It’s true. Divorce is difficult, heartbreaking, life-changing, expensive. But sometimes, well, it’s just the right thing to do. The relationship has broken down. Trust. Oh, trust. When that’s no longer present, everything else just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. On this day I must reveal I’ve completed the process. I’m OK. Don’t worry. It was my choice and I’m totally good with it. You see, the breakup was years in the making.
We first got together in 2000 when I decided to move on from a previous relationship because I knew I could do better. Was I selfish? Not at all. I dreamed of soft leather caressing my bottom, plus I needed the cargo space and 4×4 ability.
Yes, that 2000 Patriot Blue Jeep Grand Cherokee was my first. We were together for six glorious years. I loaded my first kayak on her roof and rejoiced in checking its status through the moonroof glass. Ah…the boat was still secure. Awesome. Let’s go paddle off a dirt road the Grand Cherokee would have no problem negotiating. But then things took a turn. At 141,000 miles my wife and I smelled smoke coming from the hood as we waited in the customs line to enter Canada from the Ambassador Bridge. The smoke became heavier, my wife considered bailing out for fear the engine would explode. We managed to limp through the line just long enough to clear customs and then, well, she died. It took a tow truck to haul our blue, burnt-out baby back across the border and then another 26 miles to the dealer where mechanics who appeared to have had deep, deep experience, as deep fry cooks said they had patched her back together and charged me $2,000.
A few months later we attempted another border crossing from Ontario into New York State at Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls!!! Yes, our hot-blooded Grand Cherokee repeated the act she pulled the last time we attempted an international crossing. Smoke, heat. But I was able to coax the bitch the last 70 miles of our trip by repeatedly pulling to the side, letter her cool and adding anti-freeze. I was patient. Every relationship has its tough periods.
But how could she do this to us? We took loving care of her, changed her oil regularly, had her regularly inspected, but no good. It was time to end the relationship. I steered her into the nearest Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in suburban Rochester, N.Y. and told the salesman I wanted to trade her in for another Jeep. He couldn’t understand why I just didn’t wait until I returned to Michigan, but I told him my mother-in-law had bought a car at his dealership and was happy, so maybe slip her 50 bucks for a referral fee. Uh..ok. so I drove off with a new silver 2006 Jeep Commander. Jeep love was again in bloom.
Yes, yes, I know, the Commander did not have a successful run but I loved the damned beast. In six years it never disappointed me, except for the fact I got about half a mile to the gallon. When fuel prices rose, it was time for another difficult breakup. But I remained loyal to the Jeep brand. Why? For one, I always dug Jeeps. For two, I worked for the carmaker that built Jeeps for almost 11 years and I got a hefty employee discount. That’s also why I bought my wife a 2009 Jeep Patriot. You see, we were in a very happy three-way. Jeep, my wife and I.
I traded the Commander in for a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab Edition. Totally cool. Gave and got the “Jeep Wave” and received plenty of compliments on the black beauty.
Meanwhile, my wife’s Patriot broke down and it took $2,000 to have it fixed. A few days after paying the ransom at the dealer, my wife reported a funny noise. Back to the dealer. I was told it needed another $2,200 in work. I told him to forget it. That’s when the first move towards divorce occurred. We traded in the Jeep Patriot for, well, something from a competitor. Now there was just one Jeep vehicle in our garage.
Now, only four months since that day, I was on my way home from playing hockey, 25 miles from my house. I heard a whining sound, then the gears stopped meshing and I smelled burning. It was the Wrangler’s last rodeo. Another Jeep. Another tow truck. Another big bill. This time several grand for a new transmission. It was time for the ultimate breakup.
Jeep. You and I are through after a 19 year relationship. The trust. It just isn’t there. I just can’t depend on you anymore. I tried. Damn..I tried! I stuck with you through four models and only one of you actually gave me little trouble. The one you discontinued! My loyalty was not repaid with dependability. You took it for granted. Yes, you look incredible and can drive over and through almost anything…but only for awhile..and then..well..you can’t…won’t. It’s time to move on…under my next vehicle’s own power.
I guess all along it was a Jeep thing. I understood it. Lived it. Loved it. But I could no longer afford it. I’m just happy we were able to settle out of court. I paid that final exorbitant repair bill. My ex-Jeeps got to keep all the parts and service. I got to keep, and use, their incredible trade-in value.
Yes..they say divorce is all about moving on. I look forward to it…without a tow truck.
