Rewind: The New York Times Pays A Woman With A $2.85M Home To Lecture You About Being A Commuter Prole

Originally published October 29, 2013 — jb

Do you like commuting? I certainly don’t. It’s safe to say that nobody likes commuting. Even when you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle that you absolutely adore, the fact remains that doing almost anything else with the car or bike in question would be more enjoyable than slogging along with a group of similarly condemned individuals down the Long Island Expressway or I-5 or I-75 or the Chicago Loop. Nobody commutes because they want to. They commute because they have identified a need or combination of needs in their lives that require it. Perhaps they’re a dual-income couple with geographically separate jobs. Perhaps they cannot afford to live near where they work. Perhaps they are temporary employees, the foot soldiers in our country’s mostly imaginary recovery, going wherever the work is found while trying desperately to cover their expenses at home.

Just in case, however, that you felt your commute to be a glorious triumph, a veritable quotidian adventure, the Times has commanded that a member of the fabled one percent disabuse you of this ridiculous notion.
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Rewind: the watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury.

In a former life as an occasional participant on the fringes of the ol’ illegal street racing, I was a member of an “underground message board” where matches were set up, smack was talked, grammar was tortured, you know the deal, right? The board was well-known for being completely cop/narc-free, largely because the cops didn’t care about two community-college dropouts racing 15-second Hondas behind a grocery store in the sticks at two in the morning and then creating twenty-eight-page forum threads detailing their particular excuses for losing. In fact, until some GTO-driving halfwit managed to kill himself and cripple an innocent woman traveling the other way on the freeway, it was pretty much open season for 40-rolls on the freeways of Columbus, Ohio.

But I digress, so we shall return to the topic at hand. There was a fellow vaguely known as “Concrete Sam” on the boards, some mouth-breathing driveway-pourer who had managed to funnel his entire career’s earnings into a tuned-up C5 Corvette. His “signature” on the boards was “THE VETTE GETS THEM WET — Call me for all your concrete and masonary (sic) needs”. Crass, but honest. You know what you’re getting with Concrete Sam. He has a Vette. It is popular with his chosen genre of female. Also, he is available to do actual work for actual cash, which he probably will plow into his Corvette, enabling him to win more street races, drop more panties, and ever it shall be thus. Concrete Sam is the real deal.

Imagine a spectrum of self-delusion and pretension, if you will. Concrete Sam, tirelessly filling sidewalks by day and chirpin’ in third on the mean streets by night, is on one side of that spectrum. On the other side? Why, it’s the Hublot Big Bang.

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Rewind: “Trackday Diaries: Consider Phlebas”

I found myself using the “fingernails” quote on Instagram today, so here’s the first time I used it. This piece originally appeared on May 21, 2012. Stick around after the end for an ironic postscript — JB

In his uneven but interesting book Guitar: An American Life, Tim Brookes notes that acoustic players “pick up a guitar in order to meet college girls but wind up talking to other middle-aged men about their fingernails.” I started racing so I could put my merciless, Edward-Green-shod foot on the neck of other competitors in the twilight zone that separates victory from certain death, but I’ve wound up spending my weekends telling other middle-aged men to unwind their steering wheels at corner exit.

This past weekend at Summit Point’s Shenandoah course, I preached long sermons from the Book of Corner Exit to three of those middle-aged men: a novice in a Panamera Turbo, a prodigy in a C6 Vette, and my own crumbling self, piloting a Coyote-powered Mustang GT in an ultimately futile attempt to outpace a colleague in a new 991 Carrera S. Together we pursued the discipline of the Quality Exit, with varying results. To misquote the poet: “O you who turn the wheel and look to chiclets, Gentile or Jew, click the jump to find out how we did.”

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Rewind: What I’ve Learned About Running A Business By Driving A Racecar

I posted this on LinkedIn last year, and it was widely shared in the biz world. Thought I’d recycle here. Enjoy!

 

I don’t spend a lot of time in my office—after all, this is 2017 (well, it was then—B.), and with my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air, my virtual office is with me wherever I go. As a result, my actual office isn’t adorned with the usual diplomas, plaques, and photographs that you’ll see on the walls of most work stations. There are only two photos: one of my kids and me taking in an MLS soccer game, and one of my other “family”—my amateur auto racing team.

We’re standing on the podium at on of the world’s greatest racing circuits, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, proudly displaying our champion’s trophy, the result of nine hours of actual blood, sweat, and tears. I don’t have this picture in my office to show off my hobby to visitors. No, it’s there to remind me that the same principles that apply to driving a winning racecar apply to sales, coaching, and management. Here’s what my years behind the wheel of a racecar have taught me about business.

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Rewind: “Capsule Review: 1995 Ford Aspire”

This article was originally published on July 3, 2010. Of the 133 comments attached to it, about 60 had something to do with a word used by the father in the story. I’d like to try defusing that kind of conversation in advance by noting that it was a direct quote and that I do not share those sentiments regarding the Aspire. Thanks! — jb

As a Ford salesman during the Year Of Our Lord 1995, I had very few scruples and fewer dreams. I did, however, have a few personal goals. One of them was to sell as many pink cars as possible. I convinced a woman shopping without her husband to order a pink Windstar. I checked “Rose Mist” by default on every 1996 Taurus order form that passed through my hands, relying on the customer to see the “mistake” and correct it. I even convinced a color-blind man to order the pinkish interior on a black 1996 Taurus station wagon, describing it to him as “a very vintage red, luxurious in tone and strongly reminiscent of a Sixties Rolls-Royce.” When his son came to pick up the car with him, he looked at me in a fashion I can only describe as “murderous”.

