(Last) Weekly Roundup: When You’re Smiling, The Whole World Smiles With You Edition

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to all of you before, but one of the MX-5 Club cars used by the Skip Barber School is joining our ragtag fleet of misfit toys. I’m awfully excited by this. We have all sorts of plans in store for the car and we already have forty — count ’em, FORTY! — extra tires for it. There’s also something to be said for having an easily cannibalized donor vehicle for your enduro racer, although I hope it never comes to that.

Click the jump to read excerpts from one of my more prolific weeks so far.

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Weekly Roundup: Without A Cause Edition

Wallace Stevens published his first and arguably greatest book of poetry, Harmonium, at the age of forty-four. Thirteen years later, he published “The Idea Of Order At Key West”. I do not know what future generations will make of Stevens or his work — as with Eliot and Pound, I suspect that the exhaustive demands that Stevens makes of the reader, his footnote-fancy-free requirements that one be both massively erudite and finely sensitive, will cause him to eventually disappear from a canon unable to properly encompass much more than the feelgood blatherings of Maya Angelou or Pablo Neruda. Stevens wrote for men like himself, men who were not immune to emotion but who had subjugated their passions to the work of creating the Western World. We will not see their like again and their cultural legacy will not fare well in the new pedagogical tradition that largely defines itself in terms of the negative space between tangible accomplishments.

Perhaps all that anybody will remember is that Stevens worked tirelessly in the insurance business for most of his adult life. By the time Harmonium was published, he had already put in seven years at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he would work well into his seventies. Never well-liked at his day job, Stevens was nevertheless efficient and successful. He was also sufficiently vigorous at the age of fifty-six to break his hand on Ernest Hemingway’s jaw in a rather odd dust-up that was apparently founded on mutual artistic contempt and in which Hemingway, like recent lime-green Huracan purchaser Conor McGregor, failed to capitalize on a considerable advantage in youth.

I think about Wallace Stevens quite a bit when I read today’s younger autowriters. Almost without exception, they would be better off working some kind of day job and thus having the freedom to be a bit choosier about both the assignments they accept and the quality of the work they turn out. I’ve had this discussion with a few of them and I’m always told that “nobody is hiring”. That’s ridiculous. McDonald’s is hiring. Home Depot is hiring. Your local car dealership is hiring salesmen and service writers. What they mean is that nobody wants to pay them $75,000 a year to perform some kind of vague white-collar work that requires no prior skills or experience. That’s a shame but I can’t help but point out that I faced an identical situation when I left school in 1994 with an English degree and an extremely patchy resume consisting mostly of missed opportunities.

There’s a lot to be said for flipping burgers nine hours a day and spending the rest of your waking hours becoming a better writer. It’s going to pay off much sooner than sitting around the house talking shit on Twitter and curating the pornography collection on your laptop. There’s something about repetitive, unpleasant labor that really stimulates creativity in people, assuming they have the knack for it in the first place. Oh well. I don’t expect anybody to take this advice. It’s too easy to stay plugged into social media and the Brownian motion of endless, pointless conversations.

Let’s see what I managed to get written this week while also working a “real job”. As the man said, let be be the finale of seem.

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Weekly Roundup: I Need To Be Moved To The Fastest Run Group Edition

The modern equivalent of “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” is “If somebody invites you to race a C5 Z06 in Colorado, you shouldn’t ask too many questions about whether they brought enough tires and brake pads for the whole event.” Which explains how I found myself looking at six shredded Yoko A-0052s just seven hours into a 24-hour race. How many tires did we bring? Ten. Also, the brake pads were down to one-eighth. How many extra brake pads did we have? One used set.

Needless to say, we didn’t exactly set the world on fire for the rest of the race. Still, something good came out of it. Ross Bentley was one of my teammates for the event and I was able to convince him to spend an evening in Ohio working with John at Circleville Raceway Park. The results were immediate and obvious; the kid is now confidently sliding through turns with the throttle pinned.

Click the jump to check out what Bark and I wrote last week and also to see a picture of my rear tire after ninety minutes — it will help you understand why I found some of the fourth-gear corners a bit unsettling!

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Weekly Roundup: At Every Level You Are A Team Leader Edition

This past Wednesday night, Uncle Douglas (also known as “Rodney” to TTAC readers) and I took John for his first practice in the new kart. Yeah, I know that’s backwards, we should have practiced before we raced, but we’ve already established my parenting could use some work.

We had the track to ourselves, but there was a crew of men working on the new dirt oval next to us and one of them had brought his three sons along. (Sidebar: what an accomplishment, to have three almost identical-looking sons within a few years. Genetically speaking, this fellow is doing much better than I am.) They left the oval and came over to watch the boy drive. After a few laps, John came to a halt and waved me over. I thought he had a problem with his kart, so I ran.

“I would like,” John said, “to know their names.” Which I dutifully found out and relayed to him. John drove over and started talking to the kids. Before I knew it, he’d come up with a complicated scheme to use all three of them to simulate flagging in race conditions and we ran a few practice races with the kids showing different flags. “It’s very important,” John reminded me, “that all three of them have a chance to wave a flag.” After each faux-race he would huddle with them and give them different tasks.

At the end, he shook their hands then he went to meet their father and thank him for loaning the kids to him. Then we went to say goodbye to the track owner and John hopped out to make sure that his gratitude was fully understood and that he could come back for private practice. When I got home I found out that the kids had made a gift to John of their flags. I’ll have to return them, God damn it.

One of Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets is this: “At every level, you are a team leader.” Drivers who cannot lead the team end up with subpar equipment and indifferent service from their crew. It cheers me up to see John naturally assume leadership in this and other cases. On the other hand, I worry about the consequences of always trying to have things your own way. I’ve struggled with that myself for more than four decades.

