Tagged: observations

In Defense of Us Older White Guys

biden_token

Ever since Joe Biden jumped into the POTUS race I’ve heard a lot of talk to the tune of “oh crap, just an older white guy.” So I got to thinking. I’m not as old as Amtrak Joe but I’m chugging along in my late 60’s which means I’m probably considered an older white guy too– among younger white guys and their ilk.

Politics aside, I’m here to defend us older white guys…and even older non-white guys, because, well, they may have a shade of white, on top of their heads or in their facial hair. So we’re all brothers in ageism, right?

I read that some younger workers are unhappy with us older guys because many of us are still working–gumming up the corporate ladder for the young pups who want a bigger office and bigger paychecks. I actually retired from full-time work three years ago, but I work a couple of freelance gigs because, in both cases, those businesses came to me seeking someone with, uh, seasoning, aka, actual skills and experience. Not one of them said, “even though you’re an older white guy, we’ll hire you anyway.” Or, “even though we probably have enough older white guys on staff who we wish would finally hang it up so we can have more lower-paid younger white guys on the payroll, we’ll make an exception for you.”

Nope, as I said. They reached out to me, which is extremely flattering and not bad for the self-confidence–especially when my birth certificate blares, “Hey Ed! You’re a freakin’ older white guy!”

I like to think they came to me because they appreciate what I’ve accomplished during my career in journalism and corporate communications, along with what skills I have that might be helpful to them. In both cases, that’s exactly what they told me, and that’s a pretty nice feeling. I wasn’t ready to be a full-time retiree anyway. I ran into another sort-of retired journalist yesterday I hadn’t seen in a long time and we compared notes about freelancing–not for the money, but because it keeps our gray matter, mattering, and because what we do is just so much fun. “It’s impossible to just hit that off switch,” he said. So true. You just don’t have to slam that switch all the way to 11, as we did during our full-time work days.

There’s a lot to be said about institutional knowledge and overall experience. Aside from the obvious, they can provide valuable context and judgment along with a few tricks that  could be helpful to developing younger workers early in their career journeys.

One thing I love about working with younger people is it works both ways. I learn a lot from them too and that keeps me sharp and current. They also know all the good coffee places that aren’t Starbucks and I act like I’m hip by putting on my best Billie Eilish voice, going around the office telling the Millenials and Gen Z’s “I’m a Bad Guy!” billiee

So don’t write off us older white guys. Sure, it’s great, and entirely necessary, to bring along younger talent, but we’re still in the game. Maybe not playing the field, but we have enough in us to at least be designated hitters who can still sock a homer once in awhile.

Now I’m not advocating for Joe. But I’m also not Biden my time. Just watch out. At age 67, I still play ice hockey with much younger hot shots every week. I’m by far the oldest guy in the game. I’m a bit slower than those “kids” in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, but I’m still a pain in the ass and even score once in awhile. Yeah, this older white guy is still in game, and don’t even try to send me to the bench…I can still yank your balls with my stick.

Advertisements

Tearing Down Re-Building

detroitchampdroughtfreep

The other day I got a ping on my phone from that it has now been 11 years since any Detroit major league sports team had won a championship. There are several reasons for a team’s inability to win the big prize: bad luck, better opponents and, ah, yes…they’re re-building.

What does that mean exactly? The prevailing definition is the team must suffer some fallow years while young, inexperienced players learn the ropes, gain some seasoning and maybe one day will develop into key elements of a championship team.

SPORTS-BBA-TIGERS-YANKEES-SUSPENSIONS-MSWhat does it really mean?  It means your team will suck for an extended period of time because the owners of the team offloaded talented, but high-priced players to avoid busting through the salary cap or simply to save some dough, leaving less expensive over-the-hill scrubs or not ready for the show minor leaguers filling out the roster. Then management crosses their fingers hoping a couple of those kids can quickly morph from newbie to MVP just long enough to win it all. Then it starts all over again. The kids become talented men who know how to play, want either want bigger contracts or test the free agent waters for even more money, so the owners dump ‘em and it’s time to, uh, re-build again.

