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MY ROYAL SUBJECTS
The transition from Freelance Magazine Contributor to Contracted Book Author was a very surreal twist in an already well-pretzeled journey. The back story is a classic leap-of-faith adventure, more akin to a Hunter S. Thompson plot device out-take than the standard literary study scenario. The ensuing chain of events grabbed me by the nose hairs and dragged me through my own past to reconnect with characters first established in my lifeline decades before. Lance Sorchik, the late Just Steve Hendrickson, and Gerry Burger reappeared from the back pages of Rodders Digest magazine to kick my ass into authorship before I had a chance to question the proceedings.
Three weeks after signing with the publisher, I was slugging coffee at the Las Vegas Convention Center with my CarTech Editor, the mile-a-minute Scott Parkhurst. Talk about surreal. The day before flying out to Vegas, I was covered in mouse turds and rust dust, while stripping the interior from a '53 Chevy "Tin Woody" (in preparation for welding in a subframe) at my fab-grunt day job. Suddenly, I'm jawing with P-Hurst about possible book format structures, while my hot rod heroes strolled past the Cartech booth. I had lunch with Mario Andretti; digested it on a park bench while being serenaded with true tales of hot rod pioneers by bench-mate Alex Xydias; traded print barbs with Kirk Jones; and heard a million first-person accounts of drag race history from Dave Wallace Jr. That was the first day. The week ended at Silver Mountain Raceway, where Optima Jim, Kristin Cline, and a dozen other new friends and myself tortured a fleet of Lotus race cars around the road course until we wore ourselves out and capped the proceedings with an exquisite Italian feast.
The next day, I returned to reality for eight hours of grinding welds, then faced off with a blank computer monitor, balking at starting my first book project. Once I laid out the basic parameters and established some momentum, the crucial human element quickly crept in. The subjects of my writing had carried me through many a magazine feature challenge with their delight at being chosen. The joy I experienced in being trusted with their stories is a gift I cannot relay in words. But now it was different. My subject's reactions went from giddy to shock.
From where I sit, a book is just a longer magazine feature. It's wonderful to go more in depth and get more creative, but my job is pretty similar, no matter the format. So it caught me off guard when my potential subjects (who had responded to my magazine feature inquiries with equal parts jubilation and swagger) now met my approach with the still silence of a deer in the headlights. Crickets... I interrupted the vacuum with a follow-up question, like, "Is this a bad time for you?" More silence. Then, "You want ME (or 'MY CAR') in a BOOK?"
It's like they were questioning their worthiness. Like a book is a more serious document of history than an impulse-buy magazine off the rack. Because it costs more money and comes from a snooty bookstore, rather than a convenient store reeking of fluorescent-lit reality? I don't know. But once some momentum was established on the project, all was routine. Go figure.
The best part of my job is becoming friends with my subjects. From the most obscure to the most famous, I searched them out because I was drawn to them. To call such people my friends now is the greatest gift, no matter how we connected. I remain the grateful Forrest Gump of hot rodding. The luckiest guy in town.
The above Cartech books are available at most retailers. View the entire CarTech library at www.cartechbooks.com. Racing to America is the first release from the Gosson Bros. Racing Library. Available at https://www.createspace.com/4338903 and/or http://www.amazon.com/Racing-America-Global.../dp/1490539778 .
DISPENSING THE BLUES WITH SLEEPYTIME FAIRMONT
The first time I heard Sleepytime Fairmont play the blues, I nearly passed out. It wasn't the exhaust fume breath or grinding breaks that threw me, as much as the truthful force pushing me back into my seat. I thought I was going to tip over. Sleepytime Fairmont is a veteran bluesmaster of a different kind. It's Matt Happel's four-door Ford Fairmont sedan, designed from the get-go to give goldchainers a serious dose of the blues. The really down and dirty kind of blues, that make you wish you'd never been given a drivers license.
Matt Happel has his act down. He's been converting junkyard cadavers into street sleepers for a few years now, with a focus on Ford's humble Fairmont model. Sleepytime Fairmont is just my private pet name for Happel's latest. I can't help but look up to people who do what I can't, and Happel falls right into that category. A lifelong sleeper fan, I haven't yet found the discipline required to build one. But as I age, my ego is slowly shriveling, so there's hope for the future. I've had a secret sleeper build in my head for thirty-plus years, so was naturally attracted to Happel's approach when I saw it on Dragzine.com recently. I'll share the highlights with you here, but go to www.dragzine.com for the extended play version. You'll like it.
SQUIRREL AND TOOLBOX
NEXT WEEK: It's 50/50. If I survive another week of deadline fever, I might write something. If not, just know that I appreciate you reading the blog, and that I'm grateful to have enjoyed a good run. Tell the world I was killed by a bear.