The summer of 2012

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There was no roaming the country on the motorcycle this summer. I stuck close to the humble manse. And not to write, either, though you may notice the Apple desktop in my writing window on the second floor. I was planning to ride to Utah last month, where Brad Barber and Jeff Bailey, friends of mine from Texas, were timing a project bike on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then I’d probably end up on the Eastern Sierra to check in with Johnny Danger and his bride, in Bishop, CA. Then maybe camp out on the playa again for Burning Man, in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

Alas, I’ve put just 500 miles on the new motor all summer. That’s just a decent day’s ride. Because, on July 11, life suddenly zigged, and caught us all planning on zagged.

The bride of my youth was felled, literally felled, by her work ethic. She was laboring late, as usual, in the operations center at the bank. The janitor had mopped the lunch room floor and failed to set out warning cones for the few employees still in the building. Pam went down there at 6 p.m. to get something out of a vending machine, tide her over until our usual late dinner. And that’s where the whoopsie meets the daisy. She went ass over tin cup on the wet floor, broke her shoulder in two places.

She lay on the floor for 10 minutes until the janitor found her. Then the ambulance was there. She was in Rhode Island Hospital for five days, came home black & blue from the top of her left shoulder almost down to the wrist. To start, it was the color of the sling they sent her home in, then it slowly faded to yellows and greens.

The arm bone isn’t quite lined up properly with the ball of the shoulder socket but the docs are trying to avoid surgery. They say it might heal well enough as-is and there’s no sense making surgical wounds until they know what the arm wants to do. We’ll find out on October 4 whether that plan was a good one or they need to slice & dice after all and she’s starting over again from zero after three months.

 

She’s smiling here but was feeling pretty beat up and in pain. She won’t take the narcotics. This was early-on when it was taking us an hour to get her showered in the morning. On a good day she was nearly passing out from pain in the shower. On a bad day she’d throw up on the both of us. If she had fainted and fallen I think the more problematic of the two breaks would have quickly become a compound fracture. We were careful to avoid that.

I’ll say this: Always pick a trouper for a life partner. Life’s too short to put up with a high maintenance spouse. Throughout the ordeal she never uttered a single Why me? Poor me,  never a hint of a complaint, not about the janitor, the accident, her pain, my cooking. What a woman.

About the cooking, I fixed swell meals when she was up and around and talking me through it, do this, do that. I’ll never get the concept behind spending an hour fixing a dish that’s gone in three minutes, though. I mean, why? By Step 25 I’m not even hungry anymore. But she gets happier as we go. Sounds like she’s hosting a TV cooking show.

“… and now we zest the lemon!”

“Babe, you’re killing me. (Expletive deleted) the lemon.”

We dined by candlelight on the front porch in the evenings, always pleasant. This was after the doc told her she could take off the sling for a few hours a day.

She never complained about having to eat the meals I fixed on my own, all of which started with a pot of boiling water. Throw in black eyed peas, brown rice, red lentils, a dash of red pepper, Voila, madame, le grub du saddlebag.

While I was on full-time nursing/cooking/cleaning/laundering/chauffeuring duty, I pushed some writing work back into next year, living off a cushion I had built up on deadlines for King Features Syndicate. I’ll get back on track soon enough. The bride can shower on her own now, dry her hair, get dressed.

I’m concerned about complications. She’s ruining her back sleeping in a recliner. The doc recommended sleeping upright to keep the arm hanging properly in the sling. Now she can’t sleep in a bed anymore without back spasms. Pain wakes her up around 3, sends her downstairs to the recliner, starts the cycle all over again.

Here she is awaiting her ride to a wedding yesterday. A little worse for wear but still enjoying life when the opportunity presents.

 

I made new contacts in the movie business this summer. Had favorable coverage on two screenplays at companies I respect, Marty Katz Productions (The Great Raid, Love Ranch…) and Gary Levinsohn’s Mutual Film Company (Jack Reacher, Saving Private Ryan…).

I also had a job offer from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, as a press aide. So here’s me and the iron piggy at the State House, in Providence.

Can you see me putting on a suit and tie and riding to the halls of power every day? Potato-potato-potato-potato…  Neither can I.

We freelance writers lead professional lives best described as scrappy. (On some days you can leave off the “s.”) You never know when your livelihood might suddenly end and leave you scrambling. But I have no regrets about jumping off the safe thing. Far from it.

