Baggy Paragraphs

Archive for the ‘Ha!’ Category

My grandmother, fading brakes, and a slide

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Cars without brakes are scary, but my grandmother was scarier. She always saw imminent disaster.

When I was setting off with my dad to drive a rented moving truck from Omaha to Tampa, she asked if we were going through New Orleans. Why go so far out of the way when Nashville was on the direct route? “Because your brakes will go out in the mountains!” It was an utter certainty.51Saratoga

She had her reasons, having experienced plenty of small disasters. The battery that was located under the front seat of some Dodge the family owned had caught fire, and everyone jumped out while the car was still rolling.

Another time, the travel trailer came unhitched and passed the tow car on the way to oblivion. And then Aunt Mary cranked too hard on the wheel of her first car with power steering, a 1951 Chrysler Saratoga, and flipped it.

Disaster lurked around every corner. A few years ago I drove a ’51 Saratoga in the Carolina Trophy rally. The brakes faded so badly, I couldn’t have stopped that thing before the Tennessee line. But scary? I could veer off into a tobacco patch if necessary.

What has always scared me is the memory of her leaning across the front seat of her ’59 Imperial after I’d gotten out, asking through the open window, her eyes agleam as she planned misery for this eight-year-old, “Would you like to play the trombone?”

Written by baggyparagraphs

October 30, 2013 at 7:20 am

How should I file this story about a wooden-bodied ’68 Scout postal vehicle?

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Whenever I clean out my clip files, there’s the problem of what to do with this story from the Omaha World-Herald.

I don’t have a file for wooden-bodied cars. Nor one for auto bodymen-versus-carpenters.

Maybe “Puns” would be appropriate. But I’ll hold my tongue-in-groove.

Dean Haden built the custom wooden body after his wife Marlys complained about their rusty 1968 International Scout. The former postal vehicle had been in the family ten or twelve years.

“Now Haden’s portable sundeck (with matching aerodynamics) is saluted by Weber grills and patios everywhere,” the Associated Press reported, adopting an unusually waggish tone.

“But there are worries. Like termite insurance. And you’ll note a unique vulnerability to penknives and young love.”

Maybe so. The vulnerability I see is in stopping the thing. With such a heavy body, you’d better hold brake the pedal to the floorboard.

Only a sap would push past 50 mph on the open road.

Oh well, no telling where the Redwood Runabout is now. The number I had for the Haden residence is out of service.

Maybe it’s on an errand at a nice lumberyard somewhere.







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March 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Bears in your hair or only in my neighborhood?

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I was ten minutes into my afternoon walk yesterday, just starting up Hidden Valley Drive, when I saw this mother bear and her large cub.


Now I know why University of California sports teams are called the Golden Bears.

Written by baggyparagraphs

February 28, 2013 at 8:20 am

Posted in Ha!, Travels

A friend’s challenge to a creative writing exercise causes me to face my fears

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I have an amazing new friend who this afternoon challenged me to a creative writing face-off. We would give each other a topic, and simultaneously in a ten-minute window of time write to the topic. The one I received from her was a bit unnerving, really: “Write a sweet piece about a little pony, for the age range 6-8 year old girl.” Outside my comfort zone? Yes. For the last few years all I’ve written about are cars and business history. But the name Fred surfaced in my mind, and I started.


Fred was a hairy little pony who hated his name. He took his name from the pizza restaurant, Big Fred’s, where he worked. He was tied all day to the railing on the front porch, and his job was to greet patrons. Children loved him, petting and stroking him. (Some bad little kids tried to give him their medication.) Fred liked his job all right, but whenever a shrill little voice called him–”Hey, Fred! Freddie, Freddie Krueger”–he found himself dancing and tugging at the rope that kept him from running away. One day a toad named Herbert came by to say hello. They were old friends, but it had been a while since Herbert had been around.

“How can I get my name changed?” Fred asked.

“You could work at a different restaurant,” Herbert said.

Fred stamped his front hooves. “That’ll never happen.”

But one day a crew from the sign company showed up in the parking lot. They had a big new sign for the restaurant, which they put into place that day. It had a picture of a pony and the name Winkie. There was a banner, too, that said, “Under New Ownership.”

Once Fred’s tears stopped flowing, he braced himself for his new life.

