Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Hupmobile - Ahead of It's Time

The Hupmobile was a cheaply made, easily maintained car with a 4 cylinder engine way back before anyone was really thinking about mileage. From 1909 until just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Hupp Motor Company of Detroit was turning out these snazzy; and also classic; automobiles.

Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1909 they caught on instantly; selling at about $500 bucks each.The manufacturer; Robert Craig Hupp; was a former employee at both Oldsmobile and Ford Motor Companies; and decided to take a gamble on his own. Organized in 1908; along with his brother Louis; they began the actual production of the first car in 1909. By 1910 the demand had increased to over 500 per year.

Robert Hupp had some disagreements with his financial backers and sold his shares in 1910. He then founded the RCH Automobile Company, but soon foundered. He even tried an electric car under that name and also the Hupp-Yeats Electric Car Company.

By 1912 he would be one of only two automakers who used all-steel bodies. The other company was an English firm; BSA; famous for their motorcycles. Hupp was also busy designing and manufacturing a 7 passenger vehicle which would become the forerunner of Greyhound Bus.

While Hupp was doing these new experimental things, the company he originally founded was prospering along with the nation. In 1924 Hupp Motors was the leading competitor of both the Ford and Chevrolet companies. But even before the Depression was in full swing the company had seen a drop off in sales. They tried bigger touring cars, but somehow they couldn’t compete with the Pierce Arrows and foreign touring cars which were common during the 1920’s. This was a strategy which proved fatal; as they were shutting out their former “bread and butter” customers; who then went to Ford.

Hupp Motors continued with trying new designs during the 1930’s; even using Ford bodies which were modified. But by 1936 they were selling off the plants and other assets; meaning it was only a matter of time until this classic automobile would be gone. Even the acquisition of the Cord Motor Company designs; with thousands of orders; couldn’t save the company now. Without the plants they had sold off, they couldn’t fill them. They turned to competitor Graham-Paige Motor Co.; who had troubles of their own and arranged to share the Cord die; and were built at Graham's facilities. That car was called the Hollywood, and was essentially the same as the Skylark.

In 1939 the death blow came with only 319 orders to fill. The following year saw the closing of the Graham facilities; essentially marking the end of both companies. But what a legacy of design features Hupp left behind. He was the first to design and introduce what he called “free wheelin” the precursor of today’s 4 wheel drive. He was also the first to offer heaters using fresh air, rather than the engine air which was less than pleasant. The new technology became standard in the industry after Hupp left the field in 1940.

For a look at more of Hupp’s cars, use this link;

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bert's Story

While reading the book “The Train to Crystal City”; which I will review here on Monday; I ran across a new character who had heretofore been unknown to me. That’s a long way of saying I never heard of him before. What a story! I mean both the book; as well as the story of this man named Bert.

While flying a P-38 over Germany during the war, Bert was shot down. As a result he lost his leg and was traded in a POW exchange with Germany in early 1945. I know, you’re saying “So what? A lot of guys were wounded, maimed and came home when the war was over.” And you’re right about that. But there’s something special about Bert’s story.

On August 4, 1945; only 7 months after being exchanged as a POW; Bert was home and working. He had mastered the art of walking on an artificial leg while a POW in Germany. So, when he came home he was quick to return to work. Actually, it was kind of an extension of his old job.

The night of August 4, 1945 saw the Washington Senators baseball team being soundly whipped by the Red Sox. In the 4th inning the score was already 14-2. Bert was watching the game anxiously; he really loved the Senators and wanted the team to win. But things weren’t looking too good on that score.

While Bert probably wasn’t that surprised at the manager’s decision to put in a relief pitcher, he was surprised at the choice of the man who would be pitching. It would be Bert.

