In this collection of 47 stories you’ll head down a twisted road called “Actual Mileage” with me as your driver. Take the passenger seat, buckle up, hang on tight, and get set to experience fits of gutbusting laughter, some heartwrenching tearjerkers along the way, and encounters with characters you’ll relate to and find hard to forget. Most of them are real – although what I sometimes do with them veers into fiction and slips in some cases into fantasy. But in every case they are human and the miles they travel actual. Some samples:
In “Getting Ants Drunk,” a couple spend a humid summer afternoon on their deck serving drops of Malibu Rum to ants that fall from overhead trees onto their table.
In “Under the Floor,” a trap door in the concrete floor of a garage takes a man back forty years to his first rustbucket Porsche Speedster and the still incomprehensible breakup of his young first marriage, and then returns him to the present having learned how to love what he’s lucky enough to have had a second chance at.
At a VFW club in “Amazing Grace,” a bellydancer does an astonishing dance with a sword balanced on her head. Afterward, she comes to the bar where you buy her a drink, learn that she’s a pipefitter by day, and hear her spellbinding story about working on a Hoboken rooftop the morning the planes came down the Hudson just over her head and plunged through the towers.
In “No Requiem,” members of a car club meet one last time to celebrate its life, honor its death, share stories, and toast their surviving friendship. In “Jimmy,” a New York street guy sails the sidewalks of the East Thirties in a mangy overcoat, unlaced workboots, dreadlocks, an indestructible smile, and a passionate determination to repay a two dollar loan.
In “Veterans Day,” an uncle takes the orphaned son he inherited from a Vietnam veteran to the back woods of Pennsylvania for an afternoon of car building with a couple of his buddies.
In “Distance Traveled,” two Jersey guys sip mojitos in their chaises on a Dominican Republic beach and compare notes on how far they’ve ever driven for a girl they loved.
And in “Ghost Riders,” a Maryland couple search the Atlantic Seaboard for other folks with Speedster replicas to go cruising with, a quest that starts as a dream and ends up coming real in a phenomenal gathering from all across North America.
These are just a few thumbnails of the 47 stories – titles shown below by year – gathered in this always human and exuberant collection. All of them first appeared in Kit Car Builder under “Actual Mileage,” the human interest column I wrote for the magazine for eight years. Enjoy the ride!
· 2006 · Pimped Rides, Shared Illusions · Engines · Walks in Water · Death by Association · 2007 · The Soul of an Old Machine · Mojo for Christmas · Ghost Riders · Fiero Rising · Forever Young · Amazing Grace · 2008 · Frank and Me · Road Deprivation Disorder · Some People Collect Art · Instead of Carlisle · No Requiem · The Car Whisperer · 2009 · Under the Floor · Convertibles with Heads · Distance Traveled · 2010 · Veterans Day · For Real · Reconcilable Differences · Cry if I Want to · Getting Ants Drunk · A Guy on the Sidewalk · 2011 · Running the Pumpkin · Jimmy · Chrome Blue · The Second Coming · The Onion Eater · Actual Miles · 2012 · Stealing Thunder · The Greatest Gig · Jailbait · First Impression · Headed West · Land of Make Believe · 2013 · Random Acts of God · The Tin Man · Winter Storm Zimmer · Home from Here · Where it Started · Be All Right · 2014 · November Dusk ·
Currently available in paperback. Kindle and Nook versions are coming.