A SOGGY AUTUMN THURSDAY – Garry Armstrong

Politics or weather and cars? That’s an easy one. Weather and car stuff!

Yesterday, it was me, a quick dental visit confirming that the previous week’s marathon procedure was a success. I still have some eating problems, but it is much better.

Today, it was the car dealer. A couple of weeks ago, we took the car in for a warranty repair and to replace a recalled part … and along the way, a piece that keeps the car’s hood attached to its body broke.

Welcome to Imperial Auto Mile!

It is the right-side hood latch; I’m sure it has a special name, but I don’t know it. I don’t think the Service Manager knew its name either. It’s a widget of unknown origin.

The Blues Brothers — full size, but totally plastic!

Just hanging out, waiting for their car to be finished

Our dealer is a fun place to hang out.  While the automotive Dr. Zorba figures out how to fix our 2015 Jeep Renegade, there’s a ton of stuff to look at. Sometimes, we go there just to take pictures. It’s that kind of place.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a … car? An old one?

The dealership venue is wonderful to prowl. The owner is a collector of Hollywood and automotive artifacts, souvenirs and other stuff. Whether or not you’re a car person, it’s not boring. It’s also a brilliant idea to help customers cope with pricey repairs. You can hang with the Blues Brothers who occupy a front and center position at the entrance to the main showroom.

Welcome to our accounting office

Not for drinking!

The Boys grab your attention if you’re not cool with the cooking show on the giant TV screen. I actually watched the cookie program for a view minutes as the manly chef whipped together some kind of oat-filled casserole. It looked interesting but I’ll pass on anything related to oatmeal which is right in there with lima beans on my “Thank you, but NO” list.

There also are lots of nifty celebrity photographs. I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to believe these folks were car buffs but who cares? It’s the image that counts. If you’re blinded by the reflections, sorry. I tried my best.

Dean Martin and guitar – Photo: Garry Armstrong

You might want to chat with the Rat Pack replicas. Maybe they’re rehearsing for a gig, so if you want to splurge on a luxury car, Frank and Dino are pleasant companions –Las Vegas-style. Apparently, there are still people who have disposable incomes. I vaguely remember that term from my working days when I briefly considered buying my dream car. Until I realized we wouldn’t be able to eat or continue living in our yuppy-priced apartment. Decisions, decisions.

The Elvis Expo

There are lots of knick-knacks to remind you of the good old days for car owners. You can almost hear the ads of yesteryear: “See the USA in your …”  It was the wrong ad for this dealership, but you get my drift.

I didn’t own a car until I’d graduated from high school. I felt so deprived when I saw my classmates with their cool wheels. Memories rush through my head as I gaze over the showroom. These cars don’t have the distinctive character of the rides of our youth. That was when you could tell a Chevy from a Caddy from a Buick and you didn’t even have to be “into” cars. The price of progress, as Spencer Tracey warned in an old film.

The weather probably impacted the business. It was quite a storm that started last night and continued through most of today. Not many people outside, looking over all the cars waiting for a home and owners who’ll treat them with care. It was gray and windy with rain hovering on the horizon.

Outside, the weather threatens

There was powerful wind out there today. Like some Washington bigwig had passed gas again, spinning tales like a used car salesman. Or a Lawyer who promised to turn his life around after chasing his last ambulance.

Our car received a temporary prescription. Check with Dr. “Trust Me ” Zorba in two days.

The ride home was an adventure. Lots of Steve McQueen types on their own road to perdition. That two-lane road doesn’t allow for Le Mans-style driving but try telling that to those jokers.

Route 16

The trek gave me time to observe the rapidly changing autumn foliage, too. The sun drifted in and out of the cloudy sky and the wind-tossed leaves blew hither and yon. Every turn in the road offered a new technicolor scene. This is when I really appreciated living in our valley of rivers, creeks, dams, and woods. People still come to the valley from all over just to see the leaves.

The road home

I had the Sinatra station going on our car radio. My kind of music. It played well on my drive as I realized late afternoon had crept up on me. A late autumn afternoon when the sky darkens quickly, imbuing it with color changes, adding shadows to the trees swinging in tune to the increasing wind gusts. I sensed a need to get home quickly before the skies opened.

