Curt's Newsletter

May 2007

© 2007
No part of this newsletter may be reprinted elsewhere including internet websites without written permission from the author

LAST Newsletter


By the time you read this, I will have retired after 26 years at Star Motor Cars and 29 years in the car biz. 


As the note stated when my lovely first wife left, “It’s been fun, but it’s over.”  The difference is I’m not taking much of your furniture and charging things on the credit cards.

I’ve worked 6 days a week since college, with few exceptions, say 2,000 Saturdays, or over 5 years.  So I’m really about 66 in working years, and it’s time to do the playing I put off.
Additionally, knowing that life is an eventually losing battle with death, I figure I’ve used at least seven of my nine lives, and eventually she’s going to catch up with me.  If I died tomorrow I would be seriously pissed at having spent too much time working, and not enough time goofing off.

No one on his deathbed ever said, “I should have worked more.”

So I’m going to be a kept man, retiring on The Redhead’s money.

Eddie O’Neal will get my customer list, and I heartily recommend you buy your next Mercedes (and several more) from him.  He was at Star when I came.  He worked at other Mercedes dealers in both sales and management before coming back to Star.  He, too, is a Vietnam Vet, a Special Forces officer.  His ethical standards are as high as mine.  I went to him when I had trouble with product knowledge (or the @#$!%! Netstar system, MBUSA’s intranet from Hell).

The website will remain, with archives of the newsletters from September 1998 until May 2007.  All of the cat and dog articles will remain accessible.  I expect to be doing 2 journals, one on Cowboy Action Shooting events, and one on fulltime RVing.  We’ll see how that works.  Cat and dog stories will probably fit into one or the other.

To all of you who have become friends over the years, thanks.  Keep in touch.  I’ve met and become friends with some fantastic people, and I’m ever so grateful that this job enabled me to do that.

I trust that those of you who are alive today because your once-in-a-lifetime really bad accident occurred in a Mercedes-Benz will continue to buy them even though you won’t have my dry wit and cat and dog stories delivered to your door or your computer.  The rest of you should.  They’re still the safest cars in the world.  You’ll be able to get your esoteric Mercedes questions answered at Eddie O’Neal’s phone and email:
 (eoneal@starmotorcars.com, 713-868-6854).  I’ll still have my email address, curt@curtrich.com.   My cell phone number will be available to friends via email.

And, with luck, The Redhead, George S. Patton, Jr., Arthur Pendragon, and Emerald and I will be traveling the western United States in our 40 ft. Motor Coach.  If you happen on us, the bar opens at 5, and the world’s greatest Margaritas are on the house.
Thanks, everyone.

Cheating Death


Somehow cheating death isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  I remember when a helicopter arrived at the scene of the day’s carnage and pyrotechnics.  It dropped off some, by then, warm beers for the advisory team, meaning a couple of other Americans and me.  I don’t even like beer, but I remember it being the nectar of the Gods.   A superior force of armed warriors had been trying to kill us most of the day, and here we were.  Being able to drink semi-warm beer in such circumstances was an experience unmatched by most human beings.  The sign on Colonel Hayes’ wall was correct:


For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.

The adrenaline rush had become addictive, and I could understand people actually choosing to go into combat time and again in lieu of my method of getting a lot of combat time: do everything (ethically) possible to avoid combat from the first moment you put on the uniform.  This guarantees the US Army will put you into the mouth of the cat—over and over.  Countless vets can attest to that.

Again I’ve cheated death, and I didn’t even have to shoot anyone.  I’ve kept the story semi-secret because I thought it was just too damned personal to share.  But virtually every man I’ve mentioned it to wanted more information and details or told his own version of the story.

In January I was told I probably had prostate cancer when my annual physical showed a PSA (prostate serum antibody) increase from 2.0 to 4.5 in one year.  My internist was on his toes and sent me to an urologist for a biopsy.  The biopsy showed an aggressive cancer (4 and 4 in a scale of 5 and 5) in one out of 17 punctures.  The normal number of punctures has increased but is at 12 now.  This doctor was thorough.

Most men get prostate cancer if they live long enough.  I’m younger than most who get it.  The Veterans Administration gives the benefit of the doubt that if you spent time in the jungle at the right time in the late Southeast Asian Unpleasantness, then Agent Orange exposure is the cause of the premature prostate cancer.  This, when they catch up on their paperwork, will result in an increase in my disability.

I figure it’s just more proof that No good deed goes unpunished.

Of the available choices for treatment I followed the recommendation of the urologist for surgery.  Now, cynics will compare a urologist’s recommendation that one of his partners perform surgery reminds them of the rule: Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
But the research I did convinced me that it was the right choice for me.

