Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Follow the Leader

File this under more interesting mail stuff as I just recently received word via email that my blog made the TOP 5 on Part Catalog's list of the 85 Best Auto Blogs to Follow in 2018. How sweet is that? I am in some pretty good company from what I saw on their list and I owe it all to my loyal readers, who stick with me through thick and thin, even though it's been pretty thin lately. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

FranktoidTM No 19 - Opinions, The Spice of Life

A lot can be said about opinions as everyone usually has one. Good or bad, opinions are generally received with apprehensive anticipation. There is a famous quote about opinions that compare them to a certain part of the body that I won't quote here, as I am pretty sure everyone has heard it already. A more mellow quote comes from the move The Big Lebowski, when The Dude says: "Yea, well, you know that's just like, ah, your opinion man." Taking my cue from El Duderino, that is usually my reaction when I hear opinions, but when you are getting the same opinion from numerous, different sources, it makes a person start to think. To sum it up, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.

I received a text message the other day from a life long friend that I had not heard from in awhile. He knows that I have always wanted to write for a magazine but with the ever increasing popularity of the internet, that possibility seemed almost impossible. The mainstream thinking was that print was dead, but is it really? He reignited a spark in me that had be dormant for quite some time. Basically, he was wondering when my column was going to start. Heck, I have been wondering that for a long time but when you see the words "I like your writing", it really starts to sink in.

Your friends are probably few and far between so they should be treated like gems. Recently, I was fortunate enough to find a new friend in my old age, which is not an easy task given my ultra private life that I usually refuse to let anyone into. My new friend surprised me by saying that my writing was amazing or something to that effect.What a great compliment! Both of these recent comments, and others that I have received, really made me sit back and think about what I write about and my blog in general. Do I really have what it takes? Writing is my passion, and I think it probably shows, but does it really? If I can trust anybody's opinion, it would be my friends.

Until the day I see one of my stories in print, I will just have to be satisfied with posting my stories  here on my blog. Isn't the interweb great? I have so much to write about but life is getting in the way. Upcoming will be the first chapters of a book that I am writing titled North Main. There will also be a major update on my '56 Chevy project car, Time Warp. Keep the faith and keep reading!


Thursday, September 6, 2018

My Book of Life

A major incident happened recently that jarred me to my core. After the initial shock faded a bit and I could start thinking clearly again, an idea, or maybe more appropriately a necessity, took hold in my mind. What follows is a bit off-subject for this blog, but I believe it should be said and also read by as many as possible. I can start by telling you what did not happen. Death, death did not happen. As we all know there are fates worse then death, such as total paralysis, strokes, Alzheimer's disease, etc. Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: "Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest." The fate known as stroke came in the early morning hours one Sunday and tragically struck down my mother. The cold shock of discovering her, many hours later, haunts my mind constantly and makes my conscience prefix every thought with "what if". Life goes on and so must mine, but time, usually the healer of wounds, is the enemy here.

Major incidents happen every day in people's lives, life changing events that force us to see a side of life that most don't like to think about. Most folks think that these type of incidents will not happen to them, some are in denial, and others obtuse. The fact of the matter is that this can happen and may even happen to you, yes you! Nobody is exempt by choice, only by fate. Aside from estate planning, funeral directives, living trusts, wills, power of attorney, and the such, there is an often overlooked area in your life that usually only one person knows about - you! The area that I'm referring to is the day to day stuff, or the things in your daily life, hence the title My Book of Life.

My Book of Life, aka Your Book of Life,  is a fairly simple idea that will fill in the gaps and could answer many questions should something major happen to you. Personally I am thinking of using a 3x5 note book, because I am old school (or maybe this blog, gee what a concept), but a journal works just as well. Already have a diary that you use? Perfect. Notations in your "book" can vary widely but in my case will include updates on projects I am working on, as well as what I want done with certain stuff. It can also contain directions or hints on where to find certain things that only you may know about. If I was to leave this life tomorrow or become permanently incapacitated, my family wouldn't know that I had just finished buttoning up the top end on my '56 Chevy project and got it running again. That makes a huge difference if they had to sell it to pay medical bills, etc. They would not know what to do with my massive model train collection, what it's worth, or what is broken and what just got repaired. I know that it is common practice to list personal items in Living Trusts and Wills, but most folks don't have either and even if you do, unless you constantly update them there will be many questionable items. Information can be as simple as pointing them in the right direction to providing step by step instructions.

Your Book of Life is a perfect way to communicate what is happening, what has happened, and what you want to happen. Of course there is no guarantee that your wishes will be followed but at least you have communicated them and let them be known. Nobody knows when something tragic is going to happen, but when it does it is always sudden and usually without warning, leaving your loved ones in the dark about a lot of things. Shed some light on that darkness with your own Book of Life, you won't regret it and neither will your significant others.



Saturday, March 3, 2018

I Forgot My Anniversary, But I'm Not In Trouble!