There was a time when most of what I thought about was the news. Now, I doubt that anything could get me back into it, on either side of the reporter/spokesman divide. On an April day in 2005, I was done. Twenty-six years as a reporter and it was suddenly the past.  One minute I fully intended to go back to work after lunch. A minute later, I didn’t. I haven’t even read the newspaper since then. Presto change-o. Moving on.

A lot of my friends still work at the Providence Journal. It would be completely weird to step into a professional relationship with them now and represent a point of view as they cover the administration. It’s not in my nature. And, despite the vote of confidence from the governor, I’m probably not employable in the usual sense anymore. Once the dog digs under the fence and runs around with a Hey, look! I’m being a dog! how are you ever going to keep it in the yard again?

I’d be bonkers sitting up at the State House next June when I want to be riding the motorcycle to Alaska, greet the summer solstice on the Arctic Circle, longest day of the year, June 21. Woof.

 

Speaking of old trucks (Wha?) I  close with a few pics for the motorheads.  I managed to get in four days of work this summer on the trusty, rusty, ’49 Ford.

Here she is in the woods behind the house, after I cut out what was left of the floor and tipped the cab back on the chassis.

A few of the floor panels I need are available on the aftermarket: rockers, the front pans, and (below) the stamped pieces that join the front cab mounts to the mid mounts.

 

Here’s a new one and the remains of a rusted-out 63-year-old original. The hole at the far right is for the forward cab mount, in the engine compartment. The square hole is for the mid-mount in the cab, by the driver’s left foot. That tab sticking up gets welded to the inboard side of the forward door pillar.

 

Here’s what was left of the original. Glass bottom boat without the glass.

 

Front halves are easy. Out with the old, in with the new.

The parts I can’t buy I’ll fabricate out of stock steel. I’ll plug weld and short seam all the new pieces, get the cab squared up and structurally sound so that four guys can carry it up the hill without wracking it. Then my friend Mike Connelly will haul it to his garage on a trailer and we (mostly he) will finish it up on the big machine.

My welder has a limited duty cycle, Mike’s got an industrial-grade beast that’ll burn wire all day. And he’s a crackerjack welder, I just stick one piece of metal to another.

 

Look at the rot in the main support I cut out of the back of the floor, under the cab corners. It had no rust whatsoever when I bought it, after 46 years in Alabama; now it’s crumbling after 15 winters on our salty New England roads. (See my 1995-97 restoration of the truck here.)

The two rear mounts are designed to move as the truck turns and the weight shifts. That stamped-steel beam takes all the stress when it does. It supports most of the weight of the cab, the seat, driver, passenger, and a 17-gallon gas tank bolted to the back wall. (I wonder if that was Ford’s big safety improvement in the post-war “Bonus Built” truck, getting the gas tank out from under the seat and putting it behind the seat. That way you get blown out through the windshield instead of up through the roof, dust yourself off, buy another Ford.)

Nobody makes this piece new. I’ll have to fabricate something from scratch. I’m thinking of a hybrid steel/wood structure made of inch-and-a-half angle iron, 16 gauge sheet metal and hardwood. I’ve asked my friend John Ross to find me a plank of rot-proof West Virginia locust when he visits the old folks later this month.

Until next time, huzzahs and bonhomies to all.

Tony DePaul, Cranston, Rhode Island, September 23, 2012

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About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
This entry was posted in Personal goings on, Wrenching on the old truck. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The summer of 2012

  1. Kathy Lyle says:

    Well wishes to Pam! Ugh. Here’s hoping all’s healed well and she’s good to go come that October doctor’s appointment.

    Great stories and pics as usual. Isn’t it amazing what NE winters can due to steel?

    Best,

    Kathy

  2. Mari Nelson says:

    Pam is so beautiful. What a testament to your love, you two. May the healing be complete.
    Your pics of the rusty truck floor reminds me of the MGB my Mom and Dad gave me for a graduation present from Juilliard. Hugo and I drove off to our honeymoon in that thing and I could see the pavement of highway 101 race under my white satin high heels.
    We sent that car to a friend in New York, he restored it completely and took it with him to Austria. It was the same color as your truck. Can’t wait to watch your progress. Nice work if you can get it:)

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Mari. No verdict yet from Mutual on the Jump script, will let you know as soon as I do. Thanks for being one of my trusted readers!

