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Everything But My Life

Everything But My Life

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Everything But My Life

Lunghezza:
236 pagine
3 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 22, 2013
ISBN:
9781301005031
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Dan Crawford has fought his way up from the tracks of the American Mid-West to the pinnacle of motor sports becoming a Grand Prix driver.

While competing against some of racings most renowned personalities Dan meets Dr. Christien Allard, a remarkable woman who lets herself become part of his life in spite of her fears. Her dread only grows during the 1968 season when the Grand Prix is haunted by tragedy.

Unable to give up the sublime thrill of driving on the limit and racing against the world's premier drivers Dan continues to race until a terrible accident ends his career.

Faced with the devastating effects of severe brain trauma he must struggle to find a new life for himself and his beloved Christien.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 22, 2013
ISBN:
9781301005031
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

HUSBAND,FATHER,GRANDFATHER,I write about the things I care about. Everything But My Life was writen to celebrate the Grand Prix drivers of the 1960's. Hotshots,Honchos and Peckerwoods is being written and will be a story about Korean War pilots.

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Everything But My Life - George Klein

Everything But My Life

By

George Klein

Smashwords Edition

Copyright, 2012, George Klein

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter One

One day can be the turning point. One experience can change the trajectory of a life. For me that day, that experience came at Bari, on the Adriatic coast of Italy in the summer of 1950. I was sixteen that summer. I’d come to Europe to visit my father for a month. Dad was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt in West Germany.

My parents were divorced. For almost all of my life, I lived with my mother in Massillon Ohio. She worked as a nurse for a couple of doctors who had a clinic in nearby Canton. Dad joined the Army Air Corps when America entered the war, and stayed on in Europe when it ended. He found caring for his country’s service men and women his true calling.

I was only two years old when he left. Mother rarely spoke of him; when she did it was without malice. He was a mystery to me, my feelings without form; neither for or against him. When dad’s invitation came for me to visit him in Europe it was a huge surprise. I was sure mother would say no; Germany was so far away, when she said it would be a good idea, that it was time for me to meet my dad, I started to wonder what my feelings would be, seeing him for the first time.

As the Military Air Transport C-54 carried me across the Atlantic I had hours to ponder. Would I like him? What would he think of me? Would he try to push himself on me as my dad or as a buddy?

I needn’t have worried. The tall red headed Lt. Colonel, who reached out to me as I stepped off the plane, was a friendly open faced guy who immediately put me at ease. He just shook my hand and asked how the flight had been. We talked for a while and he asked if I was up for a road trip.

He told me his favorite pastime was going to auto races and he planned for us to go to a race in Bari Italy.

I’d arrived in Germany, looking forward to getting acquainted with my dad, and doing some sightseeing. I was happy to be with dad, but rather ambivalent about going to see an auto race. It was something I’d never done, and had never even thought about. I was too young to go to races before the war, and even if I had been older, my mother would have never permitted it. She despised the idea that men would risk their lives for no reason she could understand.

-

The drive down to Bari was fun. The mountains and the seacoast were spectacular. Living in Ohio with my mother, I’d been far more sheltered than I realized. I’d seen pictures in magazines and books but found driving through spectacular Alpine passes and along rocky shores an experience that can’t be reduced to photographs. In Germany and Austria, picturesque villages dotted the high mountain valleys, which were in turn dominated by towering snow covered peaks. Later in Italy, the villages and towns hung on the cliffs of the seacoast, and the sea itself was of a blue that was ever changing shades as we drove along. I would have been content to continue touring Italy, but we arrived in Bari and I was about to meet my destiny.

Who can say why a moment in time can have such significance? I had no interest in cars, or in machinery of any kind and wasn’t a thrill seeker. While I’d done some sailing and was fairly good at it, it never led me to race sailboats. I wasn’t very competitive, didn’t play ball sports, and certainly felt no need to prove myself by taking risks. How surprising then, the total awe and consuming interest, I had for motor racing after that pivotal Sunday. It was the ancient Greek ideal of the heroic man come to life. I was thrilled as never before by the shear drama, as I watched a young English driver named Stirling Moss, duel with the titans of racing through the streets of Bari.

Of course, at the time I didn’t know who Fangio, Farina and the other more experienced drivers were. All I knew then was that a guy, not much older than me, was racing with men who were driving vastly superior cars. My dad told me we were watching a miraculous performance, and I became completely carried away by the experience.

How can I explain how that was? The cars were much faster than I could have imagined. As they tore through narrow streets among buildings and trees waiting to punish the slightest mistake, I was consumed with fear yet, excited by the audacity of men who could do such things. How could they have the confidence to drive so? And Moss? How could this English kid keep his head in the midst of such a battle? At that moment, on that day I knew I wanted to be just like him, If only I could.

