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.
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.
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!
GM’s announcement this week that it plans to close several assembly plants has me feeling extremely sad for all those affected and I wish them well, and it also has me thinking about some people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had visiting a number of auto factories during my 30 years of covering the industry.
I’ll start with a couple of the doomed GM plants. First, Detroit-Hamtramck. During my 12 years as CNN Detroit Bureau Chief and Correspondent, we visited that giant factory several times, but were only allowed to shoot assembly line footage once. That was in 1989. That stuff had to hold us for a long time because every time we mentioned that plant or GM production workers, that’s all the footage we had. But as you know, things change quickly in the auto industry and the models being built in ’89 weren’t the same as those moving down the line in subsequent years. In fact, we used that stuff so long we wondered if the line worker featured in most of our closeups was still alive. We assumed he wasn’t, and so that stock footage was named “Dead Guy.” When it was time to use the footage in a piece, we’d just mark on the script, or tell the video editor, “Dead Guy.” Yeah..news people can be cruel.
Another GM plant scheduled to close is in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown is a big ol’ plant that specializes in building small cars. Ahead of the 2003 contract talks, I took a ride over to Lordstown to prepare a set-up piece for The Detroit News. Got to the local UAW union hall where I was to interview some of the factory workers about their feelings going into the talks and what they hoped they’d gain from GM. After the formal interview I had a side conversation with one of the older workers due to retire. He mentioned some of the vehicles built over the years at Lordstown including the disastrous Chevy Vega. I told him I had owned a 19474 Vega. The gentleman’s smile quickly disappeared. He clenched his teeth and peered directly into my eyes and his voice took on the tone of someone shocked at hearing of a sudden death in your family as he said, “Ed. On behalf of all the men and women here at Lordstown Assembly, I offer you our deepest apologies.” Apology accepted! We then took a quick moment, started laughing and said in unison, “yeah, what a piece of shit.”
On an assignment to a newer plant down south operated by a foreign automaker I ran into the head of human resources who, at that moment, looked pretty dismayed. The occasion was the Job 1 ceremony for a new pickup truck. I won’t reveal the name of the automaker because my story might cause some heartburn, or at least embarrassment and that’s not my purpose. The plant was fairly new and was still ramping up its staff, including assembly line workers. So I asked the nice HR lady how it was going. She thought for a moment, shook her head and said, in her nice southern accent, “weelll, not so good. Damned idiots forget what they’re doing and keep leaning on the brand new trucks with their stupid belt buckles and scratch ‘em all up!” I asked why they weren’t placing protectors over their buckles as is the practice in every other plant. “Wellll,” she replied, “they say ya cain’t see the pretty buckles if you put ‘em on.” Cain’t argue with dat. And thus the industry’s belt tightening continues.
I love Black Friday. I never buy anything, but I never come home from the stores empty-handed. Or should I say empty-headed, because my noggin’ is chock full of scenes squirreled away as I plow through the crowds of consumers who may as well be wearing camo and greasepaint as if they were hunting for buck Up North.
Let me start with the big, big guy imparting his wisdom to the little, little lady about the early lull before the deluge. “It’s like this,” he said in his best philosopher’s/bullshitter’s voice. “The folks are either regurgitating or recovering (from Thanksgiving).” Too polite to call the lummox on his profound nonsense but not dumb enough to adopt it, she replied, “Must be. Or else they just haven’t yet arrived. It’s still early.” The big guy didn’t realized he’d been owned and mustered a lusty “See?”
It was Def-con 1 at the local Walmart, hours before the official start of Black Friday. The troops scurried to set up crime scene tape from the front clear to the back of the store, delineating the expected lengthy checkout queues. Men and women ran around like SWAT team members, armed with two-way radios, clipboards and earnest faces, ready to intervene during the inevitable wrestling match between customers fighting over the last 99,000-inch TV on sale for $1.50.
I’ll move on to an antique mall in Jackson, Michigan. That’s about 90 minutes west of Detroit off I-94. Somehow we ended up out there because it was a sunny day and it seemed better to take a drive then look for parking spaces at the mall. Now for those unfamiliar with Jackson, it’s main “industry” is home to a group of state prisons. I always thought a catchy little slogan for the town would be, “Making a Living Off Lifers.” Just never caught on. Anyway, we hit two antique malls. At the first, a sprawling one-story affair, a guy kept wandering into every booth we were in. He seemed legit except for him constantly telling us, “I got one of those.” It hurried our pace. We did find a few bargains if you count some old doilies and other stuff made of fabric my wife uses for crafting. There was a pot of free coffee, but it looked like an antique too. I mean..is coffee supposed to be solid?
About a mile away the second place was much bigger. Three floors of old stuff including a can of Liquid Wrench, which looked like the one I still have in my garage. The featured “guest” in this episode was the barrel-chested gray-haired guy wearing a University of Arizona jacket, pushing a stroller that would accommodate two toddlers. Psych! As he pushed the buggy through the tiny aisles I could hear women screeching little baby-waby-cutey-tooty things in voices of such high frequency it would compromise the integrity of bullet-proof glass. Those must be cute babies, I thought. So I waited until the guy made his way towards where we were standing and man, those babies were brothers from another mother…a mother with four legs! They were twin tea cup shitzus! Yeah, they were cute as hell and the guy was cool. We got talking to him because my wife and I are both University of Arizona alumni, which made him instantly cool. Had a nice conversation, gave each other the obligatory “Bear Down!” and moved along. As we thought about it, we figured the guy didn’t really want any antiques. He was one of those folks who wheels around their adorable pets to elicit squeals from others sane people.
