Soviet Hot Rods

soviet hot rods, lada, Pobeda-Sport, 1934 GAZ A-Aero, Gaz-Torpedo, ussr

The USSR was criticized by the West for their failure to provide consumer comforts. The grocery stores were devoid of potato chips. The TVs were Black and White. Fashion was puritanical, but Detroit reserved a special disdain for Soviet cars and with good reason.

All they spoke about was the Lada.

The # 1 selling car during the 1970s with a 1.5L VAZ-2103 I4 engine from a Fiat design.

They sold by the millions, however the factories could never keep up with demand and I always joked that the USSR never had hot rods.

I knew nothing.

Nothing about the Volga V12 Coupe.

Or the Pobeda-Sport.

The Gaz-Torpedo.

The Babich Leningrad

The 1934 GAZ A-Aero.

And so many others.

Gone forever into rust.

As Neil Young sang, “Rust never sleeps.”

In Vino Madidus

Staying with Latin.

Sitting at home with a bottle of wine.

Non veritas

Solo madidus

In vino madidus

A paraphrase of Caesar’s classic ‘veni, vedi, vinci’ or ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’

Adepto madidus means I came I drank I fell over.

We’ve all been Classical Latin at some time.

For a related article click on this URL

BLESS ME FATHER by Peter Nolan Smith

My First Holy Communion and Confirmation of Faith to the Catholic Church took place at a church in Maine in 1960. My mother dressed me in white to symbolize the purity of my soul, although she had me wear a red jacket with a black velvet lapel. I had a fight with my best friend Chaney after the rites.

Not really a fight, but I must have said or done something bad, because I remember his crying and my mother telling me to apologize.

Afterwards I confessed this sin confessed to the parish priest.

“I had a fight with my best friend.”

“That falls under the THOU SHALT NOT KILL COMMANDMENT.” Father Murray had heard worst. “Say one Hail Mary and one Our Father.”

“That’s all.”

“It’s not like you killed anyone.”

I came out of the confessional and said the two prayers.

“What was your penance?” Chaney asked, as we walked home to Falmouth Foresides.

“One Hail Mary and one Our Father”

“Sounds like you got off light,” Chaney said on the church steps.

“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t say it enough to him.

New England Tel & Tel was transferring my father to Boston at the end of the school year. Next year I would be attending a Catholic school.

“Forget about it.” Chaney undid his tie.

I did the same.

We were best friends.

A month after my family moved to the South Shore of Boston Chaney drowned in Sebago Lake.

I stopped believing in God, but couldn’t tell that to my parents or nuns without earning the wrath of the believers. At school I studied the Baltimore Catechism and at church I served as an altar boy with a family friend, Ray Howell. Latin was our first foreign language. We went to confession together.

“Bless me father for I have sinned.” My sins were always the same.

Disobeying my parents and taking the Lord’s name in vain.

The penance was always the same too.

“Five Hail Marys and one Our Father.”

“What about you?” I asked Ray.

“I made up things.” He was a good boy.

“Why?” I was eleven.

“Because the pastor can’t believe that I am not without sin.” Ray was ten years old.

“And are you?” My repertoire of swear words was very small.

“I think so.”

“Me too.” I could not recollect Ray ever breaking a Commandment.

By freshman year in high school I had violated eight of them.

Murder and adultery were out of my league, but one of my transgressions was stealing wine from the sacristy. It was sweet. Two slugs gave a good kick. Ray never drank any.

My last time inside a confessional must have on the other side of 1970, although Ray Howell became a priest out of high school and last summer at a family barbecue in Boston the monsignor asked me, “When was your last confession?”

“Long time ago.” My sister and her friends were in the pool.

“You’re still a non-believer?” Ray was wearing the black.

“Yes.” I was in denim shorts and a Red Sox shirt.

He frowned and filled our glasses of wine.

“Think of all your sins.”

“That wouldn’t be easy.” I had done worst than disobeying my parents and taking the Lord’s name in vain in the last court decades.

“Think hard.”

“Yes, Father.” I watched my younger brother cannonball into the pool. His splash created a tsunami.

I was seven years old again.

“Are you sorry?” Ray was serious.

