Oh, little town of ………….

A requisite tour of the America on Wheels museum in Bethlehem, PA. featured a lunch prepared by nearby Catasauqua, PA “Cathy’s Creative Catering Café’, a business suffering from an overdose of “C”s. Delicious food, however, maybe a vowel from Pat and Vanna is in Cathy’s future.

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graphite and ivory 190Sls (1955-1963) in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnace (1857-2003) on a 95℉ day

The planned afternoon activity, covered bridges, Rodale organic farm and picnic in Kutztown, PA., exceeded my tolerance. A hot 55 y/o roadster, sweltering heat, humidity, and intense traffic delays melted my enthusiasm, so under the heading, full disclosure; I bolted.

IMG_6116  So cute, even those little piggies

IMG_4132  kiss me, I’m organic

This little piggy may go to market, but my little piggy is going whee, whee, all the way to home to Easton, PA.

Yes, I broke rank. Sorry, the criminal equivalent of automotive treason, punishable by two years on a home-detention ankle monitor, and one conjugal garage visit per month.  Harsh, yes, but the benefits of compost and recycled manure are far less interesting than an unscheduled visit to (hold onto your silly putty ®)………

The Crayola ® Experience; from their brochure, a one-of-a-kind attraction where color, chemistry, and technology magically combine to create a colorful adventure for a child’ s imagination.

The Binney & Smith museum, located in downtown Easton, PA was on my bucket list; the bonus, it was blissfully air-conditioned. Teeming with 4 to 8 y/o future graffiti artists, many of whom had skipped today’s Ritalin dose, I dove right in as if still in Miss Markwalder’s first grade class, Gary, IN, the Wallace School, 1946.

Much like the Hershey Museum, or Kellogg’s watching Fruit Loop production, the Spam Museum in Austin, MN; all destinations that parallel the 190SL fantasy, deceiving oneself as being forever young. Where else will you see the world’s largest Crayon ?

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Next stop, Hackettstown, NJ, home to the Mars production facility.  No longer open to public tours, I’m playing the Charles Kuralt card in an attempt to finagle a writer’s pass to….drum roll…..the m&m plant.

M&M_spokescandiesonly 4.7 calories each.

 

Wish me luck.

Mobile stairway to heaven

 

Four vintage roadsters, traveling in tandem, stop in Penfield, OH on the lawn of the local church ‘for sale by owner‘.  Could this be the big guy, GOD himself, asking $79,500 ?  Would HE take a 1956 MB 190SL in trade?

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On a blue highway in small town LaGrange, northern OH, we pass the “Two Chicks & a Blow Dryer” salon, which briefly caught my attention.  In the very next block,

“Fu Ching studio of martial arts”

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I’m staying calm, hands on the steering wheel.

350 miles over western Pennsylvania, a picnic at the local park, and a lengthy discussion over the anatomy of an animal cracker served as our preamble to day one. Six ‘adults’ passed the subject cracker around for an opinion, i.e., was it a bear, an elephant, a lion….?

The absence of a treasured anatomical appendage, in this age of Caitlyn Jenner enlightenment, led to the final judgment; a transgendered tiger. Pretending it was a pretzel, I ate it.

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At an interstate rest stop, a long distance truck driver stopped to admire the cars, but mostly to dump rain water from inside the tires on his load.  He had to use a 5 gallon bucket to ‘make his weight’.  Headed from Nebraska to a northern Quebec mine, each tire (empty) weighs 9000 lbs and measures 11’9 in vertical height. You won’t find these on TireRack.com, our neighbor in South Bend.

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Following opening evening activities on Wednesday, which has morphed into a marathon, serial hugfest, Thursday AM aimed the engines to nearby Nazareth, PA.

A tour of the incomparable C.F. Martin guitar factory defies description in a world of otherwise mass-produced trinkets.

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 From $1500 to $150,000, with custom options

A tour of the oldest structure of Moravian culture, the stunning Whitefield House, built in 1740, followed on this gorgeous morning. Adjacent, in similar architecture, stands an elegant retirement home, the Alexandria Manor. Two ladies on the front porch, whom I’ll refer to only as Gertrude and June, the very names on their resident IDs, gazed with interest as the cars arrived.

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L-R, Gertrude, Ruth

Gertrude, age 92, had lived her entire life in Nazareth, but had never, not once, toured the National Heritage site less than a hundred yards away. An offer to be her personal escort was declined: ‘maybe another day, but not today, thank you’. She gave the same Suze Orman response when I tempted her with a convertible ride.  Denied.

We talked at length about the ‘hometown’ favorite son, race driver Mario Andretti. “Yes, I knew him, a nice boy, but really his twin brother, Aldo, was much nicer and spoke better English. Those dago kids lived 3 blocks away on St. Elmo St.; sure,  I’ll tell you how to get there”.

I drove to the Andretti home, knocked, and was greeted warmly by the current owners, offered coffee, a krispy crème donut and a tour. You may find hospitality in a dictionary, but in Nazareth, it’s between C.F. Martin factory and the Whitefield House.

Time for a break here in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania….95℉, 95% damp……..to be continued.

©insightout2015

 

Flesh

On cruise control, I-94, Baraboo, WI, to South Bend, IN, passing the southern tip of a Great Lake, the waves and a memory swell……..

Early July 1965, Michigan City, IN, an outstanding warrant of the rust belt, has the ambiance of a boy’s locker room…smelly and sticky.  I walk up an extra wide stairwell, littered with waiting patients, to the packed 2nd floor office of King Jones M.D.  The decrepit wooden building on Franklin Street is 180 degrees from the impeccably fashioned Dr. Jones; resplendent in a crisp white shirt, tailored Italian suit, brilliant grin, against the background of silky chocolate skin.

The King is an excellent GP, a favorite in the black community, a popular figure at the hospital, and a prolific prescriber…hence, my visit.  A fresh anglo recruit, 26 y/o, representing an obscure Swiss pharmaceutical company, I’m here to introduce a ‘new’ drug, an antidepressant of marginal value.  Typical of the industry, it was simply a chemical first cousin of two existing drugs, neither of which were particularly effective, all too expensive, and accompanied by a litany of side effects.

The truth be damned, posit enthusiasm, tee it up, full steam ahead…fresh from a regional sales seminar, armed with a leather satchel loaded with colorful brochures, pens, advertising gadgets, and free samples, I’m welcomed by the doctor for a brief visit.  After feigning approval, he asked to see a sample.  I demonstrated the drug exactly as described in our product bulletin, 25 mgm., size # 4, flesh-colored capsule.

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He stepped back, flashed that signature grin, and remarked, ” Mr. Charles, that all depends on what color yo’ flesh is !”  We both had a good laugh.  There was no tension, he held onto my shoulder and promised he might prescribe the drug.

Fast forward one month, I meet with the division manager, a likable buffoon who had played linebacker for the University of Kansas, most often without a helmet.  We were having an ‘assessment’ lunch to evaluate the desipramine introduction.  Think how difficult it is to describe “lukewarm” or “limp” to your boss…with artificial, orgasmic enthusiasm.  Over a tuna salad sandwhich.  Five decades later, I still harbor guilt from those three years representing what is now referred to as BigPharma, a cabal proven the equal of the tobacco industry.

However, Old Mortarhead’s toothy smile waned, his brow deeply furrowed, when I recalled anectdotally; the reception by Dr. Jones.   I only mentioned it in passing to alleviate the boredom of a business lunch.  He wrote cautiously in his leather memo, a word-by-word transcript, abruptly adjourned the meeting and beelined for the nearest telephone booth.

Bottom line: the company did a quiet total recall of all samples, product literature, hospital displays, and reprinted journal promotional ads within weeks.  This was pre-TV ads implying, ‘ask your doctor if it’s right for you’.  Flesh colored had morphed into “pink” overnight. The cost, in today’s $, had to be in the eight figures. There was no press release, no acknowledgement; this was the era before political correctness.  Recall, the march from Selma to Montgomery, a fresh memory, occurred only three months before.

Later that year, I called on the King once again.  This time, to relate first hand what had transpired from our casual, two-minute conversation in July…he was overwhelmed, overjoyed, and gave me the most robust hug since my Dad returned from the Marine Corps in 1945.  Only then did I realize how important the encounter was for a poor black kid who had worked menial jobs, endured family struggles, just to finish medical school.

This was my personal Edmund Pettus bridge walk across the racial divide.  Sadly, little has changed in 50 years. Yes, there is ‘minority’ representation in the supreme court, the congress, the presidency, in the media, and near total dominance in most professional sports, but the reality belies optimism.  Some improvement, perhaps, but racial tension and suspicion continue, unabated.

I’m almost home now, both in age and @ mile-marker 75.    Our country is not.

There is no quick-fix in our technology hurricane, no antidepressant to elevate our spirit and serotonin level, no microphone-muff CNN press conference, urgently called by a reverend du jour or police commissioner. Insecurity covered with frosting.

Welcome home.  I wish I had the answer.

The  common denominator we share….humanity….remains elusive.  Both for the nation and the turbulent planet, with little regard for the color of your capsule.