Friday, March 5, 2010

Favorite Rides

I’ve owned quite a few Volvos. I’ve driven at least one of almost every model over the last 45 years, and I recently had the chance to drive S60 and S40 loaner cars from my local dealer. They’re both terrific cars.

I like Volvo’s design philosophy. It puts function on the same level as form. And each new model has been a big improvement over the previous one.

Until recently, Volvos have been more stodgy than stylish, but there have been a few exceptions. The 1800 ES is still a head-turner. The 780 Bertone was a handsome car. The current S60 and S80 are as good looking as any sedans on the road today, and the C30 is a slick little sport coupe.

But favorite rides have little to do with beauty. They’re about emotion.

My hands-down favorite is my 1967 210 Duett. By today’s standards, it’s a primitive automobile. It doesn’t ride or handle nearly as well as today’s cars. It’s noisy to ride in, not particularly comfortable and has very little ventilation.

1967 210 Duett*

But it’s got heart. And it made people smile—particularly after I fitted it with oversized tires on bright orange wheels, a throaty exhaust and flowered curtains in the windows.

Like most Volvos, it was build to last. It had nearly 150,000 miles when I bought it, and I drove it for more than 150,000 more before retiring to my garage for restoration.

My second favorite was my 1984 242 Turbo coupe. Even by today’s standards, it was a performance car.

I still remember the warm spring day I got it. I signed all the papers, and the salesman handed me the keys. He asked me if I knew how everything worked. I replied I did, barely able to stifle my excitement.

As I drove out of the lot, I basked in the aroma of the tan leather upholstery. I opened the side windows and the sunroof to let out the hot air. The whine of the turbocharger was music. On the ride home, it was all I could do to keep my right foot from mashing the gas pedal into the carpet.

242 Turbo*

Once it was broken in, however, I had no hesitation. There were only a handful of production cars with better acceleration than the 242 Turbo in 1984.

The car was fast, safe and comfortable. It was also the only brand new Volvo I ever owned. I drove it for 275,000 miles before selling it. I now wish I kept it.

I never bought another new car after that. I like cars but have never cared about owning a new one.

I’d rather use the saved depreciation and interest on other things. Besides, I get real pleasure out of getting the maximum service out of a car. It’s passive recycling. And Volvos are well suited to recycling.

*Neither of these photos are my cars. The Duett belongs to an acquaintance from New Jersey and the 242 is a photo I found online. I lost the only good photos of my Duett and 242.

Common Goals

One-fifth of the people in the world are non-religious. They include doctors, scientists, bankers, farmers, teachers, social workers, truck drivers, food service workers and police officers in every country of the world. They include conservative and progressive thinkers. Most of them lead good and honorable lives.

I have personally observed there are many decent and socially responsible people who never go near a church. And we all know that some of history’s greatest villains cloaked themselves in religion.

The selfish and corrupt individuals in both religious and non-religious groups are a tiny minority. Most of us share similar values and ideals. In fact, we share far more similarities than differences.

We all want happy fulfilling lives. We all want to live in peace and safety. We all want our children to prosper. We all want to feel good about ourselves. I don’t know about you, but these four things add up to 95% of what I want out of life.

The biggest single difference may be that non-believers look inward for answers and believers look outward.

Neither way is better. They're simply different paths toward the same place: to be at peace with oneself.

If we are to survive on this ever-shrinking planet, we must respect each other’s beliefs. We must set aside the 5% of things on which we disagree and work toward allowing all of us to enjoy the 95% on which we do agree.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Union Shop

After my unpleasant experience with the Brass Shakes, I wasn’t anxious to work in another factory. But being a married art school student, I needed a summer job that paid well.

So I applied for a job at Gregg and Sons in Nashua, New Hampshire, a cabinet manufacturing company owned by the family of our lackluster New Hampshire Senator, Judd Gregg.

I started working in the basement making up packets of screws and nails for the assembly line. Each tiny brown paper bag had to contain just the right assortment to assemble a particular cabinet. I followed a daily instruction sheet and put the stapled bags in labeled trays.

It was cool and quiet in the cellar, and I worked alone listening to a small transistor radio. The shop union rated the various packets at a different hourly rates; so if I worked fast, I could make bonus in addition to my base salary. I was doing quite well when, on my third day on the job, the personnel manager came down with my job application in hand. I figured I was in hot water for something.

“How do you like it here so far, “ he asked.

“It’s nice down here away from the hot weather,” I replied.

“It says on your application that you’re going to art school. Have you ever done any pin striping?”

“A little on trucks and cars.”

“Do you want to try some striping for us here at Gregg?"


He led me upstairs to the finishing plant where he introduced me to the foreman, a muscular, square-jawed guy dressed in black chinos and a fitted black golf shirt. He had a dark tan, close-cropped gray hair and deep, gravely voice. I don’t remember his name.

“Follow me,” he growled.

