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Bohemian Dads

   Carolyn See has just published a rave review of Martha Sherrill's novel "The Ruins of California." Martha's a dear friend and former colleague -- basically, she's family. There will be no objectivity claimed in this discussion. But I will testify that I loved the book, and wondered, as I read it, if people who didn't know her so well (or know her dashing father, the model for the character Paul Ruin) would have the same reaction. Ms. See clearly did, and explained why:

    "This is for people with broken homes and smashed hearts and extraordinary bravery and gallantry and imagination. This novel is for those who love their families with a terrible love and prize filial piety above all things, even though that family -- and it's bound to be overextended -- appears bound straight for Hell in several different handbaskets. It's about practicing courage and manners and tradition even as Dad introduces his 17th girlfriend. Yes, it's about self-destruction, but it's really about love -- the real thing -- about how we get it and how we keep it. I'm crazy about 'The Ruins of California.' It gives me hope for the whole human race."

       [Wow. Sounds like she liked it, no? Or am I am just reading between the lines?]

      Ms. See's review has a touch of autobiography itself.

     "I had such a father, and so did both my daughters (different girls, different dads.) There's a perfect scene in the novel where Paul gives Inez his MG for her 16th birthday and then bursts into tears: 'I'm just sad, that's all. A beautiful kind of sadness. You look so damn wonderful in that car.' By then, the reader knows that his tears could just as easily be for his lost MG. I spoke to my younger daughter about it, and we laughed over the phone until we both noticed we were crying -- for our lost and beautiful dads."

     My Dad had a serious Paul Ruin streak. He didn't have an MG, he had a Triumph convertible, essentially the same car, slung so low you could dangle your arm out the door and touch the pavement. (And look at the pavement through the hole in the floor.) He was different from Paul Ruin in that he tended to marry his girlfriends. All of this is a long story that I'll save for another day, but here's a broader point: These men believed they had discovered a cosmic secret, that the rules did not have to be obeyed, that the norms of society were arbitrary. I suspect they felt they had not only the opportunity to find true freedom, but the obligation. To be a bohemian was to be a commando in a culture war. What to others might look like irresponsibility or selfishness was, for them, a courageous assault on a repressive, uncreative and phony society. They were out there taking one for the team. And they didn't tend to live a long time, those guys, I'm sad to say.   

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 27, 2006; 12:23 PM ET
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And how the women suffered.

Posted by: Loomis | January 27, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the short life span was part of their truth, their cosmic secret. Somewhere, somehow they understood this?

Posted by: dr | January 27, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I suspect the dads that try to be good fathers might feel just a tad offended by this story,maybe? Some guys just can't seem to get it together, but we do have some that know what to do, and do it.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 27, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

And that is so true, Loomis. I speak from first hand experience. Childhood and adulthood.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 27, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

In a sense, the norms of society *are* arbitrary. There *are* many things about society that are "repressive, uncreative, and phony." And pursuing true freedom is indeed a worthwhile goal -- for those who have the luxury to do so. But we need to be mindful of the impact we have on those around us. With "rights" come Responsibilities.

Unfortunately, the way our society is structured, we tend to accumulate more responsibilities than some of us can handle before we get to thinking about the big questions -- such as whether we really want to buy into all that society has to offer, or to follow the course society tells us we "should" follow. It's not for everyone, but usually people don't figure that out until it's too late, and they've messed up big time.

[I should add that I don't come from a "broken home," and I don't have children, so take my words with a grain of salt. Maybe I shouldn't even be commenting. . . . I will read the book, though -- it sounds wonderful.]

Posted by: Dreamer | January 27, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Zen and the art of balance.

Not to kill one's creativity, individuality and eccentricities, but neither to harm with selfishness, recklessness and/or abandonment.

Beauty that destroys others immolates itself. Something is lost in translation.

My mother was a Paul, but my father taught me that children come first. Their care and guidance is a lifelong devotion that takes and gives in equal amounts, but not of the same thing. He took his role as a father and physician equally; "First, do no harm."

And when I became a parent myself, it was to the lessons of my father, those memories, that I looked. My daughter is confident, brilliant and beautiful, so thanks, Daddy.

Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff, Joel. The failing of fathers is a broad, broad subject. It hits me now, as a father. People think that fighting over public policy is a sign of courage, or public speaking, or facing bullets on the streets or battlefields. To me, all that stuff seems pretty trivial compared to the challenges and triumphs of everyday living and responsibility for our loved ones. Heavy, nerve-wracking, endless. Caring is tough. fighting is easy.

Posted by: Kane | January 27, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"What to others might look like irresponsibility or selfishness was, for them, a courageous assault on a repressive, uncreative and phony society."

My husband is very bohemian, and you described the attitude perfectly, Joel--he feels that his obligations to his children have been fulfilled if he provides inspiration to them, and that he has certainly done. But my own father didn't stop at showing us that you can live "outside the box"--he is a free thinker who also provided his family with material support and moral guidance. It doesn't have to be one or the other. My husband's children (my daughter and two with his first wife) love him passionately, but they know better than to count on him to support them. My dad has my respect as well as my love, in a way my husband will never know.

Posted by: Reader | January 27, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff... but weren't we going to deal with injustice today? Well, looks like that will be on some other day.

Posted by: MxWPFan | January 27, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Maybe having a parent like that *is* injustice?

Okay, okay, I'm kidding. You meant injustice with the capital "I"...

Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

How timely, as I'm gathering my things together for a weekend with my Dad, who just turned 70 this week. In comparison, his own father died at the age of 43. This event caused my dad to take his own well-being seriously, but not so much that he's no fun. Rather, he keeps things in balance, goes to the gym every day, and doesn't over-indulge, except where sun-worshipping is concerned. He loves sitting beach and poolside more than anyone I know. He could teach a class on How to Chill. I have a ton of respect for him-- a kid from a coal town, the first in his family to go to college (on a football scholarship) and then go on to earn a Master's in Education.

He's always been a terrific dad, spending a lot of time with me and my brother as kids, teaching us to ski (both water and snow), finding horses for me to ride, slipping us cash when we really needed it, taking me to get my ears pierced (against my mother's wishes) and so many other more important things, like giving me the nod to break my first engagement even though plenty of money had already been spent. I've always been able to count on his love and support and am so grateful that he chose to keep himself healthy so we could have him in our lives as long as possible. The next milestone is my parents' 50th anniversary in 3 years, should the fates allow.

Posted by: Pixel | January 27, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

My dad is like that. He's an absolute nutter; he obsesses over seashells and stamps and cannot do anything without going completely overboard. He's a genius and the oldest of five children, also the most fit and financially sound and drives his sisters crazy. He's my cousins "crazy uncle" and i often hear myself describe him as my "nutty father," and is an endless source of amusement among friends. My mother is the down-to-earth one, and is a very very patient woman.

Posted by: LP | January 27, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

In a sense, the norms of the Achenblog *are* arbitrary. There *are* many things about the Ablog that are "repressive, uncreative, and phony." And pursuing true freedom is indeed a worthwhile goal -- for those who have the luxury to do so. But we need to be mindful of the impact we have on those around us, such as interlopers. With "rights" come Responsibilities.

Unfortunately, the way our blog is structured, we tend to accumulate more responsibilities than some of us can handle. ["You can't handle the Blog."]

Before we get to thinking about the big questions -- such as whether we really want to read an unimaginably long post from Loomis, or a predictable refrain from some of the regulars, or to follow the effete course that this blog dictates that we "should" follow. It's not for everyone [and that means YOU], which is why we try very hard to confound or bar "new" people". But usually people don't figure that out until it's too late, and they've messed up big time. [I just love talking like Cheney.] And then it is time to punish them, with niggling about commas, or subjecting them to stale lyrics and poems and quotes. Oh my god.

[I should add that I come from a "broken home," and have no issue, so take my words with a grain of coke. Maybe I shouldn't even be commenting...but that has never stopped me before.)

