Part Three, you say?
No, you didn't miss anything...
It's just that so many miles and places and memorable moments have rolled past since my last meaningful/chronological "Keeping up with BS" blog that the task seems monumental. And this from a guy who writes a 533-page book with not-very-large type (and which is moreover Part VII of what is now apparently going to be an VIII-Part series).
The mind boggles...
Not to mention that Carol and I are knee-deep in the welcome & wonderful but daunting drudgery of shipping all the hardback first editions of the new book to all the fine folks who ordered them. We thank you all.
And I'm doing my level best to write appropriate inscriptions/dedications/insults in each and every one.

But, as a fellow who has worked more than a few grunt-level factory assembly-line jobs during my formative years (not that I consider myself fully formed even now...and that's a GOOD thing!), I know whereof I speak.

It all started when I was around 15 and my folks had a late-fall dinner party where I overheard one of their smart, saucy and apparently savvy dinner guests--the very chic wife of one of their longtime friends--saying something that bothered me about the economic underclass in general and people of color in particular. And, like any enlightened, egalitarian, already left-leaning and moreover outspoken (read "smart-alecky") 15-year-old, I lobbed a large, loud and strident chunk of righteous indignation at left-leaning types are always and inevitably wont to do.
In fact, it's one of our core specialties.
She fixed me with a withering glare of of three-martini condescension and repeated that hoary old, down-her-nose chestnut: "You're just a kid and you don't know what the hell you're talking about. You've never had any experience around those people. You don't know what they're like..."
And the bitter truth was that she was right.

But the sting lingered, and--at my request and with my folks' concerned but committed approval--my entrepreneurial, packaging-salesman dad got me a summer job working in a near west-side, crappy-neighborhood plant he represented that made poly bags and packed paper plates for the discount-chain market.
I was the only white kid working there.
In fact, I was the only "kid" working there, as for everyone else, it was how they paid rent and bought gas for their crappy cars (or rode the bus to work, more likely) and put beans, chicken wings, mustard greens and hot sausage on the table.
Oh, the foreman/floor manager was white (of course!), and he was a pale, rotund but nice enough Polish guy named "Norb" who was sharp about machinery, got along as best he could, loved Pilsner Urquell beer and was nuts about World War One airplanes. He'd seen "Dawn Patrol" about a hundred gazillion times, and had a "he'll never finish it" project of a Royal Aircraft SE 5 recreation percolating and being pondered over at great, four-and-five-beer length in his basement workshop.
For those who don't know what it is, here's a pic of a Royal Aircraft SE 5:

And if you'd like to see one flying, click the link below and suffer your way through the "intro ad" for the world's best concealed-carry holster (of which the Martini Lady mentioned above would surely approve) or maybe you'll get the one about the world's best super glue, with which you can attach a Huey helicopter to the hairline of a freshly redundant, solid-bronze statue of a Confederate War Hero and lift it right off its pedestal...
But be careful of the bazooka and anti-aircraft fire.
Anyhow, here's the SE 5 link:

But the point is that I spent that summer working at the poly bag/paper plate plant, and it was more social/cultural education than I ever got in the North Shore school system. The third-floor paper-plate line had a fire escape just outside where I could eat lunch with some of my co-workers and watch the Latino boys playing baseball and chatting up mostly underage girls in the schoolyard below. I got to know the people who worked on the plate line with me--a little, anyway--and no question, even though we became friendly, we came from completely different cultures.

There was Ruby, who was big and smart and pleasant and imposing and oversaw the line, and her two sons Charles and Melvin. Charles wasn't there when I started, but showed up a few weeks later. Ruby explained that he'd "been in California." I didn't realize until several days later that she was referring to the Cook County Jail on California Avenue and not anyplace on the west coast.
There was Thornton Seaberry, who wore a ball cap and had another job as well and was immensely proud of his 5-year-old, bright turquoise/cream interior and fastidiously clean, angle-eye headlight 1959 Lincoln. And Maggie, who was short and lively and had an incredible shape that I couldn't help staring at. Hopefully (but not always) when she wasn't looking. And Fletcher Brooks, who had a huge chest and bulging biceps and was what my older brother Maury, who was deep into Jazz music, used to call "a Diddybop." He wore skin-tight Banlon knit shirts about two sizes to small for him and a jaunty fedora with a colorful silk band and wraparound shades, and he was the inspiration and platform for the bartender/manager character who owns/runs The Black Mamba Lounge in the three (eventually to be four) Steamroller books. I'd never met anyone like him before.

I'll never forget that summer. My brother and I would leave our North Shore suburb of Winnetka at the crack of dawn in the Triumph TR3 we'd somehow talked our dad into buying (that's actually not quite true...we were TRYING to con him into a Jaguar XK150--preferably an "S," of course--and he saw the eager, grinning, $2675 TR3 on the other side of the showroom floor as a cheap way out).
By that point, my dad had come to realize that his beefy, 6-foot frame didn't exactly slip into a Triumph TR3 and that a stick-shift car was a pain in city traffic and that side curtains were really no substitute for wind-up--or, better yet, POWER--windows (and let's not even get started on heaters or air conditioning) and so we were welcome to use the TR3. More than welcome, in fact...
All summer long!
We'd fight like hell over who got to drive (I'd just gotten my license a few months before) and Maury would inevitably drop me off at Shaw Paper Products (1601 S. Laflin, if memory serves) and head over to his summer job working with a construction crew building the Dan Ryan Expressway.

