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Monday, March 6, 2017

What Were They Thinking?



By Mike Nettleton 

I’ve always loved words. After all, without them we’d have a rash of head-on collisions between various types of punctuation. (In fact, I witnessed a gruesome semi-colon—question mark—em dash pile up the other day that tied up traffic in my word processor for hours).

My love of the language probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me. From the seven year old tottering up the long hill home from the downtown Bandon library with his seven books (the legal limit), to the 43 year semi-professional radio pronouncer who became the author and co-author of a number of amusing but terminally unimportant novels, I’ve wallowed in words for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’ve spent much of my retirement as a part-time librarian, helping others find reading matter and brushing up on the Dewey decimal system. (For the unacquainted, that’s not a moist form of mathematics.) I’ve also stumbled across works I would have never considered reading until the title leaped off the shelves and grabbed me. “Quantum Physics for Dummies,” “The Amish Biker Mama Who Married a Duke” and “Sex for One,” are three that come to mind. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the names of automobile models. I wonder, if at each and every car manufacturer’s headquarters, there’s a room that houses the creative minds that assign new names to soon-to-be-released gasoline slurpers. Where do they come up with their inspiration?


Some names appeal to the common sense, community spirit and thrift of the consumer about to buy the car. The Ford “Econ-o-line”.  Has to be easy on the pocketbook, right? Family car that will efficiently and cheaply move the family from point A to point B. If you don’t believe me, listen to Nancy Griffith’s song of the same name. On the flip side, I have memories of waiting for the tow truck to show up (again!) and my wife doubled over with laughter beside me. It’s possible she enjoyed the irony of my car being a Plymouth Reliant more than I did. And for the ultimate in down-to-earth respectability, how about the Honda Civic? Not only gets good gas mileage, but does charity work in its spare time. 

Another favorite is critters, both real and mythical. Ford seemed to favor horse names. Now in the case of the “Mustang”and the “Bronco”, this has worked out pretty well. Not so much with the “Pinto”, which tended to explode when tapped too firmly on the rear haunches. Big cats play well too, like the Mercury “Cougar” and “Bobcat” and the Buick “Wildcat”. Other animal names implied speed, agility and physical grace like the Chevrolet “Impala” or the Sunbeam “Gazelle”. I wonder if the goof in the room at the naming session who suggested they call their new model the Hippo or Musk Ox found himself collecting an unemployment check later that day. Although, personally, I would have snapped up the new 1978 Plymouth “Yak”. I also think other drivers would think twice about encroaching into your lane if you were driving a shiny, new black and white Oldsmobile “Skunk”.

Namesters have also drawn on mythology with models like the Pontiac “Firebird”, The Dodge “Aries” and the Buick “Apollo”. I would love to drive a car with a name drawn from my favorite poem, The Jabberwocky. Imagine tooling through the mimsy borogoves in a sparkling new Toyota Frumious Bandersnatch. 

Sex is a recurring auto-name theme. From the Ford “Escort” (you’ll have a good time but pay dearly for it) to the manly and suggestive “Hummer” and the most directly sexual model name, the Ford “Probe”. Was one of the creative team an amateur gynecologist? When I was still doing yawn patrol radio I was given a sporty new Ford Probe to test drive and ad-lib testimonials for on-the-air. My wife took great pleasure in telling people I was driving a 1986 “Shlong.” The Probe by the way was a great handling little car. Not it’s fault they gave it a name ripe for cheap shot humor. 


 Cars are sometimes named after California cities or locales thought to be glamorous and exciting. “Malibu”, “Bel Air”, “Monterrey”, “Tahoe”, and the like. Other locales have had vehicles names after them like “Denali” and “Monte Carlo.” It’s a little hard to imagine the session where everyone signed off on naming a vehicle after “Tacoma”.  Probably disappointed the guy who was holding out for “Bakersfield.” 



 I think some of the car names came from the state of mind of the creative team as they faced an impending deadline. How else could you explain names like the Plymouth “Fury”, Jeep’s  “Scrambler” and my personal favorites the Dodge “Rampage” and “Avenger.” They see you pulling into the company parking lot in either one of those, and the building goes into immediate lockdown. I’d also avoid getting into a road rage situation with anyone driving a Chrysler Crossfire.