There’s a line in the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields” that states “nothing is real.” No kidding. The latest blow to tangibility is the move by the Detroit Tigers and many other sports teams and event venues to eliminate real tickets in favor of “mobile tickets.” That, of course, means in order to get in the door or through the gate you have to flash a virtual ticket on your smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone, one, your kids will laugh at you, and two, you’re probably not being rude at dinner by checking your text messages. Oh, three, you can call a number at the box office to reserve your seats, then have to schlep to a ticket window at the venue to have a paper ticket printed out. So convenient.
Me? I like real tickets. Not because I’m a technical Luddite. I just like ticket stubs. I have tons of them and they all mean something to me.
These Yankee Stadium ticket stubs from the 1960’s remind me of great afternoons with my dad and brother making the trek from our home in Queens up to the Bronx. Mickey Mantle played in every one of those games and we enjoyed multiple “dirty water hot dogs” at each one too. The stub on the right were awesome box seats right near the Yankees dugout.
We lived closer to Shea Stadium where the Mets played and went to plenty of games there too. What I always liked about the Met’’s ticket stubs was the sad face of their mascot Mr. Met with his umbrella on the rain check.
Another Shea Stadium stub was for a concert on July 9, 1971 with Humble Pie and Grand Funk Railroad. Rain was threatening to cancel the show with the rain date the 10th. That would have been a problem, because that was the date of my brother’s wedding and I really liked both rock bands. Lucky for all, the rain held off.
I love the ticket stubs for what New Yorkers call the “old” Madison Square Garden. That’s the one before the current, or “new” Madison Square Garden. With our high school ID card we could get in the old barn for Knicks or Rangers games for $1.50-$2.50.
When the “new” Garden opened in ’68, my family had great seats to see the Rangers vs. the Montreal Canadiens. The seats were green.
A couple of weeks before Woodstock my friends and I had the good fortune to land tickets to the famous Fillmore East, where impresario Bill Graham came out on the stage and introduced a new band from San Francisco “making their first east coast appearance.” Santana blew the doors off the place and the weed-whacked crowd demanded several encores. Just think. They were the third-billed of three acts. Three Dog Night was number two with Canned Heat headlining. Those tickets set us each back a fat $3.50–not bad for both a brilliant show and decent contact buzz!
There are so many more, like this one from Resorts International in Atlantic City where my wife, my parents and I saw Rodney Dangerfield melt down when he got no respect from a heckler. They traded f-bombs as the crowd joined the fun and Rodney walked off telling us all to screw ourselves. Instant memory.
My wife and I went to grad school at the University of Arizona the first year the old Pac 8 conference expanded to 10 to include both the UA and Arizona State. All of a sudden we were in the big time. Near the end of our time there, the Arizona Wildcats beat mighty USC and UCLA in successive games..and our stubs prove we were there for both of them.
Another memorable stub from our grad school days was when the Arizona Wildcats faced the California Golden Bears. Quarterback for Cal was John Elway. You can see we got our money’s worth. Not only did we see a future Hall of Famer, we got in for free.
Sure, there were stubs from a Broadway show, Bob Dylan, Chicago and Eagles concerts,
the Grand Ole Opry and the old Schaefer Music Festival concerts in Central Park. Ah..the Schaefer shows. Thousands of buzzed music fans gathering in a converted outdoor skating rink. The two stubs you see here represent a couple of the times my old school buddy and I met after work from our summer jobs in Manhattan. One was to see J. Geils Band, the other was a total surprise. It was supposed to be The Byrds, but then canceled for some reason and a very wasted, but brilliant, George Carlin stepped in. I think we made out pretty well.
I have many, many more, but you get the idea. You may remember events you attended by gaining admittance via ephemeral mobile tickets. If you put your mind to it. But here’s the big difference. You can say you were there. I can prove it.
I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since Tonya Harding’s idiotic posse teamed up to whack Nancy Kerrigan on the knee at Detroit’s old Cobo Arena as she came off the ice after practicing for the U.S. Figure Skating “nationals.” But my brain was similarly whacked into “distant memory phase” by a story in today’s Detroit Free Press marking that event since, for the first time since it happened, the nationals are back in the Motor City, although they’ve moved to the new Little Caesars Arena.