Trees in the front

Through the wood glider with sun peaking through

Sinatra was singing “When The World Was Young” followed smoothly by Ella Fitzgerald’s “When Sunny Gets Blue,” Tony Bennett’s “Once Upon A Time,” Sammy Davis’ “Mr. Bojangles.” As I pulled onto the road to our house,  Sinatra was back again with his vintage “Autumn Leaves.” It was perfect timing. Thanks for the company “SiriuslySinatra.”

Beware of Scottish Terriers

A quick survey of our home showed Mother’s Nature’s darkening mood as the late afternoon stretched lazily down our driveway and across our front and back yards. No picnics today as the clocks rolled toward dinner time for the dogs who waited, with precious little patience, for their dinner.

Maybe I could get Sinatra to sing for them. How about “Young At Heart,”  my furries?

CARS AND TRUCKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Cars and Trucks

Out here in the country, I don’t feel as surrounded by internal combustion vehicles as I did in the cities in which i lived: New York, Jerusalem, and Boston. I feel safer crossing the street, safer breathing the air.

Most of the world lives in much more densely populated quarters. I often wonder if any of them remember breathing air that wasn’t at least just a teensy weensy bit polluted.

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I thought because I asked someone and got the wrong answer, that you can’t bury a body on private land. As it turns out, it depends on the state in which you live.

Laws vary by state AND also by county. I’m betting Boston is a no-no as is any well-populated suburban area, but out here where we are embarrassed to admit we “only have 4 and a half acres” because everyone else has a much bigger area, you can not only be buried yourself but can start your own private family cemetery.

I suppose this assumes you are planning to stay on that property. I did know a lovely home in upstate New York that had been a rectory. A minister was buried in the backyard and there was a huge apple tree over him.

Small Bobcat excavator

So for the “broke but needing a place to put the body” people of whom, given the insane prices of “real” funerals, this is one more advantage to country life.

Price? The cost of one canvas shroud — I’m pretty sure that’s affordable for most people —  which I assume is a big bag in whatever color suits your eternal mood. Drawstring optional.

Of course, you can’t just stick the body in the bag. You also need a hole in which to bury it. For this, you need a bobcat or maybe a small John Deere. The cost of renting a bobcat? I’m afraid the price wasn’t posted on the site, but our local lumberyard rents them. And you can get ready in advance since this is great equipment for any small to medium-size farm or landscaping venture.

Breaking the ice on our frozen driveway. Local volunteer!

They are frequently used in cemeteries to dig graves. Easier on the back than the whole shovel thing. But you need a hydraulic license, so it might be cheaper to hire a guy who already knows how to use the equipment.


Free shipping and eco-friendly. I think you can get them with wheels so you can roll the body into the hole. Shrouds are used as an alternative to clothing and are suitable for transportation, burial or cremation. The shroud with handles can be used on its own and is lift weight tested to 300 lbs. A sewn-in pouch allows a rigid board to be inserted under the shroud to provide support for the body if desired. Instructions on shrouding the body are available here. Sizes: Large 112” L x 73” W – Extra Large  118” L x 78” W – Please allow 3-5 days for shipping or contact us for overnight delivery.


It can push like a tractor, pull or lift pretty heavy material. It is lighter and far more maneuverable than a tractor front loader. Typically used in light to medium construction as well as landscaping. Think building a swimming pool or a septic system. Or, for that matter, the basement of a house or the extension to an existing house.

You can put various fronts on it, so it’s also great for pushing snow (much better than a garden tractor) and it hauls well. I’ve always wanted a tractor or bobcat. I don’t need one. I just want one.

The only reason I didn’t get one when we moved here was the price. A good tractor costs a bit more than I could justify. Anyway, I’m pretty sure nobody trusted me with my own tractor.

WHERE IS STEVE McQUEEN WHEN I REALLY NEED HIM? – Garry Armstrong

It must be payback. Karma, hubris – or both.

For more than 30 years, I drove a succession of fully loaded convertibles with Steve McQueen in my brain. Once, I was racing to a story in the dead of night when a State Trooper pulled me over. He asked the traditional question. He smiled when I told him I was heading to a fire. After being cautioned to drive responsibly, I sped on to the scene. Steve McQueen was with me.

Nothing fazed me. Not Boston crazies or New York cabbies. Oh, hubris!

My convertible days are behind me. Thanks to retirement, an income adjusted to social security, “wonderful” pensions and too many tickets from my Steve McQueen days, I drive like a normal guy, more or less. You’d think I’d paid my dues, atoned for my sins.