I totally forgot my anniversary! Which anniversary you ask? My web page! Ten years ago I decided to put all my automotive experience and thoughts swimming around in my head on the world wide web. Back then I was quite the novice with the interweb as some of my early posts clearly show, especially my first one. Oh well, live and learn. The internet has changed dramatically in ten years but the Amberlight Garage has remained status quo for all intents and purposes. I hope to keep it going for another ten years or more, God willing.

For those who don't know the story I will indulge your curiosity. I have always wanted to be an automotive journalist. I love writing about cars and mechanical things in general. When I graduated high school the internet had not been thought of yet so print was still alive and doing well. Back then, in order to land a gig at a automotive publication you needed one of two things: a college degree, experience, or preferably both . At that point in my life I had only a few years of experience and was not a fan of higher education, so I had to seek employment elsewhere. Fast forward 26 years to the year 2008. With a lot of automotive experience, ample speciality schooling, and just living life under my belt I felt I was finally ready to seek out a career as an automotive journalist. I soon realized that I was missing one crucial element, writing experience. So with nothing more then a basic computer course and a head full of stories, I set out to create my very own web page. Blogging was all the rage so that's the format I chose, a la Frank's Classic Car Blog.The "hosting" page for my blog is the Amberlight Garage, which by the way is an actual garage that works on classic cars for exclusive clientele. (me) Forget about getting your classic worked on there, the waiting list is over 10 years long! Most folks don't know it but the Amberlight Garage was actually named after the middle light in a traffic signal. Yea, that's not yellow, it's amber. Early on I thought opportunity came knocking for a automotive writing gig but fate had a different plan. I always try and listen to my gut when it comes to major decisions and the choice I made here was spot on. As we now all know, Popular Hot Rodding magazine (which was the "major publication" referred to in my story) went the way of the Dodo bird and most if not all print magazines are switching to online content, some exclusively. Is print dead? It might be dying a slow death but writing is alive and kicking, thanks to all you readers.

So here I am, present day, still blogging along and still hoping to land a writing gig and get my first article published, dare I say it, in print. I know someday it will happen, probably when I retire from my real job, and that's only six years away! I think I will put it on my bucket list, right between "attend Viva Las Vegas" and "move the hell out of California". In the meantime I'll be looking forward to my next anniversary, so stay tuned for plenty of cool content in-between. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

FranktoidTM No 18 - Carma With a "C"

We all know Karma's a bitch but what about her step-sister, Carma? Carma, spelled with a "c", is the vehicular version of Karma. I believe I have experienced a little bit of Carma and it all started when I decided to sell a car...

Regular readers of this blog will recall when I wrote about selling one of my project cars. Well, writing and actually doing are two completely different things so I thought I would put my future money where my mouth is, or more accurately, was. The decision to sell was a tough one with each project car having it's pros and cons. For a moment or two I thought a flip of the coin would be the deciding factor when all of a sudden the solution came to me. I would list the car for sale at a price that was, in my opinion, a little high. If it sold, great! I would get my investment back and then some so I really couldn't complain. If it didn't sell, oh well, I tried! So I listed the car and Carma came a knocking on the door. It sold. Wait, which car sold? Oops, I guess I sort of left out that portion of this story. Unable to come to a decision on which project car to sell I decided to sell my daily driver, a 1967 Olds Delmont 88. Part of this decision was based on the need to retire the Olds from daily driver status. The Delmont has been the source for many stories on this blog and has served me well. I really didn't think it would sell, I mean, who wants a 4 door sedan now-a-days? Boy was I wrong.

I really should have done my homework better, as in research homework. For the price I sold the Delmont for, I can't replace it, and I thought I got a really good price for it! It turns out that daily driver, rust free, 4 door sedans that have working A/C are worth a little more then what I thought. Oops! Now what? Besides juggling work schedules and cars so I can get to and from work, I had to formulate a plan. After searching for what seemed like an eternity I was unable to find a newer daily driver (big surprise there, see Carma above) so I decided to move forward with a plan to make one of my project cars a daily driver. The '56 Chevy, appropriately named Time Warp, got the nod. Now I need to put my money where the project car is and get it on the road. Will I succeed or will Carma get it the way? Stay tuned to find out what happens...
Goodbye old friend...

Monday, October 2, 2017

I Lost My Breath And Then Fate Stepped In

Fate is a fickle bitch. It usually shows up at the most inopportune time and when least expected. The fickle part is that fate can be for you or against you, and the against you is usually a bad thing. Last night, October the first, it was really bad. Really, really bad.

I think every parent's worst nightmare is to receive a distressing phone call about their child. What is worse is to receive a frantic call from your child during a traumatic event and then suddenly realizing that there is nothing you can do to help them. Their life is in the hands of fate. Your son or daughter is hundreds of miles away, desperately calling you, maybe for the last time, and you can do absolutely nothing. To make matters worse, during the phone call you hear screaming, and are those gunshots in the background!? The call is over way too fast and you need answers, your mind screams for clarity, but all you can do is sit and wait. It is a feeling that I wish upon no one on this earth. It's like your breath is being taken away. Last night, October the first, I lost my breath and then fate stepped in.

