Cars

I’ve had a lot of cars over the years; in fact, I’ve been accused of changing cars like some people change pants…

It all started with a friend of the family, John Zweygardt or “Johnny Z” to those that knew him – Vietnam vet, motor head, and general wild man who lived up in the hills and was somehow associated with my dad.

He used to ‘borrow’ me in the early 70’s and go get icecream or burgers, and I’d sit on his lap and steer his corvette down the local dirt roads while he worked the gas and brakes… It made my mom furious, but we did it all the time.

He also drove a really amazing Harley, and here’s a picture of me sitting on it in 1974.

In 1976, or thereabouts, he was involved in getting me a used go-cart for my birthday. It was red pipe-framed thing, single seat, with the engine on a centrifugal clutch driving one of the rear wheels. I remember it being picked up in Broomfield, and I got to ride it exactly one time.

On my first outing on the go-cart, under supervision mind you, I drove it into a fence across the street from the trailer on Francis street. The event happened at a pretty slow speed, but my mom still completely freaked out… For the remainder of the go-cart’s life it was chained and padlocked in the back yard so that mom could tell Johnny Z that I still had it – and then skirt around the fact I wasn’t allowed to even sit on the thing.

In 1980 I spent a summer with Johnny Z up at his ranch in the hills, and this is where I learned proper manual transmission operation on Johnny Z’s CJ5; heel and toe to downshift, clutch-less shifts by rev-matching, and other assorted driving skills.

Anyway, time passed and in August 1985 I came of age to get my learner’s permit…

My mom insisted on giving me lessons, which entailed about 3 minutes of warnings followed by me flawlessly executing her route – even the parallel parking bit. She knew that I was into cars, but had forgotten that I’d been ‘driving’ since I could hold a steering wheel thanks to Johnny Z.

And that takes us to my first car in February of 1986 – a 1969 Toyota Corona.

I split the cost of it with my parents, which wasn’t hard considering it was a whopping $300. It was metal flake blue, but the paint was an Earl Scheib job and they didn’t strip the wax off of the factory white paint… So, the blue paint was literally coming off of the car in blue sparkly confetti as I drove it down the street.

It was a 4-door with some huge yet anemic straight 4 and a two-speed automatic that collectively made for a car that couldn’t get out of its own way. But, when it’s your first car you don’t care.

I drove the Corona around until I left for the Navy in July of 1986, and then as soon as I was settled on the base in Groton, or April of 1987, I picked up a cream-colored 81 Chevy Citation from another sailor for a song… He was shipping out to Bangor and it would cost more to move the car than it was worth, so $100 later I owned it…

It was a total basket case though and about a month after I bought it the transmission grenaded right here.

So, in June of 1987 I found another car for sale on-base from another sailor in a similar situation, a red 1978 Chevy Chevette for $250. This car got the paint restored, new inch wider black and chrome rims on lower profile tires, new instrumentation, new seats, and my first high end stereo work that centered around a clarion head unit, infinity speakers, and a collection of pioneer amps.

I drove the wheels off of the Chevette before trading it in for a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron coupe in September of 1989. The LeBaron was my first new car and was a dark copper color with light brown interior – and I was in love with the thing.

The LeBaron was the car I had when I met my future ex-wife, and it was used to make at least a dozen 250-mile round trips from New London CT to Framingham MA and back to move her from her ex’s parents place or visit her friends. Many of those road trips were done to the Transformers: the movie sound track.

The LeBaron was replaced with a black and gold ‘85 Chevy S10 when I got out of the Navy in October 1990.

The first year out of the Navy was a total blur; I had like ten different short-term jobs, moved half as many times, and tried desperately to get my life in order between the economic hellscape of the early 90’s and my ex creating a lot of additional issues.

The S10 was replaced by an arrest-me red 1988 Nissan 300ZX turbo in 1992 after I landed a job at EDCON… But when EDCON laid me off later in the year I had to give up the 300ZX.

The 300ZX was replaced in late 1992 with a green late 70’s Ford LTD wagon that I picked up as a handyman special. I limped the LTD along until I landed a maintenance job at Townview Plaza in mid 1993. Townview Plaza was right across the street from Mile High Stadium, and I made friends with the owner of the towing company we used to haul off illegal parkers every home-game. He ran a used car lot on Federal and gave me first pick of anything I wanted for what he had in it.

