A Ferrari Moment

I'm pretty sure it was a 599 GTB Fiorano.

It's Saturday and just barely dusk. I'm on I-40 East just outside Durham on the way to the Sam's Club in Morrisville. To jump start Son Number One's Honda. He's been there working his pick up job, cooking Little Smokies and offering them to passersby. Nine bucks an hour.

Anyway, I'm in the 335i (it's filthy inside and out) tooling along in the far right lane at about 65 mph. Sixth gear. Steely Dan's only live album, Alive in America, is blaring. If you don't have that CD you should get it, if you like SD at all.

My baseball hat is low on the brow. I check my left mirror, because the Buick in front of me is holding me up. I'm ready to change lanes, pull in behind the old clapped out Volvo with the Vegan sticker that just blew by me on the left in the center lane. But... But in the mirror I see something low to the ground coming up fast. It's not that dark yet but in the mirror I can't make out the marque. It's something unique, though. I stay in my lane. Suddenly, the Volvo on my left pops on the breaks strong because of something goofy ahead. I hear the downshift of a throaty engine and suddenly there is this beautiful, shiny corsa rossa Ferrari pulling even with me to my left. As I turn my head toward the beauty the immediate sight is the Prancing Horse crest with the "SF" ( Scuderia Ferrari) script emblazoned just aft of the front wheel well.

Instinctively, I raised my sight line, trying to see into the cockpit. Don't you like to see who's driving that sort of exotica? He was what I would guess to be a 30-something fellow, with longish combed back black hair. His Romanesque but handsome nose gave insight to his heritage.

We were looking at each other. I threw a thumbs up his way--the modern symbol of hello and camaraderie among autophiles. In my old college days when I was driving an MG B and another sports car came into view we would flash the peace sign. He smiled, pointed toward me, quickly moving his hand back and forth horizontally as if to confirm the legitimacy of my BMW before returning the thumbs up.

The Volvo moved back into my lane, giving the 599 just enough room to accelerate past us both and then zip to the far left lane. Gone. I so wished I'd taken the BMW by the car wash.

Oh, what a beautiful automobile. I don't think I would want one even if I could afford the total bill, but it sure does brighten the day when you have a Ferrari Moment on the Interstate.
Road & Track Review


JFK's Death And Other Trauma

On November 22, 1963 JFK was assassinated in Dallas. I was in the midst of music class, playing the flutophone. Seventh grade at Brogden Junior High School. Thirteen years old.

When the message of his death came over the the loudspeaker time stopped. I became as nervous as I felt under the lights one night during the Cuban missile crisis when, out playing tackle position for the Optimist Football team, I and other kids would steal a look skyward between plays, looking for the missile that was destined to come any minute out of the black sky above the stadium lights.

In the 60's there was something to be said for kids not paying attention to current events.

These events rank right up there with watching a film on TV on Sunday night (was it Ed Sullivan?) about the power of the atom bomb and its unfathomable destructive powers. The film depicted what would happen to a neighborhood much like my own in the event of a detonation many, many miles away. The recurring nightmare associated with that film finally went away.

The last time I felt that awful fearful pang in the pit of my stomach was on September 11, 2001.

Until recently. I was travelling with one of my sons to DC and we passed the Pentagon. Suddenly my son gasped "Oh my God!", almost scaring me out of my traffic lane. But I recovered in time to see what had caused the exclamation. He (and I), upon looking at the Pentagon immediately realized, because of the significant difference in the color of a part of the building, that we were looking at where the airplane slammed into the building on 9/11. I have added that moment to those others that I will never forget.


Love Me Do

February, 1964. The Beatles are coming to America. The Ed Sullivan Show. We (all the junior high kids I knew) already were falling in love with the music. Some, including me, were as intrigued and enamored of the style of these blokes as of the music. But don't get me wrong, the music itself was life changing. I could write a book about how the Beatles influenced my life.

Life changing. Why? Well, I am no music critic (I think I could be) but the combination of the music itself coupled with the eclectic, cold weather-based (England can be harsh environment, weather-wise, right?) and uninhibited style was diametrically different to the broad moderate clime, traditional, almost military-based American style of the '60s I was used to. And the music was more up- tempo than we were used to. Also, I don't read music, but I'm pretty sure the chord sequence of the Beatle's songs were more unique than the formula pop chord progression we were used to at the time. And then there was the sound of those Rickenbacker guitars...they were not British-made instruments, but from Los Angeles. Somehow the sound was fuller than the tinny sound of a Fender Stratocaster.

