September 25, 2015

Hill workout today. I was thinking about the London Fog. 

I have had some great comments about these stories. Thanks to one and all. Maureen’s guest blog yesterday was taken from a newsletter that was written 25 years ago. Many of these stories are recollection from 50-60 years ago. For those that have read all 75 posts(!), you may recall a story about a car with a faulty battery. It was a Volkswagen. While we don’t want to “pile on” the German engineers, reports of their lack of integrity are getting out despite what I might say. As the story goes, the battery under the front seat in the Volkswagen shorts out and sets Grumpy’s precious London Fog on fire. I thought that I was partially at fault, but it may have been my memory that was at fault. 

My brother recounted a different version of the story that happened almost 40 years ago, but the result was the same, a flaming raincoat.  

Grumpy would run many miles every day. Maybe it was exactly this reason that he insisted on someone driving him to and picking him up from the train station every day. The station was only four blocks away from the house but car service was required. “Number-six, go get Daddy from the train station”. Now number-six may have been engrossed in a particularly interesting episode of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” that day. As the show ended, he knew only one thing, he was late. The show had ended, the train had arrived at the station, my father had departed the train, started the slow walk home to I-Oka Street and number-six was still in front of the TV. Number-six jumped into the last car in the line of the single-file driveway, the 1973 Volkswagen 412 Fastback. His route was quickly and strategically planned. Right on Milburn, left on South Wille Street, another left onto Evergreen Avenue and he would position the car to accept my Dad into the passenger seat. He would only need to listen to a lecture about tardiness for two and a half blocks. As he approached the slowly trudging Grumpy on Evergreen Avenue, he reached over, opened the passenger door, smiled and lightly asked “need a lift?” The “look” was given to the driver of the VW. You expected smoke to billow from the ears and crushing noise to come from whatever the hands were gripping.

“Move over, I’ll drive”, this was not good for number-six. Actually stopping the car was difficult. The brakes were faulty, the emergency brake was worthless so turning off the car and putting it into gear was required. Given the fact that he was pointing the car down St. Mark’s hill, he stopped, turned off the car, put it in gear and began the delicate dance of climbing over the console of the manual transition into the passenger seat. Some would argue that at this point he might have caught a wire or a spring on the front driver seat and forever altered the electrical system that was nestled under the front seat. Grumpy entered the car and without a word, pressed the clutch, turned the key and allowed the car to coast down St. Mark’s hill. The words for the lecture were still forming when they both smelled the odor.

 “Is something burning?” Grumpy inquired.

 “Burning? What do you mean, Dad?” They approached I-Oka and turned left, only a block to go.

 “I definitely smell something burning, have you been smoking?” Grumpy accused.

 “No Dad, I swim 17,000 yards a day, I don’t have time to smoke.” Number-six responded.

 As they approached the house, Grumpy felt something warm on his seat. The intensity of the warmth was increasing to a burning sensation. With the car still rolling past the house on I-Oka, Grumpy jumped from the moving vehicle and number-six could see flames shooting from Grumpy’s backside.

 “Stop, drop and roll”. Number-six had always been pragmatic and offered this advice now.

 Considering the car was still in motion when he exited, he had no choice but to drop and roll. Stopping would not be easy. As he rolled across I-Oka Street, the flames turned to smoldering embers. The car came to a stop five houses down the block and number-six exited and ran back to the smoldering Grumpy. Grumpy lifted himself from a prone position and as he did, number six noticed that the flames had burned though the London Fog and the gray pinstriped, dark-blue Brooks Brothers trousers but had spared the Munsingwear tightey-whiteys. Number-six considered that this was one good thing.

Fire investigators were called to the scene and quickly determined that the fire was started when the car was started on St. Mark’s hill.  The battery under the front seat had created the spark that had destroyed the London Fog and Grumpy’s dignity that day. Number-six was absolved from blame and a nameless German engineer was implicated. Much to his relief, number-six had felt little responsibility in the first place. He was even bold enough to suggest that if Grumpy had just let him drive home… Sometimes, Grumpy went beyond mad and, as a kid, you were lucky because the resulting punishment would be too great and most likely illegal. This was the case that day and number-six went back to watching TV.

Thanks to John for his great ideas.

Last hill workout before the marathon. Favorite song today, I ‘m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day performed by The Pogues.

The Hill at Sunrise

The Hill at Sunrise

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