It happens to all of us at various times during our lives—an epiphany. While the word “epiphany” can carry religious connotations there are accepted secular definitions that range from the sudden manifestation or perception of the fundamental nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (like keeping sharp objects out of my hands); an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. (I always keep two of my favorite online friends handy for such enlightenment—Merriam and Webster.)
For starters, I was in the garage the other night when a series of revelations struck. I always find it fascinating how these thoughts of completely and totally different nature pop up when you’re fully engulfed in a project 180 degrees removed. I was in one of those “fully involved” moments, extricating my stuck fingers from between the recently acquired Frank Wallic seat and its riser and my other hand wedged between the riser and floorboard of my Nostalgia Speed & Cycle Model A pickup. It’s true that this experience was both eventful and painful, yet I have no idea how I had the time or presence of mind to think of anything else—but I did.
The first revelation should be obvious—I’m the greatest risk to my own wellbeing. The second, and this took a few moments of inactivity to think through, the younger guys coming into our rodding world aren’t building the cars they wanted or remember when they were young (the way we do) because these cars didn’t exist in the automotive world as readily as they did for us. Many of the younger rodders remember K-cars, the first minivans, and the advent of onboard computers filling their first automotive experiences. For those of us who are “north” of middle age our experiences were more day-to-day hands-on experiences, one of a visceral nature, with this rapidly evolving marvel—the automobile. The third, and all of us share this story, the number of people we have met during our lives—once!
In my 40-plus years as a car-enthusiast journalist and the several decades I spent as a kid learning about cars and as a sweeper at Disneyland, I have met literally tens of thousands of people—the vast majority of whom I have met only once and have never seen or heard from again. This thought is a sobering one and a bit of a bummer. How many of those individuals could have become good friends or individuals I would have benefitted from their experiences or maybe I could have helped them? (Senior Editor Ron Ceridono says, “The reason you haven’t heard from them a second time is because they are avoiding you.” Ceridono tends to be direct with his opinion of my abilities and charisma, or lack thereof. Point taken, I’m sure there’s a good deal of avoidance occurring.) But I can’t help myself to stop from time to time after one of these isolated conversations and wonder to myself as they walk off, “Will I ever see him (or her) again?”
While attending the 30th Hot Rod Reunion hosted by the Shades of the Past Car Club in Pigeon Forge this past summer I had one of these cherished moments that make attending rod runs all the more meaningful. It was late Saturday night when I found myself in the hotel parking lot reminiscent of what I had done so many times in my early years. This time there were three of us, Rick Love of Vintage Air and John McLeod of Classic Instruments. The three of us were commenting it had been a while since we were up so late just hanging out in the parking lot of a rod run—and eating several robust scoops of ice cream. We proceeded to solve all of the world’s problems—hot rod and social—and even solved a few problems I’m sure others aren’t aware of. Without thinking about it the three of us enjoy an enduring friendship that has covered decades and this impromptu moment allowed us to reconnect, relive, and relish why we work and play in this industry.
I doubt any of us plan it that way as I’m pretty sure we figure we will see new and old acquaintances at another event or, at the very least, probably back here next year. But after 40-plus years in the biz I’ve come to the realization that one must make an effort in the here and now because all too often second chances don’t happen and time is getting shorter. It’s apparent to me that I have less magazine time that lies ahead then I have already experienced. It makes me all the more cognoscente to cherish the times I have with others for it truly may be the last time I see someone.
I guess it’s important to make the most of our decades-long friendships and never take them for granted, as others may last but for a moment. Of course, it’s also a good idea to keep one’s fingers out of tight and sharp places.