  3. Alix Williams says:

    Hi Tony,
    What a bummer for Pam. Boy, I would be asking for something stronger than aspirin. I give her credit like mad, and hope she is better without surgery. Sorry she had to go through so much pain and happy for her that time heals. You were a great support to her. I can imagine her dismay while she was lying on the floor. I would have been screaming my head off. No, I’m not high maintenance, just a wuss. I can see the the discoloration on her arm, still. Her photos are gorgeous. What a stand-up woman she is.
    Your red-rust metal looks like the back fenders of my 14-year-old red Subaru Outback. I had to have them redone in order to register the car this year. Very bad rust with the liquid acid they have the nerve to spray.
    All the best to you two, and the amazing DePaul girls. Beauty and brains run in the family. Good luck with the scripts, for sure.
    Alix

    • Tony says:

      Thanks so much, Alix. Yeah, I’ve been hearing about the brine they spray on the roads up there. Pam’s brother has been a body & fender man for many years, he says the new de-icer is way more corrosive than rock salt. Thanks for your concern about Pam. We’ll be in Bangor around the end of next month, hope to see you then.

  4. Vincent Ogutu says:

    You forgot to mention what a voracious reader Pam has become, now that she’s immobile. But that’s little comfort when she’d much rather be up and doing. Well, thanks for taking this so bravely Pam, and thanks Tony for being so caring. You’re both a great source of inspiration for all of us!

    Vincent

    • Tony says:

      She’s going through books at quite a clip. A friend sent two more over to the house yesterday and they’ll be in the “read” stack shortly, with so many others. Thanks for your kind words, Vincent. It’s always good to hear from you.

  5. Barbara Caniglia says:

    Tony,

    Wow! Sorry to hear about Pam. Sounds like she is on the mend but proably has a long way to go. She is fortunate to have such a a great hubby. But, then again, you are just as fortunate to have her. A match made in heaven….. that is what you two have!! Wishing her a speedy recovery and hoping you are able to get back on the road again real soon. Love reading about your antics..

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Barbara. I always hope I might run into you at Amy’s one of these days. Yeah, Pam’s been an inspiration through this. Her pioneer ancestry is showing.

  6. Jan says:

    Hugs for the bride, Woof! yerself…

  7. brad says:

    What a superwoman you have for a bride and she’s easy on the eyes, to boot. I’m sure you have counted endless lucky stars that she through in with you. Here’s to a positive report on the healing.

    The truck project makes me laugh as it reminds me of the motorcycle project Jeff & I hauled to Bonneville. Said I at the beginning, “This will take about a year.” Two & a half years later it was finished. The more I dug into it, the more it needed.

    cheers,
    brad

    • Tony says:

      So true! On vehicle projects and home renovations, I always tell people to figure out how much it’s going to cost, how long it’s going to take, multiply by 2, then you can count on getting about halfway there. This truck deal is no restoration like last time, though, I just need to get it back on the road asap. Weld it, hit with some cheapo Rustoleum enamel, done. That’s the plan at this point, anyway. Others are telling me, nah, slow down, don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to shoot the new waterborne automotive finishes. Ha! Many thanks for the good word, Brad. See you at Bonneville next year!

  8. maryann silverman says:

    hi Tony , I was reading some of your articles and they were fascinating & entertaining!
    I am sitting on the sofa and have been for the last couple of weeks due to a foot operation. Everything is fine but my husband could relate to the ” roles of a caretaker” I loved the part where you were preparing a meal and adding lemon zest:) I have to try that one on Bill. Anyway, it feels nice to connect with you again. I, also, am keeping in touch with your wonderful wife about a family reunion that is in the making. Talk to you soon.
    love, Maryann

  9. Matthew Reed says:

    Ugh, Tony. Sorry to read of Pam’s bumps/breaks/bruises. Even more sorry to hear she has to suffer through your cooking. Pay close attention to her cooking commands. and cleaning demands. It’s almost time to change the litter box again.

    What, no X-rays to share? I was just telling the GF that I’d not read snot from you in a spell. Now we know the what-for. We hope she mends rapidly and soundly.