Not hardly, Pilgrim.

I’ll admit I still drive too fast, even if I’m doing the speed limit. That’s because I wasn’t born in the Valley and I don’t have Valley in my blood, so to speak. You see, in the Valley, driving is a leisurely business. Very leisurely. Twenty miles an hour is fast for a lot of our local people and not only in school areas. We are talking normal stretches of road with no special considerations or construction.

Not a racing car exactly!

I’m convinced there’s a legion of slow drivers waiting for me to pull out onto the street. I’ve been targeted. Wherever I go, they are waiting. It’s particularly frustrating when I’m heading to an appointment. These days, it’s usually a doctor appointment for my wife or me. We usually allow extra time for possible traffic jams, construction, weather delays, and accidents.

The X-Factor is the slow driver. (Drum-roll.)

They usually appear just as we are pushing up to the speed limit and think we’ll be able to make good time. We’ll get to our destination and have time to relax. I’m beginning to think about playing some music for the drive.

That’s when they show up. In the blink of an eye, they appear. The dreaded slow drivers. A whole conga line of slow drivers. No way to maneuver around them because our local roads are two lanes. One in each direction and narrow to boot. I can feel the anger and frustration beginning to boil up inside me.

If I’m driving alone, I allow the profanities full volume. If my wife is with me, I mumble, tighten my wrists and think evil, vile things. The slow drivers sense this and slow down even more. It is torture. What would Steve McQueen do?

Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com

Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com

Sanity and common sense kick in only because I know we can’t afford accidents with me as the culprit. That makes it more infuriating. They slow down, even more, sensing my plight. Could it be worse? Never ask that question because the answer is always yes!

It gets personal when I realize nature is calling. Home isn’t that far away but it could be an embarrassment if I don’t get there in time. The drivers drive even slower.

I whisper a prayer, forgiveness for my wild days on the road. I turn onto the road home. I can do this. I can make it. Traffic slows to a halt. What would Steve McQueen do?

Gritting my teeth, I see two cars ahead of me. They are staring at the road. They are texting. They are not old but rather part of the legion of slow drivers targeting me. All seems lost as I swing and sway to delay disaster, traffic begins to move again.

Slowly.

Minutes that seem like hours go by until I reach home. I pull down our long driveway. I race into the house with personal shame just narrowly averted. I calm down before returning to the car to collect my things.

I look up at the street. There’s no traffic. The slow drivers have disappeared. Is it a conspiracy?

What would Steve McQueen do?

WHICH WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

SonOfABeach’s Which Way Photographs

Which way to go on a bright, hot, murky summer’s day? I think we’re going to hit the grocery store, but not until late in the day. It is simply too hot and muggy to be outside right now.

Main Street

WHERE’S THE BUS STOP? Marilyn Armstrong

This is the kind of normal question that anyone might ask in any town anywhere. Except if you ask it here, the responder will look at you quizzically. Because honest Abraham of Civil War fame, we don’t have any public transportation in this town.

If you need to go somewhere, you have a choice.

You can walk. You can hop on your bike, assuming it isn’t the middle of winter with roads full of snow and ice and you’re still young enough to do it. You can saddle up your horse (or hitch up the buggy) … or jump in whatever vehicle you own.

That’s it. I’m told that way back before we were living anywhere, they used to have a bus. I would certainly not object to having a mini-bus so old folks — like me — could get into town without having a driver. So far, no go, but I live in hope.

No Uber. No Lyft. No taxi. Nothing unless you drive. There are train tracks, but the trains don’t stop here and anyway, they are all freight trains, not for passengers.

We have tracks, but lack trains

Most people don’t take their horses to town, but it has happened. It makes the horses nervous, though and carrying back the groceries can be a bit clumsy. So mostly, it’s feet, trucks, and cars. We’re about 3-1/2 miles out of the village and we are definitely past hoofing it.

This is casket truck. Everyone needs a traveling casket, right?

Or maybe something smaller?

Public transportation isn’t part of the rural lifestyle. At some point, the trains did stop here. I only know it because we have a converted train station that’s now a real estate office. But once upon a time, it was an actual passenger station.

Does a school bus count?

School bus, in town. I think you need to be attending a local school to get a lift!

Photo: Garry Armstrong