I quickly replaced the LTD with a sketchy but functional yellow and black 1977 Fiat X-1/9. This was the car that we refer to as being ‘hippie powered’ because as a 2-seater Matt (Icedragon from the BBS) and I would drive up to pick up Noah (‘Shaman’ from the BBS) and he’d have to ride in the frunk (the x-1/9 is mid-engine and the trunk is actually in the front of the car). When we’d come to a stop in town, he’d stand up out of what looked like the engine compartment to stretch – and freak out everyone at the light.

The Fiat had vapor lock issues that I never could resolve, so in May of 1994 I traded a 1gig hard drive for a bronco-orange 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit and set aside the Fiat to be worked on.

The Rabbit passed on after a couple of months though. (the rod for the butterfly valve in the carb sawed through and dropped into a cylinder on I-25 – I was able to coast over to the side of the highway, which is where the car was left)

I managed to get the Fiat running well enough in July of 1994 to be a good trade for a burgundy ’84 Mercury Marquis.

This is what I drove when, in August of 1994, I left Townview Plaza to pursue what I was actually trained to do; computers. I had landed a job at Intelligent Electronics (I.E.) for third shift assembly, where I built IBM “EduQuest” machines all night. With this new job I moved across town to a mobile home in north Aurora.

While at I.E. I quickly went from line assembly to line supervisor, to Q.A., to I.T. – each with associated pay raises… I’d also gotten a roommate who also worked at I.E. and we were carpooling using his Jeep Wagoneer (a better choice in winter), so I sold the Marquis in March of 1995 and bought a 1972 VW beetle as a new project car.

In April of 1995 I was hired away by Action Computers on Colorado Blvd. to build their repair department with Matt (Chimles from the BBS). Fortunately, the Bug was in a state where I could drive it back and forth reliably.

During the time at Action Computers I dropped a modded 1600 in the bug, lowered the front end, took an inch out of the pillars, and repainted it with a metal flake deep pine green. I also picked up a 1974 Porsche 914 as the next project car as it and the bug shared a lot of parts.

In January 1996 I bail on Action Computers and return to Intelligent Electronics where I assumed control of their network operations, and I basically ran all of the technical aspects of the company until Ingram Micro decided to buy the place in ’97.

When Ingram purchased I.E. I was left with a choice; move to Memphis or find another job. I’d been talking to Scott (from FurryMUCK) for a couple of years and we’d even met up at a couple of conventions. The company he worked at, Amerind, in D.C. was looking for a network guy and Scott could put me up while I shopped around…

So, I sold off the Bug, the Porsche, and everything else I figured I didn’t need, boxed up the rest to ship to the East Coast, and hopped a flight to Maryland in June of 1997.

I worked at Amerind for a couple of months before Scott and I struck out on our own and formed “PFM Technologies”, where we created pure fucking magic for anyone willing to pay us. From our farm in Rhoadesville VA we created some really amazing things, such as the most advanced vending machine on the planet.

Given the stupid money we were making I picked up a yellow 1967 Ford Mustang to hotrod and a 28-foot Scarab offshore racer.

Then the tech bubble burst in 2000, and Scott and I moved to the yacht we had in Balitmore. I gave the Mustang to a business partner and traded the Scarab for a burgundy 1991 Chevy Caprice to move my worldly belongings in. The Caprice went from Baltimore to Marianapolis Prep in northern Connecticut, then to Denver, then to Vail, and then back to Denver…

I had that Caprice through January 24th, 2004, when I gave it to Robin and Tad to help them out of a jam. It was promptly stolen out of their driveway about a month later…

The next car was a blue ‘87 Honda Civic I picked up on my second ill-fated sojourn to Virginia. This time it was February 20th, 2004 and the plan was to take over a tech school – which fell through in spectacular fashion…

Dan, who was financing the endeavor, knew that I’d basically sold everything I owned and flew across the US to try and make his school idea go, so he gave me the car as a bit of an apology I think. Anyway, I signed the paperwork for the Civic and its more than 170,000 miles on March 15th 2004.

