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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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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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