I remember the event because I covered it for CNN. I actually started the day in Lansing, stuffed in a holding room with several dozen other members of the media, awaiting a court ruling related to suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian. At some point a local TV news reporter got an urgent call from her assignment desk. “Holy shit!,” she yelled to the room, “Nancy Kerrigan’s knee got whacked! Who the fuck is Nancy Kerrigan?”
No one answered at first, and then, sheepishly, I had to come clean and inform her Nancy Kerrigan was one of the top U.S. figure skaters. My fellow reporter was not impressed. Remember, this was 1994 and in a room of hardened journalists not known for their personal filters. “Why do you know that?” she hollered at me. “Are you fuckin’ gay?” See? No filter.
“Um, my wife and I kinda follow figure skating, and if this is true it’s a big fuckin’ deal,” I replied. See? No personal filter and reporters like to use the term “fuckin’” a lot.
Moments later, we all got paged, yes, paged (1994). We called the numbers on our little devices and were all ordered by our various news organizations to scramble back to Detroit (90 minute drive) and follow this breaking story.
There wasn’t much to get at first except a few accounts from people who may have been near the scene of the whacking, and get statements from the Detroit Police Department and the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
The next day we covered a news conference held in an area of the concourse Joe Louis Arena, where the actual competition was being held. Nancy Kerrigan would be saying a few words and taking some questions along with her coach and USFSA officials. Before the newser could begin, we almost had another incident to cover that had the potential to be even more cataclysmic than the assault of a prominent figure skater. A still photographer from one of the wire services pulled over a chair that she could step on to get an unobstructed shot of the speakers. At that moment some lackey from ABC attempted to get her to move saying “I’m from ABC and we own this event and you can’t be there so you have to move.” The poor guy didn’t know who he was dealing with. Well known among the Detroit press corp as a no-nonsense shooter, she casually replied with “I’m not moving. This is an open press event and if you come near me I’ll probably kick your skinny ass. Now..I’m working…you fuckin’ (see?) moron.” He disappeared without a word… ostensibly to change his pants.
The news conference was carried live on CNN and my wife was watching. Kerrigan was wearing a blazer with a unique tweedy-checked pattern. When I got home my wife was not happy. “I was gonna buy that same blazer from the Spiegel catalogue. Now I can’t. Everyone will think I’m copying her.”
I think I stayed on the story for maybe a day or two more and then, as CNN is wont to do, moved me to something else. Besides, we had three local affiliates in Detroit who were obsessed with the story and we could always grab stuff from them. This freed me up to be sent all the way to International Falls, Minnesota to do a story on “the coldest town in America.” Turns out that on that day, Detroit was 10 degrees colder. Fuckin’ CNN.
I’ve now endured 28 Detroit auto shows and every one of them was in the context of winter doing what winter does best. This year wasn’t actually horrible as it was only a bit cold. Since it’s January, that’s OK. If the auto show was held in, say, June, as it will be from now on, and the temperatures were in the 20’s and 30’s, that would not be OK.
Personally, I enjoy the winter and secretly took great joy when journalists from warmer climates would crab about having to put up with a bit of snow, ice and that awesome frigid wind off the Detroit River that freeze-dried one’s bodily fluids when stepping from the parking garage to the Cobo entrance.
In 2020 the North American International Auto Show moves to June. We’re told it’ll be bigger with far-flung locations in downtown Detroit, giving attendees more “experiences” outside the Cobo Center walls. That sounds like progress.
But as the show’s last winter run kicked off with media days this week, I couldn’t help leaving the floor for the last time feeling let down. I started covering the show in 1990 for CNN. That was the second year it held the prestigious “international” designation making it one of the world’s major auto shows. Automakers from around the world took the wraps off their new vehicles and, as the auto show organizers liked to crow, attracted “more than 5,000 members of the international media.” It was absolutely show time!
For a few years, we produced hour-long specials for CNN from the floor of the show, and in other years we did any number of recorded pieces and live shots. When I moved to the Associated Press in 2001 I ran around grabbing as many executive interviews as I could to fill the wire and as General Motors beat reporter for The Detroit News did my best to find some scoop that might land on the front page. For almost 11 years I ran the digital communications team for DaimlerChrysler/Chrysler LLC/FCA where we were on the forefront of livestreaming our reveals so the consumer could see, firsthand, our product reveals and interact on social media.
Yes, the show got only bigger and bigger except for the down years of 2008 and 2009 during the recession and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler when vehicle sales caved.
But then it got smaller. Foreign automakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mini, Porsche, pulled out. They said the auto show didn’t serve their “core” markets or were too expensive or myriad of other excuses. The “international” auto show has become a lot less international.