Unfortunately, the Honda was pure mechanical crap. Luckily, three days before making my escape from Virginia Dan swapped it out for a forest green 1994 Toyota Corolla. I signed the papers for the Corolla on April 26th 2004.

The next car came from helping Scott escape Virginia a year and a half later. I flew out to Richmond on December 26th of 2005, hopped into his ‘spare’ black 2004 turbo PT Cruiser, and arrived with him in his ‘other’ black ‘GT’ PT Cruiser at 9am on December 28th. For this (and getting him a job where we still work) he signed over the ‘spare’ PT to me, and I signed over the Toyota Corolla to Jae, my roommate at the time, as a Christmas present.

The PT was a really great car, but it wasn’t so great in winter and Scott had ended up on dialysis three times a week – so I decided to pick up something guaran-damn-teed to get to Davita despite Colorado’s wacky weather.

Enter the 1976 Jeep Cherokee I affectionately named “The Warwagon”. I picked it up for $2000 on November 16th 2007 in a functional but ‘needs work’ state. The Warwagon would become a big-block V8 powered, two feet of ground clearance, three ton monster during the time I owned it.

On January 10th, 2010, the PT was totaled by a lady in a red Jaguar in far too much of a hurry.

I ended up in the hospital for a day to get checked out, and was ultimately okay. I sold the PT for scrap and sold the Warwagon to buy a red soft-top and half-door 2010 Jeep JK Rubicon in March of 2010 – my second “new” car.

The Jeep was great, but I hooked up with an old flame in 2012 and she didn’t like it, so exactly two years after buying the Jeep I traded it in on a much more stylish pearl white 2012 Chrysler 300 ‘S’.

The 300 lasted about a year longer than the relationship before it was traded in, in March 2014, for a far more economical, inexpensive, and entertaining white and red Fiat 500 ‘Abarth’

I modified that Abarth into a 1900-pound, 230 horsepower track-day monster… It was quite possibly the second most entertaining car I’ve ever owned.

Then I had my midlife crisis in January 2017, and, on a whim, decided to purchase a ‘magnetic black’ 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo.

The 370Z also got a serious wrenching from me, and while less bonkers then the Abarth was still a stupidly quick and agile car. The biggest problem the 370Z had was it was so achingly pretty I was almost to paranoid to drive it anywhere… I’d have to park it amongst mere mortals on occasion, and I dreaded coming out of a store to a scratch on it.

The bigger problem was that I now had two fire-breathing racecars in a state that spends over half the year covered in snow and where all wheel drive is really a requirement… And I just purchased some property down in southern Colorado where the roads absolutely require ground clearance.

So, I succumbed to adulthood and sold the Abarth and then traded the 370Z in for a pearl white 2018 Nissan Murano AWD “Midnight Edition” in July of 2018…

I was pretty happy with the Murano. It was still fun to drive, but also got 40mpg on the highway. It was stylish and full of super comfy leather and advanced electronics, but still extremely capable in any weather and road surface…

Then the zombie apocalypse happened in 2020 and the Murano wound up sitting in the garage for the next year and a half, where it didn’t quite fit because it was pretty huge. Then in 2021 we got a new regime in Washington and the economy went tits-up…

One of the side effects of zombies and the economy was that top-trim models of used cars had suddenly become worth as much as they were when they were new, so I decided to down-size in July of 2021. Nissan gave me $6000 more than I owed on the Murano in trade for a smaller and more economical 2021 Kicks SR.

I took delivery of the Kicks a month later on August 18th, 2021.

In my typical fashion I got the top-tier model with all of the bells and whistles, and I’m pretty happy with it.

Currently gas is over $4 a gallon, but the Kicks will go about 400 miles on 10 gallons – so I’m spending about $40 a month in gas even with the insanity going on… Not bad.

Listening to "Brass in pocket" by The Pretenders

Radio

For most of my childhood – so the 70’s and early 80’s – radio was a kid’s social media. If you wanted to know what the new fad was, the latest music was, news, culture, whatever – radio was how you did it.

There was also TV, of course, but TVs were expensive so they tended to belong to your parents, and in turn showed what your parents were interested in; usually a game show of some sort. A cheap radio on the other hand could be had for lunch money, and because it was yours it played the stations that played your music.

