Jan 302007

My first writing job eluded me for more than a year after I graduated. So for about eight months in 1993 and 1994, I enthusiastically and successfully sold Acuras and GMC trucks for Jerry Damson.

It was exactly the right thing for me at the time. Damson was, and is, a top-notch organization; it was an outstanding crash course in human relations; and (most importantly at the time) it paid considerably better than the bookstore I quit to do it. I still think of my stint there frequently and warmly. Nearly all of the guys I worked with are still with the company 13 years later, and to me that’s a hell of a testimonial.

Lots to talk about, of course. I’m sure I’ll come back to it from time to time. Today’s particular story is about the first and only time I ever set foot in a Saturn dealership.

Another salesman had traded for a car that Ken, the used car manager, knew I would want to drive: a 1982 280ZX Turbo with 64,000 original miles. So when we were standing around playing liar’s poker—which was pretty much all day that day, because it was all of 17° outside with a nasty wind—he tossed me the key and pointed at it.

It was a beautiful Z. I couldn’t get my brain around someone walking away from it. The top (gold) surfaces were just a little faded, but it was uniform and not eye-catching. Otherwise it was impossible to believe I was looking at a 12-year-old car. I slid in, and apart from the digital gauges (which I generally loathe), everything looked great. I turned the key, and the video game dash told me there was no gas in it. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll just put some in it on the way back; I’m not going far.”

Boy, truer words were never spoken (or thought).

I rowed to first gear and eased out. Like I said, it was a cold day, and it had been sitting a couple of hours. Not a good idea to gun it with any car under those conditions, but turbos especially need a little babying. Took a right at the light, and it was another mile and a half or so to the lightly traveled road I wanted to play on. Probably just enough time to nudge that temp gauge into an agreeable zone.

‘Cept my mistress-for-the-moment was going to stop dead right in front of the Saturn store. Outta motion lotion, baby. I had driven the car a grand total of 200 yards.

Going to need some gas. Got just my Jerry Damson Acura windbreaker on. Hmmm. Saturn of Huntsville is going to give me some gas, is what’s going to happen hee-ah. Mustered some will for the hike to the showroom, opened the door, and started hoofin’.

I walked in, and there she was. She was spectacular. We’re talking shoulder-length blonde hair, bright green eyes, what-is-thy-bidding-my-queen smile, and a form-fitting purple sweater dress. And what a form it was. 98th-percentile beautiful, was the first Saturn of Huntsville employee with whom I interacted.

I was shivering, with my arms folded on my chest. And this angel, in what had to have been a well-rehearsed maneuver, never broke eye contact with me as she nuzzled up to my left side precisely so as to place my folded right hand directly on her right breast.

There she stands, smiling. Thirty seconds after I’ve walked in the door, I’m feeling her up. And for a brief moment I allow myself the thought “you know, I actually came in here looking for a little gasoline, but if there’s an empty office with no windows close by…” Heh.

I wish I’d been a little crasser (like a “save it, sweetheart” or something), but I was only 22 at the time and hadn’t quite grown that yet. I said “um, yeah, I’m Bo with Jerry Damson Acura, and I’m out of gas.”

In much less time than it will take you to read this sentence—like, maybe on the word “Acura” above—she stepped away from me, dropped the smile, rolled her eyes, and sighed. (Turns out I wasn’t a prospect, and it was 17° outside her showroom too, see.) The operator paged someone or another to bring a gas can, and it was all pretty run-of-the-mill after that.

At that time Saturn was the talk of the marketing world, with their customer treatment, no-haggle pricing, and just general touchy-feely (heh heh) goodness. My only experience with the product to date had been with a ’91 SL2 on our used lot, which seemed depressingly cheap to me inside and sounded like a blender full of roofing nails at full throttle. (Easy to get spoiled listening to Honda engines all day.)

All of that super-duper marketing on a mediocre product aside, I’m here to tell you: at least on one cold December afternoon in 1993, in addition to all the focus-grouped-out-the-wazoo stuff, they weren’t above a little old-fashioned hormonal appeal.