As we walked back through the finishing plant, my ears were assaulted by the constant howling of a sawdust exhaust fan and the wailing screams of saws, planers and joiners on the upper floor of the building. The assembly conveyer clattered as it moved finished cabinets past a workstation where five men put on hinges and door pulls with whining pneumatic screwdrivers.

The noise level was so loud that you had to shout to communicate with anyone more than a couple of feet away. The hot summer air was thick with lacquer fumes. While it was a step up from the brass foundry, a pre-OSHA cabinet factory certainly was no picnic.

In the back corner of the production floor, a huge pile of white lacquered cabinets was stacked next to a low workbench. On the other side of the bench was an empty space.

The foreman explained how they mixed brass powder with clear lacquer to produce the striping paint and gave me a handful of dagger stripping brushes.

“Put a gold stripe around the edge of each drawer and each door,” he instructed. “Make sure the thickness of your lines stays the same.” Then he turned and walked away.

I mixed up a batch of paint to the right consistency and began striping.

This was going to be easy. I had a steady hand and worked quickly. With pin striping, smooth quick strokes are the only way to get good results.

An hour or so went by. I had already done about fifteen cabinets and was feeling pretty smug. I was going to show them how it’s done.

Suddenly I heard the foreman’s gravely voice. “Hey! What are you doing?” he barked as he hurried up to my bench.

I looked around. I couldn’t see anything wrong.

“You’re going way too fast,” he scolded. “This job is rated at four pieces an hour. If you keep this up, they’ll raise the rate so no one else can make any money. Put all of those cabinets back on the other side and then go back and make the lines a little wider. And don’t do more than six an hour. That’ll give you time and a half. Just don’t screw it up for the next guy.”

He turned and walked away.

I began transferring the finished cabinets back to the unfinished pile. I could feel the stares of the guys in the nearby hardware workstation.

This was my first taste of union protocol. Here I thought I was making a good impression, and I was already rocking the boat.

Just then, the break buzzer sounded. Workers from the paint shop streamed by on their way to the break room. I joined the hardware crew and as they followed.

“Don’t let him bother you,” one of them explained. “He’s just looking out for us.”

In the break room, I noticed that many of the paint shop guys had hacking coughs and were continually blowing their noses into the paper napkins. Most of them didn’t wear their particle masks during the hot summer weather. Those masks afforded little protection against chemical fumes anyway.

There was a record heat spell a few days later. The temperature in the plant was almost unbearable. After some of the workers opened the windows, a guy from the front office came around and closed them. He said the open windows let in dust and the clerestory roof with its fans was designed to keep the building cool.

This sparked a sit-down strike. I kept working at first, but one of the hardware guys warned me not to be scab. Tempers were as hot as the afternoon sun. So I cleaned my brushes, covered my paint and sat down on my bench.

The foreman and the front office guy came walking through, waving their arms as they shouted at each other. They reminded me of two baseball managers after a bad call.

A few minutes later it was over. We were sent home an hour early due to the heat.

So, I spent the summer working half of the time and looking busy half of the time; and I was getting paid time and a half. When I got bored and management wasn’t around, I worked in the hardware station helping those guys make bonus.

I left for art school in Boston just after Labor Day, even more determined never to work in a place where human welfare is less important than company profits.

Craig Pursley

Craig Pursley began drawing as a child. His ability grew with him, and Craig was already doing freelance artwork in high school. At the age of 17, he was chosen Nebraska's Outstanding Young Artist.

He graduated from Colorado State University and began teaching art at the middle school level. He also exhibited in art shows and worked as a police sketch artist.

Big Eddy

Craig moved to Southern California in 1983, where he began working for the Orange County Register newspaper as an illustrator, a job he held for 23 years. During that time, he specialized in portraits of sports, political and entertainment figures for the paper. His series of “Dreamscape” illustrations were the most successful in the paper's history.

Craig’s continuing freelance work included illustrations for the California Angels, Topps and Upper Deck Baseball Cards.

In 2002, Craig and his wife, Julie, moved to New Hampshire. Now he divides his time between here and California and enjoys painting in both states.

Copper Teapot

Craig exhibits in numerous art shows and has won many Best of Show and First Place awards. He had two one-man shows in 2008—one at Villas & Verandas Gallery in San Juan Capistrano CA and the other at The Banks Gallery in New London NH.

While his portraits and still-lifes are superb, it’s Craig’s landscapes that really resonate with me. His drawing is superb and his painting masterful. Craig’s eye for lighting and atmosphere rival some of 20th Century America's best impressionist painters.

Making Hay

Take a look at Craig’s work on his website at If you’re up this way, visit his gallery—the American Heritage Gallery of Art in Bath NH. Craig’s work is shown in other galleries as well. Contact him at 603-747-3050 or for pricing, availability and a list of other galleries.


Girl with the Sapphire Necklace