“Yes, Father.” I truly was sorry for most everything, although not cursing at New York Rangers fans or not believing in God.

“Then you are forgiven.”

“What about the Hail Marys and Our Fathers?”

“I think we said enough penance in our childhood. Now drink up. In vino veritas.”

In wine there was truth and Ray Howell was a priest for my own heathen heart.

“Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa.” The Latin Mass

I am truly most sorry and I raised my glass. We drank together and he made the Sign of the Cross.

Lightning struck neither of us dead and we clinked glasses.

I hadn’t been so blessed in a long time, but then a wordless confession at a BBQ suited me much better than a dark closet in a church.

In wine there was always truth.

In Vino Veritas or Oblivio

From 1847 to her death in 1901 Queen Victoria had ruled the British Empire from Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight. Prince Albert, her consort, had designed the royal residence with the aid of Thomas Cubitt, the London architect. Once finished the Italian Renaissance palazzo on the Solent Osbourne House served as a refuge from London court life, where the family celebrated holidays and birthdays for decades.

Back in the summer of 1985 I traveled from Paris to holiday at a rundown hotel on the grounds of Osbourne House. The rooms were full and I shared a cottage with Vonelli, a CIA agent, whose cover was that he was an European art dealer.

No one believed the native Floridian, but the hotel was a special place and attracted special people. One of them was a Danish sailor married to a Saudi princess.

That spring Kurt’s Harley Street doctor’s had advised the elimination of vodka from his diet and the bearded sea captain decided to take the cure on the Isle of Wight, which was the sunniest isle of Britain, while his Countessa 31 was being overhauled at the Cowes shipyard after which he planned to sail to France.

“If I can’t be on the sea, then I’ll drink like a man in port,” slurred Kurt with wine-glazed eyes at lazy lunch on the patio.

“You know when your doctor said to stop drinking. He meant everything,” suggested Vonelli.

“No, he said a little wine was okay.”

His wife shrugged and Kurt quaffed his wine.

“Plus I only drink from dawn to dusk,” laughed Kurt picking up a knife. Fatima took it out of his hands and he added, “The hotel staff have been instructed to only serve me rose wine. Never the hard stuff.”

“Good thing he didn’t pick the dead of winter for this regime,” Vonelli muttered, because summer days were very long this far north of the equator and the calendar was nearing the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Vonelli was joking, because we were both drinkers.

Just not in the same league as the Viking, who never offered us a sip.

The rose was his.

And his alone.

Every day the broad-bellied sailor sat on the porch in the same kaftan like a beserker back from a raid on Byzantium.

After six bottles Kurt liked to throw knives.

His lovely Saudi wife couldn’t be around all the time, but he treated her with kindness like a Norseman enslaved by a princess who had abandoned her kingdom. I admired her devotion and tried to imagine Kurt before he had surrendered his soul to drink.

“He had been one of the best-looking men in London during the 60s and great fun,” recounted Vonelli.

“That was twenty years ago.”

“And the last ten have been hard.”

“Very hard and Fatima has stood by him every step of the way.”

“Sounds like Hell.”

“She gave up a lot and so did he. Kurt had been one of the best oil tanker captains. He married her and was blackballed from shipping by the Saudis.”

“Like he was shipwrecked.”

“She was outcast. The Saudi royals don’t like their kind mixing with others, so he’s lucky he wasn’t murdered and so was she. ”

“Lucky in love.” I was jealous of their sacrifice.

Not for long.

It was a warm summer for England.

After a week his outfit smelled like an animal was trapped underneath his kaftan and we avoided Kurt throughout the lengthening days.

On the morning of the solstice I descended to the dining room for breakfast. The sun was breaking through the trees. Bird songs greeted the early dawn. The sea captain sat with his lovely Saudi Princess wife. Her words were whispers and when Fatima stopped talking he sent her away with a tender kiss.

Once she was out of the room Kurt waved me over to his table.

Five bottles were empty at his feet.

“Celebrating the summer solstice.”

“No, my boat has been put into the water. It’s stocked for the rest of the summer.” He signaled the waitress for another glass. “Have a drink with me.”

“Thanks.” It was early, but it had been day for a long time and I sat down to toast his departure.

