Winter Update: You Can’t Push the Chain

ell I’ve been a Massachusetts resident for 4 whole months and I’m happy to report the radical change in climate versus my California digs of the past 16 years is no big deal. Yeah, there are some down sides I’ll get to in a moment, but overall I’m pleasantly surprised by the way even the coldest days aren’t as bad as they used to be.

You see, I grew up here in central Massachusetts and a big part of my reason for splitting to California way back in ’91 was to escape the dreary months of winter, especially the post-holiday slog between January and March. Back then I was living under my Dad’s roof and he wasn’t always understanding of my automotive interests and activities.

Case in point: in the fall of 1990 I bought a sweet ’66 Belvedere II hardtop (originally a 273 car but with swapped-in 440 power). After enjoying the car for a month or so I sold it and made a $1200 profit. When I decided to take the winter off from working one of the many hourly dead-end jobs I’d had up to that point, Dad took my entrepreneurial windfall as a sign of laziness and gave me regular rations of stink eye. I said “Don’t worry Dad, I’m going to California soon”, he replied “I’ll believe it when I see it”. He meant well but was probably scared I’d never leave the nest. After all I was 25 at the time.

I spent that winter planning my escape from winter and imagined a California filled with opportunity. In the mean time, I spent the days compiling vintage Max Wedge and Race Hemi magazine articles into a notebook. No, I wasn’t cutting up my sacred magazine collection, rather I was actually transcribing the articles – word for word – with a ball point pen by hand. Word processors and home computers weren’t on the scene just yet.

Most of the harvested information came from Roger Huntington’s monthly Detroit news items that were published in everything from Motor Trend to Hi-Performance CARS magazines. I’d scan every issue for tidbits – the birth of the 413  Max Wedge in 1962, its 1963 jump from 413 to 426 cubes, the 1964 announcement of the Race Hemi, rumors of the soon-to-be 1966 Street Hemi – it all went into my notebook.

It’s funny, I remember being very careful to get every word exact and even duplicated the punctuation and italics of each article with that pen. The process of reading the words then writing them down added an extra level of understanding to the learning process. I’ve since learned that many authors and playwrights defeat writer's block by using this same exercise. After a few pages of copying other people’s work exactly, the creative process is jump started and you’re off and running with ideas and words of your own.