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Sometimes The Apple Falls Down Far From The Tree

People don’t know this about me, but I come from a family of academics. My father is a university professor of sociology and my mother is a poetess. All my life I‘ve been surrounded with people that loved discussing “deep” ideas or what have you, but I never really took interest in books and abstract discussions. It was simply not for me. There’s a saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but not in my case. If my father is the tree, then I fell under and probably rolled far away from his shadow. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, but their life path was obviously not for me. People sometimes make fun of me saying that I am adopted, but if you look at my father, we are physically very alike. By the way, my parents are really supportive of my passion for cars, all they ask from me is to drive safely.

That’s not the only difference between us. For instance, I am a very practical person who always wants to have solutions to technical problems in the house or the garage. My father, for example, is technically illiterate. Every time there’s a problem in the house, my mother comes to me first, then I go to my father. Really funny dynamics. For instance, we had a problem with the water heater at home, and I was the one who made all the necessary research for the best solutions. My father is simply lost in this kind of situation. He just says yes to whatever we think is the best. In the end, we went with this solution.

It’s the same with their car, whenever they have a problem I’m the one they ask for help. I really don’t know where this love for mechanics came to me. Certainly not from my parents. I remember the first time I entered a garage full of equipment. The first thing I remember was the smell of oil. From that moment on, I was really interested in cars. Especially how they move and how they are assembled. Actually, the first time I was in a garage was with my father, so maybe, in the end, it’s his fault that I don’t like the philosophical debates. 

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I’ll be Able to Feel my Fingers and Toes!

I love working on my car when I want to relax or recharge—it works both ways. I have an old Dodge Charger that you would think has seen better days. Not so. There is still some life left in this hearty vehicle and I spend many hours in a cold garage making sure it will live to see another day. No one knows this make and model better than me. It is my pride and joy and I suffer in the winter in a frigid work space to keep up with repairs. Why not use a space heater, you ask? Well, I do have one. I am a little leery of heating devices near open cans of oil. I imagine a huge blast one day when everything, including the beloved Charger, goes up in flames. I have nightmares about it. It is etched in my brain.

Needing to resolve my fear and still stay warm, I have contemplated various ways to heat the garage by putting in a new floor. Modern bathrooms have radiant heat so why not a well-worn two-car garage. It might be a bit fancy for this area, but if I put it in myself, it would be cost effective. It is safe according to the product reviews and people seem to be very happy with it. I welcome the opportunity to work longer hours in cold weather and being able to feel my fingers and toes. Heavy socks have never done the trick, even the wool ski version. Mittens or work gloves get in the way of fine tuning an auto. No, the floor is definitely the answer. It won’t be long.

You can buy supplies to install a radiant floor yourself at The site explain how it works and why it is a great alternative to traditional heating methods. The heat produced comes from the floor without ugly visible components. It is a comfortable surface that is also noise free. No one will hear me clomping around in the wee hours of the morning. I won’t wake up my wife or that testy neighbor. It takes some skill and you need to know the difference between electric and hydronic systems. I only have heard of the first type that uses cables or mats. The other involves hot water passing through a special tubing. Then you must deal with possible rust.

People have mixed opinions about what is best in the long run. I will need a consultant to be sure. I need something that can be installed in a cement foundation. I don’t have to worry about a subfloor in the garage. No matter what I end up with, I am going to be toasty warm this winter while I work on the Charger. I haven’t been comfortable in years. I love that the floor won’t make sounds like a radiator or other hot air system. I love to work in peace!

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Doctor’s Orders

I am not used to going to the doctor for an annual physical or taking care of my health before illness strikes. I take it for granted that I will go on and on in fine shape; and so far, this has been the case. I don’t read medical articles in print or online and I don’t seek advice from friends, family, or neighbors. As much as people like to talk about their ailments and fabulous physicians, I am indifferent at best. I believe in the power of work to keep your mind active and your body fit. The more you move around refurbishing that old car or sorting your junk, the better for your musculoskeletal system. I believe in natural health. Go about your daily life, play a few sports with the guys, and walk to the store instead of driving. This is the recipe for longevity to be sure. I am not into yoga, meditation, or other stress busters. I don’t get stress if I can go about my business.