There are several choices for treating prostate cancer.  None of them are pleasant.  All of them have some disgusting and terrifying side effects.  The words “incontinence” and “impotence” are words no man wants to hear referring to him.

But the state of the art in surgery, the DaVinci Robot, offered advantages that we went for.  This isn’t the place for a discussion of the choices, and I’m making no recommendations for when you join the club, as half of you will if you live long enough..

So on April 30 I reported to Memorial Hermann Memorial City, having eaten nothing since dinner on April 28th, and having done several semi-disgusting things to insure that the intestines would be completely empty and thus not in the way of the robot.  The surgeon had done over 110 robotic prostatectomies and over 600 open operations.  The robot offered greater precision, which sounded like a good idea in many respects.  As the surgeon said about the critical nerves that ran on the outside of the prostate and needed to be preserved, “they’re not color coded.”

When I woke up I had six new scars, and had a Foley Catheter inserted.  If you don’t know what a Foley Catheter is, I’ll just let you be surprised when it’s your turn.

The next afternoon I found myself in the shower with two beautiful women, the day nurse Bethany and The Redhead.  Unfortunately it was because Bethany was teaching The Redhead the proper techniques for showering a man with a Foley Catheter and a leg bag and for cleaning around the catheter.  Another great fantasy shot to hell.

I went home that night.  The next week was no fun, but the Foley came out the following week along with the staples that had been used instead of sutures (saving half an hour while I was under the anesthetic, a good thing in a 5 hour operation).

The urethra is cut and then reconnected at the base of the bladder, which compromises part of the ability to control one’s bladder, though, with luck, not permanently.  Thus men with this operation have, as a temporary condition, “leakage.”  No, you’re not like Uncle Junior on The Sopranos wetting yourself.  Small amounts will leak out under fatigue conditions, when coughing, and under exertion.  Nights are easy.  Mornings are easy.  Late afternoons are a problem.  You wear pads.

To minimize this a nurse had given “pelvic floor” exercise lessons and an exercise regimen before and after surgery.

Leakage was minimal and improved with time.
Another fear is that impotence item.  To minimize same Cialis is given every 48 hours as soon as the catheter is removed. So I was in the uncomfortable position of taking Cialis and forbidden any sexual activity.  You may fill in your own jokes.  Had this not proven that the nerves were still attached and everything was working as designed the surgeon had more tools in his repertoire.  I was spared those.  I was in the degrading position of having to scrounge for Cialis.  The 15 with 3 refills was unilaterally reduced to 6 with 4 refills by the insurance company, with no alternative of my just paying for the extras allowed.  They don’t care that it’s not being used as a recreational drug.  So I got extra samples from every doctor I saw.  This was about the only flaw I saw in the medical care I received or the American medical care system as it applied to me.

When all of the tests came back it was determined that the cancer was limited to a small area in the prostate.  Some lymph nodes were removed and biopsied, and they were negative.  With cancer you can never say 100% that it’s all gone, but odds are if cancer gets me it’ll be another variety.  There are, after all, many from which to choose.

It took about a month for me to realize things went well (partly because the cataract surgery done the same month had more complications, and I’m not out of the woods yet), but when I did that evening’s Margarita tasted as well as that beer long ago and far away.  No matter how you do it, this is one game where cheating is good.

Our new home

for more photos of our retirement home go here

Retirement


Don’t think of it as “Retiring to the full time RV lifestyle.”  Think of it as “unemployed with no fixed address.”


It started in June 2006 at “End of Trail,” the world championship of Cowboy Action Shooting.  It takes place at Founders Ranch, a 400 acre ranch east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We were staying on premises at their primitive “RV Park,” in “The Trailer from Hell,” rented from “Satan’s RV Rental.”  Despite the problems with that trailer, The Redhead loved the lifestyle.  It had been a test of that lifestyle since The Redhead wouldn’t go to the event with me if she had to stay in a hotel.  We began to look at other people’s RVs in an attempt to see if we could get one of some sort to go to events in.  We looked at fifth wheels, trailers, and small motor homes.  One neighbor was full timing in a fifth wheel toy hauler with the shop in the “garage” in the back.  We weren’t contemplating full timing.  Then our next-door neighbor at the RV-park, Blackey Cole (remember, in SASS everyone uses an alias), who seemed to know everyone, suggested we look at Pecos Clyde and Silver Heart’s rig.  They had a big diesel pusher with the cowboy action shooting shop in an enclosed trailer that also carried a Jeep.  Clyde showed me the trailer while Silver Heart showed The Redhead the coach.

