Unraveling while traveling; life between the windshield and the rear-view mirror

Journey….destination, a gentle breeze

                               DeTour Village, MI (pop 375)
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Three months of summer, at the end of a 40 mile cul-de-sac, with neither crime, pollution, nor traffic is inadequate preparation for a destination road trip. The agony of 600 miles through urban torture, Chicago, road rage-in-waiting, 60 y/o car, manual shift, no A/C, no cruise control, no power windows, no power steering, no cupholders, during late afternoon commuter traffic; a breeze in 85°F, top down.

Grew up here.   Left.   Never came back.

Still a Cub fan.

Once described by my own children, an assumed term of endearment,”the Direction God”, I have no GPS, no I-phone (by choice). An innate internal compass, the singular guide, has served me well.

I’ve left home without my dog-eared 2002 Rand-McNally Road Atlas.

Large print version.

On my own, I escape the IL tollways to drift through northern Illinois farm country, mostly county roads. Idyllic; corn on the left, soy beans to the right, 4-H, silos, holsteins, farmers struggling with commodity prices, I become thirsty.  Hershey® thirsty.

For a glass of chocolate milk.

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Passing through Harvard, IL, childhood home to my college roommate’s wife, her family tenant farmers, a lovely woman, Polly excelled as a pianist…lost her younger sister, one of the ‘five peppers’; to cancer.  Lung cancer.  She had never smoked.

We are all dealt a deck of cards.  Connie’s was missing the ace of hearts.

Day dreaming in the land of no wrong turns, at 40 mph, the roadster begins to message me, ‘yo, we’re crunching gravel’.
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**

So, I am lost.

Okay ?

Having found a farmer, roadside, to ask for directions…he admires my 300SL, I lust over his John Deere, S790. The combine has a capacity of 400 bushels vs. my trunk; one spare tire, two pcs. soft luggage and three cans of cold Heineken.

He’s using a hand held I-Mac testing the beanfield moisture levels, electronically. I offer an even trade, your 790 for my 300, he hesitates to check values on his phone, then ” Nope, no thanks, not without A/C ”
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He gave me precise directions to WI, then laughed, “you got no GPS, hell, my lawn tractor has one, and A/C !”

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S790   72 rows of soybeans bite the dust

I’ve reached my goal, the Abbey, an upscale, yet aging, resort. First stop, registration, where two lovely volunteers supply credentials in a large tote bag, which I had weighed ~ 22 lbs (10Kg). Contains name tag, route maps, trinkets, candy, souvenirs, a tiger-eye maple cutting board, and, heavy metal;  12″ dagger!

First thought, for attendees flying home, ‘could you bypass the body tickle TSA checkpoint ?’
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Wüsthof…translated to German, murder weapon ?

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Entry door nearest my room

And tote bags. We’re a nation of excess, measured by the number of  accumulated totes. I once attempted to dump ~ 25 of them, back door at the Goodwill, get my $200 deduction slip, and drive away with a grin. No dice.

Sorry, sir, “we don’t accept tote bags, take them to the landfill, but they’ll make you pay to dump.”

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                                                                                                                   OUT

 

I’m off to the opening salvo, a serial hugfest…let’s get acquainted hour. First stop, the open bar.

“Good evening, sir, what can I get you ?”

I’ll have a Cocoa Corona.

“I’m sorry, what was that ?”

Easy kid, ½ chocolate milk,  ½ Corona lager, & 3 drops of Tabasco®.

“We don’t have Corona, but we do have Coors Light”

Ok, make it a Cocoa Coors Light.

“Huh ?”

**********************

Fontana, WI, westernmost edge of Lake Geneva, a resort where medicaid and supplemental social security are a myth. Here, summer residents, the multi-generational wealth of Windy City moguls, have mastered leisure splendor.   Anyone above the poverty line is welcome for a ‘look-see’, however, for a long term stay, leave your credit score at the door.

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A small portion of the Wrigley compound, pieced together with Doublemint®, Spearmint®, Juicy Fruit® and the tears of a million Cub fans

This promises to be a fun-filled 96 hours.
↓ Day one, my new BFF, Katie, the ship’s stewardess ↓
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“Something wrong here, choppy, whoa, this lake is covered in water. Completely. I’d feel safer if you sat on my lap”

 

If you want to read about the drive home, maybe next year.
Bring a quart of chocolate milk.

 

**  courtesy DKPhotography, all rights reserved

©insightout2019

Dial (800) 439-2466

Everyday, the seven deadly sins lead to unhappiness.

The dark side.

Life noir.

Imagine a hard-boiled cynic in a bleak sleazy setting.

Not being a Bible reader, in spite of its popularity, my day ends with the bridge column.  Too, as a practicing non-Catholic, sidestepping the altar of misbids and poor defense, is a free pass from purgatory.  Where the high priest of Hail Marys issues a thousand yarboroughs, hands in bridge or whist containing no ace and no card higher than a nine.

….the Church of the Painful Truth.

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The sin list, (7 ?), I plead guilty to wrath and lust, i.e., getting very snotty when being dismissed by attractive ♀♀.

The costliest sin, please, bear witness as I enter the confessional; GREED.

Late winter, 1969, reviving a Mom&Pop drugstore from imminent failure, business began an upward tangent.  The regional expansion, visiting physician offices during the few off hours, I learned that many offices resisted calling any pharmacy “long distance”.  Recalling, phone in prescriptions incurred a 25¢ charge …. a 5% expense, when an office visit with a patient then, $5.

A popular Niles, MI doctor, John Bruni MD, complained that calling patient prescriptions to us had cost him $1.75 in a single month, the = of two BigMacs and a supersize order of fries.

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MOTHER-DAUGHTER; PHARMACIST BEHIND COUNTER

Willing to absorb the cost, I requested the newest strategy, a 1-800 toll free line from ATT, the sole monopoly. Offered a choice of numbers, I chose 1-800-439-2466. Why…?…because the last seven digits spelled HEXAGON.  Readers might recognize that as the six sided benzene ring, core of all organic chemistry, the pride of pharmacy students and vegetarians.chemistry-2938901__480  What could be better, easy to advertise and remember, for a failed English major, I felt quite clever. Plus, I turned down 800-244-5375 which translated to (800) BIGJERK.

images-1It worked.  That 4th line started slowly but soon rang, sometimes off-the-hook.  Yes, regional medical offices galore, but often insurance salesmen, stockbrokers, sweepstakes, roofing, siding, and the sheriff’s auxilary extorting donations.  Or else.

Guilt by benevolence must be in the Bible.

Somewhere.

The formula depicted above, adrenaline, the active component in the now infamous Epi-Pen®, a timely need if you encounter an anaphylactic reaction to nuts.  If you already knew that, stop, become a Jeopardy® contestant.  Now.

Possessing a 1-800 number became the fashion.  As the numbers available began to diminish, the value increased. Historical footnote : prefixes 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833 had not yet been imagined. Now we were the cat’s meow.  Today equal to the cutting edge.

A vanity plate in the world of commerce.

Then, a call, Oct. 21, during the 1st Reagan administration, a Wednesday, late, after closing,screw-1924174__480

“Hello, I’m Bill, calling from Cleveland OH, are you the owner ?

“…yes.”

“Just a chat. I’m president of Hexagon Industries, manufacturer of hex bolts.  I’m intrigued by your telephone number, as it could really benefit our business.  Would you be willing to relinquish 4392466?”

” Umm, hem, uh haw, it’s really quite an asset, we’ve spent years promoting it, at great personal cost, eight dollars a month, effort, huge effort, yada yada, priceless, yada, blah, blah”

” I fully understand, but if, say, $5000 is enough to change your mind, could you call me back ?”

” Yeah, yeah, sure, but not likely…thanks for calling”

That night, my 1st wife’s 39th birthday, I hadn’t even brought home an outdated Whitman Sampler®. 302211719898_1

Money was tight.  But greedy me, I’m walking on air. I’ve got this chump by the testicles…if he’d offer a lousy $5K, why not $10K ?

Let him hang in the wind, like a palm tree swaying in a typhoon, wait a year or two, glued to his phone, anticipating a positive response from this pharmacist, self-supposed pillar in his community, a member of the most trusted profession……ahaaa..!…not a chance, I’ll go for the gullet, $10K or no dice.

Yes, greed, like all sins, has hindsight. It taught me that class and humility mean far more than money or possession. Class would have been to offer the number, for nothing, an extension of good will, and invite him to visit South Bend if he ever headed west.  That would be a remembrance, forever, and I wouldn’t be writing this column.

I did call, a year later, and he was delighted.  Good news.  The government antitrust case against ATT was moving forward and he was offered the same number, at no charge, with an (888) prefix. “My sincere thanks that you didn’t take the bait”.

It was too late, too hollow, too late, too shallow to offer now. Too late to turn a wrong into a right….I’ve regretted it ever since.

My ex, a lovely woman, will turn 78 on October 21, 2019. She remarried.  Her second husband,  much better than the 1st.

Stay tuned…it gets worse.

Out of curiousity, tonight I dialed the number (800) Hexagon.

A recording asked if I was over 50 y/o; press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

I pressed 2, so add lying to that list of sins.

 

insightout©2019

 

 

 

 

Call me…….Fred

−A cold morning, Saturday, 24Feb1973, Worthington, OH just north of Columbus, and the salesman, one Red Skinner, delivers.  Chocolate covered strawberries, helium filled balloon, singing telegram…none of the above.

It’s a car, a modest 4 door, entry level sedan, brand new, 4 cylinder diesel from dealer Ed Potter’s Mercedes Benz-Renault.  A surprise gift to one Frederick Ray, on his 50th birthday, special order from his wife, Dorothy (‘Dot’).

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Fred, a civil engineer/bridge builder/shade tree mechanic, admired German cars, and this beauty, in his favorite color, Db 430 Harvest Beige, was identical to the VW Beetle in their garage.  A ‘plain Jane’ to some, the Rays adored the match and vowed to save the 220D for special occasions.

220D 1973 msrp

As a childless couple, Fred enjoyed his garage time, the maintenance and care of the Benz was a passion, as he meticulously archived handwritten notes.   Noted too by a young neighborhood kid,  Jonathan Karnes, who visited often.  Fast friends, yes, but a metamorphic, surrogate grandfather/grandson bond emerged.

Dot’s odometer ended in 2003, mileage on the Benz, 26,576.  Rarely driven, Fred, too, passed away in 2013, age 90, mileage 27,003. The estate directed Jonathan inherit the car, although now grown, attending medical school, soon to be a 4/yr resident in orthopedic surgery, Morgantown, WV.  By necessity the car slumbered, as Jon, married, with small children, the chief resident accepted a post doctoral year in spinal surgery in Madison, WI.  The time had come to sever the umbilicus, an early 30’s physician with career and responsibility, surrounded by objects from Hasbro®, Fisher-Price®, and Tonka® in the crosshairs….the sedan needed a new home.  On 7April2019, the ignition keys and baton were passed to Insightout….mileage 27,571.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1973-mercedes-benz-220d-3/

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The stunning simplicity, French designer, Paul Bracq’s exquisite lines promise to resonate with age.  The current overload of tech advancement, unnecessary drivel of rear camera video monitor, g.p.s., parking assist, power excess, gadgetry ad infinitum has drowned the sensual pleasure of the freedom to drive. Where did we  go astray. Mercedes provided Dot, the minimalist, with the following for Fred’s enjoyment:

  • automatic transmission, AM-FM radio
  • power steering, power 4 wheel disc brakes
  • electric windshield wipers and clock

Paul Bracq graced us, a 270° greenhouse view, through tinted windshield, peering over the graceful arc of the hood, squared off fenders to the three-pointed star, and Dot thankfully excluded:

  • power seats
  • power windows
  • power antenna
  • cruise control
  • keyless entry
  • air-conditioning
  • heated seats, bluetooth, tilt wheel, yada
  • granite countertops

Yes, 0 to 60 mph times mean little, and an easily achieved top speed of 83 mph is rarely necessary, and yet, a finely tuned 46 y/o gets 28 mpg.

Commentary during the internet auction alluded to the pouring of cold honey;

‘teaches both the driver, and all followers, patience’

‘fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow- and this is a SLOW car’

‘lethargic performance, like it was on a heavy dose of Valium’

‘you have to choose either “lively” or “relaxed”, this an example of the latter’

‘on an unincorporated country road, where it’s never hot, all day to kill, this could be the perfect car for you’

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Collectors are inclined to name cars, usually in the feminine tense, which is peculiar, as the vehicle does not have headaches, a menstrual cycle, nor succumb to fashion or footwear fads.  Hence the 220D is simply, Fred.  

Not Frederick, not the teutonic Fritz, just plain Fred.

In honor of both Mr. Ray, and Paul Bracq, I designed my own vanity plate…which says it all.

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©insightout2019

Special thanks to Jonathan Karnes MD, & his father Jim, for (a) providing personal details, and (b) their thoughtful stewardship for 6 years.

David Z. Kil, photographer, for the finest rear view ever conceived.

Cartoon, courtesy, Crown Media Holdings®, 2018

And lastly, to Fred Ray, whom I never knew, but whose spirit will always remain although, at time & ½, my mind cannot find the words of gratitude. For the best ride ever. Today’s mileage, turned, with zero digital assistance, 28,000.

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