Monday, February 21, 2011

The Stick Shift

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

In high school in the 60's where I grew up you had to have a car. My first car was a 1961 Ford Galaxy rag top, six cylinder, automatic, complete with big ‘ol fins. If it had a keel it could have rivaled the Titanic for size and in all likelihood would've won against that iceberg! The back seat was big enough to stretch out and not touch either side, now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but, well that's another story entirely!

That Galaxy wasn't very fast but it was a convertible which made it more attractive to the girls. Of course, that was the reason a car was so important; couldn't very well keep necking in the back yard with a nosy little sister around. That car set me back $300 and I financed it, at $30 a month for a year, $60 interest!

A year after graduation decided that as a working man I needed a car that better fit my stature. Did a lot of searching but hadn't found anything when Dad said his friend at the Ford garage had a car there he thought I'd like. So, off we went, and it turned out to be the most beautiful piece of machinery I'd ever seen! Forest green with a white rag top, four on the floor, posi-traction and 390 cubic inches under the hood! Sold!

One little snag; I'd never driven a stick shift before but hey, how hard could it be? It was the weekend so Dad drove it home using the dealer plates until we could get it registered. So with it sitting in the driveway I could practice shifting! Yeah, right! First things first, I had had to install my new state of the art eight track player. Can’t expect a guy to go without tunes, right? Hard to look cool in a convertible without tunes!

Finally, Monday came, the car was now registered, and it was time to drive! I got in and fired it up, VROOOOM! VROOOOM! Cars just don't make THAT sound anymore. But that was back when gas was 23 cents a gallon. 

Where to go on the first drive? No question there; where the “cool car guys” hung out. The guys that lived and breathed cars; knew all about how many horsepower any given engine would put out, how to add MORE horsepower, and could strip an engine down before breakfast. Me, I knew where to put oil and gas, what a battery looked like, and was pretty sure where washer fluid was stored and what a radiator was for! But those guys knew what torque was, however as far as I was concerned he was a member of the Monkees!

So, I knew where to go; I HAD to drive by the service station where those guys hung out. It was just a little ways out of town and as I left downtown, I started to wind it up. They had to be able to hear the throaty roar of that big V-8 as I hit second gear when the roar was almost deafening. I was perfectly positioned to see their reaction without them knowing I was watching; I was the coolest of cool!

As I drew even with the service station every eye was on me, even the mechanic on the crawler, the guy that you normally only the legs of. He came out from under the car he was working on, to see the machine that was making that beautiful sound. It was time to hit third and fly on by! But perhaps I really should've practiced that one first. Missed third, shifted back into first and with screeching tires nearly stood the car on its’ front end! Then, I promptly slid as far down in the seat as I could; in fact, pretty sure I was looking under the steering wheel. Put the car back into second and if it's possible for a car to slink, I slunk away.

For years after, went out of my way to NOT drive down that road.

Finally did learn how to drive that car correctly and as much as it's possible to love an inanimate object, I loved that car. About a year later I met a woman and had to face hard reality. I could only afford one, a wife, or the 1966 Ford Fairlane GT Ragtop! That was forty years ago and while I don't regret it and wouldn't change a thing, there are days when I long for the wind in my hair and to hear that deep throat-ed VROOOOM again! Okay, truth be told, there's also days I long for hair again too! Sigh. I miss that old stick shift!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, February 7, 2011

You Want Romantic, I'll Give You Romantic!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Yes. It happened. I was accused of not being romantic! Personally, I have no idea where this obvious misconception comes from. Perhaps it's the fact that I use terms such as “Valentines Day, Bah Humbug!” or my personal favorite “The only person to ever celebrate Valentines Day correctly, was Al Capone”.

Because I see one day out of the year as distasteful and the most commercialized day of the year, does not mean I'm not romantic, and I can prove it.

Every year, for 40 years now, I have remembered and celebrated the anniversary of my first date with my wife! How many guys do that? But still I hear “you’re just not romantic”! I am romantic; I tell you!

Maybe this story will convince you.....about ten years ago a friend and co-worker won a free night’s stay for two at the local Inn and didn't want to use it so offered it to me for free. I gladly accepted and thought, I'll take my wife for a romantic night out, it's 100, maybe 150 yards, from the house but it's the thought that counts right?

Okay, it was free, I know, I have to do better than that, but there's more. I scheduled it for the first week in June, which is coincidentally, when our wedding anniversary is. But I wasn't done, remember, I'm being romantic here. I also scheduled a full fancy dress dinner. Yep, suit and tie, the whole nine yards AND, I paid for the meal. How's that for romantic?

I'm not done yet. I happen to know my wife likes all things Victorian so I purchased an antique Victorian diamond ring! That's romantic, but I still wasn't done yet.

While doing some community theatre shows I had the opportunity to dine at the Inn previously, my wife had not. I was well acquainted with the innkeeper and asked her if she'd help with my romantic plan. I gave her the ring with the plan that at the end of the meal we would order dessert and she would bring the dessert with the ring as the centerpiece. Now, you gotta admit, that's romantic!

The big night was here; we checked into the Inn, went to our room and got ready for our fancy dinner! I was sure to compliment her on how beautiful she looked. We were acting like school kids and she was obviously having a great time. All was going to plan; I would end the “he's not romantic” thing once and for all!

We went down to the restaurant and were seated by the waitress, I, being a gentleman, held the chair for my wife, okay I was laying it on thick, but I was determined! The dinner was excellent. At the end of the meal the waitress came over to take our order for dessert. Having eaten there before, I told my wife “You have to have their strawberry shortcake, its fantastic”. My wife said “No thanks, I don't want dessert”.

What! “This is our special night. You have to have some dessert.” She said, “No I don't want any dessert”, in a tone that clearly meant “end of conversation”! The waitress discreetly excused herself, while I panicked and I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed my beer swallowed it in two gulps and said, “I need another beer”, then quickly got up and headed into the bar area. Fortunately this is not an unusual occurrence and my wife never wondered why I didn't wait for the waitress to come back.

Got to the bar and told the bartender “I need another beer” Hey, that's what I came in here for; got to make it believable. Oh yeah, I also said “tell the innkeeper we need to switch to plan B”. The bartender asked “What's plan B?”  I calmly replied “How the hell do I know? I came up with plan A”! I was running out of romantic here!

The Innkeeper came thru with flying colors; I went in and sat down with my drink. A few minutes later the Innkeeper herself walked in and placed a plate in front of my wife. On the plate was a large flower and in the center of the flower was...The Diamond Ring! My wife was speechless, out of the corner of my eye I could see the entire staff of the Inn peeking around the corner at my wife's tears of joy!

I still refuse to celebrate Valentines Day and you know what? People still say I'm not romantic, but, I don't care anymore, because I got to see something in my wife's eyes that night that said “Oh Yeah! He's romantic”!  And that's all I need!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member