COAL Introduction: From These Roots

There are some endeavors in life in which the challenge increases over time rather than decreasing.  We are now embarking on one such endeavor.  What is it you ask?  My writing a COAL series after a decade of association with CC.

This association began in February 2012.  Since then, according to the back end of this website, approximately 615 articles with my name, or a prior pen name, on the byline have appeared.  This order of approach runs counter to all of our fine, previous COAL contributors; they generally start their time at CC with a COAL series.

Every few years around my birthday my mother reminds me I was born breach and was eleven days late.  It seems the latter plays to my timing of writing this series and therein lies the biggest personal challenge – I have plowed a lot of ground and I have already written a COAL or two along the way.  Do I revise them or do I overlook them?  It’s not exactly a debilitating question, but it’s a worthy one nonetheless.

Seriously, do I really write about my 2000 Econoline yet again?  It seems this van has provided more writing fodder than anything else, except perhaps full-size Mercurys.


However, I have had several vehicles which I have never really mentioned over these years.  What are they?  This is only a preview.  Naturally, all have a story although some are more complex than others.

The articles I have written here over time have covered the gamut.  While the automotive offerings have primarily been built in North America, in rereading some of these pieces it seems I have managed to squeeze in all manner of other tangentially (or not so tangentially) related subject matter, which is the true covering of the gamut.  How ostensibly writing about cars has also inspired me to talk about washing machines, boyhood bathroom shenanigans, and washed up actors is a question that can only be answered with a “why not?”.

It seems such diversions must resonate well enough as Paul hasn’t asked me to leave.  Yet.

So, as Stevie Nicks once said, “Stand Back”.

Then there is the question of what cars and pickups to include.  While I have owned an average number of both for my age, my early years contained a few important specimens in which the name on the title belonged to my parents.  There was the 1984 Ford F-150 I drove in high school, the 1985 Ford LTD Crown Victoria, the 1991 Dodge Dynasty…there are numerous examples.

Even earlier, at age four, there was a 1973 Ford Torino which was almost the first car I ever drove.  It seems one day I was angry with my parents, swiped the keys, and had the car started before they realized where I was.  I somewhat remember this and my plan was to drive the twenty-odd miles to my grandparent’s house.  If only I had been a bit taller so I could have seen over the dashboard life may have turned out differently.

Further, when considering this COAL series, I have to acknowledge I have driven countless more light duty vehicles that didn’t belong to me.  I also tend to drive the “mores” more, as for twenty-six years I have been putting as many, if not more, miles on vehicles belonging to my employer than I do on those I own.  My experiences while using these vehicles have definitely helped shape my worldview and philosophical outlook.

I am also planning an update about this 2018 Impala along the way.  It is currently my assigned car at work and, well, it has seen a lot since my last update about it three years ago.  Some of the events it has seen are truly bizarre.  It will likely be an addendum or bonus chapter; this car has become a magnet for weird things.

At this point all but one entry of the series has been written.  I’ve done my best to remove any rose-tinted filters from my memory and, perhaps typical for this type of series, there has sometimes been more focus on other elements of life in which the subject vehicle was an invaluable partner for that particular journey.

Isn’t it fascinating how time has a way of filing away the burred and jagged edges from unpleasantries in the past?  However, time also has a marvelous way of compressing itself.  Has it really taken 34 years for all of these experiences to transpire?  Indeed it has.

Credit for a COAL introduction must be given to RLPlaut as he provided one at the beginning of his excellent COAL series.  It inspired me to do similarly and it just seems like the thing to do here.  Yet Mr. Plaut has been very open about how his places of employment played into his life; I have yet to disclose where I work despite some really heavy-handed hints over the years.  I’m still not going to disclose where I work although in rereading what will be running over the coming weeks, the heavy handed hints sure seem to continue.  If you can figure things out, I applaud you.  If you cannot, that should not detract from the overall series itself.

Truth be told, rereading various COALs has nudged my already healthy proclivity to add context and texture that can only be achieved by providing literary tangents.  So far it seems I have found myself discussing experiences with two murders, clogged toilets, and promiscuous neighbors – and that’s in just one of the COALs I have written at this point.

If nothing else, this COAL endeavor has reminded me of my appreciation for the various humors and absurdities in life.

As with most people’s lives, it isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.  There are a few serious items along the way.  However, during this decade at CC I have always tried to inject some degree of humor into things as humor greatly helps lubricate the rough points in life.  However, even with the serious – and bizarre – I have tried to keep a bit of humor involved.  Even dark humor is humor.

With any luck whatsoever, you will find something enjoyable, perhaps even relatable.  There might even be a few things to challenge your perceptions or maybe they will be affirmed.  This series is definitely a reflection of my personal growth from age 17 to my late 40s.  It is from these roots of being a lifelong Midwesterner that I am presenting this series.

In the early days of map-making, the biggest challenge was taking a three-dimensional world and figuratively squashing it onto a less-dimensional piece of paper.  This undertaking feels similar.  Perhaps just seeing the results of such squashing will make the series worthwhile.  If nothing else you may hopefully get some insight about living somewhere vastly different – or perhaps eerily similar.

One last thought (or warning, you decide)…each chapter has been named after a soap opera, even the title of this introduction is named for one, and various titles have fit various chapters alarmingly well.  Isn’t life often just like a soap opera but with somewhat less melodrama and amnesia?

(Author’s Note:  From These Roots was a daily dramatic serial on NBC that was broadcast from June 30, 1958, to December 29, 1961.)