Your radio also tended to be portable, so you could do you wherever you happened to be – and you could even listen to whatever your social group was into while out and about with them.

Back in those days, the DJ for whatever genera of music you were into occupied an interesting space – they were a disembodied voice that no one could put a face to, but were also a kindred soul for everyone in range of the transmitter who was into that genera. In school, there was as much to-do made about the specific DJ as there was about the music they played.

For me, the radio station of choice was “KBPI” at 105.9 – the “hundred thousand watt blowtorch of the rockies” as they called it.

There were also cassettes of course – everyone had a Walkman in the 80’s… Not many people had an actual Sony Walkman though, as they tended to be pretty expensive. See, anything you could carry that played a cassette and had headphones was a “Walkman” back then, much to the other manufacturers chagrin I’m sure.

But the blue and silver Sony with the orange foam headphones was ‘boss’ at the time, and the pinnacle of coolness. And having an actual Sony Walkman made you conversation-worthy in the school halls… Now, where you got the music for your Walkman was either copying a friend’s mix-tape, or making your own off the radio.

Sure, you could go buy the hot album of the week and then tape the tracks you wanted – but albums were expensive for that 1-2 tracks you were really interested in. And a cassette held 10-12 tracks per side, so that’s a dozen albums you’d need to buy for one tape… So, the better solution was the radio mix-tape, but that required heaps of patience and some skill…

I remember sitting in front of my grandmother’s home stereo on weekends, for hours, finger on the record/pause button, patiently waiting for a song I wanted to record to come on the radio.

It was always my grandmother’s stereo because my father wouldn’t let me within a dozen yards of his stuff, and my receiver at home didn’t have a cassette in it. So, I always enjoyed being shuffled off to my grandmother’s place in Golden on the weekends.

Listening to "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush

Onward

It’s been a really busy few weeks, and I’ve been at the office at least one day every weekend for the last month… Today is no different; as soon as one of the testers manages to make it to the office and drop off a mac, I’ll be in doing some last-minute testing before Monday to make a client happy.

It’s not hard work mind you, just lightly annoying to have everything in my life orbit around work… Like, I’d planned to go see the new Batman movie today being as it’s supposedly good and I don’t have to wear a spacesuit to go to the theater anymore. Buuuut – no. I have testing to do.

Oh well, it allows me to buy another week of gruel, I guess.

Most of my overtime issues stem from how hard it is to hire people these days. Back in 2019 we had a constant stream of people contacting us looking for a job, now no matter how much advertising we do for more employees, there are simply none to be had.

We’re not alone in this problem either. Which I’m guessing is why the number of contracts we’re getting is increasing; no one else can get in new people either so they’re trying to contract out… Which means I get to fill in the bare spots in the testing schedule.

Oh well – this too shall pass.

In my rare moments of down-time I’ve been playing “Lost Ark”, which is essentially “World of Diablo”. It’s been really fun and, so far, it’s a really good game… I just recently made it to the level 50 cap and still have over half of the main storyline to complete, so I’m definitely getting my $15 out of the thing.

Listening to "Everything" by FM-84

Hello world!

Ye olde website has moved servers once again.

The long and short of it is I found I could get three years of hosting at GoDaddy for a bit less than one year at Dreamhost. And while Dreamhost is really, really good – my site here requires something between the cheap shared hosting and the $300 a year VPS hosting, which they don’t offer.

And with looming WWIII, rampant inflation, an energy crisis, crashing stock markets, a housing bubble, and the general cost of living almost exceeding my income – I need to save money where I can.

I’d actually thought about just shelving the site here, but I have fun with it and now it’s cheap(er) fun.

The problem I’ve run into in exfiltrating my data from Dreamhost is the backup they sent me isn’t complete… It’s missing pretty much the entire last year. So, even though the dump date is February 13th, 2022, the last entries in the database are from March 28th, 2021.

So, I’m thinking I’ll just start again from here. I’ll put the memoirs back up for the occasional curious tourist, and maybe I’ll do a ‘year in review’ for each year leading up to today just to condense things.

Listening to "Thief in the Night" by Yutaka Yamada