All this time the tone-deaf owners expect us to pay inflated, major league prices to attend minor-league level games and then wonder why the stands are so empty the vendors can be seen huddling in corners mumbling to themselves, “what am I gonna do with all these goddam hot dogs?” Easy. Beg the owners to stage more “Bark in the Park” nights when hungry bowsers will gladly relieve them of their unsold sausages.

Bottom line is, they’re not doing it right. The whole idea of the minor league system is to constantly develop younger talent that is ready for the big time as the veterans begin to falter or retire. Other positions are filled in through savvy trades and sensible free agent signings. The whole process  should be a gradual and constant but that’s not what’s happening.

buttsolicitorsI often wondered what would happen if other businesses were run this way. Say..in a law firm. A successful firm is stacked with highly skilled, highly paid attorneys who are winning criminal cases and multi-million dollar judgements. The place is flush. The partners are rolling in it. All is good. But at some point the partners realize they could be keeping more money by off-loading their highest paid lawyers and replace them with green rookies straight out of law school. So they pull the trigger. All in the name of, uh, rebuilding! Uh oh. Now the firm is losing cases left and right and their biggest clients have abandoned them. The partners are forced to sell their summer and winter homes, yachts and Bentleys. Despite this precipitous drop in performance, the firm seeks new clients at the hourly rate previously charged when they were flush with experienced barristers…but there are few takers. The firm’s shingle is dangling by a thread. Now..if only they had brought along young, promising rainmakers all along who could gain experience and skill so they were ready when the older attorneys retired or moved on, they’d still be raking in the fees and no vacation homes or ridiculous luxury items would be sacrificed.

It seems like such a simple and logical way of doing things. If you keep the pipeline filled with a constant flow of developing talent, you’ll never have to re-build..because all along you’ve been building.

Worth the 53-year Wait–A 12-String Dream Come True

edrick.jpgI’d been dreaming of this day since some time around 1966. Please be patient. The yarn will take a little while. I was 14. Lots of pimples, skinny, awkward, but like millions of others like me, infatuated with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Byrds. Oh…the Byrds. Jim McGuinn’s granny glasses, urgent vocals and that damn 12-string Rickenbacker guitar that made sounds never before heard. Chiming, jangling..think “Mr. Tambourine Man and “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Those opening notes that instantly announced what was to come and sucked you in and sold so much wax. As soon as the first notes rung in you jammed the volume of your transistor radio and did not give one shit if the kid sitting next to you in the library was cramming for finals. The truth is, that kid instantly forgot about physics and got lost in the ringing of the Rickenbacker’s 12-strings as only McGuinn could command them.

I had only begun playing the guitar a year earlier after years of suffering with an instrument that was popular pre-British invasion…the accordion. My mother encouraged my brother and I to play the squeeze box because the right hand played the same as the right hand on a piano. But we lived in a 440 square foot apartment in Queens and there wasn’t room for one, so the accordion would have to do. I actually played it in my first garage band in junior high school called “The Scenics.” It was a strange combination of my accordion, a guy on the sax, a drummer who only owned a snare drum with no stand, so he propped it on a chair and a chubby guy with a clarinet, rounding out possibly the worst band in history. We decided to play for our music class because you could get extra credit for performing. We played “Moon River,” but then the guy on the sax went nuts, left the stage, walked up to the most buxom young lady in our class and started playing “The Stripper.” Our teacher just muttered, “oh my,” then refused to give us the extra credit we definitely did not deserve.

Shortly after that my mother began saving trading stamps. Not S&H, which were the most popular back then, but the upstart Plaid Stamps. Once she accumulated 10 books she cashed them in for a nylon string acoustic guitar. It came with a little pink pamphlet that showed you how to play a few basic chords and contained the charts for tunes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “She’ll Be Comin’ “Round the Mountain.” Well..as any guitar player knows, you can play a ton of tunes with just a few chords in your quiver. That’s when my friends and I started hanging around the neighborhood music store called Lee Benson’s. It was owned and run by a wedding and bar mitzvah band trumpeter Lee Benson who’s real name was Lee Lebenson. Thin, balding, mustachioed,  very mellow and very patient. Teenagers with dreams of becoming rock stars hung around the store, bullshitted with Lee about music, and bought tons of picks, strings and sheet music so we could learn to play some of the hits of the day. Here’s the sheet music for “Revolution,” “We Can Work it Out,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

sheetmusic Whenever you paid for the music Lee would smile and say “great tune, great tune.”