-

On the way back to Rhein-Main I kept up a monologue about what I’d seen. Dad was at first pleased that I now seemed to share his interest in racing, but when I told him I wanted to become a racing driver, his exuberance gave way to silence.

We drove on without speaking for a while then dad said: Dan I’m pleased you enjoyed the races, but being a racing driver is a very impractical business. Not only is it ridiculously dangerous, racing is impossibly expensive. Except for a very few drivers good enough to get paid to race, almost all of them have personal fortunes.

What about Moss? I asked. Dad answered; His father supported him until he got noticed, and even now he’s driving second rate equipment. No, Dan you really have no idea how impossible it would be to get started. And besides it’s a terribly dangerous sport and I don’t want to see you racing.

Do you worry about the guys who race?

Sure, that’s part of the thrill. Excitement is a mixture of fear and expectation. If racing was completely safe it would be boring to just watch cars go fast. Naturally you want the drivers to stay safe, but you don’t know till it’s over. That’s what makes it exciting.

If you care what happens to them, why is it different with me? I asked.

Think about it Dan, you’re my son. That’s what makes it different!

Yea, I guess so.

Look, your mother and I both care about you, but she’s the one who’s looked after your welfare. I’ve made choices that were good for me, but not necessarily good for you. Well, I can’t change what is. I’m sorry for a lot, but just remember, I love you and I care about you. Racing is just too damn dangerous.

I didn’t want to argue with dad about racing. We’d only just become acquainted. I didn’t want to spoil our time together, and I was pleased he said he cared. I changed the subject and asked; Why did you stay in the Army after the war?

There were a lot of kids who were too busted up to be sent back to the States. I stayed to look after them until they were well enough to go home.

But it’s been five years?

We still get sick and injured patients from the occupation forces. I like caring for these kids. They’re so young and so far from home.

I wanted to say What about me? His talking about caring for strangers hurt more than it would have a few days earlier. I was beginning to see him as my father and possibly as a friend and didn’t like the thought of sharing his attention. But rather than blurt out my feelings, I changed the subject.

I think they’re lucky to have you here dad, really. But why did you leave mother? Was it the war?

No it wasn’t that, we broke up before I joined the Army. We just didn’t see a common future. I know that sounds lame, but it’s the truth?

Why? I asked, now more confused than enlightened.

Dan I’m sorry, I don’t know how to answer you without saying why I didn’t want to live with your mother. She’s a fine woman and I’m glad to see she’s done a great job raising you. Just know that I care for you and wish things could have been different. You must have wondered why I never came to see you. There is no good answer I can give. I’m just glad we could have this time, and that your mother let you come.

Dad had been very open with me, but he was still a stranger. He was an unknown part of my life. It was clear we both weren’t completely satisfied with his explanation of why he and my mother weren’t together. I wanted to ask more, but again I held back, afraid of spoiling our time together.

We stopped for the night in a small Alpine village in Italy close to the border with Austria. The town seemed more German in appearance than Italian. The buildings were like the ones I remembered from our drive through the mountains on the way down from Rhein-Main to Bari, but the restaurant we chose was decidedly Italian.

For dinner I had linguini in a pesto sauce that had pine nuts in it, and dad let me have a glass of beer with my dinner. The Italians didn’t seem to care that I was only sixteen. Dad told me Italian kids drank wine at dinner. Coming from Ohio where liquor can’t be bought on Sundays it was another cultural shock.

The entire trip had been one new experience after another; meeting my dad, who I hadn’t known, being entranced by the scenery on the trip down to Bari, and then the impact the race had on me. Everywhere we went and everything we saw reminded me of how insulated I’d been. I realized that not knowing about the world outside Ohio, I hadn’t had any idea of what I was missing.

Over dinner dad told me several top drivers had been killed since racing started up again after the war. Men like Achille Varzi and Jean-Pierre Wimille, who were very experienced, were just as vulnerable as any beginner. He wanted me to know nobody was safe. Dad didn’t want me to think about racing as a career, but he did understand my passion, he was after all an enthusiast; he just wanted me to be realistic.

-

On the flight back home I dreaded telling mother how I felt about racing. Dad didn’t approve, but living in Germany he wouldn’t be able to oppose me. Mother could and would make her opposition very clear.

When I got home, I tried to explain it was my own idea and dad was as much against it as she was. Mother wouldn’t allow any discussion. She was furious dad introduced me to racing. Now she was sorry she agreed to let me visit him. That he introduced me to racing was all she needed to know.

I didn’t like opposing the wishes of my parents, but it didn’t deter me. Racing had become my passion and I knew what I wanted. I was going to have to find a way to go racing on my own.

What drove me were a mixture of hero worship and the dramatic nature of racing itself. I was enthralled by the drivers, and drawn to the challenges they faced so willingly. I knew that to drive at those speeds would take exceptional concentration and confidence and by developing that kind of confidence in myself it would be worth every effort it would take.