I did go to the eye doctor, however, as I was having trouble focusing and it was really the first time. I had everything checked out and for the most part it was fine, but the ophthalmologist advised me to protect my vision by wearing sunglasses more often. I was not at all in the habit and don’t have a proper cycling pair for when I ride my bike. He said the intense glare of the sun as you ride in the direction of the light will take its toll on the eyes. You can get eye fatigue, eye strain, and reduced vision.

Okay, okay I said. I will certainly be more attentive. The eyes I know are precious and once the damage is done, it is often too late. It wasn’t that dire just yet, but I was on a spree to find the coolest cycling sunglasses I could. If I am going to wear specs, they might as well be stylish. Now it is a matter of design and shape, color and texture, and shade of the lenses. The choices are overwhelming and it comes down to comfortable fit and the amount you want to spend for extra good looks. I am willing to fork over however many dollars it takes to look the part of a cyclist. If I have to succumb to wearing glasses at all, I am going to do so willingly on my own terms.

When I first showed up at a friend’s house wearing the cool new cycling glasses, she was nonplussed by my new image. It wasn’t like the usual unadorned me. She professed to really like my choice and hoped I would be consistent and wear them all the time, on or off the bike. There is something about sunglasses that sharpen your looks, no matter what you are wearing. I am even thinking of a second pair just in case I lose or break the originals. I will select something different so I can be whoever I want on a given day. What fun.

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That time I nearly killed myself

I am a mechanic and obviously handy with my hands so I like to do things myself, never by hiring a professional. If something mechanical is broken, and it doesn’t have to be a car, I can fix it. Some people are that versatile and I like to think that I am one of them. Some things like a refrigerator or a stove may be beyond my capabilities, but frankly they never break down in my house so I have yet addressed the question of whether or not I can do it. If they did stop functioning, I might say to myself, “stick with cars.” But right now, I am waiting for the chance to prove I have the skills to be a Mr. Fixit around the house and yard. Not many frankly have the time or inclination. Some things are a real challenge and require some research and a little help from an expert. Then I am on my own and give it a go. But there was that one time that I nearly killed myself. I am referring to wracking my brain for the right knowledge.

The latest think to go on the fritz in my environment was the above ground pool cleaner. I have a nice pool in my backyard and it is easy to keep clean with this device. When it broke, I knew it was for good and no repair job was going to fix it. It would be like putting Scotch tape on a leaking faucet. Sometimes you have to buy something new. The pool vacuum was not an expense I wanted to make. I thought that I could build one myself. It looked like a fairly simple device. The problem was that I had no instructions. So I took apart the broken vacuum and went to the hardware store to buy comparable parts. I also had to go to the pool supply company several miles away to supplement. It was a lot of running around. Why on earth did I start this project. But I was on a roll.

I got the brochure for the broken pool vacuum and could determine from operation instructions how to put things together. It was all about a tiny motor and a suction device. It was like those mini robots you see in houses except that it was for a pool. It looked like it was swimming about on its own. How did it find the right direction? It had some kind of navigation device. I started to flounder. This is the part where I say I was killing myself. I had to use my ingenuity for sure. I sat for hours analyzing the old parts to determine how this thing propelled itself. After a few attempts, I got the new vacuum built and the motor was fine. The suction was perfect. It took a day more to get the directional part solved, but finally I did it. You might say it is the magic of trial and error.