Mannys-Music-Music-Row-300x186Hang onto those thoughts of Lee Benson for a moment while I skip to the next chapter of this tale. My friends and I often hopped a bus and subway to catch a Knicks or Rangers game at the old Madison Square Garden, about a mile up 8th Avenue from where it is now. We’d arrive early then walk around the area and invariably ended up on 48th Street near Times Square–New York’s “Music Row,” so-named because of the strip of large music stores. There was Rudy’s and Sam Ash, and, my favorite, Manny’s. Ah..Manny’s. You never knew who would be just sitting on a stool just jamming away. Anyone who was anyone in the music biz bought their stuff at Manny’s. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones…everyone. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a magical place and there, in the front window was that Rickenbacker. Only moments before a guy with a 12-string Rick was playing the opening to the Beatles’s “If I Needed Someone” with a little crowd around him in one of the aisles. What I wouldn’t do to own a Rickenbacker. But man, the price tag dashed my dreams–$365. Holy crap! With an allowance of a buck a week, I’d be in Depends before I could even think of owning one. I was obsessed but also realistic. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Ever.

But the next time I headed over to Lee Benson’s it looked like he had a Rick in his window. What!?! It had that same fireglow finish, acoustic slit in the body and….and….the brand name “Ideal” on the headstock! WTF? I immediately starting quizzing Benson about it and he said it was a “quality recreation” of a Rickenbacker at a fraction of the price–$75. HUH? In reality, a Japanese knockoff. Smart salesman that he was, Benson locked in on my obvious infatuation, took the fake Rick from the window and set it in my hands. I started playing. Not bad..not bad at ALL! Now, where was I gonna get 75 bucks. Well…I had 80 in my bank account. Just enough to cover the price and the tax. After a spirited spat with my mother about cleaning out my account for a guitar, she gave in and I took it home. Smart guy Benson even wrote “Rick” on the receipt. Such a smooth bullshitter he was. My friends oohed and ahhed and I swung that thing like it was a real Rick. idealrick

I joined another lousy garage band called The Purple Perception. Yup..we sucked but we practiced in our drummer’s basement which always attracted his hot, blond next door neighbor sisters to come over and watch. We were too awkward and stupid to get anywhere with them but at least it was an audience. They would be our only audience because we also sucked too badly to get any real gigs. Yup..we broke up after a few months.

I took that bogus Rick with me everywhere. Played it day and night, hauled it up to college, tortured my roommate and it’s been with me ever since. It still actually looks and sounds pretty freakin’ good. But it wasn’t a real Rickenbacker. Over the years I added a Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster to my collection, as well as an electric bass, and acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars–along with a set of drums. But no Rickenbacker, which now would cost more than $3,000. I did well in my career and could certainly afford one, but just never felt I should spend that much money on a guitar. Until this weekend. I found what was billed as a “used” 12-string Rickenbacker on the Guitar Center store website.

realrick.jpgIt was at the store up in Saginaw. I contacted the store and the guy told me the fellow that traded it in only played it twice, was really more of a collector and just didn’t want it any more. I drove the hour and 20 minutes up I-75 to Saginaw to check it out and it was in mint condition. For the first time in my life I laid my hands on a real Rick–a 330 12-string..the same one the late Tom Petty played and Jim McGuinn had sometimes used. I plugged it in to the Vox amp in the store and started shaking. I took a pick out of my pocket and started playing the distinctive intro to “Ticket to Ride,” then “Mr. Tambourine Man,” then “Here Comes the Sun” and even the riff from Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise.” I looked over at my son who was just smiling a smile that only comes from one’s senses being pleased…and maybe being a little embarrassed by his old man trying to, but failing miserably, to look a little cool. I asked him if I should buy the guitar. All he could say was “you HAVE to have it!” I now I do.

