Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's In a Name?

This weekend is the running of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It’s an auto racing fanatic’s must-see event, whether it is seen on television or in person. The latter is far a more exciting and stimulating experience.

I wanted to cover the 1963 race, and rather than be crowded in the stands with more than a quarter million other spectators, I decided that I wanted to be where the action was — on the track and in the pits where the drivers and their cars belonged.

As a neophyte writer, this was my first attempt to publish, and to do so, I had to convince three entities that I was worthy enough. I needed to find one racing crew who would allow me to follow them around during time trials and on race day, and I would be able to interview their people. After receiving permission to do so, then I had to mail out well-written query letters to numerous publications, seeking an assignment. Once I had these two in hand, I could contact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and acquire the needed press credentials.

I aimed for the best, and contacted A.J. Watson, the builder of the 1962 Indy winner, as well as thirteen other Watson/Offy race cars. He graciously granted me access to himself, his crew, his car and his driver Roger Ward, during both the time trials and the May 30 race.

To find a publication, I sent out more than a dozen letters of inquiry, and received a variety of replies including from one “high-class” publication who returned my query with the words “Oh, Shit!” written across it using a black crayon. Modern Man, a Grade D Playboy, was the only magazine that sent me a positive response.

With these two “guarantees” in hand, I contacted Al Bloemker, the Speedway’s Publicity Director, and he offered me press credentials.

Since I was gainfully unemployed at the time, I went down for the time trials and the race, got to know Watson and Roger Ward, and mingled with the as many drivers as I could. It was a fabulous experience, and I was determined to write an exceptionally good article, which I did. It was entitled, ”A. J. Watson: The Wonderful Wizard of Indy.”

When the article came out that December, I told my family and friends about it, and my Uncle Sidney, a prominent member of his Lorain, Ohio community, went to the newsstand downtown, and asked the proprietor for a copy of the latest issue of Modern Man. The man behind the counter asked, “Mr. Gotliffe, are you sure that you want this particular magazine?” as he slowly took it out from beneath the counter. “Why, yes,” my Uncle proudly said. “My nephew has written an article in it.”

My Uncle bought the copy of Modern Man, and flipped through the pages until he found the one article on the previous year’s Indy 500, tucked between photographs of scantily clad women. He proudly said, “Here it is,” and the man looked at the article and wondered out loud, “Is your nephew named Bob Russo?”

No, it was and still is Harvey Gotliffe, and my embarrassed Uncle took the magazine and left. When I discovered that Bob Russo was given credit for my writing, I quickly realized that someone at Modern Man had either deliberately or inadvertently put Russo’s name as the writer. Russo was far better known than I, however, his first name was Paul, not Bob. He was a 48-year-old grandfather and Indy racer, and although he had failed to qualify in 1963, he had finished 28th in 1962.

I wrote an indignant letter to the magazine’s editor demanding action, and the editor in turn, said mistakes are made; we will correct the attribution in the next available issue, and because of your inflammatory attitude, please don’t ever try and write for us again.

He stuck to his word, and in the March 1964 issue there was a small box buried within the publication and it read in minuscule type that the December 1963 story on A. J. Watson was “credited to the wrong writer. Harvy Gotliffe, sports car and racing writer, was the correct author of this story.” The magazine “accidentally” misspelled my first name.

This piece was just published for two reasons, with the first being that this is the weekend for the running of the 2014 Indy-500 Mile Race. More importantly, A. J. Watson died at the age of 90 on May 12th, and this is a belated reminder that his generosity helped to get me jump-started in my writing career.   

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I Won’t Vote for You

When I recently received the 48-page California State Direct Primary Election “Official Voter Information Guide,” I was anxious to see what worthwhile information I could find on all candidates for office.

Some of their campaign pitches seem somewhat odd, but candidates for office in any election, from the local dogcatcher to the President of the United States, can be odd. In many instances, their appeals appear to be compatible with the voters’ desires, yet they end up at odds with the wishes of the electorate after the election is over.

When a candidate makes promises beforehand, voters may appreciate their honesty when they declare what they truly believe in. Some of these promises help me to decide whom I should not vote for.