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Finding a Needle in a Haystack

I have been busy as a bee working on my old Dodge Charger—I am of course a mechanic. I love the trade and look for opportunities to help myself and other people. There is always something that goes wrong with older cars and you need to constantly search for parts. Some are hard to find and they come from all over the world if they are rare. These tough-to-locate entities tax my patience but it is a doable task online. People avail themselves of various sites that appeal to mechanics and auto collectors alike. Some antique stores like the ones shown on the cable TV show American Pickers have plenty to choose from. The guys on the show specialize in what they call transportation Americana and this means motorcycles and cars for the most part. The owners can find a needle in a haystack so you can rely on them to have or get what you want.

After a hard search for parts for a friend’s old car, I made the repairs for which he was eternally grateful. Thanks are good enough for me but he insisted in giving me a gift of a small inflatable boat. It can be used for fishing on a lake or perhaps for water recreation for kids on a river or in the ocean. It is uncomplicated but well-made and very durable. It is easy to inflate with an air pump and deflate by opening the valve. I will be able to store it easily when folded. I have just the spot in the garage amid all my own parts and the Charger.

All the neighborhood kids want to borrow the boat. Most can use it now in the backyard pool. They sit in it and row about and can even eat and drink while floating. It is rather cute when filled with happy youngsters. I will perhaps try it out soon myself; not sure where. I have a river camping trip looming in the distance and this might be a good time. Yes, it is small but I will be happy to ride alone. It is relaxing and I can listen to some music and enjoy a few snacks and a few beers. I will float in the scenic surroundings of the river and then return to my campsite for a fire-cooked meal. I love outdoor activities and the inflatable boat gives me one more option. I can lie back and view the azure sky and puffy white clouds above. The boat can hold two people if they are of normal weight and size. There might not be oodles of leg room but there are cushioned seats so your feet will hit the boat floor. I am appreciative of the thoughtfulness of my friend and for selecting such a clever gift. He knows what I like and found the perfect thank you present. I have some photos of me in the boat to show him.

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Beatin’ the Heat

I am an auto mechanic and long-time, true car show enthusiast in Dallas, Texas. My old Dodge Charger is my pride and joy. Needless to say it gets the bulk of my free time and attention. Give me a couple of hours on the weekend to do the job. Restoring and maintaining it is my passion. With all that I have done to it, it is now a luxury car end to end. It has every accoutrement it requires to be authentic. There is a great joy in working with classic cars that is like no other. If you have one, you are a fellow traveler—so you know the score. We share the same spirit. Caring for them is a challenge and requires a certain skill that you learn over time as you enhance the restoration. Join the fun and give it a whirl. Ordinary cars give me no great satisfaction. Anyone can give them a new shine or set of wheels. I go for the kinds of cars you see at classic car shows so I can admire the handiwork of others. I approach the owners with intensity and ask a lot of questions. I learn how this and that were done to such perfection. It is a mutual admiration society.

There is nothing that draws me in faster than a local car show. I am never absent You never know what you may find. If you are lucky there will be some gems. Maybe not on a par with my Dodge Charger, however, but eye-catching nonetheless. I attended a recent show a while back on a particularly hot summer day. I was loath to fry in the intense heat of the penetrating sun. I took a beach canopy with me and set it up like a tent for protection. I am sure it looked a bit odd. “Think it’s the beach,” smirked one passerby. “Need some sand?” said another. It was all in good fun since the canopy was meant for the sandy terrain of the shore. What got protected was the Charger, not just me.

So I set up my little encampment and went about safeguarding the Dodge’s shiny new coat of paint. This was my home base as I wandered about the car show looking for special attractions. I checked out all the cars that met my specifications of interest and then returned to check out the Charger and make sure it was still intact. I was pleased to see so many people gathered about it under the shelter of the canopy. It lured the sun avoiders and let them get a closer look. The canopy was a kind of frame for the car and set it off from the rest of the car show entrants. The car is a lure in itself in any case and never fails to gather a following. I am thrilled they can relate to my handiwork. I get a lot of pride from their praise.

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Shop Protection

It was a lazy January afternoon and the bad weather had abated for a while. A few of the mechanics in the shop were taking a short break outside while others were finishing up some last minute jobs. It would be closing time in two hours and we are looking forward to going home.

