Saturday, July 22, 2017

Introducing Barry 2.0.

Let me preface this essay by saying that I recently retired as a teacher.  It was a great job. I loved it. 

Let me preface this essay by saying that I recently retired as a teacher.  It was a great job. I loved it. 

I must say that this retirement business is pretty cool.  I mean, I’m enjoying it.  Immensely.  I feel that I have hit the reset button and have morphed  into Barry version 2.0.  Barry 2.0 has a totally different mindset than the former, working at a job, Barry.  Here is an example.  The day after my final day at work, I caught a cold.   The old version of me would have ranted and raved.  “Those little germ factories! Had to give me cold.  Blah blah blah.  Lost a week of my precious summer vacation!”  Right?   Not Barry 2.0.  Nope.  “Cold? Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to stay home, binge watch Netflix, and nap, la-de-da.”  See, much improved.  I got up at 11:30 this morning.  Who does that?  Retired Barry 2.0 does.   

And that’s not all.  I can plan stuff without having to fit everything into one summer vacation.  Usually, I run around so much during the summer that instead of being rested, I’m exhausted at the end of it.  First day back from summer vacation, I want to faint.  I have to take a nap every day for a week just to get back to something that resembles normal. Not any more.  Uh-uh.  Now I can go on vacation in the fall.  Awesome!  

The old me would start losing his mind as soon as August hit.  June is a chill month. July, very languid and relaxed. August? It flies by, fast AF, and before you know it, I’ll see you in September.  What? Where the hell did the summer go?  Now? Every day is Saturday, every week is vacation week.  And I’m a vacation kind of guy.  So Barry 2.0 is liking this a lot.  

Old Barry would  balk at going to  a concert or a hockey game in the middle of the week.  “I have to call in “sick,” make up lesson plans, and besides it will take me FOREVER to recover.  Barry 2.0?  Not only am I going to see a concert during a work week, it’s going to be on Sunday!  And speaking about Sunday.  No more  Sunday night dread!   Barry 2.0 no longer deals with that shit.  Uh-uh. A thing of the past my man.  A thing of the past.  

Before the update, people would come up to me and ask what am I going to do after I retire.  Most wanted me to get a job.  Ah, hello?  I am retiring from a job.  I am retiring from a job that I love, to get a pay cut, and work in something that I will most likely hate?     I was hard pressed to figure that out.  The point of retirement is NOT to work.  Even the old version figured that one out.  

I know what you are thinking.  Barry 2.0, you suck!  Perhaps I do, but  you too will be here soon enough. In the meantime, I’m going to buckle up tight and enjoy the ride.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lime Rock Park; The Most Fun You Can Have With A Helmet On

Recently I went to an autocross event at Lime Rock Park.  Lime Rock Park is a phenomenal road race course located in Litchfield County, Connecticut.  It’s a gorgeous venue and a great track to enjoy racing. I saw Paul Newman win an SCCA race back in 1986.  It’s been something that I had wanted to do for a while, but never found the time.  Well folks, now that I am retired, every day is Saturday in my world, so I signed up.  I had just finished breaking in a ’17 Subaru BRZ, and I was ready to see what this thing could do.  It’s a great car to drive.  I have a thing for little red sport coupes and this is by far the best one I have owned.  I ordered it with a manual transmission, as well as upgraded brakes(amazing), tires (meh), wheels (cool looking) and shocks (freakin’ awesome).   A great car to drive around in.  It is MADE for driving. It really has no other use. Beautiful lines, very comfortable seating, nice cockpit layout and the clutch and transmission are very light and quick.   And it is light!  2800 pounds give or take.  