And the hair. Don't forget the hair. In this important case if no other in my life, I was an early adaptor. Perhaps I should say an early imitator. By the time The Beatles hit The Ed Sullivan Show I was already growing out my 'do. I had already ridden the bus downtown with a month's allowance to visit Gladstein's (Durham's "urban" fashion palace) to buy a pair of Chelsea boots. AKA Beatle Boots. I took those boots straight to the shoe repair shop for the installation of what I later came to realize were Cuban heels--a couple of inches higher than normal.

Although I am loathe to admit it, I even bought a Beatle wig at Thalheimer's Department Store. I was on the waiting list two weeks. I signed up for a "Paul Model". I wore that thing once, on the bus home from picking it up. Thankfully, it didn't take long for me to realize it was not cool.

I do not fault myself for the inglorious purchase of a Beatle wig. Many of my guy friends and I who frequented the YMCA during that time were stretched to the limit of our ability to remain relevant in the junior high scheme of things. You see, as if on cue, a Duke professor and his family (including twin boys slightly older than my crew) returned to Durham from a couple of years in Scotland. Of course those two boys had perfected "the look" during those two years. Awesome long Beatle-inspired hair, tight cords, real Chelsea boots, thick Scottish wool turtlenecks sweaters and they had even acquired a slight accent while overseas. How in the hell could we compete with that level of cool? They even knew the next part of the British invasion. They were so over Paul, Ringo, George and John.

" 'ave you heard o' the Rolling Stones?" they asked.

We had the Stones to look forward to, but for now, all we wanted was to see The Beatles on TV, compliments of Ed Sullivan. In color. That's where my Dad came in. In a very creative and cool way. The Beatles appeared three weeks in a row on Sullivan, beginning February 9, 1964. Either the second or third week (I don't remember which) was going to be in color! Now, my crowd was so entranced by the first appearance in black and white that the thought of seeing The Fab Four in living color was beyond our wildest dreams! And none of our families had a color TV. But my Dad had a whole showroom of them where he worked. And so the pilgrimage to Montgomery & Aldridge, Durham's preeminent appliance and tire emporium, was conceived by my Dad. So his son and his pals could see The Beatles in color.

It was a glorious occasion. Fifteen of my closest personal friends--both boys and girls--were transported to M&A on that Sunday night, and gathered together in front of the biggest RCA color television on the sales floor to watch the gods of current culture. Dad even scooted across the street with me and a couple of buddies to The Carolina Theatre and bought buttered popcorn, Coke and various candies for the whole gang. He was a hell of a host his whole life.

Finally, 8pm came and the show began. But not in color! You can imagine my Dad's chagrin, much less my own. We watched The Beatle's show-opening tunes in classic black and white, stunned that we had been robbed of living color. While I don't specifically remember the CBS excuse, it was something like "the color system was on the fritz".

Fathers have a way of making things right--at least as right as they can. My Dad was a chronic pleaser and by the time the boys from England hit the stage again, Dad had implemented the best fix he could. We were gathered around three color televisions; with one's color knob turned all the way to red, one to yellow and one to blue. We watched those last two songs in color, alright--CBS be damned. Dad was still mortified, scurried back to the concession stand of the theatre and everyone left with another large buttered popcorn. "It was the least I could do," he said on the way home.

I do not remember the songs the group did that night. I cannot recall all the names of those fifteen kids. I will, however, always fondly remember my Father trying his best to be a great Dad that night. And always. Most of the time he was a roaring success. To me, he was that night. And now, as the father of two almost-men, I can understand that when my Dad was not a roaring success, it usually was out of his control. For the times when it was in his control and he faltered, I have forgiven him. As I pray my sons will forgive me.

Dad's favorite Beatles tune was Love Me Do. Perfect for a chronic pleaser.


Got The Blues?

Thanks to Chez over at Fat Johnny's Front Porch blog for allowing me to repost this great explanation of the blues. Check out FJFP and bookmark it as a fave. It's a rollicking cyber place full of great recipes, music and more that I enjoy. You will, too.


If you are new to Blues music, or like it but never really understood the why and wherefores, here are some very fundamental rules:

1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning..."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes - sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch ... ain't no damn way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or anywhere in Canada . Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, and Nawlins are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don't get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg 'cause you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can't have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot and sit by the dumpster ... in the rain.

