Sunday, February 18, 2018
Opinion

Wild ride with beloved van comes to an end

I once had a car salesman tell me that he would give me $1,000 in trade for my current vehicle, "If you can get it onto the lot under its own power," an offer he came to regret when he learned that steering damage made it necessary for me to make four right turns in order to accomplish one left turn.

The offer was, of course, contingent on the smoke and mirrors, creative arithmetic approach that some of those folks use, but I like to think he had a bad afternoon explaining that one to his boss.

The point is, I am hard on vehicles and don't trade them until the last possible minute. Okay, if you take a look at the final stack of repair bills . . . maybe a few months past the last possible, or at least the last practical minute.

And so it was with great sorrow and reticence on both my part and that of the guys at the repair shop where it was spending most of its time, that I finally traded in my old battered, white, bumper-sticker-plastered hippie van for something a little more staid, conservative and anonymous.

If you are looking for punditry here, I apologize in advance, although there is a bit of a spiritual, or at least philosophical, aspect to the decision and process. And I promise that, at least in this space, you won't see any references (other than this one) to Medicare, foreign policy, the economy or uteruses.

Before I retired, my vehicles were an extension of my persona. My column was titled "Off/Beat" and (even though the true origin of the name had to do with giving reporters a chance to write about something off of their beats) my personality and lifestyle doubled the meaning.

I am a nudist, a Buddhist, a Deadhead (diehard fan of the Grateful Dead) and an unabashed liberal.

Deadheads run to heavy use of bumper stickers about the band and other things and, having always followed the motto, "Nothing Exceeds Like Excess," I overdid it.

A Grateful Dead logo (Steal Your Face, for the faithful) and the legend "Jerry Lives" were emblazoned on the driver's side door, referring to my once-upon-a-time physical resemblance to Jerry Garcia, the band's late lead guitarist.

Other stickers proclaimed my views on things like gay rights (Straight, not Narrow) world peace, religion and what passes for music these days. One of my favorites read, "It's all right, I wasn't using my civil liberties anyhow," and another said, "I embarrass my offspring." I don't remember buying that one and they might have placed it there.

Also acknowledged was my service in the Marine Corps and in Vietnam and to the fact that I was a military parachutist.

Funny. I always snort at the sight of other people who display their social and political philosophies on T-shirts (as do I) and the bumpers of their cars, but I probably snort a little louder if they disagree with me.

Still, the vehicle and my former appearance (also toned down a little recently) had some promotional value and served as an conversational icebreaker, as it did with the state trooper in Texas I saw gazing at the back of my van (okay, over the years I saw a LOT of cops gazing at the back of my van). The young, polite trooper made note of the peacenik/military dichotomy and asked, "Aren't you a little confused, sir?" Word to the wise: If asked that while wearing a T-shirt reading, "Not all who wander are lost," just smile, nod and keep moving.

Also, when driving across the country, the view made a lot of people wave and gesture. Sometimes using all their fingers, sometimes just their thumbs and sometimes all of their digits.

I am trying to follow a spiritual path that calls, in part, for the abolition of ego and self.

I lost the trademark cowboy hat years ago, lost 87 pounds, the shoulder-length hair and most of the beard a year or so ago, and now I have lost the rolling billboard inviting all eyes to be on me and in a small town, advertising my whereabouts 24/7.

I traded on a four-door compact hatchback that I have sworn would bear no bumper stickers.

Proudly, I took a friend to lunch to show off the new me and the new wheels.

"Really," she said in the parking lot. "Red?"

Baby steps.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18