I’ve always loved the fedora as I stated way back in May of 2006, but was afraid wearing one would either make me look old (which I am) or like I was covering up my baldness (which I also am). Now, there’s a more practical reason: ever since my skin cancer the wide-brimmed hat has become a necessity. So here I am. Call me an old fart with old fashion head gear or an old far trying to be fashion-forward. Actually, it’s a cancer screen. Sexy, eh?
I hope to submit something here again someday. For now, check out http://www.burgerscoot.blogspot.com/.
Boy, it has been a long time since my last post. Recently, I have been inspired to post something, but the inspiration is for a series of posts. So, I will start fresh with a new blog. Perhaps this will inspire me to submit more posts to this sorry blog in the meantime. Check my new blog at http://www.burgerscoot.blogspot.com/ or just click on the link under My List on your right. At post the blog is still in progress. I hope to have it up soon, though.
Let’s get something straight before I tell you this tale of impotency and frustration, lubed with plenty of dirt and grease. It may not make this blogger any less pathetic, but at least you will understand this story – and me – a little better.
My father is a master mechanic and I am not. There, I said it. He started down his personal road by tearing apart old engines to see how they worked. He found that kind of thing fastinating. That never interested me; at the time my old man was wrist deep in motor oil, I was bathing my brain cells in cathode rays, wondering why the castaways on “Gilligan’s Island” never got around to dispatching the show’s namesake, and hoping that Andy Griffith would some day be the President.
In some ways, though, I ended up more like a Gilligan than an Andy. When I became a car owner, my motto was simple: just show me how to operate it and whenever it breaks, I’ll throw money at the problem. This motto has caused me to dole out a lot of money that I would otherwise have saved if I had learned something about car engines beyond adding motor oil and replenishing windshield wiper fluid. However, for the most part, I have no regrets. Further, I have never bought into the stereotyping of men and their cars. Unlike the hordes of car enthusiasts in the country, I eagerly await the fully electric- and hydrogen-powered cars and the abolition of the internal combustion engine. With that said, read on.
A couple of months ago, when my car would not start, I called my auto club to give it a jumpstart. As the tow truck driver jumped my car, I pretended to listen as he told me who manufactured the various parts of my car, in what part of the world this car was assembled, and how he believed the only thing wrong with my car at this time is my battery. I couldn’t tell you anything about my car’s origin except that it has a Japanese name, but I did catch the last part of his rambling. He told me I could now drive the vehicle, but the battery would not hold a charge very long. I had a sudden attack of frugalness and decided to buy and install a new battery by myself.
The tow truck driver’s parting instructions were to drive to the auto parts store and have the staff check the battery and the alternator. Assuming he was correct and the problem was a dead battery, the shop would sell me a battery and even loan me the tools to do the swap right in their parking lot. How hard could that be? The parts store tested the battery and found it was, indeed, the problem. I purchased a mid-range priced battery and borrowed a monkey wrench from the guy behind the parts counter.
While I was removing the terminals from the old battery, a Honda Civic pulled into the parking spot next to me and an attractive blonde woman in a navy pinstriped suit got out of the car. She said “Hi” to me just as I attempted to yank the dead battery out of my car. To my embarrassment, it didn’t budge. I regarded the battery in a real masculine kind of way, but I was really trying to figure out what was holding the battery down – did the plastic of the battery casing melt onto the platform the battery was sitting on? I yanked again – this time in a rocking fashion — figuring I might peel it off the platform.
A minute of these rocking yanks continued until the woman in the pinstripes came out with an auto parts store employee and the battery-checker cart thing they used on my car earlier. The woman interrupted my rocking telling me I needed a ratchet and a socket to loosen the battery frame. (That’s what it’s called. Thanks, eHow.com!) She gave me a pathetic smile as if I was a pound trash puppy. “Right,” I said back too fast. The auto parts guy, through a chuckle, told me I could borrow the tools inside. I felt like kicking his cart over.
