I often write about what I am looking for, that “one more perfect summer afternoon”. Let me start by saying that any afternoon that fits into that category will NOT feature heat like we had the past few days. Yesterday, by mid day, since I had been blessed with a paucity of roommates, I had been reduced to wandering about in my Dickies Boxers, which made me thankful that Der Elf wasn’t around as I am sure I would have heard about my physique and it’s resemblance to some sort of Pinniped.
Yes, oh regular readers, Der Elf is back and as you read on you will understand why.
Sunday was Father’s day and I had laid out what I was going to do in my head the week before. Of course it involved hanging out with my Nicholas, the day itself called for that by name, but at the the same time I wanted to find a way to connect in some way with my own Dad who passed away in 2000. Anyone who has read my BLOG on a regular basis knows that after my Dad passed away I started a search for a family artifact that had been lost when we moved to Northern california, namely the Original ELF Formula Vee that my Dad built in the early ’60s. By some bizarre happenstance I actually DID find the car in far off Pedley, California and in 2002 Dr. Norm (the rock climbing physicist) and I had an adventure recovering it and bringing it home.
Since then, due to life issues, it has languished in pieces in my old garage. I have often been cajoled about getting it back on the track but have lacked the time and wherewithal to do that.
So early last week I call Mr. Toad (Brian Swanson) and asked if he was going to be working on his own Vee, specifically was he going to be glass beading and powder coating. Toad loves his powder-coater, and yes I could avail myself of his facilities.
So Sunday, after a substantial breakfast at THREE COOKS CAFE in Petaluma, (sufficient enough to drive Nick and I into food coma for an hour or two) we drove over to Toad Hall to see if things were copacetic to start the work. When we cleared the tables it was back to the old shop to get the bits.
Though spread out all over the place I actually was able to start locating the greay old boxes with the parts I was looking for (front suspension “turkey legs”, Spindles, BAcking Plates and a drain pan full of bits that had been marinating in WD40 for 9 years) and we headed for TOAD HALL RACING’s shop and the glass beader.
At this point I have to insert a note about NIck and what a great young man he is because all through this he humored me. True his buddy Terran (Twitch) Swanson, “Son of Toad” was there for company but beyond that there wasn’t much for him to do. Still he humored his old man. In some ways that was only appropriate though because we were working on THE ELF and there had many a day I had been drug around by my Dad when he was building the car originally, those trip are some of the best memories I have of my Dad, so we were just following tradition. Subconsciously I think that was in part why I was doing this on Father’s day.
When I got my turn at the Glass-beader I had sorted through the boxes, found a couple of components that I was looking for in that greasy bucket and had assessed the situation. Too much to do in one day but best to make a start with a couple of components. The temp in the shop was rising and Nick and Terran were getting silently surly, Mr. Toad and his Father (Paul) having gone home to start powder coating. Not wanting to bore two teenagers to death I gave Terran the keys to my Subaru and told them to come back in an hour or so.
I also wanted some time to “talk to the old man”. As I sorted through the greasy bits of VW I knew that there was little doubt that 40 some years earlier my Dad had done the same. Years of grime were between myself and the parts and the metal that he had held in his hands. It had to go. the first pieces into the booth were the top tube aluminum spacers, a rear brake backing plate and a top Turkey leg. A good start on a hot day. Having served my time at a glass beading booth when I worked at AL’S RACE SHOP I know a few tricks. The compressor had trouble keeping up (they always do) but as I sweated into the rubber gloves and strained to hear the music through my ear muffs the years of grime began to be blown away like a tomb in a Sahara sand storm.
As I worked I thought about the summer days spent in my Dad’s garage. I thought about the dust at Willow Springs the few times I got to go to the track when they tested the car. I thought of the smell of eucalyptus that came in through my bedroom window in Rialto when the summer heat backed the sap into glassing balls the color of amber. The grease flew away, I got closer to the metal and I felt a peace come over me. Then I felt a tug at the cuff of my pants, which was odd as I was wearing shorts. I looked up and let the compressor catch up to see what it was.
There was Der Elf.He was looking up at me with an expression that moved from anger to amiable. For those of you who don’t know Der Elf, he isn’t real, but that is really a minor detail. He was there now, a grinning pookah that told me that everything was as it should be. I haven’t written about Der Elf for a very long time because, well the spirit that he personifies hasn’t been there. In that moment though he was back. On a Father’s day with a bright sun burning heat and the smell of greasy VW parts he was back and I knew things were going to be all right.
It had the makings of a perfect summer afternoon…too bad about the heat.