Suddenly you could hear the screech of tires and the crash of metal. It came out of nowhere and jarred our souls. The quiet of the shop was rudely broken. A rogue car was in our midst. It hit the side of the shop because it was going too fast to stop on a dime.

Two masked gunmen emerged from the smoking auto. They waved pistols in the air and we froze in our tracks. One of the men addressed the working mechanic nearest them and mumbled something about the safe. Cash was all we could make out. We mustered the courage to respond and tried to calm the jostled men’s nerves before they started shooting. They seemed out of control and desperate. No doubt on drugs.

Manny, one of the mechanics, went into the office and approached the safe. He knew it didn’t contain much cash as this was not the nature of our business. Would the gunmen retaliate? Would they be angry and incensed? We feared for our lives. He got an idea. He asked each of us to pool our cash and then threw it aggressively at the robbers. This is all we got, he stammered. They looked at him aghast. Crashing their car and committing a felony for a few hundred dollars!

One of the gunmen grabbed the cash, looked into the safe to retreat a few hundred more, and made a bee line to the car. Miraculously it started and they sped off. No one moved for several minutes. We caught our breaths.

In broad daylight such violations can and do occur. It is brazen to be sure. We all discussed the matter and felt that investing in a small gun safe was in order and several small firearms to go in it. We assigned the job of purchasing appropriate weapons to Alec and the gun safe to Joe. We had to do something about employee protection. A medium size model bolted to the office wall would be a visible deterrent in the future we hoped. Plus, in the event of another invasion, we might be able to access the guns fast. We needed a quick way to open the unit and decided on fingerprint recognition. We would program the safe to accept any of our fingerprints. This would make it speedier than trying to turn a dial or press a keypad.

Robberies are scary business indeed, especially armed. For this reason we felt it appropriate to take immediate action. We did not want to face a similar situation in the future without some type of protection. It wasn’t just about the money. It is easy to part with it when facing the nozzle of a pistol. It is about the employees’ lives and well-being. We intended to be completely ready for the next possible onslaught.

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The Worst of Car Shows

No one wants to think that they’re going to get things stolen out of their cars when they just want to show them, but it is the sort of thing that can happen. When dealerships have cars outside for display, they don’t leave anything outside that can be easily stolen. You’re probably not going to find anyone who will try to steal your actual car at a car show. Most car thieves are more savvy than that.

However, at least try to remember that they’ll still try to steal anything that they can run away with. Car thieves frequent car shows for that reason, since they know that they’ll probably be catering to a crowd of people that is trained to expect the best. It’s also not impossible to get your car stolen at car shows, either, especially at the end of the day when people are packing up to leave. Just don’t operate on the assumption that it will never happen to you. Use a parking brake and make sure it will never happen to you.

Now me personally, I’ve never had anything stolen at a car show. I have had my car scratched before, though. It wasn’t a serious scratch, but I still tend to try to stop people from touching the car unless I’ve spent at least two seconds vetting them and confirming that they’re not kids and they’re not obvious troublemakers. It’s not a foolproof system, but I haven’t had my car scratched again. Seriously, if an owner tells you not to touch the car, especially if he or she is polite about it, you’re probably not dealing with a curmudgeon. You’re just dealing with an owner who’s been burned over a car scratch.

Okay, this next one isn’t as bad as having your car burgled or scratched, but it’s still pretty annoying: people who won’t stop taking pictures in the most aggressive way possible. You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal anymore thanks to the Internet. Can’t they just look at the pictures that appear online? No, it’s only gotten worse today. Everyone has a camera on their smartphones, and they figure that they can and should do anything to get a picture.

I mean, I love it when people take pictures of my car. If you’re literally elbowing people out of the way in order to get a good shot, though, you’ve officially gone too far. If you go further than that, then you need to be escorted off the premises. I’ll be around to do that personally. You’re a car enthusiast: you’re not working for the tabloids.

I love car shows enough that even getting all of this on the same day wouldn’t dissuade me from going to them all the time, whenever they were in town. However, I want to prepare people for what to expect from the very worst of all car shows. I also want to warn the people who engage in these sorts of behaviors that we’re on to you, and we know what to expect.

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Things To Keep in Mind When You’re Buying a Classic Car

I love classic cars as much as the next car enthusiast. They’re just so different from modern cars under the hood and on top of the hood. You won’t meet many car enthusiasts who don’t have a favorite era when it comes to classic cars or don’t have favorite specific cars in mind. If you’re a car enthusiast and you actually have the financial resources to acquire classic cars instead of just gazing at them admiringly at a car show, then I envy you. I’m also going to give you some important advice here and now.

For one thing, a lot of people are worried about the insurance premiums that they’re have to deal with when driving classic cars or owning classic cars. Classic cars were not built with modern safety standards, so it might stand to reason that the insurance rates for them are going to be higher. This is going to vary a lot, but insurance rates are actually pretty low for classic cars.

We don’t drive them all that often, unlike the minivan that you drive to work every day. We also tend to put more effort into maintaining them, in sharp contrast to the car whose oil hasn’t been changed for a while because you just keep putting it off, and you figure that the mechanics are just exaggerating about it anyway. I promise you that we’re not. However, you probably treat your classic car differently. One way or another, your insurance shouldn’t be too high, so you should be suspicious if that is not the case.

Your insurance rates aren’t the problem when it comes to classic cars: storage is the problem. Where are you going to park your beauty? My Dodge Charger has its own honored place in the garage. I’d shell out for a storage facility if I didn’t have the space. Do you have the space? Can you pay a storage facility? Can you afford to have an additional garage space installed and put together, not to mention maintained? These are all important questions to ask prior to buying your classic car, as much as you might love it.

You should also make sure that you know how to work on it or maintain it, or that you know a mechanic who can do it for you. I can tell you that some younger mechanics just don’t have a lot of experience on anything made before 1970, and 1970 is an ancient date for some of them. There are mechanics that more or less specialize in classic cars, and you should find one of us.

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The Right Car Show Attitude

I like to think of car shows as a bonding experience. We’re all there to share in our love of these fine machines. We want to appreciate the cars of others, and we want to learn about them. We’re not just interested in the ride. We want to learn about the specs.

Car shows are educational. They’re not just visual. I think going to car shows all these years has been a huge part of my education as an auto mechanic in fact, and I would have loved to go to more of these in trade school.

Car shows shouldn’t just be competitive. The competitive part is just for fun, like trivia quizzes at fan conventions. We’re all car enthusiasts together, and we’re not trying to have fun at the expense of others. I think drivers in general get too competitive these days. We’re always trying to race each other on the road at one level, even though the public roads with lots of other cars are pretty much the worst places to race.

If you’re really competitive and you love cars, stick to NASCAR. I love NASCAR too, but car shows are different. They’re not about watching your opponents crash. You want them and their cars to be okay and you want everyone to have a good time.

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Don’t Invest in a Classic Car: Love It


A classic car is not a wise financial investment. If you’re getting the car because you love it, great. If I ever had the money, you bet that I would have a garage full of cars like these, and I would be working on them all the time in order to bring them into the next century. However, you can’t count on them becoming steadily more valuable over the course of this century. A car is not a mutual fund.

The value of almost any good is based on what someone else is willing to pay for it. It’s possible that you’ll find someone in fifty years who wants to buy your classic car for exponentially more money. However, you will probably be selling the car at a loss even then, thanks to the powers of inflation. Financial investments can correct for those awesome inflation powers. Investments in goods really do not work that way.

Keeping in mind the fact that lots of people have bought classic cars and treated them like investments instead of prized possessions, it shouldn’t surprise you that a lot of people are going to try to scam you when you’re in the market for a cool new classic car. In fact, if you’re trying to sell your classic car and turn a profit at one point, this may be the sort of tactic that you will have to resort to if you’re not careful.

