Getting on toward serious winter now. The nights are at their longest. On nights when the sky is clear and the temperatures drop to their coldest, the constellation Orion is cruising smoothly through the night displaying the star nursery in its sword for anyone who wants to seek it out with a pair of binoculars. The winds are chilling and the fire is welcoming and warm. And, there are more stories.
I had several stories that I could relate for you, but there is one that needs telling. Frankly, I’d rather not be having to write this, because it involves a person that I thought the world of.
Tom Magliozzi died on November 3rd, 2014.
For those of you who don’t listen to National Public Radio, this may not have a great impact on you. For those who are long-time listeners, Tom and Ray Magliozzi were probably part of your extended family, and maybe we can join hands around the fire and relate stories about the Magliozzi brothers and their show on National Public Radio to those who are among the uninitiated.
I first heard about the NPR radio show “Car Talk” back in the late eighties in an article I was reading in “Autoweek” Magazine. It was a short feature about two garage owners who were doing a radio show out of WBUR in Boston having to do with car repair. As I read the article, I became more and more curious about these two guys who were about as whacked out as I was, and a hell of a lot more intelligent to boot. The article mentioned that their show had been likened to “…a couple of kids playing around with the high school PA system…”
One example of their goofiness went something like this:
(caller) “Well, the hot light is glowing on the dash of my car.”
(Click and Clack) “Oh, really?”
(caller) “Yeah, and it flickers off and comes back on again.”
(Click and Clack) “Well have you checked to see what the antifreeze level is in your radiator?”
(caller) “No, not really.”
(Click and Clack) “Oh, so we’re doing this by inference, eh?”
I was hooked.
There was no serious internet back then, so I had to do serious research to find out more about them. What saved me from having to do much in the way of serious work was that the local NPR radio station in Lafayette, LA began running their show on Saturday mornings. Now I was really hooked. At this time, I was finally making a living as an auto mechanic, and everything that they mentioned on their show rang true. Joyce had her own way of dealing with the show. Whenever it would come on Saturday afternoon, she would leave the living room and go read while I was killing myself laughing like a jackal while listening to the show.
What made them so effective was that they were also graduates of MIT and could muster more intellectual power than both houses of Congress (Which, actually, isn’t very hard to do.) in the pursuit of answering questions posed by folks calling in with car problems. They would feature letters sent in by listeners, who turned out to be every bit as twisted as they were. I remember Tom reading a letter from a listener one time having to do with the debates that would spring up in academia: “…So here he poses the classic question: ‘If a man is in a forest and says something, and there’s no one around to hear him, is he still wrong?’”
That one had me laughing so hard that Joyce rushed into the room asking me if I was going to live.
(caller) “I have a 1978 Cadillac El Dorado….)
(Click and Clack) “SELL IT!!!”
It was Tom who told us about his method of handling those A-holes behind you in traffic who honk as soon as the light turns green.
“It’s usually on a hill. The light turns green and the jerk behind me gets on his horn. So, I put the clutch in on my MG like I’m going to start off, and I roll slowly back into his front bumper. We get out, we look at the situation and figure that no damage has been done. We discuss it and get back into our cars. By this time, several cycles of the traffic light have occurred. At the next green light, if he honks again, I put the clutch in and roll back into his front bumper….”
At this point Joyce would have to come into the room again to see if I was going to live.
Around two years ago, the brothers announced that they were going to retire from doing the live shows and that the Saturday mornings shows were going to be re-broadcasts of “The best from the archives.” I, along with a lot of other listeners were disappointed, but we understood. They’d been at it for over three decades, and most of us figured that there were other things they needed to do in their lives.
Well, we didn’t get it exactly right.
When the news finally came, the cause of death was listed as “complications from Alzheimer’s disease”. And we really understood. And we thought it was unfair for such a brilliant, warm person to be taken that way.
I can’t tell you where Tom Magliozzi is now. I can only hope he is someplace with Mama Magliozzi and driving the black ’62 Dodge Dart convertible that he and his brother, Ray were seen in during the “60 Minutes” feature that they appeared in years ago. If he is, I can only hope that he keeps it between the ditches and the shiny side up.
December’s Tip of the Month:
At this time of the year, it’s important to remember that our only true wealth is our family, friends, and loved ones. Take care of them on the road and everywhere else. May your holidays be filled with happiness.