During college, I worked in the steel shed and before that as a heater at Lansing Drop Forge, and that was a different kind of deadening, drudgery-type work. I greedily accepted a high-paying (by college standards, anyway) position as "a heater," and it was the only job in my entire life I asked to be transferred out of.
As a heater, your duties included putting on three layers of clothing (long undies, jeans and a sweatshirt and then coveralls) on blistering-hot summer days, donning a balaclava, protective headgear with a thick, spattered visor and thick, flameproof gloves and then trudging your way into the huge, open-top building where the monstrous steam hammers lived. There, using heavy-duty tongs, you'd place big ingots of steel into the slit opening of the glowing-hot furnace in front of you and turn them as needed--like 15-to-30-pound sausages--until they were glowing cherry red through and through. Then you'd pass one over to "The Hammerman" and he'd put it in the first cavity of the die and hit the foot pedal that would bring the hammer crashing down--with something approaching 50,000 lbs. of brute force--to smash that glowing-hot ingot into rough shape. Then he'd flop it over to the next cavity--still glowing bright orange--and hit it a time or two more, and then into the finishing cavity on the far right. And then into the beat-up steel bin with the rest of the steaming-hot parts, ready to head over to flash removal, final finishing and onto the conveyor belt that traveled through the annealing oven.
It was a terrible job.
The steam and smell and incredible, the heat unbearable and the noise like those cartoon segments where some poor critter has his head clanged inside an enormous bell...only over and over and over again, both right in front and all around you.
So I asked to be transferred--even for less pay--and I wound up working in the steel shed (does that name sound familiar?), where we used a story-high rotational shear that weighed as much as an earth-mover to chop heavy bars of square- or round-section steel stock into those ingots that were headed for the furnaces and steam hammers. It was like dicing chives, actually, but on a screeching, scraping and thoroughly gargantuan scale.

Did I mention that the company's biggest contract was for making tank track segments for the tanks and go-anywhere guns, launchers and support vehicles headed for Viet Nam?
There's irony in there somewhere...

The final leg of my blue-collar, assembly-line, factory-worker experience came during my Hippie years (1968-1970 mostly...but the memories are a bit fuzzy), when I wound up working at a communal leather-clothing factory on the fringes of the Oakland ghetto. All the drones (me, included) were living in this Company-Rented house in Berkeley, eating the company food, smoking the company dope, etc. Only then one of the sewing machines broke and, as a briefly lapsed sports car/motorcycle wrench, I was able to fix it. I was immediately elevated to the position of "foreman." Mind you, I was still sleeping bedroll-on-a-floor in the company house and eating the company food (butterfish and chicken were popular because they were so cheap) only now I was getting flowers and tops instead of seeds and stems on the dope end.
I can sum that experience up in three ways:
1) The company was made up of 20 partners and 10 "employees."
2) Most of the important business decisions were made by consulting the ancient Chinese "I Ching" book of oft-impenetrable wisdom and thoroughly ambiguous advice.
3) The company name, "Oquasa," was selected by all the partners getting stoned and one of them, while blindfolded, fanned his way through an unabridged copy of Websters' too-big-to-carry dictionary and pointed blindly. His finger landed on "Oquasa" (which is actually a Native American term for a certain species of trout). But there was nothing fishy about it...except for maybe the butterfish mentioned above.

BTW (things come full circle here), Oquasa was broken into several times, presumably by the folks living in the surrounding neighborhood. In fact, we occasionally saw them modeling/showing off our fine leather miniskirts, bolero tops and fringed leather vests while waiting at the bus stop for a ride to THEIR crappy factory jobs. Or whilst in conversation with the local police--usually with the mars lights gently rotating...

In any case, I've done my time "on the line" at those and other numbing, dead-end jobs, and that's my excuse as to why it's taking so damn long to get all those wonderful copies signed and shipped out. It's like over a thousand of them (thank you all!) and there's only just the two of us here on the assembly line. But we're working on it. We're currently processing orders from Lime Rock on Labor Day weekend and Watkins Glen the weekend after. And so, if you haven't received's COMING! I promise!
And if you got your order and something doesn't seem right, please email and I'll do my best to make it right.
Really I will.

In closing (this section, anyway) let me share a link to my very favorite "numbing, repetitive, soul-sucking factory job" film clip ever. It's from Charlie Chaplin's wonderful epic "Modern Times," and it's more than worth a look: WONDERFUL FILM CLIP

More tomorrow. I promise.
The knees and legs (especially that renegade right one that spent 5 weeks in a damn brace) are doing MUCH better. Still some pain but starting to feel almost OK again. Have been biking & Yoga-stretching for a couple weeks (albeit with a worrying lack of speed, strength, stamina and balance), but did a bike lap of Road America and two fairly fraught go-karting sessions on Wednesday last at the Covid-postponed MAMA "Spring Rallye" (full report in the next e-blast) and plan/hope to be driving in the ChampCar race this coming weekend at the same track. Stay tuned.

As you get older, things inevitably tend to Go Wrong physically and/or mentally. And when such things occur, either due to injury or illness or wrong place/wrong time happenstance, you catch yourself wondering: "Jeez, are things gonna get better again or is this the way things are gonna be from now on?"
It can eat at you. And eat at you some more.
But I'm happy to say I did the full, 18-mile loop on my nearby and beloved, through-the-woods bike path yesterday, and while I wasn't all the way up to pre-accident speed and was borderline pathetic on the steeper uphills, it was a BIG improvement on where things have been for an awfully long time. Oh, I had a little pain in the old right knee afterwards (and still this morning) but the point is that progress is finally being made. I may have to deal with the aftershocks and residue of this thing for some time to come--maybe forever?--but I'm feeling much better right now. A big "THANKS" to all of you who've inquired/showed concern.

More drivel to come, I promise.
Maybe even tomorrow?

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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: