The Truth About Cars » niedermeyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:06:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » niedermeyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Apolitics: Washington Or Bust http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/apolitics-washington-or-bust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/apolitics-washington-or-bust/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 17:28:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455426 White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer apologized to WaPo and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer for having “overshot the runway.” Pfeifer had accused Krauthammer of falsely claiming that a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been removed from the White House and sent back to the British Embassy. In a blog post on […]

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White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer apologized to WaPo and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer for having “overshot the runway.” Pfeifer had accused Krauthammer of falsely claiming that a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been removed from the White House and sent back to the British Embassy. In a blog post on the White House Blog (yes, the White House blogs too) Pfeiffer produced a smoking gun: A Churchill bust that was still at the White House.  The trouble was there had been two busts. Now there is only one.  (See, and I would have sworn Bill Clinton took all available busts when he vacated the White House.)

What do busts have to do with cars?

While we are on the topic of apologies, Bob Lutz could join the White House, clear the air, and apologize to Krauthammer. On March 19, the cigar-chomping, journalist-charming Lutz accused his former friend Krauthammer of “deliberately not telling the truth.” Lutz did so in the capitalist tool Forbes. Krauthammer had called the Chevrolet Volt (see, we will get to cars eventually) an example of Obama’s misguided, interventionist energy policy. And he called the car “flammable.” Lutz was incensed and flamed Krauthammer. Octogenarian former Vice Chairman flames sexagenarian Washington insider! What is this world coming to.

According to a recent op-ed post by our dearly departed Op-Ed Niedermeyer in Investor’s Business Daily, the Volt still is an example of Obama’s misguided, interventionist energy policy. 1.2 million EVs by 2015? 120,000 Volts in 2012? GM will be lucky if the Volt will hit its very much down-revised goal of 20,000 this year.  In the first 7 months, the Volt sold 10,666. Despite a presidential spokesman flogging the Volt at every occasion, the Volt is outsold by cars as ignore-worthy as the Mitsubishi Galant. You want proof that this sliver of a segment is misguided? The Leaf sold only 3,543. Mention EVs these days in the industry, and if you don’t happen to talk to a C.A.R.B. official, or a Terry McAuliffe who will sell you a factory in Inner Mongolia because he ran out of Brooklyn Bridges, and the answer will be a cough, or a rapid rolling of the eyes.

If the White House spokesman can apologize for overlooking a double bust and calling Krauthammer a liar, then Lutz can follow the example set at the very top, and apologize for calling Krauthammer a liar. Do it, Bob. America loves contrition.  And it will serve a worthy cause:

While we all are apologizing, TTAC will apologize as well! What did we do? You tell us. Tell us what we should apologize for, and if Lutz apologizes to Krauthammer, we will apologize to whomever for whatever our most heinous sin may be.

You decide – we apologize.

 

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Housekeeping: Niedermeyer Parts Ways With TTAC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/housekeeping-niedermeyer-parts-ways-with-ttac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/housekeeping-niedermeyer-parts-ways-with-ttac/#comments Tue, 31 Jul 2012 17:56:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454900 “And all the troubled world around us Seems an eternity away And all the debt collectors Rent collectors All will be behind us But they’ll never find us ‘Cos we’ll be dri-i-i-i-ivin'” -The Kinks “Drivin'” The last time I made an announcement about my status here at TTAC, I made it clear in the headline […]

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“And all the troubled world around us
Seems an eternity away
And all the debt collectors
Rent collectors
All will be behind us
But they’ll never find us
‘Cos we’ll be dri-i-i-i-ivin'”

-The Kinks “Drivin'”

The last time I made an announcement about my status here at TTAC, I made it clear in the headline that I was bidding the site “au revoir” rather than “adieu.” Having taken an opportunity to work in politics for a year, I was absolutely planning on returning to the fold. Unfortunately, that plan has now changed, and I have informed TTAC’s owners that today will be my last day on the site’s masthead.

With my planned yearlong sojourn over halfway complete, why would I choose to part ways with TTAC now? As with all business relationships, the answer isn’t simple. However, in hopes of avoiding the kind of speculation swirling around GM’s mysteriously-departed Chief Marketing Officer, Joel Ewanick, I’ll explain the situation as well as I can. After receiving permission from TTAC’s owners, VerticalScope, to take a year’s absence from the site, I was told that the company was interested in discussing an opportunity with me upon my return. Starting several months ago, I began discussing that opportunity with VerticalScope, and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time developing a proposal for them. After several meetings, the company informed me that my plans would not be adopted, for reasons that I had an extremely difficult time understanding. The thinking underlying the company’s decision and my experience interacting with it led me to believe that its goals and culture are incompatible with my continued professional development, which in turn led me to this decision.

On one point I want to be perfectly clear: this decision is not about TTAC, its future or its management. Though I may not see eye-to-eye with TTAC’s owners on a variety of broader issues, I give the company immense credit for its dedication to TTAC’s independence. This site’s freedom to publish what it wishes, and VerticalScope’s support for its continued growth are not in question here; my decision to leave TTAC is a personal one, based on my personal passions and ambitions. And as long as TTAC’s independence and brand values remain, I am convinced that this site will continue to grow into an ever-more crucial role in the auto media landscape.

As for myself, the picture is less clear. After my current contract expires at the end of this year, I intend to return to the automotive world in some capacity… although I currently have no specific plans for where and how that will happen. Having studied politics in college, I now find that my education at TTAC was by far the more formative experience, and I look forward to finding a new outlet for the kind of learning, growth and engagement I quite accidentally found here at TTAC. I’ve never been a “car guy” in the traditional sense, but TTAC’s readers have shown that there is a market for automotive writing that goes beyond the sheetmetal and into the laws, economics, politics and culture of the automobile. Having had the privilege of learning from some of the sharpest minds in the auto industry, both on TTAC’s masthead and in its commenter pool, I take this step into the unknown with confidence.

Of course, I owe an eternal debt to the people who have made my experience here at TTAC what it’s been. Most importantly, I must thank Robert Farago for founding this site and believing in me… without him, none of this would have been possible. I also have to thank my father, Paul Niedermeyer, both for encouraging me to start freelancing here in the first place, and providing crucial support ever since. TTAC’s current Editor-in-Chief, Bertel Schmitt, has been a true mentor to me, and for taking TTAC’s reins in his capable hands, I can not thank him enough. And all of TTAC’s amazingly talented editors and writers, especially those who believed in me when few others did, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s been an honor to work with each of you.

Finally, my deepest regards go out to TTAC’s commentariat, the Best and Brightest. I think every writer on this site, indeed everyone who regularly visits automotive blogs, can agree that the discourse here at TTAC is some of the finest to be found anywhere on the web. Certainly you have collectively served as the greatest teacher I have ever had. And in contrast to the kinds of discourse I’m regularly exposed to in the world of politics, I can say without hesitation that TTAC’s comment section gives me faith in this country’s ability to reason its way through problems. To those of you I’ve met and known individually, stay in touch and I hope to see you again soon. To those of you who remain my anonymous teachers and friends, thank you for your wisdom and support.

Before this gets too emotional for me, I’ll just note that I can always be found on Twitter at @Tweetermeyer. Oh, and I’ll definitely be found in the comments section here when time permits. TTAC may be losing an editor, but it’s gaining a commenter… and a fan for life.

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Autobiography: Family Carma http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/autobiography-family-carma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/autobiography-family-carma/#comments Sun, 04 Apr 2010 16:54:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351511 This garage holds 45 years of automotive memories. As does the house it’s attached to. I’ll spare you the memories and stories that are being shared, relived and dredged up as the Niedermeyer clan shares a get-together at my parents’ house in Towson. But let’s take a quick look at the cars that have lived […]

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This garage holds 45 years of automotive memories. As does the house it’s attached to. I’ll spare you the memories and stories that are being shared, relived and dredged up as the Niedermeyer clan shares a get-together at my parents’ house in Towson. But let’s take a quick look at the cars that have lived here since 1965. Like families, it’s a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly (as the current occupants make it all too clear). 

Since there’s no scanner in the house, regrettably I can’t share pictures of the actual cars, so these are all stand-ins.

The 1965 Dodge Coronet 440 eight-seat wagon replaced the 1962 Ford Fairlane in the most recent CC. By far, it holds the most memories for me, given that it was the first car I ever drove. One day when I was fifteen, my parents were gone for the day in my father’s car, so I just grabbed the keys, walked down to the garage, got in and backed it out into the driveway, like I had done almost every Saturday to wash it. But this time I just kept going, through the neighborhood, out to Charles street, and when I hit the Beltway, I turned into the exit and got on the busy freeway.