The Redhead walked into the big 4-slide diesel pusher and said, “Wow!  We could live here.”

“We do.”

Silver Heart explained they were full timers.  The Redhead didn’t know that people lived in RVs full time.  “Do you have a house?”

“No, we sold it to do this.”

“How did you feel when you sold it?”

“Relieved.”

“Did you store your furniture?”

“No.  Sold everything.  Had an estate sale.”

When I walked in with Clyde The Redhead turned to me and said, “Curt, we need to buy one of these and sell the house and go to SASS matches full time.”

“You want me to sell your dream house?”

 “We’ll talk about it later.”

The drive from Founder’s Ranch to our house was sixteen hours.  For sixteen hours she talked up retiring as soon as we could, and full timing.

We knew nothing about full timing or RVs, and I had no idea how the heck we could possibly retire soon.

But The Redhead had a good argument.  I had gone blind in 1995 and only had mediocre vision after that.  Then I had neurosurgery (lower back) in January 2006.  The Redhead is about a million years younger than I, and she didn’t want me to die at work.  Usually in the car biz retirement goes like this:

The thirty-thousandth angry customer haranguing you because the technician changed the station on his radio gives you a cerebral hemorrhage.  Or, after thirty-two hours of negotiation rivaling the Paris Peace Talks the customer tells you with a straight face that he’s backing out of the deal.  A dealer in Cody, Wyoming has beaten your deal by three dollars, and he’s angry that you didn’t give him your best price up front, and you have a heart attack.  Or a customer tells you with a straight face that another dealer has offered to trade even for his 15-year old 300D with 250,000 miles against a loaded S550, but he’ll give you one last chance to save the deal. Just sell a S600 for the same price.  You have a stroke.

Retirement is the time between when you hit the floor and the doctors pull the plug on the life support.


I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but that didn’t appeal to me.

There is also the fact that after 25 years living with The Redhead, I know the secret.  Always do exactly what she wants.

So we began researching RVs.  Using the wonderful Internet we did three years of research in 3 months, paying particular attention to the complaints on the forums from unhappy owners and the blogs of full timers, some of whom gave detailed accounts of how they managed to do it.  We also bought a small library. of RV books,

In October we purchased a 40 ft, 400 hp., 4-slide Diesel pusher, pretty much as Pecos Clyde suggested.  A smaller unit would not have enough room to live in (for us at least.  A friend has full timed in a 35 ft. no slide motor home for 10 years).  Less than 400 hp. wouldn’t pull the heavy trailer with an SUV and a Cowboy Action Shooting shop in it.

In January, with much assistance from a client who happens to be a trailer dealer, we ordered the trailer built to our specs.

In March, we sold the house.  The trailer arrived just before the estate sale, which was just before the closing on the house.  By mid April we were moved into the Motor Home, and the trailer had arrived for the shop and ML.

The plan had been to retire in October if possible.   But the bout with 3 surgeries in one month convinced The Redhead we should retire as soon as I was able to travel. 
Remember what I said a few paragraphs ago.  I always do what The Redhead tells me to do.

Miscellaneous Ravings


Recruiting Slogan


Join The Army
Risk your life. 
Defend the Constitution...then come home and have the Liberals treat you like crap.

Quote:

"Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it." Lord Chesterfield

Best Advice From a Claymore Mine

“Front toward enemy.”

Our Wonderful Congress

“Want to know the difference between the Democrats (in Congress) and Al Quaida?
When the Democratic leadership shouts “death to America” and attacks our troops, you can understand what they’re saying.”


Earl Long

Common Valor


At the website, www.curtrich.com is information about , The cover art Common Valor, my latest novel, arrived Memorial Day and looks quite good.  A couple of chapters are reprinted as a teaser.  Official publishing date is July 30.  It can be ordered from the publisher’s website, and put "Curtis R. Rich" in the search engine.

Mercedes I’ve Known and Loved

The Redhead picking up her SLK230 at the factory


I bought my first Mercedes in 1983, a 190D that cost in the low $20K range.  It ran flawlessly for a year, and I bought a 190E.  it ran flawlessly for a year, and I got a 300E.  The tax reform act of 1986, known in the car biz as the “Destroy the automobile business act of 1986” caused me to do without a Mercedes for a while.  But then I bought the vaunted 190E 2.3-16.  This was a 190E with a Cosworth twin cam head put on the high performance 2.3-liter engine, lowered suspension, wider wheels and tires, and fairings on the bodywork.  Inside, the seats were more supported.  It had a 5-speed automatic with a European pattern, with first down and left and 2-5 in the H.  Car mags complained about it because allegedly Americans use first gear more than Germans, who, according to the car mags, jumped on the autobahn and kept the speed near the top speed.  Anyone who has driven much in Germany knows that the towns make Boston look like wide open spaces. First gear is used.