Chapter Two

My quest required far more than I could have imagined. The next couple years were spent finding the way. I read everything I could get my hands on, and found that dad was right. Except for the very best drivers, who had factory rides, most of the field was made up of this Prince or that Count or heirs to a family fortune.

At sixteen I had no idea how I would ever get the money it would take to go racing. With their heart felt objections it was obvious my parents were never going to help. The only thing for me to do at that point was to learn a lot more about cars. Whether I ever got the chance to race, I wanted to know how they worked and what it took to keep them working. It wasn’t enough to rely on just words and pictures. I had to get my hands on them. I talked to anyone who would listen and finally realized I needed to find a job in a shop that worked on high performance cars.

One day I was talking to a couple of guys from school. While we stood outside Mandee-Sue’s Creamery in downtown Massillon, a guy drove up in a maroon 1951 Mercury. It was chopped and channeled and I could tell the engine had been modified by the rumble of its exhaust. My friends and I were immediately intrigued. As we looked the car over, I asked the owner where he had the car worked on and he told me about Art’s Speed Shop in Akron. From what he had to say, Art’s shop sounded like it was just the sort of place I’d been looking to find. I got the address and the next day after school borrowed my mother’s car to find it.

-

At the shop several cars were in various stages of modification and restoration. I stood at the entrance of the shop, waiting for a short, somewhat tubby man with a big smile to notice me. He finally walked over to where I stood.

Hi ya, what can I do for ya? He asked.

I just wanted to look. I said. As soon as I said it I knew it was lame but he smiled.

Well, be my guest. We like it when people want to see our work. By the way, I’m Art and this here’s my shop. He stuck out his hand.

Encouraged I told him about the car I’d seen at home in Massillon the day before.

Oh yah? Which one? We done several for guys down there.

It was a maroon 51 Mercury.

That’s one of ours alright! He said, He tell ya about the shop?

I liked the car and wanted to see where it was built.

I’m glad ya did! Ya want something done with yer car?

No! That’s my mother’s car.

Guess she wouldn’t want us to alter it any now would she?

Not getting the putdown I expected, I dived right in. I wanna work for you and learn all about cars!

He didn’t laugh but looked at me for a moment before asking, What can you do?

I stammered; I don’t know, clean parts, sweep up, anything.

You still in school?

High school. For a moment I regretted being truthful, sure that now I’d blown it, but he startled me with his response.

When ya get out?

Three o‘clock.

You be here four o’clock tomorrow, we’ll see what ya can do.

You wanna know more about me? I asked the dumb question, not realizing for a moment I’d already been hired.

Naw, just be here tomorrow at four, it won’t take me very long to see what ya can do.

-

I drove back home thrilled and at the same time apprehensive. Being determined to make good, didn’t prevent a worry I might not. I had never had a real job, and this wasn’t just some kid’s job like delivering papers or mowing lawns. Art’s Speed Shop was more than an auto repair shop. He specialized in building Hot Rods and racing cars. Working there could lead to something. I knew my life was about to change.

Massillon is less than thirty miles south of Akron. It took me about forty-five minutes to get to work. At first all I did was sweep out the place, empty the trash and clean parts. Then after a few days Art called me over to watch him work. Before long he’d let me let me remove a bumper, a fender or some other part.

Art must have thought I was doing OK. He gave me more and more difficult things to do. Then a customer brought in a rusty old model A Ford to be re-built as a Hot Rod and I got a real challenge. Art had me remove the engine, transmission and all the body parts. The bolts were rusted solid. Art showed me how to use penetrating oil to loosen them up and to be patient and work carefully without damaging anything.

When I finished, Art said; Danny you treated those rusty old fenders and doors with respect. Ain’t nuthin’ cain’t be fixed if it ain’t ruined in the first place! Good job! His praise reassured me, growing up without my father present; I didn’t realize how much I craved the approval of an older man.

I usually didn’t get home until after nine at night. Mother didn’t like that, but I was making a little money, and she was proud of me for getting a job of my own; though I never confided in her about why working on cars was so important to me. She insisted I pay for my own gas, but she let me use the car, while she took the bus to work, and though I appreciated her support and realized her taking the bus was a real sacrifice, I felt guilty for not being more honest.

Talking to the other guys who worked there I came to realize Art’s Speed Shop was known all over Northern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania for building high quality specialty cars. Located on a hill that overlooked the Akron Airport, the view was right down the main runway. Over on the right was the massive airship hanger where Goodyear had built the dirigibles and blimps. The shop smelled of old oil and gasoline, and it had the same effect on me that incense has on the faithful at church. That drafty old building became my cathedral. When it was cold and wintry outside, Art kept it warm with a space heater and his own brand of humor. Hey Danny, He said, holding up a picture of a Volkswagen, who would buy one of these little wiener wagons?

"I don’t know

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