Saturday, September 27, 2008


Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman passed from this life this morning, in California, losing a long battle with cancer. Newman was 83. He is survived by his longtime wife, actress Joanne Woodward, and several children.

Although his first box office hit was in the movie adaptation of Tennesse Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the first film I ever saw Paul Newman in was one of his biggest early hits, Hud, in which he played a hard-drinking and partying, wild young Texas rancher, with Knoxville, Tennessee's own Patricia Neal in the female co-starring role. It was a memorable performance that I've never forgotten since and he earned the Oscar he got for that role. I knew then, as I know now, that the man was a consummate actor and a master of his trade. Newman went on to prove that, in later years, with such hits as The Cincinnati Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Winning, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting (both of which he co-starred in with Robert Redford), and The Color of Money, for which he won his final Oscar. Every movie the man ever played in made money, a feat that few other actors could brag about. Newman was very shrewd at picking his pictures and roles. And he played them to perfection, always.

Paul Newman married actress Joanne Woodward (who also won an Oscar, for her role in All About Eve) in the 1950's, if I remember correctly, and neither of them ever looked back. Theirs was one of the happiest and most stable marriages in a community where divorces flow like water and couples change partners like people change their socks. Woodward co-starred with her husband in the auto-racing film, Winning, in 1969.

It was that film, shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that launched Newman into a second career -- becoming an auto racer in real life. He actually drove a racing car in the film himself, under the coaching of professional drivers. He became interested in the sport and launched his own race team a few years afterward. He competed in various sports car events and even finished well up in the standings on several occasions. After he quit his active driving, he still remained active in the sport, co-owning a CART Indy racing team, which featured racing father and son legends Mario and Michael Andretti. They won many races for their team and Michael Andretti came within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500 in the late 1980's, losing the race when an engine problem forced him to retire his car.

In the 1990's Paul Newman also started his own business, one for which he is probably best-known to the younger generation. Having been a gourmet cook for years, he gathered his own recipes and created Newman's Own brand, a line of salad dressings that he had concocted himself over the years. It was an instant hit, and the company remains in business to this day. I have sampled a couple of his dressings and can report that they are quite good indeed, living up to the advertising and promotion (although a bit pricey.) But, you get what you pay for, huh??

To say Paul Newman will be missed is an understatement. I missed his movie performances for years, since he retired from acting, and had to get my occasional "Newman fix" from television re-runs of his classic films. You still saw him hanging around the race tracks sometimes, especially at Indy, for the 500, but not as much as in the past. But, his food products, as well as his films will be his legacy forever. A good, decent man and a wonderful actor has left us and I am saddened by his passing.

Think I'll go to the store, buy some salad greens, and a bottle of Newman's Own dressing, and watch one of his old movies tonight.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Well, our illustrious U.S. Congress has once again outdone itself!! Gee -- just what high fuel price-weary truckers and consumers wanted to hear, too!! We finally got a domestic drilling bill passed by the House of Representatives last week.

Or did we?? It turned out to be a no-drill bill, in reality.

The bill was a surprise to most in Congress. It was written in the middle of the night and put up for a floor vote the next morning, allowing no one an opportunity to read it. One congressman said you can always beware when something like this is done, because it's not going to be anything that you will like. It wasn't.

The bill purports to open up a small, meager bit of land for drilling in addition to the land already open, which isn't being drilled on. This new expansion won't be either, and for the same reason:  Because there is either little or no oil to be found on that land, or it would be so expensive to recover that it isn't economically feasible to do so. Why else would the oil companies not drill on that land?? They are in business to make a profit, like any business is, and you can believe that they would be tapping wells there if it were profitable to do so. Common sense would tell anyone that, but the current leadership in Congress believes that average Americans are stupid and won't figure that out. Well, we're not stupid, and they risk a serious backlash in November, with stunts like this.

