As a kid, I recall it being pretty common for me to venture over towards the shelves holding the collection of VHS tapes whenever I visited a new home. Somehow – maybe instinctively – I knew that reading the names on those spines would tell me more about the people I was visiting than any conversation that was bound to happen. If the shelves were stocked with film titles I either owned, liked or appreciated, I could tell immediately that we could get along. If there was a particular film that I didn’t know, I’d study it. If there was one or more that I disliked, I immediately cut off any hope of a future friendship. Sure, that’s pretty narrow-minded of me, but again, I was just a kid.
As I grew older, this same habit didn’t waiver, but grew to include DVD collections and CDs. Musicians and bands that I either shared a common interest or an intellectual curiosity communicated that this particular person might have something to share or even enlighten me on. Of course, I was no Young Turk or relative taste maker, but I was eager to swap adolescent intellectualism and for the opportunity to sound more cultured than my suburbanite upbringing lead me to being. By college and young adulthood, perusing a person’s bookcase became the window into their education, worldview and psyche. After all, I was living on my own now, free from the curfew and rules imposed by living with my parents. I was an adult and by God, wanted to come off as one.
It was around this time I first gathered the – albeit culturally outdated – meaning behind the phrase, “you judge a woman by how she keeps her house.” Yes, I know, I know. It’s a horribly sexist and misogynistic thing to dare utter in today’s social circles, but it was not-too-long-ago a very common phrase and practice. So why on earth am I going on and on about this? Because at the same time, I quietly coined the maxim to always judge a man by his garage. The garage was the sanctum sanctorum of the man’s home in my eyes, particularly if he was a “car guy.” How clean was it? What tools did he possess? Was it organized, and did its organization make sense? Where was his focus? In decorating or functionality? All of these thoughts became my litmus test for each dwelling I visited.
Certainly, I’ve seen my share of vintage gas pumps, stamped signage, snap-together checkered floor tiles, multi-colored neon signs, advertisements for long-forgotten oil brands and service stations, and the like. All of that’s well and good, but I tend to gravitate over to the guy’s shop with a vertical Bridgeport drill press or 8-foot steel lathe. A well-used fabrication table and welding cart will always pull my interest than a class case of die cast 1:16th scale toy cars. Again, different strokes for different folks, but that’s me. A steel rack tightly packed with yellowed boxes of camshafts, out-of-date intake manifolds, and discolored headers will always elicit a conversation from me before inquiring about the life-sized vinyl statue of Marylin Monroe from “The Seven Year Itch” standing in the corner.
For Mopar guys, the quiet evaluation demands even more scrutiny: Is he working on a car? How far along was he? How much of it is he doing himself? Does he have the means necessary to do so? If the car is complete, how is it stored? Is it leaking? (You can bet that I’ll stealthily check the drip pan.) Now, please don’t misconstrue my meaning; I’m not judging but merely evaluating – better yet, data gathering. By soaking in the nuances of the garage and the state of the car I can (more often than not) properly discern what kind of car guy I’m dealing with. Unlike my youthful transgressions, I’m no longer weighing whether he and I could be friends, or if they measure up to my qualifiers as a “true car guy,” because to do that would be arrogant and dismissive, and just plain wrong.
Last week, I received an influx of rather disappointing emails and notices that a Facebook-based “Dukes of Hazzard” fan group had linked to an article Mopar Connection had published back in October 2017. The article, titled “Man With Down Syndrome Gets General Lee Replica,” documented how Bob Leggero loves the TV show and more importantly, the famous General Lee, so much so that his brother, Tim labored for 8 years to purchase and restore a ’69 Dodge Charger to replicate the Duke boys’ ride. Although some things aren’t perfect, the replica is a solid homage to the show and is adored by Bob. Yet, there is one major outlier: Tim opted for an Old Glory flag rather than the correct Confederate Battle Flag. Being from California’s hyper-politicized Bay Area, Tim feared public backlash and chose accordingly.
The comments ranged from “that’s not a General Lee!” to slanderous and profane slurs against Bob himself – who legally can’t even drive the car. Certainly, passions run deep for the 40-year-old television show, but at no time should that allow anyone to berate a man with Downs Syndrome who loves both the show and the car as much as anyone. That any of our readers would feel that this was acceptable behavior is disheartening to say the least. I kept some – not all – of the comments on the article as these folks have a right to be heard. Judging a fellow car guy for having disagreeable taste is one thing; belittling a disabled man who shares the same passions as you do but not the physical means to do much more than observe from afar is entirely different.
On the flip side, I once attended Dukes Fest waaay back during my days at Mopar Muscle Magazine. Considering myself a fan, I took the assignment with no shortage of glee. That elation quickly ebbed only a few short hours into my time there. If we are to argue what a General Lee “ought to be,” I would submit that no less than half of the cars on site should’ve been turned away: Coronets and Furys in Hemi orange, Chevrolet Impalas in correct Corvette “Flame Red”; ’70 Chargers and Chargers with black interiors, most cars missing roll cages and push bars, even a dolled up Smart car. Are these people any less “Dukes” fans? They came to the show. They paid their entry fee. Heck, a large portion were either cosplaying as characters or wearing official “Dukes of Hazzard” shirts, hats and belt buckles. While purists and online commenters might scoff and sneer, the guy driving his bright orange Crown Victoria with the “01” on the doors and rebel flag on the roof still loves that car and who are you or any of us to tell him that he’s wrong?
“Judge not, that ye be not judged,” instructed Jesus of Nazareth. And why? Because with the same rod that we measure another, we too will be judged by the same measure. For me, I try to hold my tongue because heaven knows there’s a ton of folks who’d grimace at my craftsmanship or the state of my garage. So if you don’t like something you see published here, that’s fine. You’re entitled to have your opinion, but don’t be a jerk about it. Nobody likes a jerk.