Click the jump and we’ll see what John’s real uncle wrote this week, as well as what his father did.

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Weekly Roundup: Green Machine Edition

When I was seven years old my parents got me a Green Machine. Let the record show that at the same age my son was doing 40+ mph in a TopKart — but that’s the difference between having hip urban parents like I had and a hick-ass of a dad like my son has. Despite its lack of an engine or anything approaching high-speed stability, the Green Machine was actually a lot of fun and I rode it until the plastic front wheel showed genuine signs of deterioration.

The Green Machine you see above is even better — it’s the current-gen Camaro SS 1LE. I had a chance to run it around Mid-Ohio for a session. Unfortunately, the track was damp in most places and had standing water in some, but I still learned quite a bit about the car and its massive dynamic envelope. Look for a writeup in the near future.

In the meantime, here are a few things we did earlier.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: We Are The Champions Edition

Sorry this one is late, but for once I have an excuse: Both Bark and I were participating in the 2017 SCCA Targa Southland. Brother Bark and his co-driver Rebecca drove a new Honda Civic Type R, provided by Honda, to the victory in the Stock 2 class. Danger Girl and I drove our 1998 Corvette C5 to the top of the Touring 1 category. Overall I’d say that Bark and Rebecca did a better job than we did, beating us in two of the three timed events and in the road rally. The Vette proved to be a little troublesome at speed thanks to a set of oversized HRE wheels that look absolutely awesome but which make the front-rear balance very malleable depending on ambient temperature and road camber. Luckily for me, however, my Touring-class competition suffered from a variety of mechanical maladies and mistakes. A particularly fearsome-looking BMW M5 made the mistake of cooking its brake rotors early in the weekend, preventing it from getting solid points in the timed track section at Atlanta Motorsports Park.

Click the jump to see a video of me thrashing the old Vette at Memphis International Raceway and to catch up on what I wrote last week.

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Weekly Roundup: Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em Edition

I just found an old DVD with about 2,700 photos I took between 2001 and 2006. It’s been fascinating going through them — mostly because it shows how different my life was more than a decade ago. No kid, very few limits on my spending, and not much direction in life other than buying cars and clothes. Hmm. Maybe nothing’s changed at all. I don’t know.

This shot is me doing a brake-torque on my old friend Berg’s 300SEL 6.3, some time in 2005. It’s particularly relevant because Berg and I just collaborated on a new article for Hagerty Magazine this past Thursday. If you like classic American luxury sedans, or if you’re interested in the very best this country can make right now in 2017, it will reward your attention.

In the meantime, let’s check out this week’s contributions, including two print pieces for R&T that just went online.

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Weekly Roundup: Better Get Hit in Yo’ Sole Edition

If you were sitting up front on last Friday night’s flight from LaGuardia to John Glenn, I hope you will accept my apologies for the two loudmouths who were sitting across the aisle from each other and laughing like brain-damaged morons for the whole ninety minutes that the plane sat on the tarmac prior to receiving takeoff clearance. It was just pure chance that my brother and I had a chance to share so-called “first class” on a regional jet; my inbound flight from Zurich had been delayed two hours, causing me to miss my connection out of JFK. Meanwhile, brother Bark’s exit from Miami had been held up by weather. It just made sense to us to meet up at LGA and fly from there. And if we were a little obnoxious, it was just because I hadn’t seen the dude in five weeks and we had a lot of stories to tell.

For more of those stories, click the jump.

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Double Weekly Roundup: Master Of The Harmonicaster Edition

There’s a great part in Alexander Pope’s Epistle To Dr. Arbuthnot where he sarcastically thanks the “Great”, meaning the titled aristocracy, for showering riches on the most servile and repugnantly talentless poets out there and, by making pets of them, sparing Pope the hassle of having to read their work. “May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands!” he snarls, before remarking that the aristocracy chose to ignore the genius of John Gay. To be fair, Gay was offered some preference by the “Great”, but he usually turned it down. His goal was to succeed on his own merits by appealing directly to the public, and in this goal he was eventually successful.

In a nutshell, that’s how I feel about Ronnie Schreiber. He’s one of the strongest writers in the business, a tireless researcher, a polymath with the ability to converse intelligently on any number of subjects, and a true friend. Time and again I’ve seen great opportunities pass him by and go to various congenital liars, con artists, talentless emo hacks, and fat-assed bench racers. All those dunces, whistled off my hands into cushy gigs where they rewrite press releases or make up stories about shit that never happened. Meanwhile, Ronnie perseveres. A while ago, he was the target of a slander and harassment campaign that nearly drove him out of the business and cost him a couple of lucrative outlets. Instead of crying about it, Ronnie sat down and… invented an instrument.

The electronic harmonica isn’t a new idea by a long shot. A working electronic harmonica, however, has been unicorn territory. Until now. This past week, Ronnie debuted the Harmonicaster at Nashville’s Summer NAMM Show. I was there to help out a little and hang around a lot. The music industry’s response to Ronnie’s self-financed, self-designed, self-promoted, and self-marketed invention was little short of staggering. In the space of seventy-two hours, the Nashville crowd realized what the cowards at Hemmings and elsewhere couldn’t figure out in five years — Ronnie is a brilliant, inventive, tireless man. And now he has a patent pending for a genuinely new thing. The young harmonica players love it. They’ll remember Ronnie long after everything his detractors have accomplished vanishes into dust.

Which reminds me — last week’s “Weekly Roundup” did vanish into dust, courtesy of my attempt to stay ahead of my work and travel schedule while dealing with some pretty unpleasant injuries suffered at a skatepark. I’m not quite back on the horse yet, but today’s the day to start catching up.

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