Posted by: Embarassed Lurker | January 27, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Joel, your last paragraph describes my father better than I probably ever could - except the part about not living long. By some miracle he's made it to 64. He's a musician, writer, deep thinker and still going strong with his dreams and his plans. I've long since stopped expecting anything to come of it. Despite his brilliance (both intellectual and artistic), he is a failure at functioning in the modern world. He should have lived in the time of patrons. For 20 years he got by depending on my mother, but as Loomis said, the women suffered.

When I was about 20 I sent him a letter telling him how I used to pity Vincent VanGogh, but now only pitied the woman to whom he gave his ear. I have since gotten over my anger. He is no longer the hurricane in my life that he was when I was a kid (he jokes that in his old age he's downgraded to a tropical storm). We actually get along well now, though it took many years and a bit of therapy. In the end it just came down to, as my therapist put it, accepting that he was never going to be the kind of dad I wanted him to be. I was always asking for $10 when he only had $5 to give. I have learned to accept him as he is, to appreciate his $5, and to get my emotional needs met elsewhere. Fortunately for me, and my daughters, the man I married is nothing like him. I love my dad, and I wouldn't trade him. I also whouldn't be who I am without him. At the same time, I wouldn't choose to subject my girls to a hurricane.

Posted by: ABJunkie | January 27, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

We Dads are curious beings; unpredictable in specifics, highly predictable in general.

My own Dad left my mom and my brothers nearly 40 years ago (wow), had some visits from him for the first year or so. Then his attention wandered to his new family, and that's pretty much been that as far as my relationship (and my brothers as well) with my Dad goes.

I believe he's still local to me, but the last I heard about his whereabouts was about 20 years ago when some friends pointed me to a police report in the newspaper that indicated he'd been arrested and charged with DUI.

I'm a long, long way from perfect, but I'm taking my own paternal and marital responsibilites a bit more seriously.

If there's more of a sign of a Romantic man than a little British sportscar, I don't know what it is. Ownership of a British sports car is an expression of hope over experience (or intelligence). For the record, I spent a Summer of Woe with a Spitfire as my only transportation as a young single guy. And I'd still consider a Lotus 7, Elan, Europa, or even an Esprit, or even a Triumph TR250 or TR6 as a third car, that is. I'm not an MG guy at all.


Posted by: bc | January 27, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I have to say, I take my fatherly duties as seriously as I can, even from several hundred miles away. Providing the neccessities for my daughter the best I can has meant, far too much of the time, trying to provide emotional/educational/maturational support via voice. *SIGH* Does that rate as bohemianity?

And on a completely frivolous note;
JA, did your dad happen to write a rhapsody?

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"Caring is tough. fighting is easy." Amen, amen, amen Kane.
If only little Wolfang Mozart, whose birthday is today, had had a better dad he might have had a happier and longer life.

When young friends about to become parents for the first time ask me for sage "been there done that" advice, I usually tell them that I would never worry about having the strength to change a thousand diapers, walk a hundred miles with a colicy baby, clean up an ocean of spilled milk. Strength is not what's called for in parenting, it's stamina. When they hurt, you're there. When they need, you're there. And when they're obnoxious and selfish, when they're cruel, when they're just plain wrong, you're there too, to let them know that you believe in their better self and are ready to help them correct their missteps.

The Squid and the Whale with Jeff Daqniels and Linnett Linney is now playing at the AFI Silver theater and around the country. I recommend it to anyone interested in issues of parenting and divorce.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Roger that, k-guy...

And kudos on sticking to the Mozart motif.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

A man can be a bad husband and a good father. A man can be bad at both and still be a good man. A true bohemian lives through experimentation. Many of these experiments fail. A bohemian can easily become a noxious narcissist, and many of the lessons so taught are what not to do. Nevertheless, seeing an existence lived as an experiment, even a tragic one, can help us push out the envelope of what life can be. And MGs will always be cool.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I forgive you, bc (I've got a 1979 MGB "project car" that hasn't run in five years; you'll be shocked, shocked and amazed, to learn the wiring system crapped out, and somebody stole the distributor cap. My wife calls it my "mid-life crisis vehicle." She's right, as always.)* But rather I like your notion that it's the sign of a true Romantic. (It's my fourth MGB; the previous three were during my bachelorhood years.)

*For the uninitiated, the electrical systems of British sports cars are a sick, sick joke.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Why do I think of bohemian as irresponsible? When did *I* grow up?

I spent my late teens on a commune, don't define myself by the norms of society per se and consider myself a creative person & a free thinker.

And yet, somewhere along the way 'bohemian' definitely came to mean secondhand irresponsibility.


Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

My dad had his moments, but they were few and far between.

He raised me and my siblings solo after divorce. She moved on elsewhere and we weren't close. Dad was a no-nonsense guy for the most part. Running a house and raising a family was something of a business to him. And the biz didn't include taking kids to ball games or playing catch in the yard and all that kind of stuff. I hold no grudge, but I'm making sure to do better on that front with my kids.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when he took me shopping to buy football equipment. We went to several stores. I was trying on shoulder pads and helmets and manly stuff. With dad. I had his time. I wish I had more, but again, I hold no grudge. The man worked hard and raising a family as a single dad wasn't the norm in the 60s.

Ah yes, the 60s. One day, dad did have his Bohemian Moment. It lives in my heart to this very day. He arrived home with a new car. Shiny. Red. Beautiful.

A Ford Mustang. That he bought that car, being Mister Practical, is a mystery of the ages. He was in charge of four kids. It had only two doors. He must've just wanted it.

I have a 1966 Mustang myself, but I did him one better. Mine's a convertible.

Posted by: Bayou Self | January 27, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

That would be Jeff Daniels.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

nice story, Bayou.

what happened to that best-of-boodle idea?

i'd put that one in the running...

Posted by: ot | January 27, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

A favorite quote: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." -Mark Twain, attributed.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse


I once owned a 1978 MGB. With a 1979 engine. I use to love to drive up memorial parkway past National Airport, down through Crystal City and then loop around again. (At one in the morning...) When your seat is, what, six inches off the pavement, 55 seems like 90. Eventually the solenoid started to fail and I was too cheap to replace it. To start the car I had to reach over my shoulder and wiggle the battery wire. But like Bogart kicking the boiler in "The Amazon Queen," I kinda enjoyed the process. Plus it was a great security feature. When I got married, my wife "persuaded" me to sell it...
There's a lesson there somewhere.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

MG, which stands for "Morris Garage", used electrical components manufactured by Lucas, the "Prince of Darkness". MGs typically leaked oil, had terrible electrics, and incredibly loyal owners. I speak as one who owned three Italian cars and one Italian motorcycle, all of which utilized electricals made by Marelli, which is an Italian word meaning "worse even than Lucas."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to mention that were he alive today, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have driven an Austin Healy 3000.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to chime in with a word about my own dad who is now 91 years old, still drives, still lives independently and who spent 7 years caring for my mother 24/7 while alzheimer's took her slowly away from us. Unfortunately, I did not choose someone like my own father to be the father of my son. My son, now grown, will never know what it's like to have a wonderful and loving relationship with his father. I regret that very much.

Posted by: Susan | January 27, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I think Mozart would be driving a Hummer, like a certain Austrian governor of our perhaps most Bohemian state.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Some great comments here. bc, I bet the hardest part of your situation is knowing how rewarding it is when you're close to your kids -- and wondering how any father could drift away. I think a whole generation of fathers never quite had the chance to bond properly. Maybe they weren't expected to do the little tedious diaper-changing, spoon-feeding sorts of things, and missed out on a million moments to connect.

Bayou, the mustang anecdote is classic.

I would hope we keep on this Dads topic, but want to throw something out just for everyone's information. Today we reached 30,000 comments on the blog. CowTown was precisely correct yesterday: This is a very civil and intelligent discussion we have going, which, as you might imagine, is something we appreciate around here these days. I thank everyone for your contributions. Many blogs don't accept comments because they feel they're too incendiary or troublesome, but that just hasn't been the case on this blog for the most part. Every so often I have to delete a comment, but in general I think it's best to ignore or simply skim over the verbal mutterings of trolls. (And by the way: No, our pet Loper is not the Lonemule. The Lonemule is one-of-a-kind. The Boodle is like an orchestra, with some on wind instruments, some on strings, some on percussion, and the Lonemule is on the gong.) (The Loper is picketing outside the hall.)

Posted by: Achenbach | January 27, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

JA, that's perfect!! "the Lonemule is on the gong." Somewhere, Chuck Barris is smiling (and I hope Lonemule is too).

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

My own dad had a painfully conservative life. He never once took a chance, and, therefore never failed. Compared to him, I am a bohemian, and I work for the government.
He drove Chevrolets.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Unless you have access to some classified Hal-generated data that I don't, in which case I would defer to your assessment that the 'loper is not the Lonemule, I'm going to stand by my original assessment. I think the 'loper wears many hats. Yes, pickets outside the hall, but he occasionally takes a break to go and strike the gong. Sometimes he even steps inside the hall to make a relevant -- even touching -- comment. He's very versatile; he makes stuff up.

Posted by: Tom fan | January 27, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

A good companion read to The Ruins might be Jeannette Walls's memoir, The Glass Castle. That was a book I gave as a Christmas present and haven't read yet myself, but it's on my short list and I'm getting to it soon. Walls apparently had two irresponsible parents--they were creative, intelligent and entirely pragmatic. They didn't put any more energy than necessary into childcare--with the result that Jeannette and her brother sometimes got their dinner from a dumpster. I'm appalled by this, and yet the kids did grow up, and Jeannette is a creative and intelligent person who has written an interesting book about her unusual childhood.

I would like to say a word in favor of the bohemian lifestyle: it doesn't have to mean "irresponsible." For me, bohemian at its best has always meant that we truly understand that the best things in life are free, and that includes libraries and school and nature walks and playing cards with your family. And some really good things are quite inexpensive, like thrift store clothing and second hand books. And the things that are worth spending money on are things like art supplies and musical instruments and (yes) books--not designer clothes and new furniture and a big house. AND nothing is worth enslaving yourself for your whole life in a job that you hate. There's always a better way.

Posted by: Reader | January 27, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Padouk, when I was a young reporter in Philly, I used to love to drive my MGB up and down the East River Drive and Wissahickon Drive, using the Ben Franklin Parkway next the the Art Museum as the starting straightaway, say about 1 a.m. Philly City Councilman Jack Kelly (brother of actress Grace, both of whom grew up on Wissahickon Drive) used to talk about having a Grand Prix Formula One race in Philly, along that route, which I desparately longed for. Because of the curves and "chicanes" (pretentiously fancy-schmancy Grand Prix road racing term) and banking, you couldn't drive really fast, and I could only take some of those curves at 35 m.p.h.

Later, working for the Allentown Morning Call on its Bucks County beat, I used to drive along the Delaware River and down the back roads up in Nockamixon and Durham Townships, and scare the livin' crap out of myself doing about 40 over some blind, twisting country lane. My heroes were Jackie Stewart and Phil Hill and Graham Hill and John Surtees--I can still hear Jackie Stewart's burr on "Wide World of Sports."

There is nothing quite like taking a curve at 35 or 40 in a convertible sports car on a challenging road like the East River Drive, when it's 10 o'clock at night and you're 23 and immortal. I once had her up to 105 on a straighaway on the Atlantic City Expressway about 1 a.m., and scared the crap out of myself (again), and never did anything that reckless and stupid ever again (well, at that speed, anyway). But the lesson learned was 35 m.p.h. on a winding curve was much more exciting than 105 on a straightaway. And it's the reason I've never much liked NASCAR--all they ever do is turn left.

I am amazed I am alive today. Ah, the dumb things we do.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Joel, let me give credit where credit is due. This blog is well mannered because most of us have a huge amount of admiration for the way you perform as a journalist. No matter how loony the person you interview, you never poke fun. There is always respect. And that's contagious.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Wolfie in a Hummer? No way! Now Wagner, yeah, him I see in a Hummer. But Mozart would most likely buy a Bugatti Veyron on credit and total it on the way home. For those who may be interested, the Bugatti has 1001 horsepower, tops out at 252 mph, and sells for $1,000,000 (unless they're having a sale).

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

SCC entry:
"Yes, HE pickets outside the hall"

[No wonder no-one believes my 'loper theory -- I have no credibility.]

Posted by: Tom fan | January 27, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

OK, I admit it. This story made me verklempt.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon - You mean at 44 I'm no longer immortal? Uh. Oh. I guess this brings us back to why we find Bohemian Dads inspiring. They remind us that we don't live forever.
Okay. I'm home sick today and the Nyquil is really kicking in...

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Ah, before he left, my Dad managed to buy himself a new Shelby Mustang.

During my Summer of Woe, I learned the value of a hammer to whack recalcitrant starter solenoids and fuel pumps.

Whoa, two rubber nose MG guys on here! I'll skip all the British and Italian car jokes I know, but I'll warn you all fairly that I write for a couple of car mags that you can find at your typical Barnes & Noble/Borders/Big Book Store newsstand. I'll leave you with this though: "Morgans kick ash."

And I still think I'm a good Dad, but we Dads all think we are, don't we?


Posted by: bc | January 27, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Since the subject is fathers, I have to mention my dear old dad (84 this month) who is, at this very moment, flying home from a trip to Antarctica (the last continenent he had not yet visited). Way to go, Leroy!

Posted by: slats | January 27, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, the whale was probably asking where the krill were, and the divers just couldn't figure it out... *nods*

Very feel-good story, true.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, You bring back fond memories of my immortal youth with your talk of curves and hills and Bucks County. I lived in lower Bucks when I first started to drive. Every chance I got I would head North. Nothing but hills and curves. Ah, the memories. Back when I used to like to drive. I live in DC now, no car, just Metro and shoes for me.

Posted by: omnigood | January 27, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Alas bc. My MGB days ended with the Reagan administration. Nowadays I drive a Saturn. With automatic. Feel my shame. My other car is a minivan. Ford.
Middle age is tough, it's all about family. And your point about Dads is true. I like to think I would win the Bill Cosby award for Fatherhood. Sometimes my offspring disagree, but they have little to compare me to. This is why I hope one day to be a grandfather. Revenge.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Kurosawaguy (Akira or Kiyoshi?) The Hummer is a musical joke, for a composer who did not always take his music seriously, but lived it to the fullest. I will concede, however, to your suggestion about the Bugatti. Smashing up an Italian would have been a joy to Mozart

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you hit it on the head.

I just do not understand my father with regards to my brothers and I, and I'm even more perplexed since I've become a father myself.

On a related note, I do understand Male Unorthodoxy: I race sports cars for fun as time and money allow. When you're puttiing on the helmet and fireproof gear, wiggling into the roll cage and securing the 5 point SFI-certified harness, you try not to think about the fact that what you're doing is dangerous, much less where your wife and kids would be should something happen in your pursuit of... (I might write on what that might be later). And while I've never driven a Bugatti Veryon, I have driven a McLaren F1 and several cars with over 650 hp on closed courses.

A corner at 35 mph is pretty cool, sliding a Viper back and forth throuth the esses at the top of the hill at Virginia International Raceway at 120+ mph, or honkin' out of the esses and up the back straight at Watkins Glen watching the speedo go past 140, 150, 160 with that powder blue guardrail rushing by, seemingly inches from your sideview mirror.

Posted by: bc | January 27, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's not pick on Dads as being a universally irresponsible species. In my wife's case, her mother is the extremely self-indulgent, utterly narcissistic, artistic, totally enamored of herself, individual. Also, the worst driver I have ever met in my life. If you put a gun to my head to require that she drive my kids for 1 mile, I would have to try to fight the gun away from you. She, on the other hand, is totally convinced that she is a race-qualified driver of astounding prowess, hampered by fools on the road, as she makes a right exit from the leftmost of 3 lanes at 30 mph over the speed limit. I would like to say that I'm exaggerating for effect, but I was actually in the car when she did that.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Good to see you're still with us, Shiloh...

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

My sense of decency requires me to concede that if I'm going to get mileage out of picking on my mother-in-law, I should make sure that she also gets her due credit. She really is an excellent musician. Trust me -- if you grew up in the US since about 1955, she has more or less played the sound track of your life. Her web site:

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse



I say again.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 27, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Scotty. Like Prufrock, I come and go. It's nice to be among civil minds and temperaments and commend Joel on the decorum and delight of 30,000 visits.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

True, bohemian doesn't have to mean 'irresponsible', but too many of the experiences I had at the hands of self-proclaimed 'bohemians' growing up were so negative for me, rooted in selfish soul-searches and 'free to be me' attitudes that left little room for responsibility, mentoring or guidance, let alone the more mundane things in life. Responsibilities were for others, they were too ('delicate', 'sensitive', 'fragile', 'talented', 'creative', 'special') to have to suffer the same things that the little people were saddled with.

I didn't learn many of the things others took for granted, like finances or caring for a home, until I taught myself - almost too late. I'm sure my father would have, had he lived long enough, but he died when I was 20. My mom didn't know and didn't care. They weren't in her value system. Painting? Sure. Quoting philosophers? You betcha. Cooking and cleaning? Not so much.

The arts *are* important; reading Nietschze and understanding it has its place, but so does balancing a checkbook - as boring as it may be.

Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm having flashes of A Fish Called Wanda from comments. When RDP spoke of revenge all I could think of was Michael Palin as stuttering KaKaKa Ken driving the steam roller over Otto and hollering "R..R..Revenge". And Tim's description of his MIL's driving reminds me of Kevin Klein as Otto the maniac American in London with his giant Mercury sedan sideswiping Brits and zooming away yelling "A$$HOLE!"

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

bc, I don't want to hear anything about Morgans. I have only two major regrets in my life, and the first involves a Morgan. When I was a sophomore or junior in college, I had a little bit of money and needed a car -- it was to be "my" first car, as opposed to using one of my parent's cars-- and my folks promised to help if I didn't have enough. One of them noticed an English Ford (I know, I know...) in a used car lot, and went to look at it. IIRC, it was about $1,000 or so (we're talking 1966 dollars), and I had maybe $800, and the folks were willing to add the other $200 or so, as a loan. So we're walking around it and kicking the tires, and I look up, and what is also sitting in the lot but a baby-blue Morgan 4x4 Cabriolet convertible, with "that" grill, and "those" leather straps holding the bonnet down, and my heart went pitter-patter ka-thump, and stopped dead. It was like all the air got sucked out of the place. I'd never seen one before, nor even heard of them. It was like the last scene of the graduate, with Benjamin pounding on the window and yelling "Elaine! Elaine," only I was yelling, "Morgan! Morgan." I'll never forget: it was $1,800, and I didn't have the money.

Even my mother liked the look of it, but my father made all the usual "safe," "logical," "practical," "sensible" arguments: sports cars break down a lot (he said) and are unreliable. It was a convertible, and putting the top up and down all the time was a chore (he said), and anyway convertible tops let in wind and rain and in the winter they are miserably cold (he said). The English Ford was a nice, safe, modest, practical, less expensive car, a first-time-good starter car. He said.
So I bought the English Ford, and left Elaine at the alter, as it were. So much for making practical, logical, mature, adult, sensible, wise decisions. Dumbest damn thing I ever did.

(For the record, the second damn dumbest thing I ever did was almost exactly the same: a few years later, I saw a 1929 (wood) Friendship Sloop for sale for about $4,000 in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and drove up to look at her, and go aboard. Same thing: heart stops, violins begin to play, etc. Same arguments: wooden boats are a maintenance nightmare. They are expensive to maintain. You don't know anything about wooden boats. Where you gonna keep her? You'll have to rent a slip, and haul her every winter. She's so small, there's only two uncomfortable V-berths, no "proper" galley, just a little alcohol stove. You'll have to replace the rigging and sails every couple of years. You'll have to paint her every year, and varnish once or twice a season!

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So I didn't buy her.

What a blockhead I was. Twice.

Moral of the story: there's something to be said for wildly impractical, crazy wacko, unconventional dads.

Oh, and the other moral of the story: When your heart goes pitter-patter, and the oxygen gets sucked out of the room, and you're pounding on the window for Elaine, or a car, or a boat, or a painting, or a potential significant other, carefully consider all the sound, practical, sensible reasons against, and flush them down the toilet.

so, bc, that's why I don't want to hear anything about a Morgan, with perhaps the most beautiful lines on any vehicle every dsesigned, with that long graceful hood, the leather straps, the ridiculously small back seat, the bucket seats that smell of old leather, the rickety five-speed "W" trans, the wind whistling through the rag top, the running boards and side curtains, with the ash wooden chassis. Imagine: a car with a chassis made of wood. How ridiculous.

Elaine! Elaine!

Posted by: Curmudgeons | January 27, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

This kinda flowery talk about a car? Come on, these words are reserved for a great pair of red pumps.

Posted by: newkid | January 27, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

As I mentioned earlier, my Dad was hardly bohemian. Instead he was the Bipolar opposite. One side effect if this (besides noting that the disease can skip generations...) is that my siblings and I are very close, and are all pretty successful. We often wonder if we had Ozzie (Nelson, not that other bloke who is, like, way different) as a Dad maybe we wouldn't have thrived as well. Any thoughts?

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, just for you, and in honor of Mozart's Geburtstag-

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 4:05 PM | Report abuse

By the way, my mother is currently not speaking to me because recently she asked to move in with me (and my daughter) because she had fouled herself up...again.

This is not the first request, it is the third request in less than 8 years. In her eyes, I replaced my father. In her eyes, it is my job to provide her with a comfy existence so she can pursue her artsiness with elan.

I told her no. Not this time. I think it's one of the healthiest things I've ever done.

Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse


I'm am now completely green with envy.

My own father could have used some bohemian in him, but he did build me a 66 Mustang convertible for a first car, all black. It didn't get much cooler than that in 1977.

I can concur on the hills and twisty roads of Bucks, and across the river too. I regularly flog my 911 on them, at least as much as possible without accumulating cyclists under the wheels.

Dang. Time to join one of those country club race circuits!

Posted by: asdg | January 27, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

then there are fathers who abuse their daughters, and mothers too afraid to do anything about it. but we survived and went on to a better life where children are cherished.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 27, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Damn you, K-guy. Damn you. (How do you do an emoticon for tears streaming down face?)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Let me also say that my own parents were/are loving, kind, foolish, wise, self-centered, open-hearted, smart, dumb, generous, tight-fisted. In short, human. They did stupid things and hurt each other. They loved each other. They probably never should have married, but it was the early 60's and that's what you do when, you know, you've been unwise. Hence, my sister, and later, me. So I, personally, think it was a good idea.

My mother told me that divorce is what finally made her grow up. She had lived in her parents' house, then she went to college, where she lived in a dorm of the kind with a housemother who made sure the girls were moral and taken care of. Umm, right. Then she lived with my father. She never had to head a household or work without a net until she was 37. She never had to take a real risk, or risk a real failure. I think she still feels sad that the marriage didn't last, but she has never regretted the person she became as a result of it ending.

My father is not a bohemian. He married "the other woman," and it has lasted far longer than the first marriage. But he has a sailboat.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Heh, heh, heh (hums theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni). It's actually a three step process Mudgie. Insert knife. Twist. Repeat.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 27, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

My own Dear Old Dad is no bohemian. In fact, he's "a bit of a dag" -- but in a good way. When I was growing up, there was a car commercial on TV in which a man with a British accent said, "Pretty cheeky, what?!" On the rare occasion that my dad would exceed the speed limit (usually only whilst overtaking), we kids in the backseat would exclaim, "Pretty cheeky, what?!" He would usually respond, "Oh, I'm just a figure of fun to you." He also used to say "Better late than dead on time."

To add insult to injury, we kids would quote that passage from the Bible, "Even when his mind fails him" (which we'd heard in Church) with disturbing regularity. Although he used to take umbrage, these days he says it a lot himself and seems to find it quite funny.

He really does have a good sense of humor. During my last visit, we were discussing the French film "To Be or to Have," and he said he found it frustrating because the subtitles didn't contrast well enough with the picture, so he couldn't always read them. A few days later, we were looking at some photos, and in one of them my Dad was standing in front of something white, and his white hair had blended into the background. He said, "I look like 'To Be or to Have'!"

Posted by: Achenfan | January 27, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey, bc, as a professional car guy: where can I get a good (meaning, drivable on a regular road, but not necessarily up to highway speed) rechargeable electric car for less than $20K? I found one web site that sells a Porsche 911 retrofitted as an electric, but it sells for $30K (the cheaper version), and $40K (the better version). These cars will go 100 mph (they claim) with a max range at more-reasonable speeds of 50 miles. That will cover my commuting needs and leave me enough to go grocery shopping. These cars prove that the technology is workable, so is anybody building production cars like this, on less-expensive chassis?

For the record -- I try to channel my bohemian nature. It doesn't happen to include cars.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

And I, also, have a sailboat. Much smaller than my Dad's.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

And when my Dad's feeling sorry for himself, worried that he wasn't at home enough when we were younger because of his work schedule, or feeling that my brother is too busy to spend time with him, he likens his situation to that of the guy in "Cat's in the Cradle":

[My apologies if this makes anyone cry]

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say, 'I'm gonna be like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you'

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon
'When you comin' home, Dad?'
'I don't know when, but we'll get together then'
'You know we'll have a good time then'

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, 'Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play'
'Can you teach me to throw?'
I said, 'Not today, I got a lot to do'
He said, 'That's ok'
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, 'I'm gonna be like him, yeah'
'You know I'm gonna be like him

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon
'When you comin' home, Dad?'
'I don't know when, but we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then'

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
'Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?'
He shook his head and then said with a smile
'What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?'

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon
'When you comin' home, Son?'
'I don't know when, but we'll get together then'
You know we'll have a good time then'

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, 'I'd like to see you if you don't mind'
He said, 'I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time'
'You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu'
'But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad'
'It's been sure nice talking to you'

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
Yeah, my boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon
'When you comin' home, Son?'
'I don't know when, but we'll get together then'
'You know we'll have a good time then'

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man on the Moon
'When you comin' home, Son?'
'I don't know when, but we'll get together then
'You know we'll have a good time then'

-- Harry Chapin

Posted by: Achenfan | January 27, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

So much to think about. Inez was obviously torn between two worlds and it was difficult for her to understand the love of her mother and truth was profound although poorly conveyed.

Posted by: Steve Sherrill | January 27, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

OK, something a little more serious than my usual, and another perspective on fatherhood. For various demographic reasons, many of you may not be able to identify with this, but maybe a few of you will.

My father died 22 years ago (heart attack), when I was 37. A year or two later, my grandfather died (at 97, in a nursing home, and had been crazy for a decade with Alzheimer's). A year or two later, my grandmother, at 98. Then two or three years later my mother died, of liver cancer, at age 75.

One day, it dawned on me that I was now the oldest living member of my clan. I was the patriarch (and in my mid-40s, yet). It sounds silly, even to me, because I had never before ever given a single moment's thought to "being a patriarch," what (if anything) it meant. "Patriarchs" were the old guys in books and movies, crotchety old fogeys, Lionel Barrymore, or guys like Jock Ewing on "Dallas." I wasn't prepared to be a "patriarch" or the "head of the family" ("grant me this favor, Don Curmudgeon"). I didn't know anything about patriarchitude. Yeah, I had a wife and kids, but that's just not the same thing (I was surprised to learn).

No matter how old you are, if there's still someone in your family older than you who is still alive (especially if it's a parent), there will always be a certain kind of psychological comfort (if that's the right word), even if they are 95 and senile, or bohemian-crazy, or whatever. Even when my grandfather died and I had to become the executor of the estate, and manage my grandmother's affairs in her nursing home for a few years, and became her executor, too, when she died, I never quite felt like I had "grown up," because there was still someone older than me alive. And then when my mother died, there it was. I was it. The oldest living member of the Curmudgeon clan.

What it means is, in some strange psychological sense I haven't even quite figured out yet, is that you suddenly become "responsible" in some way I can't even articulate--and further, that there is no one "above you" in the chain-of-command to pass the buck to. It's completely irrational, because in many cases if your parent is still alive but utterly senile or otherwise non-functional, you'd think, "OK, I'm not the oldest 'responsible' member of my family." But you aren't: there's still somebody else older still alive. It makes no sense, but there it is.

The main feeling I got was that suddenly I was now "alone in the universe." (Don't ask me to explain it; I can't.) I've always loved the last line of Frost's "Death of the Hired Man": "Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in," the absolute profundity of which I suspect most readers miss. The feeling I had after my parents and grandparents died was, there was now no place in the world I could go where they had to take me in.

So, as the father and patriarch, that's my unsolicited role. As long as I'm alive, I am now the "go-to guy" of last resort. No matter what, when they come back (my children, grandchildren, brother's family, etc.), no matter why or what condition they're in, or what they've done, or how they've screwed up, I have to take them in.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I feel you amo. I am dreading the day my dad asks to stay with us "just until he gets back on his feet." He currently lives in North Carolina, but several times recently he's talked about moving up to DC, which I would see as the beginning of the end. I love him where he is. My back gets tense just thinking of him living in the same city, but I don't know if I'd have the courage to tell him "no." My husband wouldn't hear of turning him away. He comes from a more traditional culture, where family takes care of family, regardless. I respect that, but he didn't grow up with my dad. I'd rather pay his rent than have him live with us. My mom says her greatest fear is that my brother and I will end up financially responsible for my dad.

Anyway, I can only imagine how much courage it took to tell your mom "no." Tough love's a .....

Posted by: ABJunkie | January 27, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Wow. You can learn a lot about people today. There's Tim's musical mom and more. But there's one thing in particular that sticks with me.

My dad had a Mustang, and it was the 289 Cruise-o-Matic and all that. But bc's dad had a Shelby. Now I just may go ahead and start holding a grudge.

Posted by: Bayou Self | January 27, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

K-guy, just noticed the bonnet straps are missing. What gives?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 27, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Musical mother-in-law. MOTHER-IN-LAW. Please.

My Mom is more obscurely famous, within her small but important sub-field of life. She has no web site.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The conversation is about "dads", but somehow it turned into one about cars. Isn't that just like you guys.
My dad is in his late seventies, almost eighty and he still drives(really shouldn't) walks three days out the week, cooks for himself, reads, and of course, watches football. He and my mother(deceased) divorced when I was in the fourth grade. They later remarried after me and my sisters left home. Theirs was a contentious relationship right up until my mother died, although because of her illness they had calmed down a bit. My father isn't a very social person, prefers his own company. We don't chose our parents, we honor and love them as best we can.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 27, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what timing. Curmudgeon shares this great sentiment about "home is where they have to take you in," and I follow with how I don't want to take in my dad. Maybe because he's supposed to be the patriarch? Just for the record, I wouldn't let him live on the street.

Posted by: ABJunkie | January 27, 2006 5:21 PM | Report abuse

bayou, loved the story. And hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, get some rest, enjoy yourself, kiss your children and tell them you love them. May God bless each and every heart, through His Son, Jesus.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 27, 2006 5:21 PM | Report abuse

My Dad had a '61 Beetle when I was a sprout. I loved that Bug.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I sometimes wish my dad had a little bohemian in him.

In the 80's had had a major back surgery after enduring years of injuring, and re-injuring the same bundle of nerves. After the surgery someone screwed up and he ended up addicted to morphine or whatever cocktail they had him on. Coming down from the drugs he asked my husband to shoot him if he ever had to go through anything like that again. Had you seen the look on his face, you'd have no he was not joking.

Speed forward several years, and his elderly doctor did not think my skinny fit little dad had heart disease, but he did (serious family history). He almost died from complications from the angio and ended up having 2 major operations in 9 days, 1 to stop him from dying from tears to his blood vessels, and a quadruple bypass (of the 2 the vascular surgery was by far more dangerous and life threatening. Thin the blood to keep the heart beating, or thicken the blood and stop the loss of blood.) When he finally came out from under, he asked my husband why he had not shot him, and no, he really really was not kidding. Dad healed up nicely from the surgeries but it has been far harder to heal his head and his spirit.