As the world now knows, on October first in Las Vegas Nevada, the deadliest mass shooting incident in the history of the United States happened at the Route 91 Country Music Festival. The very same event that our son and his girlfriend were attending. That phone call came way before any mainstream media news of the incident and we were desperate for information. We turned to social media where facebook was our friend, twitter was raw but informative, and a live audio feed of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police kept us on edge and updated. As this horrific event unfolded before us we couldn't help but wonder what our son and his girlfriend were experiencing. After what seemed like an eternity we finally received a phone call! Our son and his girlfriend were safe and somehow managed to make it back to their hotel room, but unfortunately this nightmare was far from over. The waiting game that ensued was nothing short of pure agony. The walls seemed to be slowly closing in around me and I couldn't help but think of "what if" scenarios. Minutes seemed like hours. My mind was betraying me as I desperately clung to faith. We knew they were sheltered in their hotel room but as the night wore on, and all the active shooter reports were (falsely) pouring in, we couldn't help but wonder if they were really safe. The very same information sources that we took some sort of feigned comfort in before were now disseminating information at a rabid rate, some of which we now know was untrue. Suddenly I took a deep breath as fate had once again stepped into the situation.

Fate was fortunately on our son's side last night, which really does nothing to ease the pain and trauma of witnessing death and mayhem all around you, let alone the pain and grieving that others are feeling that actually lost a loved one. For them fate was unusually cruel. Fate can also make survivors question themselves and the situation. Why did this happen? Why did the person, who was just a few feet next to me, die? What if I was standing there? Wait, I think I was standing in that spot! Maybe I could have helped more people. Am I a bad person for running away? Why did this happen? Why? Why?

There is a ton more questions that need answers and hopefully all of us will get the answers we are seeking. Although answers will not ease anyone's pain, they may provide closure for some and relief for others. In my opinion this incident is still too fresh to jump to any conclusions. The only thing definite is all the lives that were forever changed, some would say because fate stepped in.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Alignment of a Different Sorts

I read a lot of automotive related publications, probably more then  most, and that's not even including repair manuals! I have observed a common thread, or consensus, among many of the senior writers: as we get older it naturally becomes harder to do the things we once did easily in our youth. Although that statement seems like a "no-brainer", it is easily overlooked when it comes to project cars.

Speaking of project cars, I am the king of change. The grass is always greener on the other side when it comes to something "new". To be honest, I get burnt out easily on whatever current vehicle I am working on as they never seem to get completed. Gee, I wonder why? I believe I could cure my condition if I could just finish a car and actually drive it. It's the driving part that I feel is the prescription needed for the cure and is some of the best therapy available. Anyone who has ever been feeling down or grumpy knows what I am talking about. Take your classic or muscle car for a spin, the wind blowing through your hair, (apologies to those who are bald) and your spirits are instantly lifted. For most, it is a mental transformation like no other.

I could be looking at a mood deciding crossroads in my life. I know that ten years from now I won't be able to maintain the same level of work load as I do today. If I continue my current trend of endless project cars, I will never get one finished and be able to enjoy it. That's the key word here: enjoy. You might know a person or have heard a story of someone who either passed away, became too old, or just gave up on life and had to sell their project car. Usually included in the selloff was a boat load of parts that they had been collecting for the car. It makes me wonder if they were always chasing the perfect project or just never made the time to work on the car. Before they knew it, it was too late.

My current thinking is that I am in over my head in regards to my cars. The goal when I bought my 442 (project Scotchlok) was to get it on the road as soon as possible. I soon discovered that because it had been sitting for so long, the car needed major work. No big deal, right? I only had the one project car and could concentrate on it. Wrong. A stray '56 Chevy 210 found me and begged me to buy it. I stopped in the middle of an engine rebuild on Scotchlok and pulled the trigger on the '56. Dubbed "Time Warp", the goal for this car was to get it on the road as soon as possible so I would have something cool to cruise around in. (see therapy above) I soon discovered that because Time Warp had been sitting for 25 plus years, it also needed major work. Suddenly I had the feeling of deja vu. Ideally, I should sell one of my project cars and concentrate on just one, but which one?

The good news is that I have about 95 percent of the parts needed to complete Time Warp and about 60 percent of the parts needed to complete Scotchlok. Now the word "complete" here is a relative term, as one person's version of complete may differ from another persons. (The complete I am referring to is the running and driving version, not the completely restored version.) Common sense says that I should keep Time Warp and get rid of Scotchlok, but who ever said that I had common sense? The bad news here is that I can't seem to find the time to do the work. What I do know is that ten years from now I want to be driving and enjoying these cars, not still wrenching on them. Time is the enemy here so I may have to make some tough decisions on which car to keep. I'll have to align my projects and prioritize them accordingly, otherwise I might find out the hard way that it's too late!

Decisions, decisions, decisions...