Monday, July 27, 2015

* Cuba's Jurassic Parking Lot





                                                      
Vintage cars across the street from El Capitola in Havana, Cuba, on May 5, 2015. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/TNS) Vintage cars across the street from El Capitola in Havana, Cuba, on May 5, 2015. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Cuba, diplomatically unfrozen after 50 years, is more than an economic treasure for investors now that the Cuban flag flies over an embassy in Washington. It is an automobile time capsule. And it should be preserved as such, like the San Francisco cable cars, with vintage cars cruising alongside the modern vehicles that will flow into Cuba.
It’s an automotive Jurassic Park, with dinosaur cars long extinct in the rest of the world still roaming in a time warp created by the embargo that prevented Cubans from importing new American cars for 50 years. Ah, politics! Creator of such a strange beauty, at least beauty to my mind. Cubans had no choice but to make do with the cars they had in 1960, the year the embargo was imposed by the United States. The Ford Edsel, produced only from 1958-1960, squeaked in under the wire
Every time I watch a news snippet showing Cuban streets, I see the cars I grew up with. I can identify by sight instantly every car from 1949-1960 — practically the entire automotive inventory of Cuba’s traffic in 2015.
Cars were my life when I was a kid. Every September I would ride my bike a mile on Whitney Avenue and stand in front of Ekblade Oldsmobile’s showroom in Centerville, Conn., hoping to see the new model for the next year. Sometimes it took days of wasted bike trips before the new car appeared. But once it did, you had a preview of four other GM cars that were variations on the theme: Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac. The same went for DeSoto: Once you saw that new model, the rest of the Chrysler models were simply variations: Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial.
I’ve heard that Hollywood studios each year purchase and save samples of every model of car, and have been doing it going back to the 1920s. But film industry automobile preservation doesn’t help average citizens much, even if they could go to a Hollywood museum and look at all those models, which as far as I know, they can’t.
Sixty years ago, my brother and I, constantly chauffeured to one place or another in my parents’ second-hand 1954 Nash (which happily I still see today on Superman reruns) would play the game of “Name the make and year of that car” as traffic drove by: ’49 Chevy stick shift; ’53 Buick, with dynaflow automatic transmission that almost growled (we called it super-slush, it was so slow); ’55 two-tone Ford with the long chrome checkmark dividing the colors (white and turquoise was sweet).
Or a ’56 Oldsmobile, hydramatic transmission (much faster than dynaflow); ’57 Plymouth, with the fantastic swept wings on the back looking like shark fins, and pushbutton automatic transmission; and, most fantastic of all — the ’59 Cadillac with gigantic swept wings and a wrap-around windshield back and front. If you owned that model it meant you were “rich,” driving what was sort of an American royal carriage. It also had two chrome “Mae West” front bumpers that really bumped. Today they would be politically incorrect.
The 1958 Oldsmobile was the most chromed-up car of all time: It seemed it had a musical score sheet minus a G-cleff sign in chrome on its fender and doors.
Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Go to Cuba and you will see.
That’s why I suggest that we baby boomers well into our nostalgia years create a new living, moving, chugging, sputtering, clunking museum called the Cuban Automotive Preservation Society (CAPS). It would be a kind of Car Disneyworld of Cuba, complete with dents and smog. As at Disneyworld, you would have to pay an entry fee, and then, a la Uber, you could order by cellphone a driver with the car of your choice: a ’49 Packard stick shift with a flat 8 engine, a ’56 DeSoto, with pushbutton drive, or a ’59 Cadillac convertible with its machete-like fins. Of course, Ralph Nader’s seatbelts would have to be added for safety.
Take a vacation to Cuba and ride real dinosaurs from my childhood. Walt Disney: Where are you when we need you?

Paul Keane lives in Hartford. He drives a 1984 vintage Z-28 Camaro T-Top.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

* Jurassic Park on Wheels in Cuba


 
 

Cuba, diplomatically unfrozen after 50 years,  is more than an economic treasure for investors now that the Cuban flag flies over an embassy in Washington.  It is a living (driving)  automobile time capsule. And it should be preserved as such,  like the San Francisco cable cars,  cruising (or rumbling) alongside all the  modern  vehicles which will now flow into Cuba’s auto market.


It’s an automotive Jurassic Park, with dinosaur cars long extinct in the rest of the world, still roaring away, the bizarre, time-warp creation of the embargo which prevented Cubans from importing new cars for 50 years.  Ah, politics! Creator of  such a strange beauty, at least beauty to my mind. Cubans had no choice but to make do with the cars they had in 1960, the year the embargo was imposed by the United States. The Ford Edsel, produced only from 1958 -1960, just squeaked under the embargo’s wire.

 
 

Every time I watch a news snippet of Cuban streets, I see all the cars I grew up with.  I can identify by sight instantly every car from 1949- 1960----- practically the entire automotive inventory of Cuba’s traffic in 2015.

