Monday, April 04, 2011

Transformers versus westerns

I ran across this snippet of conversation I jotted down back when my oldest daughter had just turned 5, when she was looking at a few of my original generation toys:
DAUGHTER: "Who are the good guys?" 
DADDY: "The Autobots." 
DAUGHTER: "Are they white?" 
DADDY: "No. They're all colors." 
DAUGHTER: "Oh. Who are the bad guys?" 
DADDY: "Decepticons." 
DAUGHTER: "Who's the white one?" 
DADDY: "Megatron." 
DAUGHTER: "Is he good?" 
DADDY: "No, he's the leader of the bad ones." 
DAUGHTER: "Oh. Daddy?" 
DADDY: "Yes?" 
DAUGHTER: "I thought good guys were white." 
DADDY: "In Westerns, Honey. Not in Transformers." 
DAUGHTER: "Oh. Daddy?" 
DADDY: "yes?" 
DAUGHTER: "What are Westerns?"

(Can't wait until she's old enough to watch Fistful of Dollars ...)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Remembering Victor

Today marks the two-year anniversary of when we lost my Dad-in-Law, Victor Wallace Tirabassi.

He's been on my mind a lot lately, and sometimes in what I thought were "weird" associations.

The strangest (I thought) was the Johnny Cash song, "One Piece at a Time". I simply couldn't get it out of my head, and hearing it made me think of Dad, and wish so much that he was back with us.

"One Piece At A Time"

Well, I left Kentucky back in '49
An' went to Detroit workin' on a 'sembly line
The first year they had me puttin' wheels on cadillacs

Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by
And sometimes I'd hang my head and cry
'Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black.

One day I devised myself a plan
That should be the envy of most any man
I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand.

I'd get it one piece at a time
And it wouldn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is a round.

So the very next day when I punched in
With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
Now, I never considered myself a thief
GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
Especially if I strung it out over several years.

The first day I got me a fuel pump
And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
Then I got me a transmission and all of the chrome
The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home.

Now, up to now my plan went all right
'Til we tried to put it all together one night
And that's when we noticed that something was definitely wrong.

The transmission was a '53
And the motor turned out to be a '73
And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone.

So we drilled it out so that it would fit
And with a little bit of help with an Adapter kit
We had that engine runnin' just like a song
Now the headlight' was another sight
We had two on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em come on.

The back end looked kinda funny too
But we put it together and when we got through
Well, that's when we noticed that we only had one tail-fin
About that time my wife walked out
And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
But she opened the door and said "Honey, take me for a spin."

So we drove up town just to get the tags
And I headed her right on down main drag
I could hear everybody laughin' for blocks around
But up there at the court house they didn't laugh
'Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds.

I got it one piece at a time
And it didn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is around.

[Spoken] Ugh! Yow, RED RYDER 
This is the COTTON MOUTH

Huh, This is the COTTON MOUTH
And negatory on the cost of this mow-chine there RED RYDER
You might say I went right up to the factory
And picked it up, it's cheaper that way
Ugh! what model is it? 

Then I figured some of it out.

First, ignore the "stealing from the company" aspect of the song above -- that wasn't Vic.

I've talked before about Vic's generosity, his faith, and his inspiration.

I don't think I've said -- can say -- enough about his sense of humor, his patience, his dogged determinism in everything he did.

Vic was a man who could laugh at himself.

He was a carpenter who could be working a job and have him (or someone else) make a mistake, he'd get hurt, and he'd laugh it off (usually while yelling, "Fer crying out loud!").

There was an incident before my wife and I were married when we were all trying to jumpstart a dead car. My to-be brother-in-law in the driver's seat, Dad and I pushing the car, my fiancĂ©e nearby, and when that car kicked into life, Vic went down hard on the pavement, I jumped over him like an out-of-shape long jumper. Everyone but me laughing hysterically.

Everyone. Including Dad, who had just kissed asphalt.

Not much later, when my wife and I were first married, she had to make major adjustments to "my way" of doing physically demanding home repairs. I was all grit and muscle, and if I was powering through a hard project, I did not have time or focus to split on answering a question about what we might want to do next weekend.

Vic, though, always had time. He could be balanced, one-foot on a too-short step-ladder, straining to replace a light fixture, and anyone could ask him a question, and -- sweat pouring down his face -- he'd have a conversation. He'd laugh, he'd give advice, he'd help, he'd keep working, and he didn't get frustrated or mad at being "interrupted". He would ask for a wrench and laugh if you messed with him and gave him a hammer.

The other thing that strikes me about this Cash song is the factory worker side of things. Vic worked in steel and plastics factories for probably more than 20 years. He just worked, back-busting, brutal gigs, and never lost his sense of humor, his accessibility, his overall multifaceted good nature.

Sure, he wasn't perfect, but he -- by choice and by nature -- took all of that time and refined himself into a beautiful, hilarious, generous, much-loved man.

And anything along the lines of taking the patience and non-OCD focus over the course of years to build a mashup luxury car? That's just vintage Vic.

(Y'know, minus the stealing part.)

Here's to "Poppa Day" #2...