    I’m trailerin’ my Navy boy’s bike, along with my RK, behind his truck over to Charleston, SC later this week. Will ride my RK back on Monday after splashing in some backwaters or doing the tasks that pop-up. A quick jaunt over and back, but it is better than no jaunt after a busy summer doing nothing but working, mostly.

    Best wishes for and thanks for sharing, Tony. Mend quick, Pam.

    Matt
    Bettendorf, Iowa

    • Tony says:

      Nice! Lots of nice routes you can take on that run, Matt, depending on whether you want to cross Tennessee in the east or the west. Or, cut around TN altogether and head up the river roads. How many days do you have available for the ride back?

      Many thanks for your concern about Pam, I’ll relay the kind words.

      Tony

  10. Vin Gambardella says:

    Hey Tony,
    I love keeping up with you on your website. Sorry to hear about Pam. Hopefully she recovers quickly and your back on the road. As for me, I am thoroughly enjoying my Road King purchase from last month. What a great ride. Best ride I have had considering the plate in my back. Also love reading about your old Ford. I am still in search of my dream 1956 F100. If only my dad had given his to me in 1971 rather than getting rid of it for basically nothing. Best to you and the family. Get well soon Pam and perhaps you will spend a day riding with me next summer. Take care.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Vin. I wonder if you can set up a regular eBay search for a ’56? Find one in a dry climate, then all you want to do (if it runs already) is paint it and replace all the ossified rubber parts.

      Good luck! And ride safe out there.

  11. Chris Whitney says:

    Hi Tony, hello Pam. At some point this summer the thought occurred that Gee, have not heard anything from Tony DP in a long time, either he’s real busy, or something’s up. Sorry to hear that the something up was Pam down. Props to you both for supporting each other all along the way.

    Keep the solstice target in mind and don’t spare the welding rod and wire, and best of luck to Pam during the recovery.

    Rgds,
    Chris

  12. Samuel Dyck says:

    Sorry to hear about your wife’s fall and the lack of a road trip. I too did not venture far from home – more about dollars than time. Best wishes to both of you.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Sam. I hadn’t thought of that, but yeah, we saved a little dough by being homebodies this summer. I think I’ve filled the tank on Pam’s car twice in the last 10 weeks!

  13. Denise says:

    Hi Tony and YAY for Pam (although Pam and I have not met),
    You are both so LUCKY to have each other!
    Another gem of your life story. I thought about you on my way home from Reno after seeing Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was also Street Vibrations weekend…all those people everywhere on their Harley’s, traveling on the roads and highways enjoying their freedom on the wind…
    Sorry for Pam’s mishap and I hope she is now sleeping in a bed and more comfy. Thank you for taking such good care of your mate! Good reason for not writing.
    Still love your blog (is this a blog?). If you ever write a book, I would buy lots of copies.
    Cheers to you and maybe burning man with Jonny Danger next year.
    Warm regards, Denise

    • Tony says:

      Thanks, Denise. I spoke to J. Danger last week, got the full report on Burning Man. I’d like to get Pam out there one of these years. She’d love it. Except for not being able to get a shower for a week, that would gross her out, but she’d be into the event itself. You never know what you’re going to see next there.

      Hope all’s well with you and yours,
      Tony

  14. Jeff Day says:

    Greetings Tony and thanks for the update. Sorry to hear about Pam’s misfortune but she is lucky to have you there to help out. All things happen for a reason and if you hadn’t had to rebuild Piggy you may have been in parts unknown and not readily available for your bride. I passed through your state the other night on my way from Loudon, NH to Dover, DE and wondered how things were with you. Now I know.

    Did the boyfriend? of your daughter ever find work in Racing?

    • Tony says:

      Ahoy, Jeff! Well, here’s hoping you had an opportunity to log some motorcycling miles this year. I don’t know if Scott pursued his interest in racing, the relationship with D3 of 3 ran its course (so to speak) spun out (you might say) ended up in the fence (if you will) towed back to the pits (okay that’s enough of that).

  15. Tony:
    Is good to hear about you again, I was reading about your wife’s health problems but I never figured that it was THIS serious, but as I can see, she has a wonderful husband and a REAL man at her side (that’s some words from my girlfrend for you). Hope that everything goes well for her, and that in a few months this would be only an anecdote. Blessings from México, we still praying for Pam & your family.

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