Its been 6 years, and its only this year that he has resumed his normal pre-Christmas behaviour of snitching whatever baking mom had in the freezer. I wish he would have had just a tiny little bohemian in him. Maybe he could have let his troubles go sooner, and just lived.

In the car mode, my dad is one of those natural mechanics. He simply loves to tinker, and from very very small on, his troop of girls, and the lone son, played right alongside him in the shop, as did his grandsons and granddaughters. There was always stuff to take apart. Too bad I never could put it together again. I have since then stuck to listening to Mozart.

Posted by: dr | January 27, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

But if your dad is a car guy...?

(My dad is still around, and still one of the best shadetree mechanics I know. Swore when he got a 91 Dodge that he wouldn't mess with it too much, all those electronics and computers. Then he changed the transmission out when it went south. Twice.)

My "not quite midlife crisis but dang life is too short" moment had me buying a Miata a couple of years back. Still the most financially irresponsible thing I've ever done. But gosh, it's still a thrill to put the top down on a cool night when the moon's out. And more so when I'm making a fool of myself learning this autocross thing. Track racing is still way above my money, time, and risk curve. Too many other hobbies. But maybe one of these days.

The Miatas have a reputation as 'replace the oil and brake pads occasionally' cars, but you actually can buy cans of Lucas smoke if you want the authentic experience. (Apologies for the car geek joke, but my roomate who had owned a couple of MG's in his time laughed too loud when I showed him the web page not to mention it.)

I should also add that learning to drive a sports car was a challenge as a 36 year old guy. In 5th the thing is just starting to get into the torque band as you're passing through 75 and it is such a fight to not just hold the petal down and see what it will do. I'd never trust a 20 year old boy with one. Heck, I wouldn't have trusted me at that age, and I'm as stick-in-the-mud as they come.

Posted by: Les | January 27, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I guess the ideal Dad would be like the ideal car. Fun and exciting, but reliable when you need it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

No wait, that was the ideal wife....

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The boddle today has been excellent. I read but never (until now) have ever posted, but you people just have to know what a wonderful read this has been. Thank you.

Posted by: fox | January 27, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Regarding today's theme, read what you will from the following: my wife has taken the kids to their improvisational comedy class. I need to get home soon so I can figure out what to make for dinner before they get home at about 7:40 PM.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry too much about dinner, Tim. I'm sure you can -- wait for it -- improvise.


Posted by: Achenfan | January 27, 2006 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I echo fox. Today has been a moving experience on the blog. It restores my faith in the continuity of the true human spirit of community. It has made Mozart's birthday memorable for the music of words from the heart.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Tim - I have a mother-in-law these days. And she's like mom to me. Please forgive the confusion. Rock on. Etc.

Cassandra - If guys talk about their dads, it is inevitable that they'll also talk about cars.

To that end, my dad bought a Ford Pinto when the Mustang rusted out. The Pinto was willed to me during my college days. Ah, the memories. What a chick magnet I was, cruising along all big-man-on-campus with my arm hanging out the window of a Pinto.

Posted by: Bayou Self | January 27, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh. My. Gosh. I have not thought about Pintos in years. We young females in the clan were allowed to drive a yellow Pinto to our after school jobs, and it was given to me to put out of its misery after my marriage. My brother had a Javelin to drive.

Don't get me wrong, we loved that Pinto. We called it Napoleon. It was a small car with a lot of fancy trim - you know pretensions of grandeur, but really just from Scicily - see, Napoleon. We also had a Rambler named Fred for a while.

We just understood that the Javelin was a guy thing.

Posted by: dr | January 27, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse



Wow!!! She's a god among bass players. I don't think there's a Web page big enough to cover the sessions she played on. Dig out your copy of "Pet Sounds" and you will hear her on bass. Considering that Brian Wilson was no slouch on the instrument, that they used her lets you know how good she was/is.

(Sorry for the all caps, but this is deserving of them.)

Posted by: pj | January 27, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Gosh dr, Now you will have all the guys getting all misty eyed over their first cars. Mine was a Green Ford Festiva.
I loved that car...

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Happy birthday to Mozart, too. I'll have to put on either the Clarinet Concerto or Clarinet Quintet tonight for some utterly sublime music. Maybe both.

Posted by: pj | January 27, 2006 7:24 PM | Report abuse

My personal preference, pi, is a little night music, followed by Haydn and Bach. Then waking up to Hank Williams, Sr. or Johnny Cash for a little morning music.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 27, 2006 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I took "Let it Be--Naked" out of the cd player and put in Mozart, Symphony No. 40 in G minor. Very nice. Thanks, K-guy, and NPR for putting me up to it.

Although, "The Long and Winding Road"--minus the Phil Spector Wall of Sound--that's pretty nice, too.

Posted by: Reader | January 27, 2006 8:09 PM | Report abuse

I am going to put on my Mozart CD and raise a shot of Nyquil to all Dads. Those that are gone. Those that are here. Those that are yet to be. It is the bohemian imperative to do so.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 27, 2006 8:16 PM | Report abuse

dr--I drove a yellow VEGA to my afterschool job--it was my dad's car, later given to my brother. It was a soul sister to your Pinto.

Posted by: Reader | January 27, 2006 8:24 PM | Report abuse

>dads devolve into cars
Sorry, my dad was a body'n'fender man and painter, so it just goes with the territory. I grew up in body shops, taping cars for paint. When my folks broke up he used to pick me up in a different car every week, something he was putting together on the side.

Generally a complete jerk in many ways, but well-meaning; he certainly taught me a lot about craftsmanship.

Posted by: asdg | January 27, 2006 8:33 PM | Report abuse


You said it. Before I said no, I was actually reviewing my finances to see if I could afford to give her money to get a place of her own.

However, a couple of (really good, it turns out) friends said, hey, we've known you for 20+ years and just the idea of her moving in again is freaking you out. Just tell her no.

I really have been torn about it because family means so much to me. I felt if I didn't do it, I was failing somehow.

When I did do it, and yes I was shaking when I told her, the moment it was done I felt like 50,000 lbs was off my back and I've never looked back.

I miss her; I'm sorry she won't speak to me, but for both our sakes this is the right thing to do.

Bohemian is fine, but standing on your own is important too. If you're enoying your bohemianity at someone else's expense, perhaps it's time for a self-check.

Posted by: amo | January 27, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

pj said: "YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW IS ..."
Lemme tell ya, when I found out, I said: "Who?"
This is what I mean by obscurely famous. Within the right circles, peerless; everywhere else, so what? I debated whether to say anything about her, but I figured that her fame is sufficiently esoteric that it doesn't really count as trying to ride her coat-tails to notoriety. Besides, I can't play a darned thing, so I'm not in the right circles.

We had a former neighbor who, in his earlier life, was a reasonably well known heavy metal guitarist. He told us that he enjoyed the brush with fame of telling his guitar buddies about whose daughter was a neighbor. He had his bohemian days. Now he's mostly a stay-at-home Dad, a rather cool one, at that, and very devoted to his kids. My wife likes to call his wife "Yoko."

By the way, here's his web site:
I just discovered that he has his own Wikipedia entry! Now, that's cool. He's a good guy, he can handle the fame and he can use what tiny publicity I can help send his way.

You go to LA, where my wife is from, and practically everybody is next-door neighbor, or former neighbor, to somebody well known. Q-list celebrities everywhere. I started to make a list of my connections that I know of, through my wife and through friends, but it was just too much of a sad exercise in trying to collect some of other people's deserved respect.

When I get to be famous, you can tell people "I read his posts when..." I hereby grant you an iota of whatever fame I garner. In the meantime, I just try to teach science to the masses, and I struggle to overcome my Achen-addiction long enough to get some planetary science done.

Posted by: Tim | January 27, 2006 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Joel reveals some very personal details about his father and everyone spills their guts!

Must. Resist.