So off to Lime Rock Track at seven in the morning.  It was a wonderful ride up, talking, listening to the Beatles on the radio.  Beautiful day.  We get there and are introduced to the guys that are going to run the event.  Great guys; a lot of racing knowledge between them.  We are broken up into two groups; the noobs, me and 11 other people, and the people with some experience.  
They tell us to inflate our tires to 40 psi to increase negative camber, which is when you see the top of tires canted towards the center of the car and the bottoms are splayed out.  Bottom line, it puts more tire on the road, which in turn increases grip, and that’s is going to be something that I want a lot of today because the BRZ is going to get thrashed around and I don’t want to make an idiot of myself in front of a group of strangers with some fairly nice cars.  I’ll get to those in a bit. The fairly nice cars, not me making an idiot of myself.  

So of course I miss where the air pump is and have to drive around the paddock.  Which wasn’t a bad thing because there was a Ferrari Club racing event on the main track.  Now THAT is an expensive hobby! And that is coming from someone who has a few pricy hobbies himself.   In addition to buying a good Ferrrari,  you have to trick it out, suspension, fire suppression, tires, tuneups, parts, spares; the list is endless.  And did I mention expensive?  But they put on a great show.  Fun watching these gorgeous cars racing wheel to wheel.  Now I am next to last in the air line.  Finally add some air, check the pressure and back up to the course.  And of course I miss the walk around on the track.  I get there just in time to here the instructors say all right lets get on the track.  Ahhh.  Ok, I can do this.   Luckily I’m in the last group so I have some time to figure out whats what.  There is an elevation change, a chicane (sort of like a slight zig-zag in the road, very cool), a sweeping turn and  a tight one.    

Meanwhile before my turn, I’m checking out the other cars and people.  Mostly guys, but a few women were the crowd.  A couple of Porsche Boxsters, a Corvette, a Toyota MR2 (I love that car), another BRZ, a really nice ’02 Honda S2000, as well as a few Minis, and this dude who sort of reminded me of Doc in Back To The Future,  with a one-off, hand built car frame thing. This “car” was all open, no roof, no fenders, no doors, seriously no car, just a frame with an engine.  And he wore a full race suit.  Guy must have sweated out  gallons; it was an  uber hot day. A Mustang GT,  and even a lady in a Volkswagen Passat, whom I will come to hate. More on that later.  The stars of the day, IMHO, were a perfectly restored ’67 Jaguar XKE, and a ’71 Triumph TR6 (another fav car of mine).  These were in mint condition.  Just beautiful cars.  

Finally my group is getting called to get onto the track.  I put my helmet on, snug but comfortable.  The worst part is the heat.  It was in the eighties that day  and very muggy.  That bucket on your head heats up right quick.  Buckle up and we are off. Hit the throttle, bring the tach up to about 6500 RPM’s and shift to second,  and that’s pretty much it.    Basically you never get out of second gear. The track it short enough, and challenging enough that second gear is pretty much all you need.  However, when they reconfigure the track, third gear becomes an option.  But you remember that lady in the Passat?  Well, guess who didn’t get a chance to snick it into third gear because of her.  That would be me.  We will get back to that.

So I’m on the track getting the feel of it and taking the car maybe fifty percent of what I perceived to be the limits of it.  Of course I was wrong because that car has skills.  The instructor motions me over to tell me a few tweaks to help my technique.  Where to brake, turn, what angle I should be taking.  I’m so amped up on adrenaline I nod my head as if I’m actually following him, and he sends me off.  All right, what the fuck did he say? A few more laps, I’m getting more confident, the car is behaving well and I haven’t spun out.  All good.

Mike, the head guy, is another Subaru fan so we get to talking and I ask him to jump in and show me the course.  He tells me when to brake, where to break, where to point the car, when to accelerate and when to back off.  We go around the track a couple dozen times and every lap I feel more confident and start to hammer on the Subaru.  He’s coaching me through every inch of this course.  Freakin’ awesome.  The car is amazing.  I was pushing it to my limits (not the car’s) and maybe a bit more.  I don’t believe I scratched the surface on how wonderfully the car handles.  Next round I’m on my own.  Accelerate, point the car, brake, let up, accelerate repeat. Only once did I feel the rear end breaking loose.  I went into the corner a little too hot.  I felt the rear end slightly break, but then the stability control kicked up and then sent me on my merry way.   Being a noobie, I didn’t want to switch it to track mode.  There was literally nothing that could happen there that could damage the car, so you really can have fun without worrying about getting into an accident. The only thing that you could damage would be your ego.  Which can’t be said for the poor ( metaphorically speaking) Ferrari guy who crashed his car on the track.  He damaged his car and his ego. That, was an expensive weekend for that dude.  