I came back out with a ratchet and a socket set and started feeling around for this nut I was supposed to loosen. Got it! However, I found out I could not loosen the nut because the ratchet handle was too long for the cramped area down between the battery and whatever was next to it. I kept trying though, making all sorts of clanking noises and dropping the ratchet a couple of times. It was the second time I was on my knees feeling around for the ratchet under my car when I heard another ratchet working like crazy. I stood up, still without my ratchet-from-hell, to see Miss Pinstripes ratcheting away. By the time I found mine, got up, and brushed off my knees, she handed me an extension saying, “I think you are going to need this.” The sympathetic look on her face had vanished and was replaced with one that would usually accompany a comment like, “I can’t wait to tell the girls this one,” holding back a laugh. I thanked her for it and proceeded to loosen the battery frame.
Another thing I learned that day, along with the fact that car batteries don’t just float around an engine, tethered by two terminals, is that the bracket is not one solid piece. There are actually three pieces to the assembly, not including the nuts. I also learned that when the piece you never really looked at in the first place loosens and falls off the assembly and drops deep into the bowels of the engine, you not only have a hard time reaching the thingy, but you don’t even know what you are looking for.
As I reached deep into my car’s engine guts, trying to find the mystery part, my face pressed against something very greasy, Miss Pinstripes, in a very small voice, asked for the extension back. By this time, whatever bit of pride left in me was as lost as the thing I was looking for. With my face still pressed against the engine part and my right hand sodomizing the motor, I picked up the ratchet that was resting near the radiator and pointed the ratchet, extension, and socket at her like a pistol. She pulled the extension off the ratchet and the socket off the extension, then proceeded to attach the socket back on to the ratchet. This exchange was done without me letting go of the ratchet handle. In any other setting I would have found this exchange to be almost erotic, but with half of my face in dirty grease and her failed attempt to suppress a giggle, it was anything, but arousing. Miss Pinstripes got in her car and drove off.
At this point, I walked into the auto parts store – my right arm and shoulder coated in dirty grease – and asked the three guys standing around the parts counter if one of them would help me locate the missing part. They all smiled and, as one of the guys walked out with me to the parking lot, I heard the other two whispering something about “Two-Face,” followed by hardy belly laughs.
While the employee and I were fishing around my engine, I told him that I thought Miss Pinstripes made off with their socket extension. Be advised, dear reader, at this point I really didn’t give a damn about the store’s property – I was still embarrassed that a woman, professionally dressed, did a battery swap without a hitch and I was still here. The employee told me she had brought her own extension and then finished by saying, “…some people come prepared for this kind of job.” That hurt, but not as much as asking for the store’s extension to finish the job.
When I finally did finish the job and drove off with a new battery installed in my car, I navigated directly to the closest Jimboy’s, greasy face and all. As I inhaled two el Gordos, an order of taquitos, and a large Diet Coke, I took comfort in knowing that eating is one thing I know how to do well.
About 17 years ago, my wife, our two sons and I moved out of our mid-town apartment and into a nice little home in East Sacramento. I recall looking at all the children riding their bikes up and down the street when the real estate agent first showed us the house. “What a wonderful place to raise our children,” my wife and I concurred. It was a nice house in a nice part of town, near a freeway, a grocery store, and a beautiful, shaded, median park.
I wonder to this day if the agent who, in the words of Joe Bob Briggs, looked like she had a “head-on collision with Max Factor,” planted her nieces and nephews in the neighborhood with the promise of ice cream for the kids and 20 hours of babysitting for their parents. A short while after we moved in, we noticed the children had disappeared and, some months later, we began to notice suspicious characters hanging around a house a few doors down and across the street. Soon we, and the rest of the homeowners, knew we had a gang’s clubhouse on our street. The music coming from the house was loud, there were many visitors, and this activity went on virtually around the clock. To top it off, many afternoons we were audience to a big guy, who would sit in a chair in the middle of the driveway and shout profanities at people driving by.