Written by baggyparagraphs

September 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

10 bêtes noires, pitfalls, bugbears, and simple everyday things I absolutely, unequivocally !@#&ing hate

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Still life photo of Pink Lady apples with Gerbera daisy by Baggy Paragraphs

Boy, I’m telling you, I just hate it when I:

  1. Run out of staples in my Swingline stapler, which is as aggravating to me as a political reversal to the committed party member, or a home team’s loss to the ultrapartisan fan
  2. Wake from a nap and see a ten-inch lizard on the floor, which awakens my primitive flight response, as though my inner eye were seeing a dinosaur
  3. Forget whether I locked the car, which may or may not feature my iPhone standing as ripe as an artichoke in one of the center-console cupholders because, of course, I forgot it, too (the day when we wear our phones as part of our clothing will be a good thing for me and others, including those who drop theirs into the toilet and vaguely report, “It fell into water” — unless adding apparel before flushing is a routine thing)
  4. Bite my cheek while too avidly chewing, or scald my lips and tongue with a hastily imbibed hot drink, leaving me with the vague hope that the tissues of the mouth indeed heal quickly because of superabundant vascular circulation
  5. Leave my shopping list on the counter and my collection of cloth and polywollydoodle shopping bags in the car’s door pocket, while my main emphasis upon entering the market is to find the restroom
  6. Am taking my daily walk, and the hard rubber ball or the baseball with which I play Mouth-of-Driveway (high toss with backspin; sharply angled carom from driveway’s sloping mouth received with the off hand without breaking stride) bounces awry and rolls with dismal, disheartening finality into the storm drain
  7. Go outside for the newspaper that hasn’t been and won’t be delivered today
  8. Break a drinking glass
  9. Flip the light switch and hear the filament snap, making me want to curse Thomas Edison
  10. Have to peel fruit labels

Written by baggyparagraphs

April 12, 2012 at 5:30 am

How headlines are conceived and written

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How headlines are conceived and written

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March 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Isky’s Good Karma

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After today’s Motor Press Guild‘s luncheon in Los Angeles, I went for a short ride in the Fisker Karma with hot rod culture’s legendary Ed Iskenderian and two others.

It was the 90-year-old Isky’s first-ever ride in a hybrid. 

So I made a video.

The video is only 2:23 long and ends with a laugh as Isky thoughtfully (and revealingly) fields the last of my questions.

I promise this will be worth your time, and I invite you to share or Tweet the link:

Written by baggyparagraphs

February 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Shoe Cartoon 02

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Written by baggyparagraphs

February 28, 2012 at 8:03 am

Murky history of the 1954 Merkle Subatom MC2 Sport

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The 1954 Merkle Subatom MC2 Sport was a side project of Captain Hyman Rickover’s when he was developing the nuclear navy and adapting that technology for civilian power production. It was named Merkle, for an old friend of the admiral’s back in Poland, as a way of deflecting attention; yet it was indeed Capt. Rickover who climbed behind the wheel when the Merkle competed in the Carrera Panamericana. As viewers of that race remember, the entry surged to an enormous lead by the middle stages, proving the efficacy of nuclear power in automobiles, but during a restroom break at a tiny pueblo in Zacatecas, Capt. Rickover decided to power down the reactor and learn the Spanish subjunctive mood from a woman he met near a bougainvillea hedge.

Series production of the Merkle was briefly considered, and the Packard Motor Car Company appeared interested in acquiring the model as the linchpin for a new division of high-performance automobiles. The plan snagged when Packard’s assistant chief engineer John DeLorean insisted the Merkle be equipped with the company’s Ultramatic transmission, which he had helped to develop; but Capt. Rickover’s minions, who were handling the Merkle deal, let it slip that they preferred General Motors’s Hydramatic tranny, and DeLorean stormed out of the meeting, going home to his mother, with whom he still lived.

Admiral Rickover looking over USS Nautilus, th...

Hyman G. Rickover

After this traumatic episode, the one and only Merkle fell into obscurity. Following his promotion to Vice Admiral, Rickover began to drive Cadillacs. The Merkle languished for many years at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania. Later it was put back into driving condition for use as an airport shuttle at Los Alamos National Laboratory; then it served as a hogan near Round Rock, Arizona, with the built-in central heating being a prized feature.

A decade ago, the Merkle was sold at a well-known vintage and collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, realizing a disappointing sale price of just $12,750. Quickly taken away on a flatbed, it was spotted in the parking lot of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and subsequently reported in Beatty, Nevada, by an automotive spy photographer who spends her summers there in pursuit of future production models that are undergoing tests in Death Valley. Pictures of the Merkle were found to have been spirited away from archives such as the National Automotive History Collection in the Detroit Public Library, where a tall, bespectacled, white-bearded gentleman in a bespoke English suit, who signed the guest register as Lorem Ipsum, was the last to request the file. The only known surviving image of the Merkle, seen above, was recently acquired by a collector at a literature, toys, and memorabilia show for vintage Porsches and VWs in a hotel near LAX.

An existential question for philosophers, bulldogs, and pollsters

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What if your backside is your upside--especially by a wide margin?

Written by baggyparagraphs

January 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm


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