You should know the market value of the car that you want to purchase going in, or you are going to end up with a car that is way too expensive. Unless you really want the car so much that you’re willing to pay ten times what it’s worth in some cases, you need to do all of your homework.

Honestly, speaking as an auto mechanic, I say that you should get the classic car that’s falling apart, and then take it to a mechanic who loves old cars and knows old cars like the back of his or her hand. They’ll give you the resale value that you want, if that is what you want. They can also give you the car that you want, and that should be more important to you if you are getting a classic car in the first place. There are better investments out there than classic cars. As for possessions, though, it is really hard to beat a classic car.

Naturally, the biggest cost involving classic cars is the cost of the acquisition in the first place. The dealers or the original owners know that they have to make each and every sale count, and you better believe that they’re going to try to exploit each and every sale for all that it is worth. As a mechanic, all that I can say is that you’re better off spending a comparatively small amount of money here, and then paying your trusty auto mechanic to restore the car to its former glory. You’ll be that much more likely to get the car that you really want, and you will be less likely to ultimately operate at a loss.

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What Not to Do At Car Shows

I’m going to level with you: I love car shows. I go to as many car shows as I can. I’ve managed to win prizes at car shows before. I believe that my car show etiquette is above reproach. Sure, so do most people, but lots of people don’t even know that there really is such a thing as car show etiquette. They think that anything goes at car shows, and I want to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

Sure, the owners of the cars might not actually say how much they hate you, but I promise that if you do any of what I’m about to describe, they do hate you. They probably hate whomever you came with, too, especially the kids that you let crawl all over their cars.

That brings me to my first point: it’s okay to bring your kids to car shows. I like kids. Lots of car lovers like kids. Getting your kids interested in cars early in life is cool, since they’re all going to be driving later in life and it’s good if they get interested enough to work on their own cars someday, especially daughters. We need more woman car fans.

However, if your kids are crawling on owners’ cars, or worse, defacing them in some way, you really shouldn’t be upset when the owners tell them to leave. You also shouldn’t start arguments with the car owners about the rights of children in public spaces and whether there are things that children just ‘need’ to do in order to express their individuality. I don’t understand why your kid’s intellectual development hinges on scratching my car. I guarantee that no other car owner will either, including the parents.

My next point is really different, but I still have to make it. We all go to car shows hoping to see the coolest car, but the concept of the coolest car is going to vary from one person to the next. We can all agree that some cars are more expensive than others, though, and you should really keep that in mind before you decide to bring your Mercedes to a car show that is full of much less expensive cars. If your car is going to make the rest of us look good, bring it. If it will make the rest of us look bad, don’t.

There are plenty of car shows for luxury cars: show your car there and don’t try to upstage my Dodge Charger, which is a luxury car to me, anyway.

By the way, as much as I love my Dodge Charger, I don’t talk about how it’s better than every other car on the planet. I mean, that would be rude. I also don’t want to leave myself open to the inevitable criticism from someone who is convinced that he or she has a much better car than me. I’m trying to set a good example for other car show participants, because this sort of behavior is everywhere at car shows.

You have people who won’t stop talking about how great their cars are, and they don’t care about appreciating anyone else’s. You wonder why they’re even at a car show at all. They should just be home polishing their own cars until the finish starts to wear off and they need a re-spray. I think we should all encourage them to do just that.

It’s no secret that car shows have a tendency to attract people, especially men, who are really macho and really obnoxious. With no disrespect to Texas, we get a whole lot of that in this state. If you’re revving your engine a lot and trying to look as cool as possible and dressing like the Fonz, you’re a poseur. People will see you that way. Not everyone at the show is going to be young. Some of us got out of this phase a long time ago. Some of us also know that the Fonz is a pretty dated character now, too. Keep that in mind, and you’ll probably want to be as conventional as the rest of us.

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