Anyway I kept it for several years, running it in SCCA rallies and autocrosses.  When I started autocrossing it, the SCCA, in their wisdom, had put its 163 or so horsepower in with Camaros and Mustangs.  Then sanity prevailed, and they moved it out of that class.  I won a lot of autocrosses with it.

In 1991 I won the use of a 500SL for a year, and, stupidly, I sold the 190E 2.3-16 because we had 3 cars.

I ran the SL in SCCA Rallies and put them on the road to a manufacturer’s championship.  Then they said, “Don’t do that” after the car’s photo wound up in Sports Car crossing a low water crossing on a rally that we had won.  This cost them the championship, but we won our championship.  Then The Redhead told me she hated rallies, so we quit and never looked back, one of my brighter decisions (doing exactly what she says again).

Eventually I got a 1992 190E 2.6 with the sport package and the self-leveling suspension, a lot of the 16 valve’s features.  But, because of the change in gearing, it was about 2 seconds slower to 60 mph.  The 6 cylinder engine made less horsepower than the 4 cylinder with Cosworth heads and exhaust headers, etc.  Still I won a bunch of autocrosses with it, 11 in one year.  It was in a slower class than the 16V had been, and a jealous local competitor with a 16V complained to SCCA that the 16V should be lowered into its class.  Instead they raised the 2.6 into that one’s class, and I only won 10 events the next year.  Eventually sanity prevailed, and I realized that spending Sundays changing tires, standing in the heat, and driving fast for 4 minutes was a stupid thing for a grown man to do.

The store had a brief fling with allowing salesmen to drive “demos,” though not cheaply.  There the Mercedes gods decided to punish this good deed.  I had a E420, and one of the scammers who was making a living provoking accidents on the freeway with expensive cars caused The Redhead to hit him.  Her foot was on the brake, and bones broke, leaving her in a cast for months.  About then I had my optic nerve disease, and she had to drive me in the 190 with the stick shift with one foot in a cast.

The store did not lose money when we sold it, and I got a red E320 wagon.  As luck would have it, another scammer got me.  So now we had 2 “at fault” accidents in a few months.  The demo program lost factory sponsorship and ended soon after.  The wagon also sold at a profit—3 times over the years!


A 1996 C280 spent 3 years in the fleet without any problems.  The first Mercedes to give any problems was the 1998 ML320.  I replaced it with a 1999 ML430.  It stranded me a couple of times and would have been painful out of warranty, but I kept it 3 years.  The replacement was the vaunted ML55 of song, story and legend.  It went over 90,000 miles with absolutely no problems.  It was never painted on and never towed, a fantastic vehicle.

The ML55 AMG


Equally fantastic was The Redhead’s SLK 230 Sport we picked up at the factory on August 3, 1998.  We sold it just before retirement with over 70,000 miles and nothing but normal maintenance and minor repairs.  It was a sad day when it went, but it has a good home, a friend who will treat it well.


We’re taking the ML320CDI with us.  It’s the best of the MLs, and like all the current crop, dead reliable.

One of the better things I’ve gotten out of working here was learning about Mercedes-Benz.  They are what they’re cracked up to be.

Life with The Zoo


(Updated from a couple of years ago)
I know people who live without pets, but I don’t know how.  I’ve had them all of my life.  Even in Vietnam when I was stationary I inherited a mongrel dog from other advisors.  He saved my life a few days later.  I had to pass him to another team when we went mobile again.


When I returned home from Vietnam I was presented with a pair of shaded silver Persians that had both needed homes.  The male, Ishmael, had the misfortune to belong to a man who got married.  The new wife said, “either the cat goes, or I go.”  He chose poorly.  The female, Abigail, had found herself pregnant with 5 alley kittens after a night on the town she would never talk about (What happens in the alley stays in the alley.)  Her owners were cat puritans and sent her out in the snow (Texas City, Texas in the summer).  Both cats had long, happy lives.

 

Andromeda

Andromeda was the one cat I got in the divorce.  She was expensive.

But she was worth it because of a rare skill. Andromeda was a licensed professional bitch detector.

During the time I was single a parade of increasingly young and lovely ladies came to Andromeda’s lair. She didn’t like any of them.

She would have absolutely nothing to do with any of these women. I would bring one in, and she would say, “Oh, what a pretty cat,” and Andromeda would hiss ostentatiously and disappear under furniture and return when the lady left.