It’s an almost lifelong dream come true and a lesson that no matter how long you defer a dream, it’s never too late to try to bring it to fruition. Whether it’s a career goal, athletic accomplishment, educational attainment…never just shrug it off, because no matter how long it takes, it’s worth the effort. Never stop dreaming and never stop trying to make them come true. I’m gonna go play that Rick now..the real one..the real dream come true. 

Parked in the Motor City

notbaddet

The reaction from my mother made no mistake about her feelings. “Who did this to you!?!” she shouted over the phone.

I calmly replied no one “did this” to me. I asked for the transfer from Atlanta up to Detroit. It would be a big promotion. She still wasn’t happy since my parents had only retired to Florida from NYC the year before, putting them a lot closer to us and to two of their grandchildren.

It was 1989. I had worked at CNN since November, 1981 in Atlanta, first as a producer on the launch team for what was then called CNN2 and is now a far different network called HLN. Over the next 7 years I moved over to CNN as a producer, supervising producer, correspondent and fill-in anchor but what I really wanted to do is run a bureau. In the spring of ’89 that opportunity opened up when the incumbent Detroit Bureau Chief-Correspondent won his long-sought transfer to the bureau in Rome.

Not many people wanted to move to Detroit. They feared being murdered immediately upon arrival or finding their cars, wheel-less perched on milk boxes. Not me. I grew up in NYC. I loved cities, their energy, cultural mix, history and odds of covering some important and exciting stories.

So I applied…and got the job. It didn’t disappoint me. As a regional bureau we covered all of Michigan, Ohio, eastern Canada and wherever else the national assignment desk sent us. The Detroit Bureau staff was welcoming and we worked together very well. 

This month marks 30 years since we hauled our kids and our stuff up I-75..and parked in Detroit.

My introduction to some of the players in Detroit, however, was, well, not quite as smooth as my start at the bureau. I was asked to give a talk introducing myself to the public relations community at a luncheon. If you know me, you know I’m a pretty short guy. Well..the fellow who introduced me was even shorter! Me, being the wiseass I am, came up to the mic, next to the unfortunate guy, looked down at him and cracked, “I think I’m gonna like it in Detroit!” The audience got the joke and laughed. My fellow shrimp did not, and promptly sulked in his seat. OK…note to self: “Detroiters are height-sensitive.”

It wasn’t long before the late, great J.P. McCarthy invited me onto his morning show on WJR. He promptly took me to task for what he felt was the national media’s obsession with beating up on Detroit I explained CNN had no such obsession, but you couldn’t simply ignore what was really happening. But things took a more positive turn when he asked me to tell an anecdote about Ted Turner, since there were a lot of bigwig corporate executives in his audience. I told him about Ted showing up in the Atlanta newsroom in his blue terrycloth robe on a Saturday morning and cajoling with the staff. We all loved him. J.P. liked that story and over the years invited me back a few times and I was very honored to be a guest during his last week of programs before he retired. Each time, he wanted another Ted Turner story. I always came prepared.

I also love Detroit because the folks are not only welcoming, but blunt in just the right way. My first week in Detroit I was assigned to an auto sales story and was scheduled to interview the head numbers cruncher at Ford. He was weeks way from retirement and feeling a little feisty.

“You know anything?” he barked at me.

“I’m new on the beat so I’m open to learning,” I humbly replied.

“Well, listen to what I say, report it accurately, don’t write any bullshit and we’ll get along fine. So ask me some questions and they better be good ” he, um, advised.

“Yessir.” 

A year or two later I ran into the gentleman at a press event and he smiled as he came over to me and said, “I gave you serious shit when you were new but you more than proved yourself.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

Detroit. Awesome.

We always thought Detroit was just another stop on the road. My wife and I met at college in Oswego, N.Y., got married a few months after graduating and had lived in Central New York State while I started my broadcasting career at a couple of radio stations, then we took off for Tucson, Arizona to earn our Masters degrees and where I got my first TV job at KGUN, first as weekend weather guy, then reporter, then producer, until I got the tip about the job at CNN.

