Calm, in a hurry….
One day in the 4th grade I came home to hear something, going on in the car port. As I got closer I could see inside. My father was standing over my mom. She was cowered in the corner with her knees up and her arms in front of her face and head. My Dad had a revolver in one hand and a can of gasoline in the other. I threw down my bicycle and ran in to grab my father. All I could do at eight years old was to grab him around the waist and yell Daddy, Daddy. Apparently that was enough. In a short moment, he looked at me in silence, backed off, and left. I stole the pistol from him a few years later at 13. A couple days later, my uncle took it from me, but my Dad never saw it again.
Expounded upon from the “About” page.
I decided to “X” out the type manufacturing Dad did, lest someone might know who I am. Silver Spoon? In the 7th grade Dad asked me if I wanted to go to military school. This was a surprise to me…..later it was a surprise alright…..and my cousin was going, so I said sure, might be fun. Little did I know, it was a full on military school, much like (VMI) Virginia Military School, with different initials and known for its rigid military discipline, even for youngsters. I didn’t get along too well there, earning 2nd place for the most demerits that year. Most of kids there were typical spoiled rich kids…snobs, and there was plenty of hazing and abuse. The teachers on the other hand, were the best I’ve ever had.
Not my fun.
We all sat out front waiting for our rides home and all these kids parents drove Cadillacs. You could tell how proud and stuck-up they were, they’d brag and get all chesty. My step mother usually picked me up in Dad’s daily driver, a 1941 Lincoln Continental, and even in 1968 it stood out. Finally one day Dad left me a message he was going to pick me up, but he might be a little late. We got out of school at 5:30 and he didn’t pick me up until almost 7pm. I was not too happy anyway, but when he showed up in his 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom ll that he had just won “Best of Show”, in the National Championship, I couldn’t believe it. I’d missed a great chance to show all the stuck-up jerks what real money was about. A couple teachers and administrators saw it, but that’s all. I was the only one left waiting out front for a ride home.
…it got worse.
When I was 19 I think, I went home to visit dad, and he knew I was interested in racing cars. He was in between wives at the time and I had been living with my mom in Santa Barbara. I’d spent a lot of time driving a 1963 Karman Ghia in the Los Padres National Forest. Nobody could touch me up there, I had a skill, and Dad and I had talked about this.
One night in Santa Barbara, I was watching the Winter Olympics in Sapporo Japan (1972). I was tripping my brains out on the best Southern California LSD 25 that there was at that time. I got fixated watching the Giant Slalom, the way the skiers would lift themselves a little off the ground and jump into the groove of the corner rounding the flags.
I decided right then, “I can do that in my car”. My favorite road was appropriately named “Mountain Drive”, and my Karman Ghia which had some minor engine modification was still fairly under powered for real high-speed hill climbing. Mountain Drive went from 3000ft. to maybe 50ft. above the beach, so it was quite a drop in 20 miles of tight semi-gravelly corners with no guard rails and 4-600ft. cliffs. Most people were just too scared to drive thru those corners at 60+, and I did that night, learn to jump into the groove of the corners just like the skiers at Sapporo.
Dad brought me home with the potential of racing cars. It turned out, we had very different ideas about what to do about that. I wanted to race a Porsche 917 at LeMans. The Porsche 917 was hitting 243 at LeMans in 1970, still much faster than the super-cars of today. My Dad with all the Rolls Royces in the garage, wanted to go the cheap route and run small local stock car races. Then he told me he wasn’t having any of it, until I worked at something I absolutely hated for a year…first.
I understood his principle and gave it a try. My real difficulty was that I had been learning and freelancing in photography since I was very young, and was in some regards, getting somewhere with it.
I had been offered a job by a large company that wanted to train me (their way) in every aspect of the photography business that they were involved in. Most of my photo experience besides in the lab, was in music. I’d photographed Leon Russell, Paul Butterfield, Joan Bias, Judy Collins, Buffy Saint-Marie…Beautiful Day, and others most reading this will not know of, but in the late 60s and early 70s, all very famous.
I went home to discuss this with Dad (stupid me) and he said, “No, I want you to do something you hate. To prove you’re worth the time and effort.” So I started a job in a gas station, pumpin’ gas and fixin’ flats. Not a bad job, but it didn’t give me much motivation. I can say, I didn’t like it too much.
So of course it was time to get thrown out, and it was my fault. Dad went on his typical 3 day weekend business trip like he did on a regular basis. I invited my buddy and a couple girls we ran into to party at my father’s house. You know, up on a hill, giant view….well known house. The girls couldn’t wait to see it. It wasn’t much of a party, but there was one problem. One of the girls walked from the back deck to the front door smoking a cigarette. That’s all, 8 steps thru the foyer. When dad came home, he smelled it and said, “get out”! He was actually fairly good about it and said, “let’s get you a car and here’s a months rent. You’re on your own”.
$800 got me my 2nd Karman Ghia, and me and my buddy shared a 2 bedroom apartment. We had a blast, for a little while.
I’d had enough of pumping gas and we both got jobs working for a guy as painter’s helpers, spray painting apartment complexes. It was horrible, unless you really love the toxic high of paint, and being covered in paint at the end of every day. There’s a good reasons back then that painters were known for being drinkers, and I was working on proving they were. We both started drinking Jose Cuervo, about a 5th every day, but I’m sure I drank the majority of it. Even in the morning before leaving I’d put a shot in my coffee. I was going down hill, and not too happy about it.
My Karman Ghia broke, because its previous owner thought that putting a Hurst “quick-shift” kit in it would make it faster. I never needed or wanted it that way, but by the time I got it, it had stressed the transmission to the point of breaking, and it did. By that time I was in pretty poor condition mentally, and emotionally I felt the whole idea of racing with my dad was just a cruel hoax, and I didn’t want to be there anymore. Sadly my answer was one of desperation and absurdity.
I planned and waited, for dad to go on another business trip, went to his house, beat his security system, got by his 2 Doberman Pinchers and stole his brand new 911 Porsche. I made it to Santa Barbara in 26 hours, about 1500 miles, without going over the speed limit until out of Texas. I raced that car all over Los Padres Mountains, got in 2 police chases and didn’t get caught. Three weeks later after calling my mom and telling me to give her the keys (I didn’t), dad flew to Santa Barbara. I decided I’d give it back to him because I knew I’d pushed the odds to the limit, and also knew that if I kept it any longer I’d most likely crash it running from the police. I gave it back, and he didn’t let me any where near his house for the next 12 years.
For the next 20 years I learn what it meant to gain trust back, and now the various people I work for know I’m the most trustworthy person they know. It took a lot of time and effort to get that, from where I was, but I consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever done.