(Saturday, 7:50am my time)

Posted by: ot | January 28, 2006 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Actually Joel reveals very little about his father and the story is saved for another day.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2006 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Tim, I'll say "Wow" too - she must have some amazing stories. I had never heard of Carol Kaye, so I'm very pleased to have learned about her. Tell her thanks for the great music from a rock and roll fan - and don't let her drive!

pj, your musical knowledge is quite impressive.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2006 2:09 AM | Report abuse

Here's a little weekend humor:


Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, was asked his views on Roe vs. Wade.

He said he didn't care how people got back to their houses.

Posted by: Reader | January 28, 2006 6:46 AM | Report abuse


did the mayor say that or did you say that?
just want to know? weekend humor?

I wish I could laugh at the situation in New Orleans, but I can't.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 28, 2006 7:23 AM | Report abuse


Your "weekend humor" comment threw me off. I don't wish I could laugh at New Orleans and their situation now because there isn't anything funny in the way things are going in New Orleans now. After reading the Post's story this morning on New Orleans, it seems it is still a nightmare happening. Pretend you are a person in New Orleans and you've lost everything, including your home, or even some of your love ones, and I believe that will dictate your response to the situation. For me, it just is not a funny story, and I don't see the humor in any of it. Domestic spying is bad, but New Orleans just might turn out to be the straw that broke the camel's back for this administration.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 28, 2006 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Humor can indicate disgust just as effectively as can indignation.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 28, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Let's try again for weekend humor, with the help of comedian Andy Borowitz.


Veep Putting Distance Between Himself and Embattled President

Days after photos surfaced showing President George W. Bush together with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to put some distance between himself and the embattled president, telling reporters that he and Mr. Bush had never met.

"I do not know this person you call George W. Bush," Mr. Cheney flatly stated at a press conference in Washington today.

Mr. Cheney explained that because he spent most of his time at his secure, undisclosed location, his path had simply never crossed with that of Mr. Bush.

The vice president's claim that he did not know the president strained the credulity of the White House press corps, many of whom could recall seeing the two men together at one time or another.

But President Bush, aiming to put some distance between himself and the vice president because of Mr. Cheney's possible implication in the CIA leak case, spoke to reporters later in the day and sounded the same notes that Mr. Cheney had earlier.

"Dick Cheney. sounds familiar, but doesn't ring a bell," he said.

At the president's press conference, however, one reporter held up a file containing over 40,000 photos of Mr. Bush with Mr. Cheney and asked the president for an explanation.

"Trick photography?" the president said.

The day ended with a press briefing by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who denied knowing either Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney.

Elsewhere, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denied that the U.S. military was stretched thin and near the snapping point, but acknowledged that that was true of him.

Posted by: Bayou Self | January 28, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Well, I just checked in (didn't want to miss the usual insightful analysis that I've come to expect from this online Loserfest such as "has anyone ever seen Dick Chaney and Darth Vader in the same room?" or "if we don't stop GW's global warming plan soon we'll lose Delaware."

But instead, I was treated to a real Lonemule Love-in. Even kind words from the webs answer to Alfred E. Newman...JA!!

But, let's clear one thing up. Loper and I are not one in the same. I mean..."Loper The Lonemule" evokes an image that's too over the top...even for me.

Well I'll keep checking in can't wait for the next installment of "Jack Abramoff's Fashion Tips" or "Hillary vs. Condi...The Mud-wrestling Chronicles".

Until then....and I mean this with great humility.....sincerity..........and a small touch of nausea....


Posted by: The Lonemule | January 28, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

While I agree w you, Mrs. Lonemule, this blogue serves other purposes. So ignore the stench, and please produce that Abramoff story.

And beyond his fashion tips, please let us know about his series of meetings with Bush.
This information could give Mr. JA, or GW, a scoop that could earn a Pulitzer.

Fondly sharing the nausea with you,


Posted by: June Weaver | January 28, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"Isn't it cute that we have a Lone Mule?" they say.

"And who do you think the 'Loper is? Is it one individual? Two? Three?", they ask among themselves, posting numerous blog comments and several amusing rounds of group entertainment.

Perhaps women, unlike men, can see the barrage of mean-spirited postings for what they truly are--harassment. Consistent, excessive harassment . The only thing that changes are the rotating targets.

Until we have some policing of this blog, everyone continues to step around the elephants in the living room.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Sounds ominous, Tom fan, at 11:28:43. You're too concerned, excessively overwrought, and riveted to the screen 24/7, looking for impolite commenters. It is not that important.

There is a tenedency for you to think there is only one interloper, i.e., someone who disagrees with you. There have to be many--just study the posts and times, as you do to the extreme. But why bother about them. Most of us have a working strategy to deal with them--just ignore them. It works for me.

Please give it a rest, smile and relax. There are no elephants in the room, except perhaps those that you let in.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

It's only harassment if you acknowledge it and let it bother you.

And policing?? THIS blog? (said with my best Jim Mora "PLAYOFFS??" voice)

And frankly, "elephants" is the wrong analogy to use, at least for the DC-centric folks among us, following the euthanasia of Toni.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 28, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I can understand how some folks might be threatened by the constant stream of playfulness in this forum. We're just not angry enough, darn it!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 12:28 PM | Report abuse

your children don't belong to you...

k. gibran

and parenting is more about coaching for the game of life than "meeting expectations."

every failure honestly met is an opportunity...

coaches just want their kids to win at what the kids want to....

a good coach.

regarding mean spirited:

IF you have an issue and it's triggered by's still you're issue.

what most consider, moderation is the act of making sure that they don't get triggered.

IF you have not worked through your "issues" then you try to control external circumstances to make sure you don't get triggered.

there is such a thing as abuse, there is such a thing as intimidation, and there is such a thing as...

church lady attitudes that say.....I feel hot and it must be satan...

externalization of internal abuse issues is what most of PC behaviour is about imho...

most humans haven't learned that 90% of the evil that they fear exists in them as

"the seeds that's been planted, and won't be denied....a family tradition of what's right and what's wrong..."

and the other 10% is the unwillingness to remove it by effective means...rather than the controlling of the "triggering agent"

bell a lissime'

Posted by: I think being a parent is realizing that | January 28, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

According to Joel we do have a policy. Anyone using profanity or revealing inappropriate information about a real person gets deleted. Lonemule, despite being, well, silly, does neither of those things and hence gets to stay. The idea of imposing a more onerous standard is reminiscent of those "appropriate speech" handbooks they tried to introduce when I was in school. These are the kinds of things that give liberals a bad name.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 28, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Back to Reader's first "joke" of the day - I thought ir was funny and clever. No, the situation in New Orleans isn't funny, but one of the ways we deal with awful stuff is to make ourselves laugh. Andy Borowitz did a great piece after Nagin's "chocolate city" remark (about how chocolate isn't a good building material).

Has anyone seen Albert Brooks' new film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World? The WaPo had an interview with him that was hilarious - Stephen Hunter reviewed the movie and loved it, although as he says, Albert Brooks is a bit of an acquired taste (and he thought the ending was stupid). But I'm hoping to see it soon...

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

SCC - I thought "it", not "ir"...grrrr

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I, on the other hand, thought "ir" was funny, and don't find "it" amusing in the least!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Good story, bayou

Comedy does point out the wrongs in a situation, and we get to laugh too, but New Orleans is so bad. And this morning on the news they were talking about folks committing suicide in New Orleans because of the situation, it just horrible. So many people hurting, and so much hurt.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 28, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - The ugly mob-mentality represented by your initial reply to Reader was this: You have a mindset (at the moment) in which compassion for New Orleans residents is highly prioritized. Therefore, others who display what you believe to be less compassion are unthinking, uncaring folk. Suddenly, those kind of people are THEM, to be feared and despised, because they must not be the same kind of folk as you and the other good people.

Actually, most people, most of the time, are reasonably caring about the problems of others, as long as they're not feeling overly stressed about their own situations. Some of us handle our own stresses better than others, and many of us in this particular forum use humor as one of the tools for that handling.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I feel obligated to say that I wasn't intending to imply that you had anything like that thought process when reacting to Reader's little jest, and wasn't trying to be critical of anything you said.