Now we are going to do some time trials with the winner getting bragging rights and invited back for a championship run. Cool.  Something to work for.  You get five laps of which the first one is the warm up, the next three are timed and the last is a cool down.  One car at a time and I’m in the back of the pack.  Finally my turn.  I take a nice, leisurely warm up lap until the turn coming into the starting line.  I nail and come in hot.  Backoff through the chicane, aim for the cone, stand on the gas, get ready to hit the brakes hard, turn, let the inertia power you the through the turn, accelerate, shoot out of the turn under full power, here comes the other chicane, off the throttle for a nano-second, right-left-turn-turn accelerate, here comes the sweeper, point, wait, brake, turn and so on.  Second time through I am screaming through the chicane and SHIT! Hit a cone.  Two second penalty.  In autocross 2 seconds might as well be two years.  Wah, wah.  One more run and the cool down lap.  My times for this were 21.4, 21.7 and 21.8 (plus two for the cone) seconds.  The winner was 19 and some change.  It put me in the higher end of the pack.  For a first time noob?  It’s all good. 

Last phase the track is reconfigured to have both left and right turns as well as elevation changes AND a reasonably long straight away that the instructor said that you might want to try shifting into third.  Of course I want to give that a try.  Get up enough speed to hit third gear?  I’m in! Oh, remember the woman in the Passat?  She was in front of me.  She  was driving the track like it was a jaunt to the grocery store.  This track configuration was so much fun.  But she was In front of me taking her time, hitting the brakes when she shouldn’t have and checking out the scenery.  I would slow down, get some distance, then have at it.  Nope, she was tootling along, la-de-da and I was running out of track before I could shift into third.  Yeah, I know, first world problems, I get it.  

Anyway, it was an amazing day. Learned a lot about the BRZ, saw some cool cars and just had a ball.   Looking forward to doing that again so I signed up for the advanced course in September.  That will be all one-on-one coaching plus skid pad.  That is gonna be fun!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Gloria Scott; July 28, 1926 to February 3, 2017

So here we are standing around my mothers’ grave and, even in death, she is the center of attention.   When she walked into a room, it lit up, and she owned it.   She was brash, blond and bold.  Vain as the day is long, the worst cook ever, the most amazing secretary, a good mother, loved my father dearly,  and could talk your ear off.  She never held back.   And did I ever tell you she could hold a grudge?  Oi Vai.  Though,  if she loved you, it was for life.  

She used to tell a story about wanting to join the USO  and entertain the troops during World War Two.   She was a looker, had spunk, and had a beautiful singing voice.  It was probably around 1944 after she graduated high school.   Her father nixed the idea saying, “A goil hasta woik,”  thus dashing her hopes for fame. The consolation prize was having her in the room shmoozing,  telling jokes and stories, and entertaining us.    

She was a voracious reader and gifted to me the love of reading.   One of my first memories is taking the bus into downtown Bridgeport and going to the public library.   Big lobby,  polished wood and brass, very, very quiet.   I was maybe five.  We walked up to this huge circular desk, a large silver-haired women behind it, bustling around doing book things and such,  and my mother tells me we are giving the books back.  WTF?  Or the whatever the five year old equivalent of WTF is,  I screamed out, “It’s mine!” My mother and I literally had a tug-o-war with the book in the middle of the library.  People shushing us left and right.   I won the tug-o-war and proceeded to throw the book at the silver haired lady and hit her in the head.   As I was being dragged out, I distinctly remember screaming, “I hate you. I hate you!”  But I'm never without a book!