“My wife will be happy to go. She doesn’t really like the sea, but I don’t drink as captain. Not a drop.”

“Not even rose.”

“Nothing. What Vonelli say about me?”

Just that you had given up being a sea captain to fall in love with your wife.”

“That’s all.”

“Vonelli doesn’t talk much about others.”

“He know how to hold his tongue. A good man. Here’s to him. Here’s to the sea. Everyone thinks my drinking started after the blackball, but I only ever drank on shore. I would have given up the world for Fatima and I did, but better that than to not give up anything for the one you love and loves you. We’ll travel over to France down to Spain across to Ireland into the North Sea. Our children will be waiting in Copenhagen. I’ll be the old Kurt. Maybe not forever, but long enough to be who I was on the sea. Winter’s big seas up north and the darkness spreads across the Northlands like black lava in the winter.”

“So more drinking.”

Kurt shrugged and smiled, “But no more fucking kaftan. This one is shot. You want it.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m good.”

Smell bad?”

“Like a bear after an summer solstice orgy.”

“That bad?”

“Maybe worse.”

“I’ll leave it in Cowes. The Brits will wear anything.”

We celebrated the solstice with his rose reserve. Vonelli joined us. Everyone from the hotel did as well. We had a knife-throwing contest at lunch. No one got cut. By sunset all the wine was gone and we carried him to bed.

His wife thanked us and tipped the waiting staff generously.

“You’re no fun,” he said lying on his bed like a beached whale.

“He’s not wrong.” Vonelli sniffed at his jacket sleeve, as we descended to the dining room. “As Pliny the Elder said, “In vino veritas.” or more simply “In magma vino oblivio.”

In wine truth, but in more wine oblivion.

And that’s the truth.

Especially on the summer solstice for a Viking ready for the sea.

The Ferocity of the Fat Front

Obesity is a human dietary condition, in which over-eating threatens a human with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, the failure to breathe, cancer, and osteoarthritis according to Wikipedia. Obesity is determined by Body Mass Index or BMI = kilograms in weight divided by your height in meters squared.

18.5 is considered underweight
18.5–24.9 is normal weight
25.0–29.9 qualifies as overweight

Any BMI breaking 30.0 is considered obese.

At 93 kilos and 1.80 meters tall I fit into the upper echelon of overweight.

Last night I walked into Frank’s Lounge and the rattlesnake-thin bartender Lola commented, “Pete, you put on some weight in Alaska?”

“Good eye.” I smiled thinking that the last thing a bartender was supposed to say was how bad you look. “I’ll have a Stella with ice.”

Only one and I was out the door.

It was time for regain my girlish figure. New York was due for a heat wave. Some of my bloat could be attributed to beer bloat.

No problem, however the Fat Front has actively combated any strategy to slimize America and the fast food chains, Big Farm, and for years their media flacks attacked the First Lady Obama’s program to create a new concept of nutrition for the young of this country.

Michele Obama’s effort was strictly triage. The fat adults have lost to the Beast. Their love of potato chips and ice cream excluded any hope of rescue, but the same way the crack epidemic died after the high attrition rates of murder and incarceration, these mor-obs or morbidly obese Americans will extinct themselves with their eating binges, creating salvation for the young.

Big Farm sees the future and their executives recognize their existence depends on new recruits.

Sugar-coated cereal is the first dose of crack food for kids. Saturday morning cartoons are financed by Big Farm. Mickey Ds and Lucky Charms drenched in Coca-Cola are slung like Casper the ghost crack to eager devotees to Fat and this week the powers of obesity hired a former Obama White House communications director to front their junk food assault on the young.

The Sensible Food Policy Coalition includes General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo, and Time Warner. They are buying support with millions of dollars to congressmen and TV. The US Chamber of Commerce and Viacom are also members of this cabal to fat up America’s young.

The former White House comm-ad is fat. She had to defend her kind. Without more fat people her race will die, because they are incapable of sustaining their numbers by procreation. Big Food is the enemy. I know. At 29 BMI I am on the edge and I’m praying to a record heat wave.

ps Trump is a tubby and he won because tubbies voted for him.>