You see Bert was a pitcher before the war; and afterwards; in only 7 months’ time, he had become the Pitching Coach for the Washington Senator’s. And on the night of August 4, 1945, he made history; when he took the pitcher’s mound and became the first man with an artificial leg to pitch in a Major League Baseball game. You may know him as Bert Shepard.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Plain View - Probable Cause

We have a situation in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a man is flashing his neighbor’s wives and children from his front doorway; as well as his garage; where he works out in the nude. The Police claim to be powerless to do anything about this. They say he is not breaking the law.  Here is the N.C Statute pertaining to Indecent Exposure;

§ 14-190.9.  Indecent exposure.

(a)        Unless the conduct is punishable under subsection (a1) of this section, any person who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place and in the presence of any other person or persons, except for those places designated for a public purpose where the same sex exposure is incidental to a permitted activity, or aids or abets in any such act, or who procures another to perform such act; or any person, who as owner, manager, lessee, director, promoter or agent, or in any other capacity knowingly hires, leases or permits the land, building, or premises of which he is owner, lessee or tenant, or over which he has control, to be used for purposes of any such act, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

(a1)      Unless the conduct is prohibited by another law providing greater punishment, any person at least 18 years of age who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place in the presence of any other person less than 16 years of age for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire shall be guilty of a Class H felony. An offense committed under this subsection shall not be considered to be a lesser included offense under G.S. 14-202.1.

(b)        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.

(c)        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a local government may regulate the location and operation of sexually oriented businesses. Such local regulation may restrict or prohibit nude, seminude, or topless dancing to the extent consistent with the constitutional protection afforded free speech. (1971, c. 591, s. 1; 1993, c. 301, s. 1; c. 539, s. 124; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1998-46, s. 3; 2005-226, s. 1.)

The problem seems to be in the wording of sections (a) and (a1) which state the offense must be in a “public place.” The police and the District Attorney have stated that the man is on private property and so they are powerless. I have called the District Attorney’s office and have been told that they are not permitted; nor required; to entertain questions from the Public. They prosecute criminal offenders, supposedly in defense of society in general.

I now understand the difference between the Police and the District Attorney. The Police are there to protect your rights and help you out against the criminals; the District Attorney’s Office is engaged in both prosecuting; and defending; the rights of the criminals. In essence, they walk a fine line; working both sides of the aisle.  I don’t like it; but I now understand it.

My question is a simple one. If, for instance; the police can enter the premises of a home for probable cause based on something in plain sight; like a marijuana plant, or other overt circumstances; why then are they barred from arresting the naked flasher who operates from across an invisible property line, which places his actions in “Plain View” and thus creates the “probable cause” which would allow the police to intervene?

The answer is also simple; when you do something publicly, whether on public or private property, you relinquish; by your own actions; any reasonable expectation of privacy. If I can understand this principle, then why can't the District Attorneys Office? 

I’m no rocket scientist, but this seems to me to be a carelessly written law; not fully thought out as to the various ways in which it could be violated. The District Attorney is taking the stance that they are powerless to do anything about it until the law is rewritten. Clearly, that is not the case. Had this narrow type of thinking been prevalent back in the days of Prohibition, then Al Capone would never have been imprisoned for tax evasion.

The only thing which is keeping the people of that neighborhood in Charlotte from feeling safe is the lack of imagination in the Charlotte Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office.

Feel free to contact them at 704-686-0700. 

Or, by mail at 700 East Trade Street; 
                     Charlotte, NC 28202

Tell them Rob from Rooftop sent ya’. It will make their day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sneaking In.

When I was a kid visiting a parent in the hospital was not allowed. I don’t mean that as in visiting hours only, or accompanied by an adult. It was No Children, period. It was considered to be too unsettling for the patient to see their children; or so the patients were told. Of course that was a load of crap; the most unsettling thing for a parent when they are in the hospital is not seeing their children. And the children feel the same way. Somewhere around 1970 that all changed; and now hospitals are probably too full of visitors for anyone’s benefit. But that will have to be someone else’s story. My story takes place in 1960 when I was about 6 years old.

