FLAG MAN

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents -

It’s all a mat­ter of per­spec­tive.

There’s noth­ing like a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to give you a fresh per­spec­tive, at least when it comes to the stuff you’ve ac­cu­mu­lated over the years.

As I write this, it seems most of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is on fire. Hel­la­cious Santa Ana winds and veg­e­ta­tion des­ic­cated from years of drought are feed­ing hun­gry flames from Santa Paula to Brent­wood. In my cor­ner of the foothills, the Creek Fire has burned some 14,000 acres, forced the evac­u­a­tion of 150,000 peo­ple (my daugh­ter in­cluded), and dam­aged or de­stroyed more than 30 homes. Bad as that sounds, it’s a frac­tion of the de­struc­tion left by the Thomas Fire in the Santa Paula/ven­tura area. The Creek Fire evac­u­a­tion perime­ter reached about two miles from my home be­fore re­treat­ing, at least for the time be­ing.

I am not a last-stand-hero­ics kind of guy. When the LAFD says get out, I get out. Did it in the mid­dle of the night dur­ing the Sta­tion Fire; to­day, bags are packed and photo al­bums are by the front door, since the winds, and the fire, have abated but not gone away en­tirely.

Any­one who has gone through the process—whether it’s be­cause of fire, hur­ri­cane, flood, tor­nado, or some nasty com­bi­na­tion—knows how ag­o­niz­ing it is to make those takeor-leave-be­hind de­ci­sions. You don’t want to think about it, but this could be the last time you see this stuff. Yet space in your car(s) is lim­ited, so what goes has to be truly ir­re­place­able. I’m lucky, with the ad­van­tage of some time to plan. Tor­nado vic­tims, or those wak­ened in the night with fire al­ready in their neigh­bor­hood, aren’t af­forded that lux­ury.

I’ll let you in on a lit­tle magazine biz in­sider info: Those of us who do this kind of work, es­pe­cially if it in­volves an his­toric per­spec­tive, tend to be a lit­tle hoarder-y. “It’s re­search ma­te­rial,” we tell ourselves of the old mag­a­zines and books that are shelved—but also stacked and piled—around our of­fices, spare bed­rooms, and garages. Many of us also keep a per­sonal ar­chive of magazine sto­ries we’ve writ­ten. I’ve been at this for more than 30 years, and that “ar­chive” of old mag­a­zines with my sto­ries is a space hog, for sure.

And, in my cold anal­y­sis of pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion, not truly ir­re­place­able.

In fact, when it re­ally came down to it, I re­al­ized there’s a lot of ma­te­rial in my workspace that’s valu­able, that makes my job eas­ier to do, but there’s not much that couldn’t be re­placed some­how. I don’t have a lot of original fac­tory lit­er­a­ture, photo col­lec­tions from old-time hot rod­ders or rac­ers, or even vin­tage (as in way be­fore my time) mag­a­zines. I know writ­ers who do, and I don’t envy them hav­ing to make these kinds of de­ci­sions. I do have a fairly com­plete col­lec­tion of HOT ROD mag­a­zines, loaned to me by the pub­lish­ing com­pany when I wrote HOT ROD, All the Cov­ers. Those binders full of mag­a­zines were at the top of my pack­ing list.

It’s true that all those back is­sues ex­ist on­line with mem­ber­ship in the Hot Rod Club (club.hotrod.com), and it’s also true that I ac­cess those old mag­a­zines dig­i­tally more of­ten than I get out the binders. I hate adding wear and tear to al­ready

yel­lowed and tat­tered pages; and, to be hon­est, it can be faster to click through screens than flip through is­sues.

But I am a magazine guy and al­ways will be, even though the dig­i­tal world con­tin­ues to en­croach on what is now con­sid­ered an old-time in­for­ma­tion de­liv­ery sys­tem. I may hate the wear on the pages, but I do love get­ting those is­sues out and leaf­ing through them, as my pre­de­ces­sors (and he­roes) did decades ago. The weight of the is­sue in your hands, the feel of the paper, even the smell of those old pages, now those are things that are truly ir­re­place­able.

So maybe some of that per­sonal ar­chive should evac­u­ate af­ter all.

> Scap­poose, Ore­gon (near Port­land), was the site of “Ab­so­lutely the finest drag event any of us have ever at­tended,” wrote Eric Rickman of the Drag Safari’s stop there in June 1955. “Com­pe­ti­tion was at its hottest, es­pe­cially when the two top...

• PIC: ERIC RICKMAN

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