A final question. Why would the big brains at GMC pick the name of a destructive and deadly rolling wall of snow, ice and rocks that kills everything in it’s path to festoon one of their heavy hauling pickups? Maybe they thought it implied something unstoppable. But if the unfortunate events mother nature creates becomes a trend in the car-naming universe, I’m holding out for the 2025 Subaru Sink Hole. Or maybe this baby . . .


Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Cover-up of my Childhood





Carolyn J. Rose

Adults, especially those of the grandparent variety, did a lot of covering up when I was a kid.

And I’m not talking about the way they tap-danced around those birds-and-bees topics.
I’m talking about doilies, antimacassars, tablecloths, placemats, and aprons
Except for brief moments after a meal while the old cloth was being exchanged for a fresh one, I never saw a bare table at my grandmother’s house. Except for when cleaning and freshening was going on, I never saw a chair arm in her living room without a circle of lace upon it. 

And except for when she was headed for church or a party, I never saw her without an apron.

She had a lot of aprons. Maybe a dozen. Maybe more. Some she made for herself. Others were gifts. Some tied around the waist. Others were of the pinafore variety, often with gathers and ruffles. Some were everyday aprons with simple patterns. Others were for holidays and special dinners. They had fancy braid or bows or rickrack. They went on when the messy part of cooking was complete and serving dishes were ferried to the table.

When, at four years of age—after washing my hands with a bar of brown soap the size of a paperback novel—I was trusted with the task of creaming butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, I did it standing on a chair and swaddled in an apron wrapped twice around my chest.

For years I thought aprons were more critical to the meal-preparation process than pots, pans, utensils, ingredients, a stove, or a refrigerator.

Then I graduated from college and struck out on my own. I had a car, a dog, a collection of T-shirts and blue jeans, a battered record player, a few dozen albums, and not a single apron. I didn’t have a single recipe, either. But somehow, through a process of trial and error—sometimes major error—I cobbled together meals.

As for those aprons my grandmother passed along, well, I hung onto to them for years. Not for culinary reasons, but for sentimental ones.


Monday, January 23, 2017

The Great Winter Road Trip



By Carolyn Rose and Mike Nettleton

Carolyn: Although we both have fond memories of the days when we could toss a few things in the car and take off, one of us is realistic enough to know those days are gone.

Mike:   Boy, I miss those days when you could find yourself in Reno, Nevada, with 74 cents, no gas in the VW, and no clue how you’d get home.

Carolyn: So, with that in mind, I devoted significant time to researching a new car for the trip, then more time to making lists and gathering an assortment of warm- and cold-weather clothing, towels, plastic bags, paper plates, dog toys, dog tranquilizers, dog bed, books, maps, spare pillows, flashlights, and food. As it turns out, we never needed the kitty litter (for tire traction) or the gallon of water. But everything else came in handy.

Mike: Cue the banjo music. She’s right, of course. Still, I could have sworn I could hear Homer and Jethro singing “Come listen to my story 'bout a man named Jed. Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed,” as we rolled down the road.

Carolyn: And pre-planning paid off. When I noticed I-84 was closed yet again and the temperature in Ontario, Oregon, was -7 two days before we set out, we changed our plans and headed south and west instead of east and then south. That put us in Redding, CA, the first day, and just outside of Bakersfield on the second.

Mike: Bakersfield. I won't say it's ugly but-

Carolyn: Careful, bucko, we might have to go back there some day. On day 3 we left freeway driving behind and, more by accident than design, took old Route 66 through rugged country to Oatman, AZ.
 

 


Mike: Oatman is an old mining town up in the mountains. When we passed through, the streets were packed with tourists and wild burros wandered around trying to cadge something to eat.



After an hour and a half of 20 mph switchbacks, we finally made it to Laughlin, Nevada. Despite being dominated by casinos,
 








 


the town does have some charm, with a river walk that meanders along its length. Across the water is Bullhead City, Arizona, a haven for the AARP set who ford the stream periodically to blow their Social Security checks. I’m somewhat chagrined (but mostly proud) to admit I relieved them of $265 by co-winning a morning poker tourney at the Colorado Belle, a casino disguised as a riverboat.


