Let’s start with this: I’m not closing this site, but I am changing it.
Let’s continue like so: Very shortly, it’s going to cost more to have been my enemy than it will to have been my friend.
What I mean by that: On July 15th I’ll be launching my Substack. If you’ve ever commented or participated on Riverside Green then I’ll be offering you a permanent discount via email. If you’re interested in that, but you’ve changed your email or you want to be certain of it, leave a blank-ish comment below and I’ll make sure you’re on the list. If you’re following me on social media but haven’t commented, shoot me a note over there to be on the list.
The folks who just want to scan my Substack for something they can use to hurt me and my family, as they’ve done on this site for the last eight years and almost constantly for the last three, will have to pay full price. Don’t worry, kids, it will still be worth it!
Click the jump to find out why I’m doing this, what you’ll find on Substack, and what you’ll find here.
There’s no time like your first time, and for me the first time was with a twenty-something sophisticate and fellow John Updike fan named Jill Geiger. She hired me at Bicycles Today when I was nineteen years old. Let me write an absurdly self-indulgent monthly column that would often run as long as 4,000 words. As an editor, she was peerless, because as John McPhee once wrote, she knew the most important word in the trade, namely: stet. (For you non-writers, that’s an editorial notation that means “Leave it alone and run it like that.”)
About two years into that wonderful gig, I wrote something that really annoyed the head honchos at GT Bicycles, which at that point was like the 800-pound gorilla of BMX. I was racing the junior pro class at the time — and badly — so they sent two monstrous AA Pros named Gary Ellis and Charles Townsend to shut me up. After a few minutes of exceptionally tense conversation, however, I kind of won them both over to my side of things. So the GT people did the next reasonable thing: they withdrew their sponsorship of the magazine, at which point I got fired.
That was in 1994, believe it or not. Long time ago. Hard to believe that basically the same thing could happen again, decades later. Maybe it didn’t. But I digress.
Since then, I’ve had good editors, bad editors, woke editors, savvy editors, and even a cowardly boss or two.
Neil McCauley: You must’ve worked some dipshit crews.
Vincent Hanna: I worked all kinds.
The whole time I’ve been under someone’s thumb, even in my own writing. This site has long been constructed with a jeweler’s eye for the fine line where “speak the truth” becomes “lose your job”. I haven’t always been right about that, by the way. The last few years have been particularly bad. When you have what is arguably the best gig in autowriting, there are people who will work night and day to take it away from you. There was no limit to their deception, their cowardice, and the repugnance of their conduct. A while ago I sent a non-industry friend to a new-car press drive, a complete unknown in the business, and he reported accidentally sitting in on a whole dinner where a dozen or so autowriters and two PR people did nothing but float ideas on how to get me out of autowriting for good. “It would be great if he lost his house and custody of his son, too,” one fellow sagely noted, and there was a general nodding of heads.
Mike Ehrmantraut: Whatever happens next, it’s not gonna go down the way you think it is.
I wish that all the stories they told about me that night were true: I’d be the greatest villain in history, instead of an aging dad with a hundred-plus broken bones and a mild knack for turning a phrase. And I’ve long wondered why so many people spend so much time hating my guts. It could be as simple as this: When you spend your life being subservient to others, it’s intensely frustrating seeing someone else refuse to do the same. It calls your own choices into question. In the same way that very few people are strong enough to do someone else an injury without inventing a reason why that person deserved what they got, very few people are strong enough not to hate someone who won’t get in line next to them.
Harrison Bergeron: Even as I stand here, crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!
I’ve come to realize that may no longer be any room in the autowriting game for people who won’t write and say exactly what they’re told. Under the august leadership of Robert Farago, The Truth About Cars came closest, but since then it’s always been possible for the automakers and PR people to reach their slimy tendrils into a company and work their will via connivance, compulsion, or cash. The industry is quickly moving towards “influencers” and video anyway, two areas where editorial integrity and truth essentially don’t exist. Even the people who don’t need to kneel before the automakers — outlets based on trust funds or success in other lines of business — kneel anyway, because something inside them enjoys kneeling.
This is a windmill at which I can no longer tilt. So I’m just going to do my own thing, away from the media corporations. Write what I want. Tell the truth, without reservations. Name some names and shame some shame-able behavior. Review some cars and be brutally honest. Expose some of the dumber and more lamentable aspects of the business.
Maybe I’ll make a few bucks at it. Maybe I’ll end up making the ends meet by asking people if they’d like fries with that. Doesn’t matter to me. I’ve done everything the twelve-year-old me wanted to do. And everything the sixteen-year-old me wanted to do. There’s a difference between the two, of course.
Alright, to business.
Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox : [drunkenly toasting] To business!
From Day One, my Substack will contain more than a half million words of:
- All the classic Avoidable Contacts (some of the bystanders call them Avoidable Content, which tickles me) from the Farago era and from before I signed away my rights, Prince-style, to VerticalScope later on;
- All the stuff that I had to edit and remove from this site under pressure from my previous employer;
- Articles that I felt were too hot or controversial to publish when I wrote them;
- Other pieces that I think deserve a re-examination;
- Various fiction pieces;
- Maybe some of the old bike stuff. I can’t imagine it would be of interest to most readers now.
After that, I will be writing new long-form pieces on a weekly basis or more often than that, many of which will tell the stories I haven’t been able to tell until now. Topics include: automotive, music, literature, criticism, history, politics. Don’t expect a Vox-Day-style right-wing sandblast, or even a Curtis Yarvin series of intelligent insinuations. There are plenty of people working that space already and they don’t need company. While I can’t imagine that what I write will have much appeal to the ultra-Current-Year crowd, I have no interest in upsetting my left-of-center friends and readers.
Once I get started, I’ll take a look at the reader feedback and adjust appropriately.
This site will continue as well. Some of it will be blatant pandering aimed at getting people to join my Substack; I’d be foolish to throw away the advertising potential of a site that does this much traffic. But we will also have:
- All the guest writers and posts you’ve come to know;
- New pieces by me on non-automotive topics;
- A few Greatest Hits from the old days;
- Anything else that seems reasonable.
I’ll be writing a fair amount on this site between now and July 15 so please check back.
That’s it for now. I’ll close by offering my most sincere thanks to everyone who has read this site. Even the sad little people who have combed through it again and again hoping to discover a way to make me as sad and unfulfilled as they are. My readers have made it possible for me to have a life that seemed out of reach when I was a child. Writing has never been the most lucrative thing I’ve done, or could have done, with my time. But it has always been the most rewarding. I can’t wait to continue that journey with you, free from the slings and arrows of outrageous censorship. Let’s have fun.