Being from Brooklyn she fancied herself as a tough, savvy, street-smart, woman.  Oh, she was indeed.  She had such a passion about  jewelry.    She loved it so much that she got into the business  or as she would say, “The biz a neese.”   Why she said it that way, who knows.  She relished going into New York on buying trips.  She especially enjoyed handeling(negotiating) in a man’s world and holding her own.     For her, she got a thrill out of not only picking out the jewelry, but negotiating and matching wits with the seller on price.  She LOVED a bargain.  She was  extremely generous with her stuff.   She was always giving away something; a charm, a chain, some earrings.  She shared her love of jewelry with others. 

I can never remember a time when music was not on the stereo.  She was proud of that stereo.  Music was always on. Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Vaughn Monroe, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, crooners and big band.  Oh and Barbara Streisand.  Oh my god, Babs was her bomb.  And yes we had a stereo when no one had one.   It was a mahogany RCA console with brown and gold grills.  My mother was, we shall  put it mildly, cheap.  Very, very cheap.  A tightwad if you will.  This was an unprecedented extravagance.   It sat as the focal point in the living room for a long time.  It did have a stereo speaker that they ended up buying separately.   When they got it home it didn’t sound as well as it did in the store.  I'm sure at the time they didn’t want to spring for the extra cost of the speaker but as soon as she heard a low sound quality, she and my father marched back to the appliance store and bought the speaker.   They came home from the store, speaker in tow, laughing hysterically about woofers and tweeters.  That’s all we heard all week woofers and tweeters.  When guests came over, yup, you guessed it, woofers and tweeters.  I still laugh when I hear that term.  

Because of the woofers and tweeters, I have loved music all my life.  It’s one of the things that I could never live without.  When I was twelve she asked me if I wanted to take up a musical instrument.  I immediately said, “The drums!”  She said absolutely not.  Too noisy.  So I got private saxophone lessons.   I hated that instrument.   Mercifully after a year of torture, it was over.   But later on I took up the drums. And, the guitar as well.  Thanks mom.  

As talented as she was, she was not without her faults.   She was an abysmal cook.  Horrible.  I prayed that my parents would go out on the weekend so I could have a TV dinner.   Once in junior high she gave me a sardine sandwich for lunch.  Who does that?  I couldn’t trade it for anything.  Took one bite, threw it out and was starving all day.  I’m famished by the time I get home.  “Why did you give me a sardine sandwich?” I cried.    “I thought you liked them.” She replied,  “You had a sardine the other day and you said it was ok.”  I thought that was just idle chatter.   I never dreamed she would turn that into my newfound culinary must-have.   Her disdain of cooking led me to become a pretty good cook.  And that love of cooking was passed on to her grandchild Aaron.  And speaking of grandchildren she loved them so much.   Joshua, Todd and Aaron.  She always asked for them first when we talked.  

She was an exceptionally   vain woman.   Never leaving the house without her face on.  Always dressed to the nines.  She was contemporary and stylish.  With a dash of extravagance.   Well, maybe more than a dash. Actually, a lot more.  Even a walk to the mailbox was an ordeal because, “Maybe I should  meet someone on the way, God forbid, and she sees me looking like this.”    My father adored her.   Anything you want hon.  Anything you want.  She doted  on my father to the ends of the earth. The sun rose and set on my wonderful brother Steven.  It broke her a bit when he passed.   But she was a “tough broad” as she was fond of referring to herself, and life for her resumed. Sadder, but I could always coax a laugh out of her. And she loved to laugh.   

All of the gifts that she gave me and made me who I am do not compare to her last one.   Her last gift to me on the day she passed away was our first grandchild.   A little girl.  In twelve hours I went from profound grief and sadness to profound joy.   Somehow she knew it was time.   And that kind of sums her up.  My mother always loved to get in the last word. I love you mom.