We loved Atlanta and were actually looking for a larger house as our family grew, but then Detroit happened. Sure..three-year contract for the new position, then who knows?

But CNN renewed me a few more times until they closed the bureau in 2001 and I was laid off along with about a thousand other people. What to do?

Well, there was zero talk about leaving Detroit. We actually lived in the suburbs but we loved the area, Michigan and the people. We became avid fans of all the sports teams, attended games and took advantage of all the area had to offer.

Luckily I had a pretty good reputation in town and I quickly won the National Auto Writer position at the Associated Press, then was recruited by The Detroit News to be the General Motors beat writer and jumped to corporate when the head of PR at DaimlerChrysler started a blog and wanted an autowriter to ghost write and manage for him. Sweet job! That job morphed in an 11 year stay at the automaker where I was the first head of digital communications pioneering the concept of “corporate journalism” with my wonderful, creative team.

In 2016 I decided to retire, but leave Detroit? Leave Michigan? What the hell for? All the things our family enjoys are right here…so we sold the home we had lived in since 1992 and moved exactly 2.5 miles away to another house that had a lot of the features missing in the old one. I’ve been blessed with just enough freelance opportunities to keep me sufficiently out of my wife’s hair and around enough to be of use when called upon.

The bottom line is America has Detroit all wrong. It may be the country’s best kept secret. Great people, culture, major league sports, awesome restaurants, any kind of recreation nearby..even fowling. Look it up. For us, it’s been home for 30 years and we hope to remain here until the grim reaper comes calling….or the Detroit Lions win a Super Bowl. Hmm. Here to stay.

Clucking Over Stampede for Chick fil A

chicksandwichI woke up this morning to read about a stampede of sheep lining up to eat chicken. Here in Detroit people are used to working hard to put food on the table but I would suggest, the meal they got yesterday wasn’t worth the laborious multi-hour wait in line for a breaded chicken sandwich.

 

chick2freep

I truly believe it’s Atlanta’s lingering revenge for the work of General Sherman. He burned that southern city long ago, and now it’s returning the favor to us Yankees by luring us away from work, play, families and good health with the scourge called Chick fil A.

For a few hours Wednesday the chain of chicken joints opened a pop-up version in the lobby of the Chrysler House–a downtown Detroit office building. Long before the doors opened the lines began to form with those who had never sampled the stuff along with those who are addicted to it. Only two cashiers were on duty to handle the hundreds of hungry Chick fil Afficiandos.

chikfila1

Detroit Free Press Photo

 

I lived in Atlanta for 8 years and yes, we stopped at Chick fil A from time to time but we much preferred a chain called Mrs. Winners for our chicken fix. The biscuits were as big as cat’s heads and the chicken was to die for, since the greasy, delicious barnyard bird would surely hasten one’s demise, but who needs to live that long anyway, right?

Let’s get real. A Chick fil A sandwich is a breaded piece of chicken with a pickle on top on a very ordinary bun. The chicken does taste pretty good, but worth wasting one’s limited time on Earth waiting for it? I don’t think so.

In Chick fil A’s hometown, the lines were about the same as you’d see at any fast food place. Here in Michigan, at the very upscale Somerset Collection mall, the lines at the Chick fil A in its food court inexplicably snake around and around while other vendors sadly sit with no one to serve. I’m always tempted to hang around with a camera hoping to catch someone in imagined rapture after taking that last bite, sighing, and lighting up a Lucky to complete the act.

I have another beef with aforementioned chicken place. When I lived in Atlanta and working for CNN, there was a Chick fil A in the commercial atrium at CNN Center. Many of us belonged to the health club on the lower level. Since I worked overnights when I produced the morning show, I would hit the gym when I got off the air at 9am. Did my exercises, swam my laps, knocked myself out playing racket ball, gettin’ real healthy, right? But the fumes from the damned Chick fil A wafted down the stairs, into the gym and after showering and dressing and being hypnotized by the aroma we followed our noses back up the stairs straight to the Chick fil A and promptly ordered two chicken biscuits and waffle fries. A sincere workout gone straight to hell.