But, it gets better still. Oil shale production? Still off-limits. Nuclear power?? Ditto on any new plants. New refineries?? Nope. The ANWR?? Huh-uh. Nada. And offshore drilling?? Not within 50 miles of the coast (where most of the recoverable oil is known or suspected to be). Then, from 50 to 100 miles out, it's up to the state governments, but neighboring states must approve any drilling, also. Under Democratic state governments, like you have on the Left Coast and the Northeast, it will never happen. If Virginia wanted to allow drilling, New Jersey could veto it. No drilling allowed, otherwords. If Florida voted to allow it, North Carolina could block it. And, finally, from 100-200 miles out, to international waters, the federal government has the say-so on it. Last time I checked, the environmental lunatic-loving Democrats were in charge of Congress. So, nope again. No drilling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plopped the bill down and said, "Okay, guys, here's your drilling bill!" Only it's a no-drilling bill, in reality. Nothing changes with this turkey; everything stays just like it now is. It will likely die in the Senate, but if it should survive, Pelosi & Company know that President Bush will veto it. Then the Dems can puff their chests out, look indignant, and say:  "Well, we gave you a drilling bill, but he vetoed it!!" Yeah. Right. Sure you did. Uh-huh. This is an election year political ploy, designed to buy time until November, when the Democrats believe they'll get the whole ball of wax -- the House, the Senate, and the White House. But they sure won't with my vote, and I can't help thinking that many other angry Americans, tired of high fuel prices and sick of bowing to the whims of OPEC, will follow suit. Pelosi and the Democrat-led Conress have arrogantly thumbed their noses at average Americans, like you and me. The question before all you should be, what are you going to do about it on November 4th?? Are you going to keep this Democrat majority in power?? Or will you elect someone who will open up that land and let us tap our own natural resources??

America runs on oil. Our economy is a petroleum-based one and has been for most of the past 100 years. It's not just the cars and trucks that we drive, but our industry needs oil in order to operate. While it's true that the oil won't last forever, we still need to drill and refine it for now, to serve our needs until we can come up with a viable alternative energy source to replace it with. That replacement energy source hasn't been decided on as yet, and the technologies that do exist don't do so on anywhere near a large enough scale. Switching over could take as much as 25 years, and maybe longer, while the source is found and the technology is developed to utilize it safely and cheaply enough to be readily available to everyone. You can't force this issue, as the enviro-loonies and the Dems want to do; it's going to take time. Meanwhile, we need the oil for now. We have an abundance of it, and a few people block every effort we make to pump and utilize it. This is sheer madness and it has to stop!!

It's up to us -- us "stupid" average Americans. We control
Congress, with our votes. They may think they control us, but that's not true -- yet, anyway. I think that it's high time when we show them who their boss really is; not the Sierra Club and not Greenpeace, but US!! The time has come. Are any of you with me on this one??


Saturday, September 13, 2008


London, OH

Well, the good news is that I'm getting more miles lately, and doing less sitting. The bad news is that this is the second weekend in a row that I've been stuck out on the road. I've heard it said that a driver knows he's been on the road too long when his wife or girlfriend cooks him a delicious hot meal and when he finishes it, he leaves her a two-dollar tip on the table. Well, I don't think I'm quite at that point yet, but I'm getting close. I don't know why I can't get good miles AND get home every week, but the "trucking gremlins" have apparently decided that that's not to be the case, at least for now. I'm not really griping this time, though, because it's been so slow lately, and paychecks have been low, and I need the money, greedy capitalist pig that I am. Lots of money helps immensely when the bills come due.

I guess I was conspicuous by my absence from these pages last weekend. That was because I had no time. I got dispatched late Friday afternoon, had to contend with Chicago-area rush hour traffic, got into a truck stop even later that evening, dead-tired, and slept late Saturday. That was the only free day I had, as my load was the dreaded SUNDAY pickup and delivery variety. I got online and managed to read some of my e-mail, but was continuously hassled by electrical problems emanating from the voltage inverter which powers my laptop on the road. Problems which took the form of ominous beeps and buzzes from the inverter, calculated to (A.) get your attention and (B.) drive you completely NUTS!!