I caught my breath for a second as I approached a black hole on the massive Cobo floor. Instead of a high-tech, interactive display stuffed with shiny new vehicles, I found a dark swath of show floor real estate occupied by food vendors and some older exotic vehicles parked under the banner of a business called Envy Auto Group, which I learned is a Detroit-area dealer that sells very high-end pre-owned vehicles. Huh? But something had to fill the space once occupied by the automakers that abandoned Detroit. That black hole drilled a hole in my heart as I knew the Detroit show had regressed dangerously close to its old days as a regional event.
As I’m semi-retired and right now filing just a few stories a month for Forbes.com, I’m not certain I’ll be on the beat when the North American International Auto Show returns in June, 2020. At the least, I will probably attend the show not only out of curiosity but out of love for an industry that remains one of the most dynamic, fun, important and confounding in the world.
My real hope is the automakers who froze out Detroit these last few winters, will warm up to the idea of returning to the Motor City…a city that sits on the banks of an international border, and whose International auto show offers a valuable showcase in the town that lives and breathes that ever-changing, wonderful invention called the automobile–in every season.
Media previews are starting for the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit, and I’m about to cover my 47 billionth auto show. This time, however, I may lose track of who I am, why I am, or what I’m doing. You see, this is the first time I’ll be schlepping my laptop, wearing ugly, but comfortable shoes and trying desperately, as a short-American, to breach the wall of unreasonably taller reporters at scrums aimed at dragging a usable quote from an auto executive who would honestly rather score a free cuppa cappuccino from a competitor’s stand–all as an enterprising freelance person, in two very separate roles.
My purple badge says I’m attached to SMDI, which is the Steel Market Development Institute–a client of Franco PR agency where I’m a freelance “integrated media consultant.” The SMDI has a rather large display on the Cobo Center concourse. If you’re there and stop by, it’s my alta cocker voice booming from the speakers voicing over some excellent videos produced by Franco explaining why advanced high-strength steel is the best material for both current and future vehicles, most notably, autonomous cars and trucks. Oh, I also lent my voice to the very, very cool virtual reality experience that takes you through steel’s case. At the North American International Auto Show, I’ll be assisting in creating new videos the client may find useful in the future. I love working with Franco’s team since they’re young, energetic, talented and no one, yet, has said to me, “so what’s the old man consultant think? Still awake? Huh?”
If I flip over my badge, ta da! It turns green! Now I’m a journalist! The…MEDIA! I’ll be contributing stories to the Forbes.com “transportation” page. I’ll revert to how I made a living during the bulk of my career, pad and pen in hand, curiosity dialed up way past 11 covering one of the most fascinating, fast-moving, competitive beats in the world. But I’ll have to be careful. If an automakers says something about steel..uh oh…I can’t write about that. The purple side of my badge will be at odds with the green side. “Oh boy,” he purple side will say. “We’ve got a great story to tell. Too bad you can’t write about it. That must kill you!” The green side will take a breath, nod, in its own cute little way and agree, saying “Not ethical I couldn’t possibly write about an industry that’s also paying you to promote it.” Purple is sympathetic. “Yeah..you’re just a retired guy who can’t stand acting like a retired guy. So be strong..like, er..steel!” Green is not bent by its dilemma. “Ethics is ethics. Thanks for your support,” he tells purple. “Now flip yourself over!”
It’s gonna be a long week. But hopefully, by the end of it, I’ve done my one job to help promote steel from behind my purple badge, but also proved my journalistic mettle from behind my green badge…upholding the ethical canon that you can wear different colors to play different roles but when it comes to being ethical and honest you can’t change your stripes.
My house backs up to an area of trees too small to be an actual forest but way too large to be called a copse of trees. I have now achieved a long-deferred goal–using “copse of trees” in a sentence. Thank you for your indulgence even though none of you had any input, nor did I seek any.
Having, let’s say, a big, big, big bunch of trees to look at every day is a mixed blessing. On one hand, trees are wonderful, they provide shade, beauty and a place for wildlife to hang out. On the other hand, my entire property is inundated with billions of freakin’ leaves. They get into every available space the way beach sand ends up in every bodily crack. Like millions of other homeowners I rake ‘em, blow ‘em, mulch ‘em and simply deal with the dead vegetation but unlike many homeowners who do not live near such a high volume of nature’s litter bugs, the leaves never seem to stop falling or mystifyingly transport themselves on a puff wind to my exact place in life.