Cars were my life when I was a kid.  Every September I would ride my bike  a mile on Whitney Avenue and stand in front of Ekblade Oldsmobile’s show room hoping to see the new model Oldsmobile for next year. Sometimes it took days of wasted bike trips before the new car appeared in the showroom.  But once it did you had a preview of four other GM cars which were variations on the theme of Oldsmobile, up or down:  Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac. The same went for DeSoto:  Once you saw that new model, the rest of Chrysler models were simply variations on the theme:  Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial.

I understand that Hollywood producers each year purchase and save ten samples of every car and every model of car going back to the 1920’s.  Scenes in the 1974 Robert Redford film The Great Gatsby for instance used those cars on the actual  Riverside Drive, a block of which New York’s Mayor’s office closed for a day or two for Hollywood filming.

 
But that film-industry automobile preservation doesn’t help the average citizen much, even if they could go to a Hollywood museum and look at all those models, which as far as I know, they can’t.

Sixty years ago my brother and I, constantly chauffeured  to one place or another in my parents’ second-hand,  1954 Nash (which happily I still see today on Superman re-reruns)  would play the game of “Name the make and year of that car” as the traffic drove by: ’49 Chevy stick shift; ‘53 Buick, with dynaflow automatic transmission that almost growled (we called it super-slush it was so slow) ; ’55  two-tone Ford with the long  chrome check-mark,  on fenders and door dividing the colors (white and turquoise was sweet);


 
Or a ‘56 Oldsmobile, hydramatic  transmission (much faster than dynaflow) ; ’57 Plymouth, with the fantastic swept wings on the back which look like shark fins today and pushbutton automatic transmission; and, most fantastic of all---even today --- was the ‘59 Cadillac with gigantic swept wings and a wrap around windshield back and front. 

If you owned that Cadillac  it meant you were “rich”, driving what was sort of an American royal carriage back in 1959.  It also had  two chrome “Mae West” front bumpers that really bumped.  Today they would be politically incorrect.

 

The 1958 Oldsmobile---a bomb even when it was new --- was the most chromed up car of all time : It  seemed it had a musical score sheet  minus a G-cleff sign in chrome on its fender and doors, making it look it so heavy  it could barely move.   


 
Does anyone know what I’m talking about?  Go to Cuba and you will see.

That’s why I suggest that we baby boomers well into our nostalgia-years  create a  new living, moving, chugging, sputtering, clunking museum called the Cuban Automotive Preservation Society (CAPS).  It would be a kind of  Car Disneyworld of Cuba, complete with dents and smog.  Like Disneyworld, you would have to pay an entry fee, and then, like Uber,  you could order by cell phone a driver with the car of your choice:  a ’49 Nash stick-shift, or a ’56 Desoto, with pushbutton drive; or a ’59 Cadillac convertible with its machete–like fins. Of course Ralph Naders seat belts would have to be added for safety.  even if they are an anachronism.

Take a vacation to Cuba and ride real dinosaurs from my childhood. Walt Disney: Where are you when we need you?

 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

* Retirement

Link to blog: http://pkretired.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

* Fallen Fathers: Atticus and Heathcliff



 
 
 
 
 
Fallen Fathers
by
Paul Keane

 
In one week, America has had two of its sainted fathers---one white, one black, destroyed by their very creators: novelist Harper Lee and actor Bill Cosby.

Lee has turned her fictional white paragon of fatherhood and racial fairnesss, 52-year-old lawyer Atticus Finch (remember Gregory Peck?) , into a 72-year-old rheumatic Atticus , who has attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting, complains about NAACP lawyers and bad mouths integration.  Or so the New York Times reviewer with early access to Ms. Lee’s long awaited novel, Go Set a Watchman, tells us.

The same week that the Times reviewed  the novel Watchman, Bill Cosby,  the actor, who created America’s most beloved black father, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, on The Bill Cosby Show,  destroyed his own creation by admitting under oath that he purchased qualudes decades ago to give to women from whom he sought sexual favors, as a way of making them less resistant.  Over forty women have claimed they were victims of Cosby’s ruse.

Some say this admission makes him a serial rapist, a far worse offense than the transformation of  white Atticus Finch from a noble defense attorney for a falsely accused black rapist in the 1930’s in To Kill a Mockingbird, into a unpleasant segregationist twenty years later in Watchman of 1957. Atticus of 1957 merely troubles the heart of his now 26 year old daughter Scout. Cosby has troubled our nation and manhood itself.

 Oprah,  called To Kill a Mockingbird “our national novel”, but now its predecessor Go Set a Watchman may turn out to be our national nightmare: Bogey men, it turns out,  can invade even the soul of an Atticus Finch  when twenty years of national NAACP lobbying threatens small town Southern life. We knew such invasions were going on around us but chose to believe in a fantasy white father, the Atticus of Mockingbird, a male ideal—and a white one at that ---  Oprah’s idealized hope for  the world.

After all, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was a member of the Ku Klux Klan as was longtime Senate majority leader, Robert Byrd.  The Mockingbird Atticus may have been a pure hearted lawyer, but that was in  1937 ten years before a president would have the courage to integrate the armed forces. All that time the soul of the Atticus of 1957 Watchman was being corrupted by racist ideation.  Or so we are left to conclude from the New York Times’ preview of Lee’s novel.

