(Really Seriously) Made In The USA: New Balance ‘1978’

How’s that old saying go? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Which is why I’ve spent a couple of days kind of spinning my wheels regarding the Nike endorsement of Caperman or whatever his name is. I haven’t owned a set of Nike shoes since maybe the early Nineties. In 1998 I got my first set of USA-made New Balances and I haven’t really looked back since then. So instead of talking about Nike, their overseas production, or their political activism, I’d like to talk about something that just recently became a possibility: the 100% American-made athletic shoe.

New Balance is well known for their Assembled in USA products which contain less than 70% USA-made materials, and for their Made In USA line which contains at least 70% domestic materials. Until recently, however, they had no shoe that was sourced entirely from the United States. That’s changed thanks to a massive infrastructure investment by New Balance. Unfortunately, the reason for that investment has proven to be a false hope.

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Not Every Story Has A Happy Ending

A friend of mine died this week. Died in his asleep, presumably alone. He was 42.

In this age of social media, maybe I’d call him a former friend, because he deleted me from Facebook a long time ago, but if he had called me needing $100 to make it to his next paycheck, I’d have given it to him without a second thought. The reason I use that particular example is because, knowing his story, it’s probably the mostly likely reason that he would have contacted me.

I won’t use his real name, because I’m going to tell his story in true Speaker For The Dead fashion. Let’s call him “Bob.” Bob was a musical compatriot of mine for a few years, and we toured much of the midwest together in an Econoline van that had a penchant for eating alternators at the most inconvenient times. He was a brilliant guy, easily my intellectual equal and maybe even then some. But Bob’s life was, to put it mildly, a trainwreck.

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Bye Bye, Younkers

As I type this at approximately 6:27 PM Central Time, the Bon-Ton stores will be open for less than three hours, then it’s all over. All the department stores that were a part of this corporation – Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner’s, Younkers, Elder-Beerman and Boston Store, will call it quits after decades of service. But it was Younkers I remember best.

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Just To Save You The Hassle Of Reading Vice Or Buzzfeed…

THE OLDEST BLOCKCHAIN WAS PRINTED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!!!!

That’s the clickbait headline that’s going around a couple of the garbage sites like Vice and Buzzfeed. To prevent you from having to read them, I’ve found an alternate source for you, free of charge: Finding The Oldest Blockchain.

If you don’t know what blockchain is, then you’ll want to start by reading my Explain-Like-I’m-Five-Years-Old piece on hashes. It was written for people with an interest in Bitcoin. I suspect that interest in Bitcoin has greatly waned since I wrote it; judging by the current market cap, it’s a third of what it is now. Which reminds me. I have a Bitcoin story of my own to tell. Watch this space.

Running Hard: Cross Country in a 27 Year Old Nissan Truck

Perhaps because I have done it so often, I sometimes forget that the great American road trip is a dying tradition. Some of my earliest memories are tied into those long drives from our home in the cool, tree covered hills of Western Washington to visit my grandparents on the hot, sun baked plains of Eastern Kansas. The recollections play out in my mind like a disjointed movie – a memory of our overheated Oldsmobile station wagon on a mountain pass shooting out a geyser of steam as my father adds water collected from the melting snow, an image caught through the window of a canopy on the back of our Chevy truck where my brothers, sisters and I made another trip atop a pile of blankets, and still another, when my older three siblings had been deemed too old to be forced to make the trip, where my sister Connie and I luxuriated in the spacious backseat and the air-conditioned comfort of my dad’s Delta 88. Eventually I too aged out of that particular journey, but as an adult I still embrace the road trip and have spent more than my fair share of time using the interstate to traverse the vast distances between our nation’s shores. I’ve done it probably a dozen times now and it’s become an old trick. Perhaps that was why I felt so little trepidation over using a 27 year old Nissan to do it yet again. Continue Reading →

Yet Another Place For You To Go Read Things With Which You Disagree

bark m indulge magazine

Starting with the November issue, I’ll be writing about luxury automotive for Indulge Magazine. It’s a lifestyle-oriented magazine that has a subscription circulation of about 60,000 in the Miami-Dade market, with readership of about 280,000. It’s specifically targeted at higher income/net worth individuals, so my first piece is going to be about some of the exotic hybrid sports cars on the market, and driving them around Miami and taking pictures at iconic locations. Neat, right? Also, this will probably be the first time that I’m just plain ol’ “Mark Baruth” in the byline.

Unless you live in Miami, you won’t ever see the articles in print, but I’ll link to them when they’re online.

That’s all!

Remembering A Friend: Julie’s Cars

A good friend, Julie Werthmann, passed away last week. A close friend of my parents, and probably one of my mom’s best friends. Well, hell, she was a friend of mine too. Yesterday, we attended the memorial and said goodbye. She was a terrific lady. She and her then-husband met my folks back in the ’80s when they moved our Chris-Craft to a new dock at Sunset Marina. Mike and Julie became our ‘boat neighbors.’ They lived year-round on their boat, a Grand Banks double-cabin cruiser. I have known her since I was about five years old. And since I was a car nut even at that early age, I remember all the cars she had. And rode in most of them over the years.

The earliest car I remember was a dark green 1982 Delta 88 Royale Brougham. Just like the car in the brochure picture above, it had the color-keyed styled steel wheels, plus a sage green interior with matching top. And the 350 Diesel V8! But they never had an issue with this car. In fact, they kept it well into the 1990s, and it stayed nice and reliable all that time. The sound of that GM Diesel is permanently etched into my memory.

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Meta-Plagiarism

There’s nothing worse than stealing an idea without crediting the originator. Check out this great article from July 16, 2018 about how Cadillac stole the CTS “Art & Science” design from an obscure Mazda concept. And when you’re done being outraged about this theft… uh… check out… uh… this great article from April 9, 2015, which is… um… about… well… just discuss it in the comments, okay?

So Long, Toys R Us

Well, the party’s over. This past Friday, all the remaining Toys R Us stores closed, permanently. Rather than rehash all the tired woulda, coulda, shoulda, I’d just like to talk about what was.

Toys R Us, circa 1969

I can thank my grandmother, Ruby Klockau, for getting me addicted to Toys R Us. Way back when I was a little kid, she would often take me out to lunch. We’d usually go to Bishop’s Buffet, then to the local dealerships, and then to Toys R Us, where I got to pick out a model car.

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Guest Post: The Last Of The (Four-Wheeled) VTEC Interceptors

I didn’t know it was going to be the last ride of my ill-advised, midlife return to motocross, but that’s the thing about last rides – they don’t care about your plans. I had a long second over the finish line jump to ponder the fact that no part of my body was connected to my KTM, and that my children are likely to still need me around for a while longer. Why the hell am I doing this? My body survived the landing, but my hobby did not. I’d been riding beyond my diminishing abilities, and the risk was no longer acceptable.

The bike was gone after a quick wash and Craigslist ad, but the void that only speed and competition could fill remained. I’d been wanting to try autocross and track driving, but my Ford Flex wasn’t welcome at either. My girlfriend graciously offered to drive my dad-mobile so I could get a suitable sports car; it should come as no surprise she is now my wife. But I needed more than a track car, this was going to be my daily driver and kid hauler. I needed something that could do it all, and for about $20,000 used.

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