Everyone should have an Aunt; or two; like Aunt Sissy in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” It seems like childhood would be incomplete without someone like that in your life; an adult, but not subject to the usual rules. I was fortunate enough to have 2 such Aunts; my father’s sisters Gladys and Gloria. I've written about them before. They were just the right age to be Aunts; being my Dad's younger sisters. That's them with my grandmother "Nana" before I was born. 

In 1960 my mother began a series of illnesses which would color my childhood, and later on take her life. But not before she gave everyone a run for their money; and not until she was ready. Mom was tiny, but formidable. The point is that she was always in the hospital and I couldn't see her. My Aunts thought this was absurd, and so a plan was hatched, whereby we would be able to see our mom.

I remember the turquoise walls of the hospital; it seems like they painted all the health related buildings in that color. They may have called it turquoise, but I called it “puke green”. The plan was fairly simple; my brother and I would go up the stairs to the floor my mom was on. The only hitch was that at each floor the stairway entrance was directly opposite the head nurses station; making detection very likely.

I think it was Gladys who would emerge from the stairway and engage the head nurse in conversation, or question, as Gloria, my brother and I slipped past to the next flight of stairs. When we got to the next floor we would repeat the process until we got where we were headed. Once there Gladys had to do a prolonged version of diversion as Aunt Gloria quickly hustled us down the hallway to y mom’s room. Hey, sometimes we actually made it!

Other times we failed dismally. My brother could never get it right when we would pass each floor. The sequence went like this; Gloria would go first, and then call to one of us, who would then dash across the opening in a streak so as not to be seen. But my brother had a hard time with doing the quickstep and we got caught; and thrown out; more times than we got in. Ah, but you should of seen the glow on my mom’s face when we did.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Putamaya - World Music Series

For those not familiar with the Putumaya Series of World Music I should explain that this album is but one of many. There are Putumaya albums for virtually every type of music, and I have them all, courtesy of my local Public Library. As a matter of fact, these CD's represent world music in such a way that even the Mooresville Public Library, which does not have CD's, has these CD's. They are, literally, that valid, almost as much so as literature.

This album, "Americana", draws on every genre of American music, from the jazzy sound of Nora Roberts singing with The Little Willies, to the gospel sound of Terri Hendrix, all the sounds of American music are on display. The playlist may contain some names you have not heard before, such as The Little Willies, but these are the sounds that really drive the creativity of today's musicians.

1 Robinella • Down the Mountain
2 Mulehead • Frankie Lee
3 The Little Willies • It's Not You It's Me
4 Robert Earl Keen • Ride
5 Eliza Lynn • Sing a New Song
6 Old Crow Medicine Show • Wagon Wheel
7 Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez • Sweet Tequila Blues
8 Tim O'Brien • House of the Risin' Sun
9 Alison Brown • Deep Gap
10 Terri Hendrix • Prayer for My Friends
11 Josh Ritter • Harrisburg
12 Ruthie Foster • Hole In My Pocket

It's interesting to note that many of the progressive sounds we listen to in music are derived from the basic folk and bluegrass scenes, with a touch of jazz thrown in. And when it's all lumped together it becomes a uniquely American sound.

This album is so good that I keep a copy in each car and on my flash drive. I just don't want to lose it!

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Foreign Correspondent" by H.D.S. Greenway (2014)

What struck me most about this book is the author’s sense of history and his knowledge of literature.  His assessment of the post-World War Two era as post-colonial may hardly be novel; or even new. But his treatment of the subject allows a deeper understanding of just what has happened in the world since then. His assertion that the post-colonial era engendered many; if not all; of the world’s conflicts since then is borne out by contemporary history itself. And Mr. Greenway was on the front lines for much of it.

In this age of Brian Williams, Peter Jennings and Glenn Beck; as well as all the rest of the “pretenders”; what a joy it was to read this book by a real correspondent and veteran of 50 years of reporting from some of the hottest spots on the planet. This is one guy you never saw playing “anchorman” while the film rolled on the screen in a studio. Greenway was busy; he was there.