I was trying to make a more general philosophical point about how people who mean well can become very ugly when they decide that other approaches and points of view are without merit.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Ha! Joel's Sunday Rough Draft column is up already: Carbucks, Vol II.

"Remember when buying beans to specify not only the country of origin and the type of roast, but also the socioeconomic condition of the coffee workers. I always buy French Roast Papua New Guinea Fair Trade Socialist Collective, though I'm still trying to find it in decaf."

Oh, how like the California Wine Tasting Olympics,!

Posted by: Loomis | January 28, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Linda - I'm sure I'm just blind, but a quick scan of the WaPo home page didn't reveal the Rough Draft. Where would I find such a thing?

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I DID note that I may have to take up Episcopalianism, so that I can (in all good conscience) paricipate in the St. Thurgood's Day festivities that will eventually bloom across the globe!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"paricipate"? Yeah, whatever.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly, while searcing for the elusive new Joel column, I made a rare use of the Search feature. I selected the "Web" option with the following search terms - "Achenbach" "Rough" "Draft". The first found item was the following:

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Bob S - ruh-roh!

I couldn't find the Rough Draft Linda was talking about - did you? There's a link from Joel's blog to Rough Draft - also on the WaPo home page, I usually go to Opinions-->Columns and Blogs, then scroll to find Rough Draft. But the latest column I found was Jan 22. Linda, did you find a secret door? Time travelling again?

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

From the News link you can go to Post Magazine and get Joel's column. Or click here:

Posted by: pj | January 28, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse


I humbly apologize for any pain my humor caused you. When I posted it, I assure you, I did hesitate, and I thought of adding, "assignment, list all the classes of people this joke can offend." Let's see, black people, government officials, southerners, recent flood victims and their friends and relatives, pro-choice, pro-life, supreme court justices." And so on. I am aware that the context of humor is important. I know that I thought that joke was funny because of the person who emailed it to me--he's a professional entertainer and I know the twinkle in his eye when he delivers the one-liners. AND he is a recent flood victim, so that's why it is especially funny to him. NOLA got all the publicity so almost nobody knows that Key West was 80% flooded after Hurricane Wilma. Thousands of residents lost their cars, their furniture, their appliances, and so on. My humorous friend was right in the middle of it.

Again, I'm sorry. Thanks for speaking your mind.

Posted by: Reader | January 28, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse dad just passed the 80th year mark
in mom is not far from that
year count either...being able to visit
them over the holidays was pretty special
as i fully realize they will not always
be here to do so with...
...having chose to follow life to another
part of the planet one fully understands
the rules of distance,travel and staying
in touch...with the ease of air travel,
international telephone and the inet this
is quite thankful for that.
...this kaboodle touches on morgans,ford
pintos,triumphs and mgs...i think i saw
the bugatti veyron mentioned...over the
years was always an avid reader of car and driver and then automobile
the two i liked best...david e. davis was
involved with both...reading about cars
and car related stories was a month to
month true pleasure...seeing the next
months copy in the mail was high reason
for a weeks worth of serious front to back miss that aplenty...
...having contracted car fever early on i
never was able to convince my dad on the
merits of same...i did influence several
car picks for my parents however... for me the cars i have had over the
years were many...rather than buy one new
car i chose to buy many used the
early 70's it was possible to buy a car
off a dealers lot often enough for less
than $ was a total buyer beware
kind of activity...never had any horrible
experiences...drove a wide range of types
and makes...had several chrysler imperials
over the years...starting with a 1965
imperial lebaron sedan...found that one on
a buick dealers lot in was being
used to store tires...this car had a white
leather interior with claro walnut wood
trim on the dash...lots of metal trim with
chrome all over...that led to a 1964 crown
coupe imperial,a 1964 chrysler new yorker
salon sedan...and finally ending with a
1975 imperial lebaron...i bought that one
from the original owners grandson...had
it for 9 day the very same
grandson called inquiring about the car...
he had sold it because his girlfriend
wanted a camaro...did i still have it? was
i interested in selling the imperial back
to him?...yes and of those car
stories...also passed up on a 1968 imperial
crown convertible...regret followed many
times over that...not many of these were
made...somewhere around 500 the
standards of detroit that is total custom.
could have had it for $900 in the late 70's
,another "the one that got away" story. :-)
...did also have an mg...a 1974 roadster..
last year of the pre-federal style chrome
bumpers and unmolested ride height...also
had the twin carbed engine...not too much
desmogging ruination having been done yet..
as mentioned elsewhere old english cars
and motorcycles require patience and large
doses of forbearance...many oddities are
to be found(or not found)over the course
of ownership...the electrical gremlins are are mystery leaks,mechanical
wobbles and reliability wiggles...
(see master and slave clutch cylinders for
mgs...find out that you replace both as
doing only one will bring on problem with
other...or mg shock absorbers are primitive
and found in australia...send for and put
on yourself...adventures in wrench work )
you must love them in ways that overcome
many reasons to not own one...
mine was fun to drive,albeit not because
of super horsepower or refinement in its evening a friend and i went
for a ride in merrimac,wi for a
ride on the wisconsin river ferry there...
all had went well until time to drive off
the ferry would not start...
upon raising the bonnet and trying to see
what needed to be coaxed,touched or given
an oath over it was just by luck i saw a
wire that had parted with its terminal...
but that was after having pushed the car
off the ferry onto the landing and off to
the side...just another mg story...:-)
dont have a car here in the land of smiles
...moving about on 100cc motorbike the
current means or by taxi...has been touch
of fun as you feel quite young again while
at it...see many families here doing the,mom and one or two kids on the
same size of in the real
lane for many a/c,wet in the
rain but easy to park and get around on...

Posted by: an american in siam... | January 28, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

American in.. - A good buddy (well, technically, even though we sometimes have gone years without contact, I think he'd qualify as my best friend, whatever that means) has lived a very peripatetic life since college. I envy him so! One of his favorite places on earth is Siam, and so much about what he enjoys is the simplifying of things. Bicycle or minibike, or taxi or walking. When the weather's crappy, then you get wet. Whatever!

He's recently finished up one of his occasional stays in the U.S., and is off to New Zealand for some indeterminate period. But he'll always go back to Thailand, I think.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 28, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

How about an Achenbach book club? You know,like that Oprah person I have heard tell of. Joel would recommend good books, and we would become better people.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 28, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, pj. You are a veritable font of knowledge. Midst the laurels stood pj...I appreciate your help, as always!

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 28, 2006 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I've played with a few pure electric cars, and other than the late lamented GM EV1, I haven't met one yet that I'd recommend as a commuter/daily driver.

I'm curious about the REVA (built in India, not sure it's imported to the US yet), and the golf-cart-like GEM (a division of Daimler Chrysler), but I haven't had a chance to try either yet.

I'd stay away from those Dynasties and Corbin Sparrows and whatnot. Those things are lucky to go 30 miles between charges and the build thanks.

Personally, I'd be more inclined to try to find a used Honda Insight hybrid. Or build one myself. But, that's just me.


Posted by: bc | January 28, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

I spent yesterday honoring Mozart - the most fantastic, best musician ever (in my opinion.) I went to a symphony concert and heard no Mozart, unfortunately, but local FM station played nothing but, so heard plenty. A Hummer, indeed! lol.

After 250 years one deserves a whole weekend of honor.

My father was a good father in many ways - he taught me to fish, to appreciate beautiful buildings, to think well of people and to always do one's best, to name a few. But,looking back from adulthood, I see there were some shortfalls. This just proves that none of us is perfect, we are all human and one should be allowed some bohemianism even of a conservative kind.

Thanks for all the info about cars, guys.

Hooray for the 30,000 mostly civilized posts, Joel.


Posted by: boondocklurker | January 28, 2006 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I find Lonemule refreshingly over-the-top, much in the way I was inspired by Brother Theodore. ("I've gazed into the abyss and the abyss gazed into me, and neither of us liked what we saw.")

However, this sort of thing should be delegated to the very few. NO imitations!

Posted by: Russ | January 29, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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