The leaf thing is supposed to be one of those rites of fall. But here it is, January, and I found myself breaking out the blower on a gorgeous sunny day, for the sole purpose of propelling those bastard stragglers back into the woods where they make a useful contribution by eventually decomposing to create new soil.
Things were going along fine when a neighbor decided her two identical little white poodles would use my front yard as public restroom. Sure. Happens all time. That’s what dogs do. But these particular pampered puffs just pissed me off while they were enjoying their own little piss. For no apparent reason, they just started yapping and jumping around and spreading their pee into the wind’s lee. At that point I hoped the owner would take control and move her menagerie along. No such luck. I then was compelled to dream up some proactive tactics to end the situation. My blower being a corded electric device, I could have spread some peanut butter on the power cable, perhaps luring the annoying, peeing, jumping yappers to take a bite which would result in a rather convincing shock, thereby creating a positive Pavlov’s Dog-type cause/effect.
But then I discovered, rather by accident, a much more fun solution. While I had my blower, blowing, I turned to look at a car passing by and, just by dumb luck, it was the same direction as the poodle piss party and the blower sent the offenders flying! Neither the owner nor the pups were amused but I believe I may have the grin it generated plastered on my puss until at least next Thursday.
I do enjoy yard work on a sunny winter day..especially when it includes testing the aerodynamics of a four-legged nuisance taking a leak..on my now leaf-less lawn.
This time of year I look neither behind nor ahead. I look forward to the black hole known as the week between Christmas and New Years. Many folks use the week to take a nice vacation, escape winter or embrace the season and ski or sled or skate or roll around in the snow doing their spastic squirrel routine, which often follows ingesting many ounces of Yukon Jack.
For those of us who remain home, the holiday interregnum is a time to take a look around our houses, take in all the seasonal stuff we plastered everywhere, consider, in our case, both the tree and the menorah, and saying to ourselves, “holy crap. We have to put it all away.” It’s imperative to strip one’s abode of all signs of celebration by New Years Day, lest we be labeled “Holiday Lingerers.” You know who you are. Those people who leave their Christmas lights on their houses past Easter. Guess what? The Easter bunny doesn’t appreciate being greeted by another holiday’s gear. Not only does it piss him off, he swaps out chocolate eggs for ones made of nasty carob. That’s putting all your dregs in one basket!
For those of us who also celebrate Passover, a tardy decoration takedown yields a knock at the door from an incredulous Elijah the Prophet who testily asks, “what? you couldn’t get that schmuck Morty to move your holiday chazerei?”
During normal times when we don’t have lunatic as President there’s not much news to follow either. The POTUS and family go somewhere warm, members of Congress try to remember where they actually live and the government is basically shut down..because employees are on vacation…not locked out of their jobs because the Prez is taking a Twitter tantrum, telegraphing to the world he is, in fact, dumber than any episode of any TV show involving Tom Arnold.
I normally use the week to sort my stacks of Post-it notes, doing a jigsaw puzzle that makes a picture of air, and asking family members to fill in the blank for the sentence: “When I look at my ass in a mirror it reminds me of _________.” That’s a perennial favorite and generally elicits hilarious responses such as “Trump’s head with no hair,” “Two Half Harvest Moons,” and “New Hampshire and Vermont… if their edges were a little more rounded.” I can’t wait to hear this year’s responses. Don’t worry. I won’t share them with you…unless you beg. My readers always come first.
I try not to think about work, which is easy, since I’m mostly retired. My two freelance gigs are fun, don’t take a lot of time and I work from home, which means no office gossip or backbiting. I did, however, spread a rumor about myself to the Walter White bobble-head on my desk that I tried to steal pens and Scotch tape from my wife’s desk. I could swear it warned me to “tread lightly.” Scared the crap out of me.
We don’t do anything on New Year’s Eve anymore because, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of old years become new years and, well, all it means is now I have to trash all my calendars and replace them with new ones. Frankly, it makes me sad to say goodbye to my “Pithy Marcel Marceau Quotes Day-By-Day” calendar. But now I can look forward to the “2019 Reasons to Rejoice the End of The Big Bang Theory” calendar. I looked ahead. January 1st? “Don’t have to go to shrink anymore to try to un-see Sheldon and Amy having sex.”
But that’s all just me. I wish you all a wonderful 2019. Now take down that tree!