I’ll wrap this up with today’s early morning trip to the mall. Wasn’t in the market for anything. It’s just a lousy, rainy day and it’s a place to walk and absorb. The big crowds hadn’t yet arrived, as most of the stores still were not open. What caught me attention was the kid getting the Cinnabon stand ready. The lights were out, but he was near the window so I could see what appeared to be a desperate young person apparently freebasing frosting, perhaps to get that kickstart for what would be a challenging day.
At that point it was time to escape. A nice line of cars followed me to my parking space which I was more than happy to relinquish. I have to admit though. I was a bit surprised at the initial lack of shoppers in the mall. Maybe they were just regurgitating, or recovering.
I hate waking up to idiocy, but today I did. It was a story in the Detroit Free Press discussing so-called “death wobble” in Jeep Wranglers. The story is based on testimonials from some Wrangler owners that if you hit a bump at a high speed the steering wheel will shake. At least the story correctly explains the Wrangler has a solid front axle which is less forgiving than the independent front suspension. The Wrangler is equipped with such an axle because the Wrangler is designed to be a superior off-road vehicle and solid axles perform better than independent front suspensions when a vehicle is taken off road.
What the story doesn’t talk about is the fact that many Wrangler owners should not own one. So I’ll do that. Oh, thousands of folks aspire to a Wrangler because they look cool and when you pass one on the road the driver will often give you a little wave. What anyone who covets a Wrangler must do before buying one is drive one and know it does not, and is not designed to, provide a cushy, comfortable ride. I know. I own a 2013 Wrangler Unlimited Moab Edition. Some members of my family called it the “back breaker,” while others have dubbed it the “jaw rattler.” When I pull up to give them a ride, you can see their faces drop knowing they will be experiencing a journey destined to churn their insides and maybe loosen the change from their pockets. I’ve made a few bucks from all the quarters I find under the back seat!
“Why? Oh why did you buy this shaky buggy?” I’m asked. It’s easy. I like to drive where I like to drive and obstacles, rutted dirt roads and remote two-tracks amuse me. My kayaks look cool when I pop them on top and my skis and hockey gear fit nicely in the back and I can take them wherever the hell I want. I don’t care much about shiny vehicles. I do like to have fun, and mud on the fenders and gook in the tires are evidence I just had some. Floating on air is not my style. I like to feel the road.
I knew this going in. This is my fourth Jeep, but my first Wrangler and the only one I consider an actual Jeep. I drove one around for many miles and the more bumps and dips I felt the bigger my smile got. That Wrangler has more rock and roll than Cleveland and as much soul as Motown.
So if you’re looking for a smooth, comfortable ride, do me a favor. Don’t buy a Wrangler. Let it sit on the lot waiting for someone who appreciates what it is and what it isn’t. Death wobble? Ha! That’s the Wrangler saying “let’s have some fun!”
The other day I had lunch with someone who had been a good source for me. The first thing he said when we sat down was “where ya been? I don’t see you on Facebook anymore!” I could only smile as I replied, “well, I’ve been everywhere…just not on Facebook.” It’s a little sad to think a person would deduce you disappeared from the world just because you disappeared from a social media site. I wasn’t hiding. I just was playing on a different field.
Two years ago I abruptly posted a status update on Facebook that I couldn’t face it anymore and would be hanging up my status-updating spurs. I had a good time for about six years cracking jokes, baiting those on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me to get all upset and silly, catching up with long lost friends, acquaintances and co-workers and using the site to promote this blog. But then it stopped being fun. Good-natured disagreements devolved into bitter rhetoric. It started feeling more like work to keep up with expectations of an unspecified number of funnies, or at least near-misses each day. So I quit. But I’m not gone.
Yes, every once in awhile I’ll lurk and read what’s going on at the CNN Alumni page. Too often it depresses me when I see the latest notice of one of the extended CNN family has passed away. I only actually posted when my very favorite former boss at the network died and offered some personal thoughts. Actually it was a link to a blog post.
Once a year I’m humbled by the number of people who wish me a happy birthday and I attempt to thank each and every one individually. If they took the time, then I can too.
I thought I’d miss it more, but I don’t. Aside from the total time-suck, I’ve made room in my brain for other thoughts and ideas, instead of scanning all sorts of news sites for funnies fodder. Now I read the news…to learn the news. There are enough jokes in government who are walking punchlines. Some deserve to be simply punched.
I still get friend requests. I’m not rejecting you. I’m ignoring you out of respect, because what kind of a friend would “friend” you then never interact with you. I’ll save my ghosts for Halloween.
Will I ever go back? Not a chance. People who need to find me know how. Besides, I don’t trust Facebook with my personal information and if I want to be targeted, I’ll have a bullseye tattooed on my ass. It’d be hard to miss.
And if I do think I came up with something funny, I’ll probably just torture my family or a friend in person. They won’t have to post a comment that says, “wow, that sucked!” They can just tell me face-to-face, and then we’ll pour some Jack on the rocks and have an honest laugh..together..like real friends.