Robert Newman, a candidate for Governor, is listed with No Party Preference, and calls his platform “the California Revolution.” He directly appeals to some by emphasizing, “I’m pro-God, pro-life, and pro-family.”

Republican Tim Donnelly begins his spiel by saying ”I’m a Patriot, not a Politician.” He declares, “I want my state back. I want my freedom back,” and concludes with “Take a stand for California!”

Another Republican, Andrew Bount unabashedly begins with, “I love California,” which should be a required thought for every candidate. Amongst his qualifications, Blunt notes, “Each year, my wife Michelle and I put on the Blount Family Christmas Lights Show and tour thousands through our home, sharing stories of families, dreams, lives, and struggles.”

Cindy L. Sheehan, a Peace and Freedom party candidate, is blunter than Blount, when she says, “I vow to tax the super-rich more to end poverty.”

There were no statements from the current Governor, listed on the ballot as Democrat Edmund G. ”Jerry” Brown. However, I admire one Republican Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Ron Nehring, who advocated, “scrapping the wasteful ‘high-speed rail’ boondoggle.” This $68 billion, unneeded project is Governor Brown’s personally fought-for political legacy; his comparable version of Obama’s desired legacy, the Affordable Care Act.

With the rail’s completion scheduled for 2029, and possibly rescheduled again, I would finally be able to traverse the entire rail system in time for my ninety-third birthday. I am sure by then that I will have better things to do to occupy my time.

Today, I mailed in my ballot and voted for another Democratic Party candidate for Governor, Akinyemi Agbede. He is a Fresno doctoral student, who ran for the Florida Senate in 2012 as a Republican. Actually, he didn’t quite run that year because he failed to file before the deadline. Although it was difficult to find any recent information on this California Governor candidate, his Florida file indicated that he was born May 5, 1964 in Lagos, Nigeria, came to America in 2001, and is a self-proclaimed “Super Genius.”

Both Nigeria and the world are in the throes of a deadly dilemma, trying to figure out how to safely resolve the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. A video clip shows its leader Abubakar Shekau ranting his group's demands in an incomprehensible language.

There are hundreds of languages spoken in Nigeria, and since colonial days, English has been the official language. This infidel language alone might irritate Abubakar and his band. Other major languages spoken are Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfulde, and Kanuri. Yet none of them will be found in any version of the California Voter Guide.

That guide was printed in English, and other guides are also produced in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. There are also “audio and large-print versions of the Official Voter Information Guide to ensure voters who are blind or visually impaired have access to statewide ballot information.”

I am pleased that all of these diverse populations will be afforded an equal opportunity to suffer through the reading and deciphering of the dubious qualifications and inflated promises of the candidates.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day, Here and There

Today’s San Jose Mercury News Mother’s Day edition, was devoted to stories of relationships between mothers and their children, others were on special celebrations taking place, on family traditions, and there was a plethora of guilt-invested advertisements convincing children of any age to buy mom’s love through flowers, special gifts, and meals.

Los Gatos Memorial Park announced “Mothers Day, Sunday, May 11 is to honor our Mothers and Mothers around the world.” It showed a photograph of a smiling 60ish woman dressed in white holding a bouquet of red roses in her hands.

The copy went on, “This is the day to stop, remember and visit that special person in your life…even if she is gone you will always love her.”

Then in bold, large type the cemetery suggested that the readers “Come by to visit Mom and receive a rose for her.” It did not say whether the rose is to put on her grave, or take the rose to her, but it did offer a 20% discount on “Mausoleum Crypts Singles & Doubles, rows E, F, & G to May 31, 2014.”

If only they would have extended their offer another sixteen days, it could have included fathers too, who are needed for the doubles crypts. Perhaps there will be another advertisement on June 16, Father’s Day, offering a tie for him.

Ironically, three days after Mother’s Day, we received a phone call from a saleswoman from Los Gatos Memorial Park, where a year ago we had investigated the cost of resting there. She called to say that although prices had risen since, she could give us a special discount for side-by-side plots for only $11,186, or for a double-decker for only $10,512. When asked, she proudly declared that the recent advertisement was a wonderful success. I am sorry that I missed out on getting a rose for Mom, who died in 1981 and is buried in Detroit. It would probably wilt by the time I brought it to her.