Aw..what am I saying? Writing about it has my olfactory working overtime.  It was damned worth it. Gonna head to Somerset Place and get in line.

My Groovy Cheapass College Education

la-1552449455-ctwg8rk8vm-snap-imageReading about the celebrities and other rich suckers who shelled out fortunes to get their lil’ darlings into prestigious universities through illegal means I can only think about what my parents did to get me into college.

Here’s how it went down. In 1969 my old brother was going to medical school. That’s expensive. Being four years younger, I was about to become a freshman someplace else, which my father stated plainly “would be much cheaper.”

There were two choices. As a resident of New York City, I could go to a city college. A new one had opened called York College. At the time it was no more than a glorified trailer park since the real campus was under construction. The tuition would be a backbreaking $35 a semester. Seemed like a good deal. I could hop one bus, transfer to another and be there in 30 minutes. I wouldn’t drive because there didn’t appear to be any place to park.

There didn’t appear to be any athletics or night life to speak of, unless you consider hanging out at the nearby falafel stand after the sun went down for some “after hours chickpeas.”

I didn’t end up at York College because my parents were concerned I was hanging around some “bad kids” and should therefore be sent to a school many miles away. Not as cheap as York College were the schools in the State of New York, or SUNY, system. I was accepted at Oswego State, about 30 miles north of Syracuse and built along the shores of Lake Ontario. Sound idyllic? Perhaps 2-3 months of the year, definitely. The rest of the year it was a windblown, snow-covered Siberia with an annual snowfall of at least 120 inches.

Nope..not the Ivy League! Closer to the Icy League!

oswegosnow2This would all cost more that York College, but much less than Yale. All-in, tuition was $440, and room and board $1,139 a semester. Still a bargain. My dorm was right on Lake Ontario with a million dollar view overlooking the water–much cooler than a bunch of stringy, clingy ivy. It was also a kick wondering what it looked like on the far shore over in Canada where the beer was much stronger. One day I would imagine rowing to that far off land in my blow up raft that I had bought at Kmart for 7 bucks. Such is the effect of substances available to “serious” academics such as myself.

oswegolakeMy quality of education for that bargain-basement investment? Well..my first class was Sociology 101. It was in a giant lecture hall with Doc Richmond presiding. Remember, this was 1969 and everything was extremely groovy. When the esteemed professor said he really wished there were urinals for women, the rapt/stoned class duly nodded and remarked how exceptionally groovy Doc Richmond was. What a great college!

What I didn’t expect was to find both a career and wife at Oswego. The former helped begat the latter. During an especially raucous party where many beer kegs were tapped dry and upper classman informed me I had a real knack for making strange voices and would therefore be a natural to work at the campus radio station. Talk about groovy! The next day he took me to the station and told the guy on the air I should be a DJ. The guy yawned, told me to show up the following Saturday and I’d be on the air for a couple of hours. From that day, for the next 40 years, I was on the air somewhere from various radio and television stations to CNN.

The finding the wife part came from a group of comely co-eds (they said that back then) who became regular listeners to my show and called in requests. It turns out the upper classman who dragged me to the radio station was a mutual friend and set me up with one of them. It was love at first keg party and we got married six months after graduating. It’s worth noting that several years after our wedding at a catering hall in suburban Rochester, NY, we returned to find out the place had become a topless joint. Made sense.

The point of all this is that it’s not worth the effort to break the law and fork over all sorts of big money to get into a fancy school. Let’s face it, these celebrity offspring were probably too dumb to get in on their own which means they may have flunked out anyway, making the whole idiotic, and illegal scheme worthless.

Personally, I’m glad I was able to go to a school that didn’t break my parents’ budget, making it possible for them to have the great retirement they deserved. I got just about the amount of education I needed to get through life, a fine career and a great wife–all for a few grand a year. Now that’s pretty freakin’ groovy!

The Divorce is Final-The Painful Split From a Famous Brand

teep-broke-down-trtin-to-get-ed-😂-372847

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.

jeepgumpWe 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.

jeepkayakMeanwhile, 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.