 In reality however, isn’t  racism  in everyone’s heart, maybe even Oprah’s?  Even Abraham Lincoln contemplated sending slaves to another country rather than emancipating them.  And we want to think Thomas Jefferson had affection for his slave Sally Hemmings in the 18th century,  with whom he fathered several children after his wife died; but when a boss initiates an affair with an employee in 2015, we call that sexual harassment, especially if the boss is a United States president.  Ask Bill Clinton.

And add the race ingredient of Hemmings being African American, and a slave ---not an employee—and you have a situation similar to Cosby’s. Instead of qualudes overcoming  sexual resistance  you have the intoxication of  power doing so. Some old fashioned romantics would  call that love.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there were pure hearts without racism in the past : William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example.  But they lived in the 1830’s before we institutionalized racism as a national policy and then rehearsed it for 100 years with separate but equal scenarios in the  armed forces, restaurants, schools, buses and bathrooms, pretending all the while that treating others as if they were contaminated was a just and right thing to do.  It is that 100 years which weighs on us, slowly corrupting even an Atticus.

Yes racism can invade even the pure and noble heart of a great  white father, and the Atticus of Mockingbird, the Atticus portrayed by Gregory Peck, was great, and white, and a father.  That is what Harper Lee’s new---first ---novel  Watchman may tell us:  Even the great father can be corrupted.

But before our own era of Jim Crow segregation, the 100 years  of plantation owners having their way with women slaves, cannot exonerate or mitigate the behavior of Bill Cosby.  His fall from grace is not merely on the printed pages of a long hidden text.   It is printed on the hearts of all of us who wanted to believe in a great black father, one who came into our living rooms on a television screen every week for years.  We found instead the dark heart of another twisted male huckster.

 It is the female, Scout (Jean Louise) Finch, Atticus’s daughter, age 26 in Watchman but only 6 in Mockingbird,  who raises the same question about her beloved white father which society asks of Bill Cosby, creator of the America’s most beloved black father: How could he do this?

The answer is in the pronoun.

Maleness has come to represent something troubling in our world from fraternities to the halls of Congress,  to statehouses.

A corrupted Atticus Finch and a corrupted Bill Cosby are not that far apart: Fathers fallen from the hearts of those who wanted to love them, on the printed page and the flickering screen. Fallen because they live not in Oprah’s ideal world of hope, but in the real world of broken males.

 

* Rebonni----------------Teacher: Rowan A. Greer





Rowan A. Greer III


What would prompt a renowned scholar of  Patristics to agree to write an introduction ( below) to a  student authored journal of satirical essays at Yale Divinity School entitled Holy Smoke?

Perhaps  Professor Christopher Beeley, who succeeded Mr. Greer at Yale, suggests the answer in his obituary tribute: A Generous Scholar-Priest.

"Many noted how willingly he attended to the least scholarly students as much as the brightest lights. He had a gift for drawing out the genius in even the most ignorant question, teaching
you so subtly and charitably as to almost hide the fact that you didn't already know it."

Mr. Greer and devoted companion.


 
Professor Christopher Beeley
Yale Divinity School
 
July 10, 2015
 
Dear Mr. Beeley:
 
I read with great satisfaction your tribute to Rowan Greer which I discovered only today on the Internet.
I was particularly pleased that you did justice to him as meticulous scholar and believer. And as aloof from the academic fads of the moment.
As Letty Russell once averred with a mixture of impatience and (I suspect) respect :  "Rowan Greer lives in the third century ".
True.
That made seeing him in  tennis garb on the YDS courts all the more amazing ----  not quite a priest on skateboard , but close.
You rightly spoke of his devotion to the average student.
Almost my first class with him at YDS in 1976 as an M. Div candidate, I knocked on his office door and confessed my doubts that I was too secular and too untutored in the the Bible to succeed at YDS.
Had I made a mistake? Would I flunk out?
He calmed me down and reassured me : "There are three grades at YDS --- Pass, High Pass and Honors. High Pass is what everyone gets".
And then he added: "The hardest thing about the place is getting in."
If that didn't calm me down his  unflappably mellifluous voice made it clear.
I relaxed.
And when later that year I began publishing a controversial essay  sheet called "Holy Smoke: Opinionation from Holy Hill"    Mr. Greer was one of the few faculty members who would allow himself to be seen reading it attentively at coffee hour.
 
Occasionally he would even praise my writing.
I don't know how it began but we exchanged Christmas cards for decades until two years ago when I wrote a follow up to see what was wrong.
He wrote back in his impeccable and tiny script, on the same plain folded sheet he used for decades, that he had been "hit by a truck" while walking the dog . (We had both shared our dog stories over the years.) I was flabbergasted.
He also mentioned that this accident had "set him back" from which comment I  gathered he had been  recuperating from something else prior to the accident. "Old age" was all he offered.
I knew better than to pry and sent my best wishes. 
I did not hear from him this year until I scoured the Net today and found your wonderful tribute.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Paul D. Keane , '80
M.A, M.Div., M.Ed.