Another goal, known only to me: to never sell a Ford Aspire. At the time, I believed that Ford made a few good cars and a very good truck. I also believed that Kia had made a good car, and it was called the Ford Festiva. The Aspire, which succeeded the Festiva, was no successor at all, and certainly no success. Built on the bones of the perfectly-packaged little Korean “Ford” Festiva, it was heavier, slower, no more spacious, and strongly resembled a suppository when viewed in profile. It was also expensive when equipped with air conditioning and an automatic transmission. The dealer margin on the Aspire was about five hundred bucks between sticker and invoice, meaning that I could usually get customers into a far superior Escort LX, priced at invoice, for less than an additional grand.

After driving both cars, and seeing the vast difference between the competence of the Mazda-based ’95 Scort and the Kia-built ’95 Aspire, customers always chose the Escort. When I gave my two weeks’ notice at the dealership, I knew that I would leave the business with my Aspirations cheerfully unfulfilled. Less than ten days later, my dream crashed into the ground… with a tinny “clink”.

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Rewind: “LaCrosse The Universe”

Originally published on October 12, 2010. Where does the time go?

I am the electron, the distant particle. Sometimes I know where I am, sometimes I know where I am going, but never do I know both. I look back and see where I was. This time I covered 1,600 miles in sixty-six hours, from Ohio to Indiana to Ontario and back, racing, partying, making videos, lulled to dullness by the long road, sneaking out with the morning light and never really sleeping. This is not On The Road: this is Two-Lane Blacktop. We cannot learn about ourselves; there is no “there” there. But we can learn about this Buick, this uneasy inheritor of a tarnished nobility.

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Rewind: “A Rising Star In Journalism Stands Up To Applaud The Encore”

Jamie LaReau is the journalist about whom everyone is talking nowadays. It all started when international taste-maker and notorious recluse Michael Banovsky alerted his following to a fascinating August, 2011 article entitled A Porsche From The Passenger Seat Is Still A Porsche. Banovsky is a known talent-spotter, and this time he had spotted someone whose Hemingway-esque economy of words genuinely stood out:

The Porsche I rode in was a 1999 model. I don’t recall which style, but let’s just say it was one of the good ones. (As if there are any bad ones.)

Indeed. I happened to see Ms. LaReau examining the new Buick Encore with considerable interest after the press conference, but before I could untether my Droid from my laptop and talk to her, she disappeared. Now, it appears that she has applied her unique style to a strong defense of the Encore. Let’s check it out.

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Rewind: “Capsule Review: 1994 Explorer and the Not So Naughty Nurse”

The 1995 Explorer gave me a real taste of what it must be like to be an “order-taker” at a Honda or Toyota dealership. Customers drove up, took whatever we had on the lot, and paid sticker without complaining. We were perennially short on inventory, which of course didn’t keep my flamboyant General Manager from reserving one for his personal use.

Glenn, the GM in question, liked to have things just so. Once every two or three months, he ordered a white Explorer XLT 945A with a few extra options. As soon as his new one showed up, we had to sell his old one. It was a system that worked very well; since Glenn’s demo was the only Explorer on which we offered any real discount, it was a quick sale.

Several Explorers back, Glenn’s personal whip had been involved in a mild fender-bender and had been shuttled off to the body shop. It was placed on the back burner because it was an “in-house” deal, but when it returned, we all marveled at how perfectly it had been repaired. It looked like a brand-new 1994 Explorer.

Which it was.

And it returned to us in January of 1995, in the middle of a monster snowstorm.

Did I mention it was two-wheel-drive?

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Rewind: Capsule Review, 1988 BMW 750iL

Now it can be told, more than twenty years after the fact. This recent kid-smashing-up-press-car incident has caused me to think about my own misspent youth and the potential parallels between it and that of Little Lord Cheney. My father was a decorated war hero rather than a demoted war reporter, and when I crunched the nose of my first car my dad responded by taking away my license for an entire year and forcing me to ride a bicycle to my job washing dishes from 8pm to 2am at the local pizza-delivery place. He also made me learn how to drive on his stick-shift BMW 733i, so I never had the chance to drive a car through a garage door.

Still, I can point to a few incidents of damn-the-torpedos bad judgment in my teen years, and perhaps my favorite one was the day I found myself behind the wheel of a brand-new BMW 750il and decided to take a shot at one hundred and fifty-five miles per hour.
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Rewind: “Trackday Diaries — The Long And Boring Road”

(Originally published on June 10, 2010 — jb)

I do not know precisely when I became an itinerant. For a long time, I traveled the Midwest racing bicycles. When I was too crippled to race a bike I changed to cars. Some years I am gone from home more than half the weekends of the year, racing cars and teaching at various trackday events. I am on the road four days a week at a minimum in my day job anyway.

Constant motion distorts time, preventing one from seeing the growth of flowers or children. It distorts perspective, focusing attention on the next event and blurring what comes after or came before. It distorts relationships. Friends exist on the phone and the Web. We never touch or meet, comets locked on disparate orbits. A contrail of romantic episodes crystallizes to angry ice in the sky behind me. “I should have known,” an e-mail in my inbox reads, “that nothing you ever told me was real, or true.”

This is what is real and true: the next racetrack and the road to get there.

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