His accounting of Vietnam is not the usual assortment of stories and anecdotes we have come to expect. To be sure, there are plenty of great stories here; but they are told within the context of a larger history, making this book all the more unusual. His time with Sean Flynn; the irrepressible son of the actor Errol Flynn; are a particular treat. Although his exploits have been covered by other authors, Mr. Greenway’s friendship with Mr. Flynn comes across as particularly close.

His political grasp of Vietnam from the earliest of days after the Japanese surrender until the last helo out in 1975 could fill volumes; yet he is able to condense it all into a highly readable chapter which brings a familiarity to the reader concerning the leading names of the war. He explains the treaties, the elections and even the failures in a way which will re-inforce your own knowledge, yet also allow you to take that knowledge one step further in the puzzle which was Vietnam. 

The chapters dealing with Cambodia and Prince Sihanouk will explain just how that unfortunate and beautiful country was dragged into the periphery of the war. He also explains just how the interim leadership of Lon Nol gave way to Pol Pot and the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge, who slaughtered almost 2 million of their own countrymen before order was finally restored. The attitude of the United States then; after the failed war which gave birth to that tragedy; stands as an analogy to the United States today, in regards to ISIS in the aftermath of our blundering in Iraq. History never dies; it just repeats itself, hoping we will learn something.

It is likewise with the section of this book dealing with Israel. You will come away scratching your head at some of the misconceptions about the Mideast which have all but become prevailing wisdom; true or not. The 1973 War (Yom Kippur) was not just another blunder by Egypt. It was a face saving move that was necessary before Egypt could begin to modify its stance regarding peace with Israel. And, once again; the history of the area is at the center of this whole narrative. The author’s love of history and literature shines through each page, making the book highly readable.

His chapters on Indonesia, India: and especially Pakistan; should be required reading for serious students of today’s volatile political climate, as these stories are the story of decolonization and the ruin in which the colonial powers left their former charges; who then turned to the Communists for help in certain places. Reading these portions of the book you can actually understand how we lost much of the goodwill engendered by our victory in World War Two in a senseless race with the Soviets to prepare for a war which never came.

This is also the story of how Mr. Greenway managed to move his family around the world with him for most of his career. There were times the family stayed in Hong Kong while he covered the War in Vietnam. And, for other times, and other stories, there were other homes. In each of these places he manages not only to take some time with his wife and children to absorb the local cultures where they live; he also takes the time to Impart to the reader as much of the history as he can to help in the understanding of the time and place in which the events take place.

There is richness to this book which cannot be adequately described in a review. There is history and literature on each page, just waiting for someone to open the cover. When you do, you will be stepping into the author’s world. From Vietnam all the way through to Afghanistan, he has covered it all. This is the best world journey you will ever embark upon from your favorite armchair.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Story From the USNS Jupiter - 1981

Bosun Browning and I were anything but friends. As a matter of fact, we had come to blows once, well, nearly to blows, one might say. I couch the episode in that light due to the fact that I had the presence of mind, and the fleet feet of youth to quickly repair myself to the Captain’s cabin for refuge.

The whole thing started innocently enough, with the Bosun, who is the man tasked with everything on deck aboard ship, and I, engaging in some trash talking of one another’s backgrounds. I was that bane in the side of all true Southerners, a Yankee, while he occupied in my young mind that special space reserved for the mouth breathing, knuckle dragging denizen of the Deep South. This “trash talk” had gotten somewhat out of hand, considering the fact that he weighed about 250 pounds and stood 6’4” in opposition to my 145 pounds and slender 6’ frame.

At the time, and remember I was in my mid 20’s when this story takes place, I knew little fear, and each evening after going ashore and running through the jungles of Diego Garcia, which are not very dense, the island itself being but 34 miles long and only ¼ of a mile wide at its widest point, I would return to the ship and weigh myself, calling out to the Bosun that when I attained the unimaginable mass of 150 pounds, I was determined, actually hell bent upon, kicking his Cajun ass. This resulted in Bosun Browning awaiting the return of my boat each evening. He would then follow me to the scale and watching over my shoulder he would check my weight with me. This was a fight that was going to happen and he was planning on losing no time in getting the thing started.