10. Good places for the Blues : (a) highway; (b) jailhouse; (c) empty bed; (d) bottom of a whiskey glass.

11. Bad places for the Blues: (a) Nordstrom's (b) Gallery openings (c) Ivy League institutions; (d) Golf courses.

12. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.
13. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if: (a) You're older than dirt; (b) You're blind; (c) You shot a man in Memphis ; (d) You can't be satisfied. No, if: (a) You have all your teeth; (b) You once were blind but now can see; (c) The man in Memphis lived; (d) You have a 401K or trust fund.

14. Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could have. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.
15. If you ask for water and your darlin' gives you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: (a) Cheap wine; (b) Whiskey or bourbon; (c) Muddy water; (d) Black coffee. The following are NOT Blues beverages: (a) Perrier; (b) Chardonnay; (c) Snapple (d) Slim Fast.

16. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

17. Some Blues names for women: (a) Sadie (b) Big Mama; (c) Bessie; (d) Fat River Dumpling.

18. Some Blues names for men: (a) Joe (b) Willie (c) Little Willie; (d) Big Willie.

19. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis .

20. Blues Name Starter Kit: (a) Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.); (b) First name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Peach, etc.); (c) Last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Pegleg Lime Johnson or Cripple Peach Fillmore, etc.

21. I don't care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues, period. Sorry.
LD (thanks, Chez)


Veterans Day


We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. From the Minutemen who stood watch over Lexington and Concord to the service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, American veterans deserve our deepest appreciation and respect. Our Nation's servicemen and women are our best and brightest, enlisting in times of peace and war, serving with honor under the most difficult circumstances, and making sacrifices that many of us cannot begin to imagine. Today, we reflect upon the invaluable contributions of our country's veterans and reaffirm our commitment to provide them and their families with the essential support they were promised and have earned.

Caring for our veterans is more than a way of thanking them for their service. It is an obligation to our fellow citizens who have risked their lives to defend our freedom. This selflessness binds our fates with theirs, and recognizing those who were willing to give their last full measure of devotion for us is a debt of honor for every American.

We also pay tribute to all who have worn the uniform and continue to serve their country as civilians. Many veterans act as coaches, teachers, and mentors in their communities, selflessly volunteering their time and expertise. They visit schools to tell our Nation's students of their experiences and help counsel our troops returning from the theater of war. These men and women possess an unwavering belief in the idea of America: no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who your parents are, this is a place where anything is possible. Our veterans continue to stand up for those timeless American ideals of liberty, self-determination, and equal opportunity.

On Veterans Day, we honor the heroes we have lost, and we rededicate ourselves to the next generation of veterans by supporting our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen as they return home from duty. Our grateful Nation must keep our solemn promises to these brave men and women and their families. They have given their unwavering devotion to the American people, and we must keep our covenant with them.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our servicemen and women have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided(5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall beset aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of theUnited States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2009, as Veterans Day. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of theUnited States and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


The Bucket List (1)

For weeks the movie The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, has set atop our television. Unwatched. Netflix must love customers like me. I keep seeing the disc and we keep meaning to watch it. Maybe tonight.

We all know the plot. Two men, dying, set out to do the things they have always wanted to do before kicking the bucket. Although I've not watched the movie, I've thought about the premise and about my own Bucket List for awhile.

My list is a work in progress. Which, of course, I now intend to start sharing via this blog. And, I sincerely hope readers (if there are any!) will respond with their own hopes for accomplishments b/4 kickin' the bucket by responding to this and subsequent posts.

At the moment, my BL is broken down into a few sections: Possessions; See & Do; Revenge; Create; Complete. It's simple. Or is it?

The Revenge part is easy. It is one entry on the list. Before I die, I will take a baseball bat to the knees of of an ol' boy who intimidated me for almost two years during the end of junior high and the beginning of high school... over a girl. He and his gang of red neck thugs made life miserable. Just writing down these words may suffice, as I am not a violent person.

OK, onward. We are all into possessions and so am I. The one thing I want to possess before kicking the bucket is another BMW 2002. I was the proud owner of a used '74 Bimmer (NOT Beemer) in my 20's. Bought in Durham, I drove that BMW to Nashville when I went to work for Pirelli Tire US as the Tennessee territory representative.

I loved that car...Bavarian green (ha! British racing green), tan vinyl interior, steel wheels, four speed and no air conditioner...ok, till summer in Memphis. That was the first of five BMW's I've owned. The 2002, three 320i's (one new a year while travelling), and a 335i with sport and premium packages, an awesome, thrilling and entertaining automobile.
If I ever can afford it, I will find what the classic car restorers call a donor car and trundle it up to Chicago to what most think is the best BMW restorer on the planet, one Don Dethlefsen at The Werk Shop.