 Posted by at 11:45 pm
Jan 302007

One Sunday morning in 1996, Lea and I first began talking about marriage on the swing in her backyard. Among other things, we discussed non-negotiables. One of them for me was that I intended to raise a family in northern Alabama, and that if she wanted to do something else I probably wasn’t The One.

As much as I enjoy visiting other places, it’s always a pleasure to come back home. I really love it here. To me, it’s the best of a whole lot of worlds, and part of what I love about it is the weather. Yes, it’s damned unpleasant for about six weeks in the summer (like 98° with 60% humidity), and there is the occasional flirtation with 0° in the winter. But it’s just heavenly eight or so months a year.

That said, I look at the weather forecast tonight, and they’re talking about maybe a little winter precipitation on Wednesday night. And I’m pulling for it. Probably won’t be aesthetically pleasing–“wintry mix” is what they’re saying, so lovely white powder probably isn’t in the cards–but I’m ready for the novelty of an incapacitating winter weather event. (And nearly anything beyond a flurry is incapacitating here; we don’t have the equipment to deal with it like they do in, say, Des Moines.)

I want it for the kids (in the event of a decent snow), but I like the occasional adventure of it, too (whether it snows, ices, or whatever). We’re well-prepared for an occasional extended power outage, and I think we’re overdue for hanging out listening to music, drinking hot buttered Jack, and playing games. It’s been seven years or so since we’ve been sacked in.

Mind, I don’t ever want it as a guaranteed part of daily life. I taught a class in Watertown, NY once, and it never quit snowing and never got above 24°. That sucked (and yes, I do know it’s hardly anything compared to some other parts of the country and world; such is the depth of my aversion).

But here, we used to be able to count on a 6″ snow or a decent ice storm every two or three years, which was just often enough to enjoy. Been a while.

This is hard to believe, but the last hard freeze of the winter had already occurred by this time last year. I’m encouraged to see them forecast all the way through the middle of next week. Maybe this is the year.

 Posted by at 12:55 am
Jan 272007

Guess what’s almost certainly going to happen this summer? How about a Van Halen tour with David Lee Roth? Road trip! Are ya pumped, dudes and dolls?

I’m not.

Charles and I saw David Lee Roth in 2002, and it was not pretty. I mean, the guy was sloppy as hell even back in the day, but he more than made it up with vibe and energy. Five years ago, he was living in the Self-Parody subdivision on the outskirts of Suckville, and it wasn’t new construction. It would have been really good had it been your tenth-grade geometry teacher impersonating David Lee Roth at the Halloween carnival, gnome sane?

So we heard/watched half a dozen tortured classics, with mostly spoken vocals with Vegas revue phrasing, accompanied by an occasional pathetic knee-high sweep kick. Having already had our asses thoroughly kicked courtesy of Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas, we decided to beat the traffic.

The other weirdness is that Michael Anthony is no longer with the band. Not only is he an excellent bass player, but his backing vocal is otherworldly, and a critical component of the classic Van Halen sound. Instead, Eddie’s 15-year-old son Wolfgang is in on bass. Now true, I haven’t heard little Wolfie sing or play, but you’ll please excuse me if I can’t get excited about the prospect of a boy born in 1991 legitimately stepping in for Mikey. (Isn’t there a significant chance of his voice changing over the course of the tour?)

So, let’s review. I got to see Michael Anthony with Sammy in 2002 and 2006, and he was awesome. But he’s not going to be there. I got to see David Lee Roth in 2002, but he was rotten. And he is going to be there. I haven’t seen/heard Eddie play since 1992. He’ll be there, and likely still a force. So I’d enjoy watching and hearing him again. What’s it worth for me to do so?

Hmmmm. Well, he was great in ’92, and my memories of that show are pretty good. So maybe I’d go $30 and an hour round-trip in the car. Reckon that’ll get me in? I’m thinking it probably won’t pay for half of a cheap seat.

 Posted by at 1:53 am
Jan 252007

There’s plenty to say about the Clintons and their time in the White House, and that “plenty” truly runs the gamut from unconditional love to blind hate.

But however you feel about the Clinton years, I bet it never would have occurred to you to say they “(restored) moral authority.” That’s what Terry McAuliffe had to say on a book tour this week, and given the source I’m presuming there was no wink or poke in the ribs.

 Posted by at 5:34 am
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