At first I didn’t get the message. Every woman I’d ever known in my adult life had been a bitch. I assumed they all were.

But then one night I brought home a young, lithe, freckled redhead for dinner. I cooked then. I knew how to make a salad, a pre-health food steak and accompanying veggies, and strawberry shortcake for dessert without consulting a microwave. I sat the young lady down in the living room and went to the kitchen to make the drinks when I heard, “Oh, what a pretty cat.”

I started to make the usual excuses. As I returned with the drinks saying, “She doesn’t like new—” I saw her curled up in the redhead’s lap purring just loud enough to get a noise complaint from the next apartment. “—people.”

She was looking very smug. At that point I realized it wasn’t women she didn’t like, it was bitches. She was trying to tell me something.

Kahlua

Shortly after The Redhead and I were married I sent her to the Cat Show to get another Shaded Silver to be a companion to Andromeda.  (Little did we know that Andromeda didn’t want a companion.  Note: female cats like being the only cat in the house.)  She came back with a Himalayan female, Kahlua.  “She picked me.  Ah, there weren’t any shaded silvers.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”)  Kahlua was her cat for the next 14 years.  Both were loving, friendly cats with few vices.

John Moses Browning

Then The Redhead surprised me with a birthday present, John Moses Browning, a Miniature Pinscher.  He weighed 2 lb., 2 oz. when he came home.  He stayed with us a little over 16 years.  Old age caught up with him.  He was on a heart medication and under treatment for a degenerative spinal disease.  Most of the time he was spry, though.  He retired from watchdog duties, however, letting me know that the alarm would have to do the job.  Sometimes he was hard to wake up altogether.  He came out of retirement to harass the deck builders when we put a deck in the back yard.

He didn’t like male dogs and attacked several over the years, Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Labs.  The Redhead tells of walking him one night and having to contend with him hanging by the teeth from the ear of a (confused) big dog in mid-walk.  None ever laid a glove on him.

We spent extra time with Browning in his last years. The Redhead is an excellent pet nurse, having much experience with Andromeda’s last two years with a spinal disease, Kahlua’s diabetes, and Merlin’s myriad problems.  Igot to where I can give pills to any cat other than Bear, who almost always bested me.  Giving pills to Browning was made easier by the invention of cheese.

Emerald

When Andromeda left us after a long, happy life we searched for another Shaded Silver Persian female, Emerald.  Emerald is a loving cat with a purr that can be felt but not heard.  She will do a lot for Pounce cat treats.  She sticks her tongue out at the world often.  The vet says it’s because she has a big tongue, but I think it’s a statement.  She will slap me on the cheek or stand on my solar plexus for Pounce.

Bear

We picked up Theodore Roosevelt Bear at a Cat Show, too.  Bear was probably the best cat ever, beautiful, loving, fun loving, and affectionate.  He would also lick my nose on request, sometimes until the skin was gone.  He left us after only six years, and we still haven’t recovered.  A year after we got Bear we picked up Merlin at the same Cat Show from the same breeder.  He was a mess with several health problems.  But he would sit on my chest and purr and knead for as long as I could sit there.  Shortly after Bear’s death, he died of the same congenital disease.  We miss them both terribly.

Merlin

After mourning and a long, careful search, we got Arthur Pendragon, a perfect male Shaded Silver Persian from a breeder with very healthy cats. Since he sat in The Redhead’s lap the 300-mile drive home, he’s her kitty, and he only tolerates me most of the time.  But at 0400 in the bathroom he will lie in my lap on his back and purr softly for several minutes before reminding me that he’s only doing that so I’ll feed him.  He has all of the cutes of a male Shaded Silver Persian and displays them often.

Arthur Pendragon

After Browning died we found George S. Patton, Jr. quickly.  He grew to a 18 pound bundle of love and affection, with not a mean bone in his body.  He took to training well and demands training exercises every morning.  At the Bus he does an excellent job of security, barking at every cat, dog, and person who invades his territory.  He has adapted well to RV life, taking me on long walks on the leash several times a day.

George S. Patton, Jr.

Arthur has adapted to the Bus well, too.  He spends much time between the windshield and the curtain behind it looking out.  When a window is open, he is in it.  Turning the passenger’s seat around when visitors were over gave him a new perch from which to watch the world.  When we travel he gets very friendly but regains his aloofness when we are stationary.

RV Arthur Pendragon, monarch of all he surveys

Emerald doesn’t care where we are as long as she gets food, milk, and Pounce.


I agree with the man who said if there aren’t pets in Heaven, I don’t want to go.


Curt Rich                           May 2007