Something -- God only knows what -- had apparently convinced the thing that my laptop was overloading it. Well, duh!!! It's a freakin' 400 watt inverter -- at least 3 times more than would ever be necessary to power this laptop!! Heck, playing a DVD movie never overloads it, and that about steals all the memory and processing resources this machine has at its disposal! Put in the simplest possible terms, something was bullshitting my inverter and it was believing the B.S.

Those of you out there who have encountered similar electronic gremlins know as well as I do how frustrating they can be. I became frantic to SHUT THAT DAMNED INSANE BEEPING UP, RIGHT NOW!!!  I flipped the power switch on the inverter to 'off,' forgetting, naturally, to save what I was working on and wiped out an entire masterpiece of a reply I was writing to a friend's e-mail message. Sigh. Reboot. Get back online. Start all over again. The inverter shut up -- for awhile. But 15 minutes later, it started beeping its false warning once again. Cursing ensued at that point and I'll leave that to your imaginations. Finally, in desperation, I began trying to SLAP some sense into the damned thing, as "reasoning" with it had proved futile. BEEP-BEEP! SMACK!! "Shut up!!" BZZZZZZ-BEEP-BEEP! SMACK!! "SHUT UP!! I SAID SHUT UP!!" And so on. I finished my personal e-mail, said "to hell with it" and shut the thing down.

And now this week, of course, I haven't heard a peep from it. Go figure!!

I got my load early Sunday morning, as scheduled. They had the pickup time PRECISELY set at EXACTLY 6:52 A.M., CDT, with no window on the time at all. Well -- okaaaaay, I thought. So, I was careful to punch in my 'arrived at shipper' message at that exact time. Nothing like being punctual, huh?? I was tempted to send my 'loaded at shipper' message at 6:53, but what the heck?? I'm not known to be a notorious smartass, as are some, and it would be out of character for me. So, I sent it in at 6:54 A.M. instead. Two minutes, to go into the shipping office, get my bills, go back to the truck, drop my empty in one spot, find my loaded trailer in another location, hook up to it, do a REALLY quick pre-trip on it, do the ritual with the gate guard and seal inspection, then hit the road. Not bad for a middle-aged old geezer, huh?? Now, if that ain't efficient, then what IS??? Since there's nobody in our dispatch office until noon on Sunday, they would have a hard time proving that I DIDN'T do it that fast, although common sense would indicate that I was faking it through my teeth!! But let them figure it out, I say!!

I had my two deliveries set at what I call "reefer hours." Late at night or in the pre-dawn morning, otherwords. They delivered in two different Detroit suburbs. I got the first one off quickly, before midnight, then cruised through what they now call "Dearbornistan" (due to the many Middle Eastern immigrants who live there) enroute to the final stop. This one took four hours and I got just enough of a nap in to get good and sleepy. But I napped more, after unloading, as they had no load for me, much as I expected. It was mid-morning before I got dispatched.

That, as it turned out, was the most waiting I did all week long, for a pleasant change. Everything seemed back to normal last week, with overnight deliveries on every trip and the miles began to rack up again. I ended the week in York, Pennsylvania, where I feared that I wouldn't be able to get home once more. That state, and the whole Northeast region in general, have been a freight Dead Zone for the past two years, and any load you can get back out of there is a good thing. Not nearly enough loads available to get choosy, so I knew I would be stuck with whatever dispatch and customer service could come up with.

Sure enough, I had to go all the way to a Philly suburb the next morning, reload my caboose, then haul it back to the area around our yard, for a Monday afternoon delivery. Good, much-needed miles once again. I stopped here yesterday, just east of Columbus, Ohio, to get my 34 hour reset in before continuing westward. I've got all kinds of time on this load, unlike last weekend, so I can get as lazy as I want to be, and catch up on things I missed out on last week. I schmoozed under a hot shower for an hour this morning. Ahhhhhh -- I feel almost human again now!! At least as human as a Dawg can feel!

Will these good miles continue?? I can only hope so. Lately, it's seemed like I'll have one good week, mile-wise, then follow that up with another crappy one. I need the same consistency I used to get, before this fuel-price-related, election year, economic downturn struck. But, if anything, I'm an eternal optimist, and I know it'll get better, in time. Just a matter of when and treading water, financially, until it does.