful and he finally caved in...as parents often do.
To be honest, I think he wanted to see it run, too. If only to see what kind of misery his money had bought him.
So we pushed it across the street, added the gas mix (Q: How much oil should we put in? A: Until all the mosquitoes are dead?), put it up on blocks like the guy at B&G had shown us, pushed the choke lever full on and started yanking on the starter cord. I think it fired by maybe the twentieth pull. Or maybe the twenty-fifth? And then laid down a thoroughly opaque cloud of bluish-white oil smoke. I kept blipping the throttle to keep it from strangling on its own, oil-heavy fuel mix and, as it warmed, slowly eased back the choke lever. At that point a passerby (maybe Linda's dad, who was a science teacher) suggested between coughs that we might have just a wee bit too much oil in the fuel mix. So I went back to the garage and got some more gas and, with much spillage and muttered oaths and curses, managed to re-adjust and further dilute the oil-to-gas ratio in the tank. To the point that the resultant cloud was no longer opaque. Or not totally opaque, anyway...

It was early evening now, no cops had shown up, and bless my father and whomever else had happened by as I clambered in and they push started me (we were running direct drive at the time because, unlike as shown in the picture above, my dad had eschewed the purchase of the Max-Torque centrifugal clutch assembly the garage proprietor suggested because he figured he'd already spent enough money). But the thing fired right up and I nailed the gas and I was happy to see that my father only fell down as far as his knees (rather than flat on his face) when my kart squirted out from under him.
And now, suddenly and for the very first time in my life, I was charging into that wondrous, internal-combustion Valhalla on a flaming steed of steel and fire!!!
I ripped up one side of the parking lot and down the other. And then again. And arrived at the most glorious sensation when, as I became acclimated and starting really committing to those wide, arcing turns at either end, felt the rear end grease out in a magnificent slide. And then--oh, joy!--as if by latent instinct, I found myself applying what the Brits call "a bit of oppo," and steered manfully into the skid.
I can still feel the tingle, even today...
Around and around and around I went, intoxicated with the thrilling and illuminating sensation of oversteer.
On and on I went, lap after glorious lap.
But it was getting towards nighttime now, and my father was no more than a purplish shadow against the darkening sky. He'd pulled out his cigar lighter, fired it up and began brandishing it threateningly against a sky where stars and whole constellations were already beginning to twinkle. Sure, I knew it was time to bring it in. And yet I craved just one more lap. And then another. And one more after that...

I have to say that in all my years, there are only two physical things I can think of where the actual doing far eclipsed all the pent-up longing, languishing and imagining leading up to them. We don't really need to go into what the other one might be (hey, this is a family magazine here) but I do know this: if the light had held and there had been enough fuel in the tank, I'd still be out hot-lapping that teachers' parking lot even today!

Stay safe & happy,

PS: Here's another biking/deer pic.

This one's in a cemetery I sometimes ride through. You can only see four of them here, but there were nine all told. Kind of interesting (okay, make that "creepy") seeing them nibbling flowers & shrubbery off the graves...
Is there a message here????
What's wrong with you people?


Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: