(first posted 6/12/2016) Minutes after the impact, after I assured the neighbors who came out to investigate the crash that all was OK and there was no need to call the police, Annie calmed down and realized the draconian act just completed. Chris was still in the front seat, disorientated, and I was standing a bit off to the left of the Tempest holding her keys.
She wanted to go home. “I’m OK, can I have my keys back? I’m OK. I am OK.”
I gave the keys back to her.
Clearly shaken now, she restarted the Tempest and backed off the driveway and grass and bumped down off the curb, turned around, and drove off.
The right front of the Pontiac did not look as bad as the crash had sounded or felt. And it had sounded and felt really bad.
It’s important to remember that the impact point of both cars was made of heavy steel. The steel bumper and hood of the Tempest, and right rear corner of the Duster had absorbed the force of the impact of the crash. And I was right there, 9 or 10 inches from the point of impact. This was pretty high on my trauma scale; I guess you had to be there to appreciate that.
Today’s cars are mostly plastic in those areas and heavy black foam for quite a few inches behind. Indeed, I had hit a fully grown deer in the middle of Bernardsville in the early 1990s at 15 mph and it destroyed the front of my company 1992 Ford Taurus. The repair bill was over 2,500 dollars. The deer got up and ran off, none the worse for the wear.
If I had hit that deer with the 1967 Tempest (or the 1972 Duster), it would probably have been venison.
Back at the scene of the crash; the important issue for me was to find a place to live ASAP.
Forty-four years after the fact, one can look back upon something like this and make a joke or two.
She missed me by that this much.
Well maybe by 9 or 10 inches, but Maxwell is pretty close.
I would start a search for a new place to live tomorrow, but it was a Sunday evening and I certainly wasn’t going to stay anywhere Annie could find me.
I drove the dented Duster east on the Southern State Parkway to get some fast miles between me and Rockville Centre, then exited and headed north, and then turned west on one of the local roads and found a motel with a vacancy.
I did not sleep well. The room smelled of cigarette smoke and the sheets looked unwashed. I slept in my clothes.
At work, still in my weekend and strangely stained clothes (remember the pot of rice and boiling water) I sought out my friend Bob who was a Grumman engineer and who rented home(s) east of work with three roommates who were all Grumman engineers or programmers.
We had met at the Grumman Flying Club where I had started taking flying lessons only a short while ago.
As a Grumman employee flying lessons was relatively inexpensive. A Cessna 150 cost 10 dollars an hour tach time wet (with fuel) plus 5 dollars a clock hour for an instructor. Most lessons cost me 12 to 13 dollars an hour because I was doing mostly take offs, landings, and pattern work. And a few stalls and spins.
Having the flight instructor put the plane into a hammerhead stall followed by a spin over the Atlantic Ocean with a sticker on the panel that says “Spins Prohibited” is an interesting experience.
The Grumman Flying Club was based out of Deep Park Airport (DPK) on Long Island not far from the main Grumman Bethpage facility.
Bob had his pilot’s license and regularly rented a Cessna 172 at the flying club. We often ran into each other at the Deer Park airport on early Saturday mornings.
Note-1: Deer Park Airport closed in 1974 and condos were built on the site. As I write this at my kitchen table in 2016, I am in a condo in Basking Ridge NJ that was built on the site of another small airport. I am sitting just about one third of the way down the last paved and active runway of the Somerset Hills Airport. Sometimes, lying awake in the early A.M. hours, I’ll hear the distinctive sound of a low and slow four cylinder plane and wonder if it is some old geezer about to set down at the good old Somerset Hills airport.
For this COAL I took out my old log book to see if any of the planes I flew in 1972 are still around.
The instructor rated me average; he was being generous.
N6931G is still airworthy and in use after all these years. As with any machine, care and maintenance can keep them running a long time. It looks good despite what NTSB describes as a hard landing and gear collapse in May of 1979. That wasn’t me; I was long gone by then.
I would schedule lessons early on Saturday mornings, get up at 5:30 A.M., get to the flight school by 7:00 for the lesson, and be home by 8:30 or 9:00, usually before Chris and Annie were done with breakfast.
The technology of aircraft and flying fascinated me as much as cars, and there was more technology and technique to flying than driving. I loved knowing how planes flew, how the radios and navigational aids worked, how to read weather maps, and how to talk in that terse, clipped, but full lingo to towers, or in my case, to a unicom.
Bob told me his house rental crew was short one person. He contacted the other two members of the house and that evening I met my new housemates Joe and Walter.
These guys had an interesting arrangement. For the months of July and August they rented the four bedroom white stucco home of an F-14 engineer located on five or six acres in Fort Salonga Long Island. It had a 200 or 300 foot curved driveway up into the woods where the house would appear at the end of the driveway. During this time the owner of the home and his family lived in a beach home further East on the island.
Come September the crew moved to a four bedroom beach house at 280 Asharoken Road facing Long Island sound. Asharoken is the strip of land that connects Eaton’s Neck (left) to Northport Long Island (right). Our home was in the center of the land strip right where that road from the tiny peninsular connects to it. Long Island Sound was often warm enough to swim in to late October.
Both houses were paradise to me, safe free-of-fear paradises.
At first Annie said we should see a marriage counselor separately and then maybe later together, and I was naïve enough to think that this was a solvable problem. But it soon dawned on me that the counselor was at a loss to understand what was going on and he wanted to talk to me about my mother. “Doctor, my mother never tried to run me down; let’s talk about Annie and me.”
After four or five sessions the counselor asked me what I feared the most about Annie and our marriage. I said I was afraid for Chris and what this was doing to him. The doctor asked me if Annie was violent when I was not around. I said I didn’t think so. Actually no, she was only violent when I was around.
“Well then” he said, “maybe you shouldn’t be around”.
I told Annie the marriage was over.
She got a lawyer who sent me nasty letters.
I got a lawyer who sent me huge bills.
I quit flying lessons (too expensive now that I had many other financial obligations) and focused on what I had to do to get through this with minimal impact to Chris.
Chris loved spending weekends with me. Bob, Walter, and Joe were great with Chris and he appreciated the attention they gave him. Bob was a great cook and we ate big Italian meals, and played slot cars, chess, built airplane models, did the cub scout pinewood derby thing, walked on the beach, and did lots of stuff that men and boys of all ages do. I treasured our time together. Bob’s girlfriend said that when she saw us together she was reminded of the TV show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.
I liked Bill Bixby better as “The Incredible Hulk”.
Bob took Chris and me up in a Grumman Flying Club Cessna 172 many times; sometimes I sat in the back and Bob let Chris take the wheel. N79269 was Bob’s favorite rental and he usually had it reserved for his flights.
N79269 is also shown to still be airworthy, is registered until 2019, and is reported to be in Eagle River, Alaska. It has had at least one repaint and has lost its wheel pants, but looks to still be in shape and well used.
My lawyer took one look at the list of incidents I had prepared and said “you’ve got to be kidding. And you’re spending money on a marriage counselor?”
NY had fault divorce laws back then. I was advised that as a father I could not get custody of Chris (today that would not necessarily be the case), and would have to pay off and give the house to Annie so Chris had the security of the home he knew, and would need to pay child support and all medical and dental, but that this was an open and shut case of cruel and inhuman treatment. I would be the plaintiff, Annie the defendant.
I was OK with all of that.
Then the lawyer said he would draw up the papers and serve her with the lawsuit for divorce. I told him that Annie had a real temper and getting served with papers could ignite that temper.
“No worry” my lawyer said, “the guy serving the papers is really big.”
“I’m not worried about him; I’m worried about me. Getting served divorce papers might set off another, you know, event.”
“Good point, you may need to leave town for a while”.
On the bulletin boards in the Grumman facilities next to the notice of the Mark IV classes Steve, Chuck and I were offering as part of a computing career development program, was another open requisition for a three to five month assignment in Holland to develop an aircraft engine maintenance Cobol program for KLM.
I applied for the KLM assignment and got it. Probably no one else applied for it.
I had never been out of the country and was a bit nervous about that, but I was more nervous about what might happen if I were in the country when the divorce papers were served.
One Sunday night in April 1973 I boarded a KLM 747 at JFK and as we took off, I saw out the left side window the playground of my childhood: Jones Beach, Ocean Parkway, Zachs Bay, and Captree State Park. Then the left wing rose, the 747 turned right, the ground disappeared, and 35 or so degrees later we were over the Atlantic Ocean heading east. A few miles ahead and above and off our left side were the flashing red lights of another plane on a similar flight path. Next stop Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands.
KLM (whose headquarters in Amstelveen is shown above) had formed a consortium with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Swissair to share and specialize in the care and maintenance of a fleet of new McDonald Douglas DC-10s.
SAS and Swissair handled the electronics and air frames (not sure which did which) and KLM maintained the GE CF6-50 engines. Each DC-10 had three engines. The first order was for 36 DC-10s between all three airlines.
In order to maximize the efficiency of engine maintenance procedures, KLM wanted to know the details of every single part of each engine down to their heat lot numbers. Any part of an engine that showed excessive wear or any anomaly would set off a search for all other parts in any other engine from that same heat lot.
Additionally, while the engines themselves were maintained according to the number of their cycles (take offs), it was also important to know what other time oriented maintenance procedures might best be done to sub components during scheduled engine maintenance, even if a bit a head of schedule, so as to avoid additional engine down time for that later required maintenance. This is similar thinking to why one would replace a perfectly good water pump when changing the timing belt in a 1999 Miata.
The GE CF6-50 engine could be seen as a hierarchy of parts, where each of the smallest single parts (like a single fan blade with a heat lot number) made up slightly larger parts, which made up larger components, which made up even larger more complex components, and so on until the collection of the largest level of components made up the complete engine.
Cobol and IBM’s database software specialized in building and maintaining hierarchical databases. My program would be used to track all the parts in all the engines (and spares) of the DC-10 fleet flown by KLM, SAS, and Swissair. If KLM had allowed me to do this in Mark IV, it would have taken a lot less time, but the agreement specified Cobol.
I also created a report which showed all parts of any selected engine on four 11 X 14 pages of computer printout. KLM maintenance people taped the four pages together to get a high level view of each engine, down to the smallest individual part. Today this taped up report would be a neat on-line display with expandable pointers.
In the beginning I stayed in Amsterdam and took trams to Amstelveen where KLM had it headquarters. At one point I sublet an apartment (KLM employees did a lot of traveling for free when on holiday) and rented a small English Ford to get to the KLM office. This photo was taken on a Sunday morning in front of the three pointed star shaped KLM building. I think it’s a 1971-72 Ford Escort 1100 Mk1.
I also had the unique (for an American) pleasure to drive a co-worker’s Citroen Deux Chevaux (2CV). If I built a car by hand it might look and run like a 2CV. My favorite features were headlights that you had to crank up or down depending on the presence or absence of back seat passengers, the umbrella shifter sticking out of the dash, and the beach chair seats. Also, it had three bolts per wheel. Paul wrote up this unique car here and Roger Carr did here.
When I returned to the USA three months later in July 1973 with the KLM assignment completed, my lawyer had a court date for the divorce, an agreement on the terms (pretty much as described above), and a request from Annie’s lawyer that we switch cars because the Duster was newer and worth more.
That’s why this COAL is titled Tempest Take Two. Also, because I like alliterations.
I explained to Annie about the Duster’s brakes and how she had to ride the brake pedal going through puddles and then ride it a bit more to get them really dry, but I’m not sure she cared. Six months later the slant six’s exhaust manifold cracked. Thinking I gave her a lemon, Annie got a new car; I’m not even sure what it was, some kind of mid-sized Chevrolet; her new boyfriend picked it out. Annie and he must have gotten along well because they got married a few years later and they’re still married to each other after all these years.
Steve and Chuck and I did our Mark IV training at Grumman but knew time was running out because the primary technical development environment there would be pretty much be Cobol based.
One day Chuck drove to work in his old 1960 Chrysler with a rope holding the driver’s door almost closed and announced he had bought a new Mercury Capri V6 and did anyone want the high mileage yellow bird with a sprung driver’s door. It was free.
Bob, the Cessna 172 pilot said yes. He had a share of a ski house in Vermont (when you are single and have rent sharing room mates, you have extra money to spend on ski houses, late model 240Zs, and Cessna 172 rentals) and his 240Z did not have enough room for ski trips with his girl friend.
Bob brought the 1960 Chrysler to the beach house. I came home shortly after that and sat in it thinking about the sprung door and what was causing it. The interior of a 1960 Chrysler is a marvel of design with an instrument cluster that looks like a pin ball game.
I untied the rope holding the door near the frame and moved it back and forth. The hinges were dry.
After a few long sprays of WD-40 and some back and forth movement, some more sprays and a little more movement, the door loosened up and finally slammed shut with a solid Chrysler thunk. This was a big solid four door post sedan.
I sprayed all the other door hinges, the door locks, the trunk hinges, the hood release and hinges, the carburetor linkages, and the gas pedal throttle connections until the can was empty.
Bob drove in and saw me sitting in the Chrysler with the door securely shut and smiled.
Bob bought four new tires (snows on the rear), had new brakes installed all around, replaced the old battery with a big new one, and changed the coolant, hoses, and belts, and then had his perfect ski house cruiser. He told me it was great in the snow.
Chuck smiled when we told him about the doors. He was happy with his new V6 Capri.
In 1974, Steve was the first to leave Grumman for Informatics, the NJ based vendor of Mark IV. I followed a few months later and moved into a small rental studio apartment in Long Beach Long Island that gave me easier access to the Informatics customer base locations than the group house(s) out on eastern Long Island, and was still close enough that I could easily pick up Chris for week ends. I started putting serious miles on the Tempest.
I tuned it up regularly and other than normal wear items and one accelerator pump, it took me to and from Informatics Mark IV programming assignments in the NY/NJ metro area. The end started one Friday evening in early 1976 when I was returning to Long Beach from an assignment in Piscataway NJ and climbing the entrance to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge when it was apparent the car was loosing power. Something serious was wrong with the motor and it was making hollow popping sounds, like a spark plug or two were missing. I checked; all six plugs were secure and connected.
I limped home at speeds not exceeding 25 mph and knew that the time and cost to fix it would probably not be trivial and I had customers to keep happy. It was only nine years old, a bit dented but with no visible rust, and someone could probably fix it, but that someone was not going to be me. I had too many other things to do.
The Tempest had a good nine year and 100,000 plus miles run. I never changed the timing belt.
I had to get another car fast. Sound familiar?
This series is a great read. I’m glad your life seems to start improving at this point. Looking forward for the next instalment.
You’ve become my primary Sunday morning read, immediately after I’ve gone thru the comics that I love but aren’t carried in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Sort of how I read the daily newspaper.
Looking forward to next week’s installment.
With my first wife it was cold indifference (by both parties) that killed it.
I haven’t heard you mention anyone, was that first marriage enough to turn you into a monk? 🙂
Your detailed description of the “ramming incident” made me think of an old joke: “I miss you, but my aim is improving.”
These are some of the best stories ever. You know it’s all true because you just can’t make this sort of stuff up.
This is an excellent series. Cars, aircraft, engineering, and some humor and perspective on marital strife. I cannot imagine any more appropriate subjects for CC’s disparate group of regular readers on this fine sunday morning.
BTW you suggest the timing belt slipped a tooth in the Tempest? My 2.3 liter Ford had similar symptoms for the same reason.
Wow, great stories. You sure did have some interesting experiences and characters in your life.
This series has a bittersweet “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” vibe (a compliment), although the marriage deal is frustrating even to a complete stranger. She almost runs you down, but gets the kid, house, AND the newer car? Talk about twisting the knife.
Needless to say, I’ll join the chorus and applaud your efforts here, as these are all really well done, and they prove that through the ups and downs of life, cars are the constant.
Aaron65, During these times (mid 70s) I read Robert Pirsig’s Zen/Motorcycle book. His son’s name was Chris. I related to the Robert and Chris relationship (even if a lot of the Zen stuff went over my head).
Years later I read a newspaper story by Pirsig about how his son Chris was killed in a mugging incident in CA.
I cried reading that and couldn’t stop.
Welcome to the legal attitude towards divorce back at this time: Since the mother always got the child, she had to be taken care of. Plus there was a lot of leftover 50’s attitude that the husband must provide for the wife – even when they’re no longer married.
This was one of the first and biggest improvements brought about by feminism. Equality can cut both ways.
As a victim myself, I always remember the Willie Nelson quote: “I’m not going to get married again, I think I’ll just find a woman that hates me, then buy her a house.”
This has been a fascinating series to read. Like others have noted an interesting mix of subjects, personalities and events.
One thing that has always irritated me is this thought: …similar thinking to why one would replace a perfectly good water pump when changing the timing belt in a 1999 Miata…
While I get the idea behind preventative maintenance, in what other realm would we routinely throw out a perfectly good working component because we are replacing another (different or unrelated) but nearby component? Granted, I’m no engineer, just a working class schlub who up until recently turned most of his own wrenches.
I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES 2.2L turbo for 11 years and it was a great car for me. Little did I know that car (generally) was pretty easy to work on for routine maintenance. When I started finding a puddle of anti-freeze under the car (and saw the traces of coolant from the underside of the motor), I knew I was going to be changing a coolant pump.
Honestly, I had never paid that much attention to the accessory side of the motor; I was delighted to find that the coolant pump was external and could be removed without having to disassemble the front half of the engine! I slipped off the drive belt, unbolted it from the block, bolted on a new one, et voila! I had the job done in about two hours, from drain to refill.
I remember helping various people in my life change water pumps on various foreign cars, it almost always turned into a “creative language fest”. Sadly, I think all of the major producers have adopted this design “feature”; I personally believe it’s done just to keep dealership repair departments happy. Ugh.
You bring back memories of my many hours in Cessna 150s back in the late 80s. Not being employed by an aerospace company meant that my lessons and flight time cost a lot more than yours did.
Although spin recovery was not part of typical training, I told my instructor that I wanted to do one. He told me that the 150 is perfectly safe in spins, but that he was not supposed to do them because spins are hard on instrument gyros. My instructor had no particular love for the owner of the flight school, so we did the spin. Once was enough!
The Tempest gave you good service. Back then, if you got 10 years and 100k out of a car, it owed you nothing. Today we would consider it a lemon. And wow, a 60 Chrysler for free! That would have been a great ride.
I did the pilot’s lessons for a while, too. Mine were at the Osceola pilot’s club and, oddly, my instructor didn’t much care if I did spins all day long. Those Cessna 150s, although slow and ponderous, were also very forgiving and spin recovery was very easy (probably ‘too’ easy). Frankly, as slow and noisy as that plane was, emergency recovery maneuvers quickly became the highlight of flying.
C-172 pilot here. I have an attorney friend in Atlanta who still owns “71L” and who started taking me up occasionally back in the 1990s. When I expressed interest in learning, he offered the airplane free, with me picking up fuel and oil, plus chipping in toward the annual. I also lucked out with my instructor, a WWII B-17 A&P who got his CFI on the GI Bill after the war. He was nearing 70 when I started, and I was his last student. A true curmudgeon after the old school – you landed ON THE NUMBERS OR ELSE.
We never did spins, and I never really cared for accelerated stalls, etc., but still managed to always do okay with unusual attitudes.
I started lessons at Stone Mountain Airport, which was shut down before the 1996 Olympics. We moved over to LZU Gwinnett County, and I have pleasant memories of practicing constant altitude turns over the farmland areas near Monroe, GA. I’d occasionally be out there with a guy in a silver Stearman, who would absolutely cut the sky up with spins, etc.
Once I lost my shirttail, I took my boys up often, and we flew to my Dad’s house several times as a family for the weekend. A two-hour drive was reduced to 45 minutes flight time, plus 90 minutes pre- and post-flight work, so we never really saved any time! (c:
I also was a member of our local EAA Chapter, and flew over 40 kids in their Young Eagles program. They’d always land with an ear-to-ear grin.
I’ve always thought about buying a C-140 and flying it off our farm, but it’s looking less and less likely that I’ll ever get back into flying again. There are too many other projects around here to take on another time and $$-consuming hobby!
I learned to fly a 150. Then flew a 172 some. Last plane was a 182, which is a bit more complicated. I flew the 182 on a couple of cross country flights. I did quite flying though not long after as it was expensive.
It seems that the 150 was the fifth most produced airplane. What’s remarkable is that two of the planes ahead of it, the Cessna 172 and Piper Cherokee, are both still in production, whereas the 150 ceased production in 1977 (the other two are the Ilushyn Il-2 and Messerschmidt Bf-109 military planes).
The 172 is more useful than the 150, which was a trainer. Even though the 172 can carry 4, 3 is more the real limit unless the two in back are small. The 172 uses less fuel than the 182.
Concerning new vs. old:
About a month ago, a kid driving his Mother’s year old Infiniti changed lanes about a half second to soon, clipping the left quarter panel of my ’65 Ford Galaxie 500.
I heard the impact more than I felt it. Looking up in the rear view mirror, I saw a buckled up front end dragging the ground. I immediately thought that the trunk lid and bumper of my cherry, unmolested old Ford must be also buckled up/in.
We pulled to the shoulder, called the police, inspected our damage.
His Mother’s Infiniti had lost the right front fender, grille, headlight, bumper and dented up the hood.
My Ford had the bumper pushed down slightly (which I later pushed back up), a hairline scratch/dent on the left rear quarter panel and had the Infiniti’s plastic grille/bumper support embedded between the bumper and the fill panel.
The poor kid had to call his Mother to have her car towed away.
Reminds me of the tangle between my 78 Caprice and a 90’s BMW. The Bimmer had to be towed the Caprice suffered a dented front license plate.
My friend was driving a 1970 Plymouth Duster. I was driving a 1971 MGB Roadster and I hit him from behind (his lane had stopped and I switched into it). The MG’s fenders, bumper and hood were damaged, his license plate was bent. Amazing.
Enjoying your series.
Speaking of car crashes. In the late 70’s I was stopped in traffic in my ’57 Chevrolet panel when I got rear ended by a little old lady in a ’65 Buick Electra 225. I got hit hard enough it lifted me up out of my seat. I got out expecting the worse, and saw the whole front end of the Buick pushed back a good 8 to 10 inches. When I rounded the rear corner of my Chevy I couldn’t believe it, there was only one little dent in the bumper about 4″ in diameter and an inch deep.Thinking about it later the only thing I could figure was it riding high enough(due to the old 7.00X17.5 tires) that somehow the Buick slipped under the bumper and hit the frame of my Chevy but I never found any frame damage. I drove off as the tow truck was connecting up to the Buick. The body shop had to cut the hood off the Buick to asses the damage.
Compelling stuff. Thanks for sharing.
Still very much enjoying this series.
I enjoyed the digression on flying as well…one of my regrets I intend to rectify at some point is that I did not continue taking flying lessons. My initial reaction was shock at how light the plane felt. I was expecting a heavier feel, like a big car, and instead felt I was piloting a wheelbarrow through midair. But after 20 minutes flying over the Connecticut countryside I was into it. I’ll make the time at some point. Near where I grew up there was also one of those little airports, one of the last around, in Madison, Conn. When it finally closed in 2007 it was going to go to development but ended up being a park.
Did you ever find out what was wrong with the Tempest? It seems like scary this-might-fail stuff inevitably happens at places like the entrance to the Verrazano, or coming through the construction zone on the Drive.
I look forward to the next installment.
Top end oiling was a weak point of the OHC-6 – my guess is that this is what killed his engine (as it did the OHC-6 in my ’66 Tempest):
“In checking 1966–67 factory service bulletins it’s clear that failed camshafts occurred from lobe scuffing due to oil starvation and/or poor assembly techniques. Other problems encountered included stuck lash adjusters that occurred more frequently. It should also be noted that since the engine was non-conventional in design, finding mechanics experienced and knowledgeable was at best difficult and this is especially true today.”
Once again, powerful story. Glad your son was able to live in a stable relationship after the divorce.
Looking forward to happier episodes.
This is a riveting series to read. Sometimes I wish it were a CC-Fiction.
The dog bone Escort, the European Mercury Capri (Ford Capri) and of course the 2CV are all occupying space in my memory bank.
The story of the Chrysler doors reminded me of one of those rare moments in childhood where I felt (at least mechanically) superior to a group of adults. My brother had a decrepit 61 Falcon, he was one of the most mechanically clueless people that I had known, and the car was always in awful condition. I was about 12, and lusting after the day that I could drive my way to freedom.
Anyway, a neighbor was moving and the deplorable Falcon was in the way. They either opened the unlocked door, or somehow unlocked the door and opened it and that is the way I found it upon returning home from school. My mom was pissed at the movers and the movers swore that they didn’t “break” the hinge, but the end result was that the door was now frozen in the open position. I walked to our garage and grabbed a can of WD40, and was about to spray the hinges when all of these wise adults told me I was wasting my time. “What do we have to lose?” was my response, as I sprayed the hinges and closed the car door, all while feeling smug as hell, heady stuff for a 12 year old.
One of the few joyful moments from childhood that I still remember so vividly. I felt really good that day.
What a great series.
I can really relate, I’m currently living in Rockville Centre with my two young kids and working in tech on Long Island. Fortunately my marriage is good.
I feel for you, she put you through hell. Hope Chris is all the better for your generosity in the divorce.
Looking forward to the next installment.
This is remarkable and fascinating writing, Thank you for sharing some painful memories.
I’ve had the pleasure of hitting 2 deer. 9 years ago I was down in Corpus and had just gotten the Saab; around 11 p.m. I decide to take a ride down to the Padre Island National Seashore Beach. Top down, Steely Dan playing, cruising at no more than 15 mph and WHAM, the idiot jumped out of the tall grass. He limped off, and the Saab was drive-able…but cost $4200 to repair.
Three years ago I was cruising from Toronto to Philly via Niagara Falls, 4 p.m., beautiful afternoon…WHAM, the idiot jumped out from behind a grove of trees next to the road. He didn’t limp off, and the Trooper wasn’t drive-able. And we were in the middle of nowhere. Not a rental car for 100 miles. A great gig if you are ever looking for one is to own a tow truck with exclusive rights to a particular section of the highway. $275 to tow me six miles to their facility; $75 a day for storage until we could get the car towed to our base of operations 400 miles away. After the shock wore off, the little village were we stayed overnight was nice and serene.
Vile, stupid creatures.
This is the first COAL series where I enjoy the story more than the cars!
I feel a lot of sorrow that your marriage had to end. And that it was expensive. Boy, have I been there.
Ditto. “Every story has a car!”
At the end of the last COAL, I was really hoping for an “Act Three” miracle, but was saddened to read in today’s installment this was not the case.
My father divorced my mom after 25 years of marriage – I was a Freshman in college, my youngest brother was about 13 at the time, and it had negative effects that we still deal with to this day. Mom never remarried and passed in 2010. Dad went through the marriage/divorce cycle several more times – he’s married now, but has mid-stage dementia and doesn’t remember much of this any more.
My wife and I agreed 28 years go that we’d never consider divorce or even joke about it (murder, on the other hand… [grin]). We still manage to find difficult issues that have to be worked through. Her parents hit 62 years of marriage this past Spring, so it *can* be done! Thankfully we never had the kinds of issues our author experienced…
Your series is the first thing I want to read on Sunday mornings. Could be you have enough interesting material here for a book.
I once hit the tail end of a deer with my 1994 Nissan Sentra. Not sure what happened to the deer but damage to the Sentra was very minor, nothing to fix really. I swerved when I saw the deer come out of the bushes and start to jump. I must have swerved toward the deer as I just hit its rear end as it came across in front of me from the opposite side of the road.
Years ago I had a 79 Toyota Corolla as a winter beater in Ohio. It was all dented up, had dull yellow paint and was a wonderful drive with 5 speed and hydraulic clutch. I paid $400 from a Chevy dealer’s back lot and had to leave the windows down for two months to get rid of the cigarette smell. When freezing cold weather arrived we found that the front passenger door would not latch. This was discovered as I was about to leave to take my daughter and two Iranian sisters to school on the west side of Akron, Ohio which was a 25 minute drive from our house. So I jumped out, got a peace of clothes line rope and had my 13 year old daughter hold the door shut while we drove. I don’t remember how I kept it shut as solo driver. I suppose I held onto the rope. Never did get that latch to work in freezing weather.
As I read these installments I felt your pain. I raised 2 kids myself with a tremendous amount of help from my dear mother and extended family.Married way to young, a few yrs. in ,some deep seated mental issues and her related violence emerged. After our split her violence on a boyfriend got her criminally charged and committed. l hope at this point you have peace and serenity in you life. Many yrs. ago l learned how to cast resentments and emotional pain from the past out of my heart and mind and it unlocked the door to contentment.
As stated above after all these years one could make a joke or two. So l will for levity sake.
One day in fit of bipolar rage my ex came storming into the living room trying to stab me with a butter knife. At this point I gave her a free flying lesson. She got an F. Impacting terrain on climb out.
“Vile, stupid creatures.”
Yes but oh , so tasty ! .
Deer , not ex Wives =8-) .
Your stories and good writing are great and I am sure , a panacea to many here who’ve suffered the down side of marriage .
I’m one of those few lucky ones who’s grasping , greedy and all ’round PIA Wife left me and didn’t want the crappy Ghetto house nor old cars , trucks and Motos .
I got to keep my beloved Son too ! =8-) .
I’m jealous. But like Rich C said, you just have to get to your level of contentment. Not to say I’m not jealous of the great marital partnerships I’m exposed to every day.
Oh yeah ~ _SERIOUS_ win all ’round .
The amusing part ? every time she crashes another Husband/Boyfriend , guess whose ‘phone rings first ? .
She even told me to handle the _entire_ divorce thing on my own because she trusted my basic honesty .
I have no bone to pick with her in spite of all the B.S. , lies and problems she caused me , her and most everyone else she ever met .
Her Family still loves me , go figure .
Last year our Grand Daughter’s second birthday was way off in the High Desert , she called me up and asked me to drive her there in her Honda with decent AC , why not ? . she paid the Gasoline too =8-) .
As pretty much everyone has already stated, this is one of my favorite series on here as well and once again makes waking up early on Sunday a pleasure. Great stories, excellent telling thereof and lots of other interesting information along the way. And we are still only in the 60’s (or early ’70’s?), so lots more to go. I’m always afraid someone finally buys a new 1976 Honda Accord on the west coast and then drives that for forty years and that’ll be that…but you added enough hints that there are plenty more cars to come so that’s good.
And then, the cherry on top of the whole thing is that a BUS article popped up right after I finished reading this one! What a great Sunday! Now I just need to get through the whole next week.
Those pesky deer. Fortunately never hit one but did have one hit the vehicle I was riding in. Two of them darted out in the road in front of pop-in-law’s new Voyager on the way to an uncle’s lake house. The first one cleared the van’s nose by inches, the second t-boned us at right about the center window with a solid thump. I turned around to see the critter stumble to it’s feet and saunter off so we kept going. Upon arrival checked for damage but found only a small smear in the side panel.
Really enjoying this series. Sometimes these things are just not worth trying to work out. My parents have been married 50+ years and have been miserable for about 40 of those. My siblings and I suffered considerably and continue to as a result. I’m thankful that I was the first and have many good memories of my childhood up to near adolescence before alcoholism and rage issues intensified but my sibs weren’t so lucky.
No one has yet mentioned that superb shot of the 1960 Chrysler instrument cluster. That has to rank as one of the top 10 best production automotive instrument panels ever made, if not for practicality, just the look. It really is a work of art.
Bought and learned to fly in a Piper Archer (thumbs nose at high wing flyers). Wife left having no idea of the value of the “old clunkers”. She also had no time for our daughter who was left with me and enriched my life more than I can describe. By the way, is the jet engine pictured a high bypass model? I didn’t know they were around back then. But my knowledge of turbines is limited.
Loving this series–while the difficulty of your first marriage and the turmoil of its end is a terrible thing, your gift for storytelling makes it read like a novel. And it sounds like things were starting to get better for you as we drew to a close with this installment, which I’m sure was a welcome change after the previous downward spiral. Plus the aircraft…and the programming…oh, and the cars, too. Thanks, again, for sharing your story with us!
This is an absolutely fantastic COAL series. I look forward to each installment. It would be nice to see these listed with links in the Auto-Biographies section.
Interesting, as always. For the benefit of those of us who don’t work in the aerospace industry, what’s a heat lot number?
Your first car was a yellow Chrysler, so if you’d inherited Chuck’s Chrysler, there would have been a nice coming-full-circle aspect.
My brother, 3 years older than you, went through a nasty divorce in the late 1980s. He had two young daughters at the time. At one point he wrote, “Being a weekend father bears no resemblance to the real thing and is mighty upsetting.”
Good thing you weren’t living on Asharoken Road during Hurricane Sandy!
Others have said this, but I will join: Thank you for sharing this, and for taking every step you could to protect yourself and your child.
Good article and yea, my mama had go deal with those same divorce laws in the 1970s. She refused to be a scapegoat so some compromise was reached. Sounds like Annie was safe enough to be trusted with Chris, but still a bit worrisome.
It is a TERRIFIC series. What makes it for me is the deadpan delivery of such gut-wrenching events. Where I tend to over-explain everything (many engineers do *wink*) your life experience doesn’t lend itself to wasting time, and you get right to the point.
“…and then this happened…”
There are a lot of free reading materials online, but most of us would probably subscribe to this. Please write a screenplay?
On a side note, you seem to have no hatred or even animosity towards Annie. After committing an act that would have had the husband thrown in jail (actually, several of them) she was then entitled to your child, house, and even car. I’m assuming there were no exotic entertainers found on your lap or other causes that could remotely explain this behavior. Yet there is no anger that comes through at all.
I left my own post-divorce house closing with exactly $740 left and moved into a rat-hole third floor walkup, and as angry as I was my best friend gave me some great advice: “Just consider yourself lucky to be free and start over.” Also something about water and bridges. It sounds trite, but it was true. As much as I repeated it to myself over the years and tried to live by it, you truly have a Zen outlook that comes through in your writing, and we can all learn from it.
There’s something about ex-wives…my first one told the kids I wasn’t paying child support and never had…they about crapped themselves when I showed them the printouts showing that their mother had gotten $250k from me in the past decade and pretended it came from her and her new husband.
There’s something cruel about divorce with kids involved…I don’t care too much about material stuff…but screwing up the kids’ lives is awful.
Being free of a bad relationship is WONDERFUL. Thankfully I am married to an amazing woman now.
Wow. I got started on the predecessor of this installment the other night and hours later I’d read them all. Quite a tale of life. Sounds like the OP is quite good and likely enjoys tech work, but he would have always had writing to fall back on if needed, he’s a great storyteller.
The parts about the DC-10 and its engines were most interesting. A previous job I was supplying parts to the DC-10 when it was in active service. That airplane helped to form my career.
I had to look up exactly what a heat lot is. I suppose flight safety engineers learned the hard way (or rather, some pilots & passengers did) to keep track of everything about every part to avoid future disaster. Would that the rest of the world was as careful and could fix what’s broke without a thousand lawyers getting in the way.
Surprised that the Grumman Flying Club didn’t have a Cheetah or a Tiger. I soloed in a Piper Warrior and then started flying my flying clubs Grumman Tiger.