The disappointment on his face each night as I hovered about 147 and 148 pounds was almost heartbreaking, even to myself, though I knew that should the battle ever occur, I was sure to come out on the short end. The Bosun, impatient for his chance at hastening my demise, always shook his head in disgust as I failed to attain the 150 pound mark. To this end he had begun handing me a candy bar, or a piece of cake, after each failed weigh in. As I said earlier, he was in earnest for the battle to begin.

As the months wore on and I continued to hold at 148 pounds, which is the most I have ever weighed, we developed a mutual respect for one another, but he was still looking forward to the impending battle with relish. Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned and there is often a valuable lesson to be learned, if you keep your eyes open and your wits about you. This was one of those cases.

One night, sometime around midnight, I slammed my hand in a hatch and the nail was throbbing and aching something fierce. I was roaming the deck, unable to sleep, when I chanced upon the Bosun, who inquired as to the nature of my trouble. Showing him my finger he looked pained and told me to follow him to his cabin. I was in such a state that I did just that, not knowing what to expect from my nemesis.

Arriving at his cabin he rummaged through some tools, and pulling out a drill bit proposed that he would drill through my finger nail, thus relieving the pressure of the blood beneath it and my pain. Such was my pain that, with a trusting and uncharacteristic willingness on my part, I agreed to this experiment.

With a surgeons gentle touch this large Cajun shrimp boater proceeded to drill through my finger nail, and did exactly as he said he would, with a gentleness belying our continued state of war.

This is the night in which I learned a most valuable lesson; that the person most likely to help you in times of distress is often not your friend, but rather your enemy. I retired to my cabin to ruminate upon this philosophical discovery and what it really meant in practical terms, particularly aboard ship. What I came up with, in conclusion, startled me then, and I have often thought back to this event when faced with confusion by the actions of others over the next several decades.

Take, as an example, three people standing on deck in a storm at sea. Two are friends and the third hates the other two. One of the two is swept overboard. The friend stands there transfixed, unable to assist due to two reasons, the first being that he is so upset at the loss of his friend, he is effectively immobilized; the second being that he is conscious of the risk he would undertake should he choose to take some action.

The enemy, on the other hand, is not weighed down with all this. He only knows that should he not take some decisive action, he will be judged by a very different standard. The friend of the victim will be consoled for his loss, while the enemy will be reviled for doing nothing. His inactions will be dismissed as his having availed himself of the unexpected pleasure in seeing his enemy hurt. Due to this he will leap overboard in a maelstrom in an effort to avoid this perception. I have seen this type of behavior several times in my years at sea, as well as my many years ashore. I stored this lesson away and gradually, over the course of the next few months, the Bosun and I were able to mute our "cold war" until the whole argument had become pointless.

In November, after the monsoons had ended, we were both scheduled to fly home on a 21 hour flight from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, to Newark Airport in New Jersey. We had a pleasant flight, during which I learned his entire life’s story, as I am sure he learned some of mine. I found, much to my surprise, that I was actually beginning to like this guy.

We landed at Butler Aviation Terminal, which is located at the far end of Newark Airport and proceeded through Customs and then outside to the line of cabs waiting at the curb. The Bosun asked me to watch his bags while he went to the rest room and I assented.

As soon as he was out of sight I took his baggage and tossing them in the back of the next available cab, handed the driver a $50 bill and told him, “Here’s $50, I don’t care where you take the bags.” I grabbed the next cab and high tailed it out of there in a flash.

There are probably many lessons to be learned from this story, but I will not assign myself to the task of pointing them out. My actions, at the airport that morning, would seem to call any judgments I might make on the matter, into question.