I'll opt for the full restoration which means Don and his artisans will disassemble every nut, bolt and part in order to replace or refresh it. The body will be de-rusted and re-painted. The motor will be rebuilt, upgraded if you wish, and cleaned to the point that you could eat off it. All the mechanicals and electrics will be made new. Tell 'em how you want the interior--original or updated, perhaps with Ricaro seats, leather rather than vinyl and a Momo sport steering wheel to replace that goofy big circular OEM thing you're used to holding on to.

About twelve months and $60,000 later, I'll have my brand new BMW 2002.

I came by my appreciation and love of the BMW marque honestly. Durham was the home of Miller & Norburn, an internationally respected BMW tuner, Alpina distributor and racing team that at the time (mid '70s) was the only BMW authorized shop that was not a dealer. Durham was BMW Central in the USA at the time.

My ties to the tire industry gave me access to some pretty cool people at M&N... Russ Norburn, who drove the race cars along with Nick Craw, head of the Peace Corp who went on to lead the Sports Car Club of America and now a FIA big wig, I think; Preston Miller, who I never met but would talk to about tires over the phone. He was the engineer of the group; and Tom Bishop, their marketing guy.

There is one fellow I'm forgetting--I cannot for the life of me remember his name--but ironically, he was my go-to guy. He was the head of the M&N shop and took very good care of my 2002 and later my 320i while I was in Durham. A hell of a good guy. With his help we took off all the smog junk from my beautiful red over black 1979 320i and lowered the car with new shocks and springs. We put on a set of 205/60-13 Pirelli P7s and the stance of the car (not to mention the performance) was unbelievable.

Not long after that, my brand new beautiful wife and I drove that Bimmer to California, and I soon had to re-install that smog junk in order to pass CA emission laws. Thank goodness my pal kept the parts and could send them to me. Bummer, not Bimmer.

But back to the Bucket List. I want to ride again in an 02 Bimmer. An esoteric, beautiful and ergonomic Kraut car. The original sport sedan. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. It's a Bucket List thing.


Robert Earl Keen

Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen has a new album and that's all the reason I need to introduce you. The Rose Hotel became available just a day or two ago and is another great effort by this Texas Alt Country Legend.

Often called the Country Music Frat Boy, Robert Earl is an unassuming and laid back soul whose music is appreciated by a wide range of fans--from traditional county aficionados to the college crowd. He's the kind of fellow it would be easy to be best friends with. It's Texas music, often fun, frolicking and raucous, yet as often his songs are flavored with a heavy tinge of...well, read the Paste Magazine review of Rose Hotel and you'll see what I'm driving at.

Now, everything about this review is far less than fair to Keen's talent and place in Texas/folk/alt country music. And there is nothing perfunctory about the song Man Behind The Drums, a tribute to Levon Helms. But read the review anyway (and bookmark Paste Mag if you are into music even a tad).

Then, go to Amazon and listen to all the clips. And buy every damn CD from REK, put 'em on the iPod, slide on your coolest pair of sunglasses and stretch out on the couch listening to them all. Try your best to morph into that rare Texas state of mind that makes anything bearable.

He's written several songs that have become anthems, including The Road Goes On Forever (And The Party Never Ends) and Merry Christmas From The Family, the latter being a send up until after a few listens, when you come to realize just how serious and insightful the song just may be. And somehow close to home, whether that's Kerrville, Texas or the Upper West Side.



Cottage Bacon, Thanks To Food & Fire Blog

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words and when it comes to this mouth-watering delight, it's true. It may look like good old country ham but I think it's going to be better. Sweet and salty. Chewy. Delicious.

You can find the recipe at an interesting food blog I found recently called Food & Fire (where you'll find even more pictures of this bacon!). I'm drooling...

I'll be making a passel of this as soon as the Morton's Sugar Cure arrives in the mail--the Morton's web site tells me nobody stocks it around the Dogpound. Hopefully, you'll not have to wait and can start curin' right away!

It looks fun and simple and involves a pork butt, maple syrup, Morton's Sugar Cure, seven days of agony waiting for the butt to cure and several hours of good ol' smoking in the Webber. Then we fry it (or bake in the oven) and eat!

And put Food & Fire on the favorite blog list, while you're at it.