Carolyn: I bid a fond farewell to my new favorite slot-machine game, Cops and Doughnuts, and we headed east, stopping briefly at Walnut Canyon (no dogs allowed on the descending trail) and then the Painted Desert. 


The day was overcast, but occasional sunbeams lit up the hills and we enjoyed the show.

Then it was on to Albuquerque where we stayed with a friend from my VISTA days and turned her on to the benefits of CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in medical marijuana for her arthritis pain. So far, it seems to be helping. https://www.projectcbd.org/what-cbd

Mike:  I snuck in a game of golf with an old friend before a snowstorm hit, ate red chile enchiladas with my ex-partner, and shared an hour or two of telling lies about the good old days with another old pal. We also broke bread with several of Carolyn’s former co-workers and a couple from our old neighborhood.

Carolyn: Timing our departure between storms, we headed for Phoenix to visit my aunt, then scooted for Prescott, a wonderful city with the best of the old and new. 


 We’re thinking this might be a place to spend part of next winter, so Mike checked out the golf courses, theaters and the library and I made note of grocery stores and 
walking trails. Max made note of a dead javelina by the side of the road. He thinks it might be fun to own a wild pig of his own.


The next day I navigated us on back roads through the desert toward Lake Havasu. At a crossroads with three houses and a single store, we met a man walking a dog named Whiskey. I think he was named after his owner’s breath. The little mutt was about Max’s size and wearing a torn green dog sweater. Max isn’t much for dog clothing, so I offered Whiskey an orange sweater our Malty dog wore exactly once. Whiskey and his owner were delighted.

 Mike:  I liked Lake Havasu more than I thought I would. 




















It had some charm, mixed with kitsch and classic American tackiness. London Bridge crosses a canal they dug for it, and despite being a bit underwhelming was kinda cool. 




















We passed through the spectacular country around Boulder Dam on our way to Las Vegas. 


Since they wouldn’t let us up to the viewpoint with Max (security concerns) this shot from the car window was about the best we could do. I guess they’re afraid our little dog might have been carrying a shoulder launched missile. 

 We did pull into a viewpoint with a spectacular vista overlooking Lake Mead 


Image result for desert wildlife refuge las vegas
Winding down the mountain, we scurried into Las Vegas and a visit with our goddaughter and her kids.








Carolyn: Rain cut short our visit to Spencer Lodge, which is not a charming vacation inn, but the name of the son of a friend and an archaeologist at the Desert Wildlife Refuge 


 That afternoon, we headed for Tujunga, scooting in before LA traffic reached gridlock. Max enjoyed being out of the car for 8 days and roaming the terraced garden in the back yard of Michael and Mia’s home. 





















One of the highlights of our stay was a visit to Descanso Gardens. We enjoyed the less manicured and more natural arrangement of shrubs and plants, and I especially enjoyed the huge spreading oaks. 





You oughta see the other guy.
 While in the Los Angeles area, I took up a new hobby. Senior citizen cage fighting. Great fun; they escorted us into the cage with our walkers, positioned us about a foot apart, blew a whistle and cheered and whistled while we whaled the crap out of each other. 
  Carolyn: Actually, he fell down and went boom while walking Max.
Mike: Damned sprinkler head.

Carolyn: With a forecast for 4-7 inches of rain, we decided to leave a day earlier than planned and head north. Along the way we saw fields filled with standing water and rivers reaching the tops of their banks. After a stormy night in Redding when the motel staff piled sandbags around one door, we canceled plans to take twisting and mountainous roads to the coast and stayed with I-5.


 Watching a mile-long row of big trucks chaining up, we feared we’d have to turn back, but research paid off and our AWD Toyota was waved on when other vehicles headed for the off ramp.




 


















Mike: The stretch around Lake Shasta was kinda white knuckle, but really, not bad, all things considered.  The rest of the drive was fast and uneventful. Even with delays through the mountains it only took us 7 1/2 hours to get home.

Luckily it didn’t look like this when we pulled in. We timed our vacation perfectly to miss the ice and snow storm of the decade in Vancouver and everything had melted off by the time we arrived.


It was a memorable trip, gave us a chance to catch up with old friends and family, but as Max, the quivering doggy hulk will tell you.