We did nothing about this; what could we do? There were police cars patrolling and occasionally stopping at the house. Our first Fourth of July at the house sounded like the decapitation of Baghdad – the gang’s clubhouse had a car trunk full of stuff that you cannot get at Red Devil Fireworks. For what seemed like all night, bottle rockets and, what sounded like M-80s or cherry bombs, were set off.
When one bottle rocket exploded on my front porch – lighting up my front room as if it was high noon – while I was on the other side of the porch wall trying to calm down my infant son, I came unglued. For those following minutes, the fact that I was preparing to lock horns with a bunch of guys that were probably “packin’ 9’s” totally escaped me.
Lucky for me, by the time I got to the middle of the street where these guys were setting off the contraband, they had finished their pyrotechnics show and were calling it a night. Oh, but I was far too fired-up to simply turn around and go to bed. The reason I am here to write this post, and am not just a memory to my widowed wife who had to settle for a closed coffin, is that the people I ended up screaming at were a couple of 11-year-olds who were almost in the house when I got to ground zero. Of course, this did not stop me from unleashing my rage, even if there was no one in the street to receive it.
Some months later, my wife and I were speaking with Karryl, a woman who lived directly across from the clubhouse. She had had enough of the activities and was going to sell her home – probably at a loss. Karryl told us she had spoken with a detective from the Sacramento Police Department who was trying to bust the gang bangers on something, but could not get anything that would stick. She surprised us when she said that only a week or so earlier, four police cars were parked in front of the clubhouse and the police arrested all the gang members. My wife and I were both at work at the time. She said the police had made a couple of wholesale arrests over the previous six months, but the gang members always returned. She said the detective was also watching another neighbor, who lived next to Karryl, just four houses down on our side of the street.
Karryl told us that about once a week, she would wake up in the early morning, 2-3 AM, to the sound of trucks and multiple voices in the neighbor’s backyard. When she looked through the fence, she would see these trucks were towing cars – into the backyard. It was a chop shop. Karryl told us the police had been to both houses before. What was so ironic was that with all the nefarious activity going on in our own neighborhood, we never were robbed or harassed.
A couple of months later, when I was riding my bike home from work, I saw four police cars lining the street around the clubhouse and the chop-shop house. At the time I did not think much of it: “It is just another bust and these guys will be back in business by sunrise.” However, a day or two later I saw Karryl and she told me she was walking out her front door around noon that day when she saw coming from both directions, descending on the clubhouse, a dozen police officers with body armor and shotguns. She said she ran back inside and hid in the back room, afraid she might be accidentally shot.
By the time she settled on the carpet of her back bedroom, she saw through the sliding glass door a Costco-size mayonnaise jar come flying over her fence from the chop-shop house. Ten minutes later, without a shot having been fired, she peeked through her kitchen window. On the front lawn was a bunch of gang members on their knees in cuffs and the detective she had spoken with before was walking around casually, clad in black slacks and a polo shirt, with a holstered sidearm on his chest. Karryl walked out, greeted the detective and asked him to examine the mayonnaise jar.
It turned out to be crystal meth. Now the detective was able to get a search warrant for the house and found a meth lab in the basement and enough evidence for convictions related to the chop-shop activities. All of this was too much for Karryl; she sold her house right after the arrests. The clubhouse was sold; the chop-shop house was vacant. About five quiet years later, we bought a bigger, better house in South Land Park.
Less than two years after moving into our new home, one of our cars was stolen and, a couple of years after that, our house was broken into and my wife’s jewelry, my SLR camera and equipment, a pair of binoculars and a brand new computer, among other items, were lifted. I would not be surprised if the culprits were from another neighborhood. They might have applied the “trick-or-treat” method of choosing victims: go to the nice neighborhood to get the candy and do not crap where you eat.
And it doesn’t matter how much I shamelessly promote this thing to those who I thought liked me, all I seem to get is, “Oh yeah, I’ll check it out, man” followed by nothing, no comments, nothing. When you get to quizzing your nieces and nephews to find out whether they read the blog like they said they did, that’s when you know you’ve hit rock bottom. Thanks, Buzz.
I’m thinking about buying a fedora. I’ve always loved the style, even though you rarely see anybody wearing them these days. I don’t think the fedora ever really returned to fashion from the 1940’s, but, maybe, I could start a trend. The entry for Fedora in Wikipedia.com gives a list of some fifty famous usages, but only a few represent real people in recent times.
Seriously, though, who am I kidding? I don’t really think I can start a trend, and, even if I begin wearing a fedora, what will I wear with it? I’m not much of a coat and tie man, and I think a man wearing fedora with a tie-less shirt just looks like a guy who any moment is going to break out into a tap dance or a guy trying to cover his baldness.
I tried for years to cover my growing widow’s peaks, moved my bangs around, firing three hairdressers who couldn’t pull a bottle of Rogaine out of the future or rub some magic tonic on my barren peaks and prescribe a daily dose of Jimboy’s El Gordos and Taquitos for hair care maintenance or at least tell me that widow’s peaks were hot! No, they just said ”Oh well, that’s the way it goes,” and attempted to cover my shiny shame wedges. After firing my last hairdresser (“firing” really means just finding a different hairdresser, but “firing” sounds more cathartic), I went home, wet my hair down, and combed my bangs straight back – exposing my receding hairline. The balding jokes stopped – the shame was removed. So you see, when I see my bald/balding brothers donning hats of one sort of another, I want to tell them it’s okay to be bald. Of course, some may be more concerned about preserving their body heat from the cold and protecting their scalp from the sun.
But I digress; the fact is I would have to re-invent myself if I did this. Now, I don’t have a problem with other people doing this kind of a thing – it’s almost required for a celebrity to do it; as a society, we are far too jaded to follow a movie star or pop singer who looks the same, acts the same for years on end – he or she becomes boring, but little old me would feel too self-conscious to show up at work one day wearing a tie, suspenders, a sport coat, and a fedora cocked to one side of my big melon. I guess you’ve probably figured out by now this post is not about announcing my “new look,” but simply a process I am going through to talk myself out of wearing one of these things.
The first time I can remember seeing a fedora was when my father introduced me to the man who would become my favorite celluloid hero, Humphrey Bogart. The man had style, even though he clearly wasn’t GQ material. He was a man’s man – the only guy I ever saw slap a woman, making it look not misogynistic, but macho, and oddly sexy.
I remember spending hours looking in the mirror, wearing any hat that faintly resembled a fedora, with a cigarette butt that I had plucked from one of the ash trays around the house. I would move my upper lip over my teeth, and, repeating ”Here’s looking at you, kid” and “Angel, you’re taking the fall.” I think there were times I didn’t want to be like Bogey, I wanted to be Bogey. If I would have continued in the family tradition of smoking, it wouldn’t have been my mother, father, or sister’s fault – it would be the cool cigarette moves of Sam Spade and “Casablanca’s” Rick Blaine. Thankfully, that didn’t come to pass. Also, if I had based my smoking on Bogey characters, I think my actions would net only horselaughs. I cringe to imagine myself, leaning against the bar, cigarette dangling between my fingers, replying to a bored waitress’ offer to sample TGI, Friday’s new, improved Jalapeno Poppers: “I stick my neck out for no one.”
I don’t have Bogey’s hard look. Before I met my wife and got a huge boost of self-confidence, I used to equate myself with Woody Allen’s character in the movie “Play It Again, Sam” a man who is coached in the ways of love by the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. I took comfort in one of the last lines that Allen’s character says to his hero: “True, you’re not too tall and kind of ugly, but I’m short enough and ugly enough to succeed on my own.” I suppose that goes for me too, with or without a fedora.