The only problem I had was that I had to fight a nervous shaking in my leg, as I got up to 65 or so. But it smoothed out after a couple of miles. Having spent many summers driving old tractors in the fields of Iowa, I was surprised at how dead and lacking in feedback/kickback the Dodge’s power steering was. Welcome to the reality of Mopar PS.

I was instantly addicted to driving, and you can read all about my exploits here and here. It inevitably resulted in a fender bender (not my fault), but that exposed my exploits and postponed my license for almost two years. The effect was that it extended my period of illicit driving, and my creativity in finding the cars to do it in.

The Dodge had the old polyspheric 318 V8, with 230 hp, and the Torqueflite. It was a real challenge to get it to burn even a hint of rubber. And as much as I like to buy into the myth of Mopars handling better than average, Mom’s Coronet handled like a pig. It under steered notoriously, plowing its way through life. It wasn’t the slightest bit fun to drive. I drove it purely out of necessity to feed my habit.

To the right of the Coronet, on my father’s side, lived a bright green 1965 Opel Kadett. It was a fairly short-term visitor, staying a mere three years. And its the only car of all of them that I never drove, the Opel having left the fold before I started my driving career.

It was a remarkably tiny and tinny little buzz bomb. Opel’s key competitor to the VW Beetle was a flyweight, weighing two hundred pounds less than a Beetle, or just some 1500 lbs. And it never let you forget it. The tops of the doors would show daylight at seventy or so, being sucked out by the negative pressure area at speed. But with a fairly rev-happy 993cc four that put out 40 hp, it could easily outrun the ubiquitous Beetles. This is something that my older brother proved to me in numerous stoplight drag races.

In every way, the Kadett was the polar opposite of the Dodge: it was hyper-direct in all its controls, and could be made to do all sorts of interesting maneuvers, with its balanced RWD chassis. It was more like wearing a car than driving it. And its hard ride  and noisiness were more akin to a toy or a sedan version of an Austin Healey Sprite.

A baby-shit brown stripper Dart like this one replaced the fragile Opel after a mere three years of my father’s commute and my brother’s exploits. It had the small 170 slant six, three-on-the-tree, and manual steering and brakes. It lived up to its reputation, and was a loyal servant for many years. More Darts are coming soon to CC, but let me just say this: if this car had come with a four-speed stick, and the steering had been just a tad quicker, it would have been quite an effective back-road bomber. With very little weight on the front (the bane of most older American cars), it handled surprisingly well, completely unlike the bigger Dodge wagon. The little six revved more than one would expect, but the gap between second and third was a black hole that the bigger 225 six would have dealt with better with its much more ample torque.

Mom’s Coronet was replaced by a 1973 Coronet wagon, my father having taken a serious turn towards Mopars after the previous Fords. This picture is of a ’72, but that’s all I could find; but the difference was minuscule (n0 fake wood on Moms’). I had already left home by then, but the first time I came home after it appeared and I took it for a drive, I was pleasantly surprised. It handled markedly better than the ’65, and the newer LA 318 seemed to pull as hard if not more so, despite the desmogging. But the handling was the biggest surprise; this one felt so much more composed, and even the steering now had a tad of feedback. Power disc brakes added to the overall impression of driving a much more modern car.

No, that’s not my family on horses. But this Zephyr is a pretty close dead-ringer for what replaced the Dart after ten year’s of use. The Dart was actually still in very decent shape then, without rust and and as solid and hard-running as ever. But my father finally broke down and admitted that he liked the A/C in Mom’s ’73 Coronet. Baltimore summers will do that, even to a cold blooded person like him. So the Zephyr, equipped with the 2.3 L four, four speed stick (on the floor) between actual bucket seats, and air conditioning replaced the Dart.

It was an interesting car, inasmuch as it (and its Fairmont twin) were the closest thing to a Volvo 240 ever built in America. The Fox platform was a remarkable piece of work, which we’ll examine closer soon, and with the four, stick, and manual steering it wasn’t exactly fast, but a very light and neutral handling car that felt much more European than the typical fare built by Detroit. We all though that the dorky factor was high, but that just came with the baggage of it being my father’s.

My father was now back to being a Ford man, and with the family nest quickly emptying, my Mother wanted something smaller. A 1981 or ’82 Escort wagon (not a woody) with the 1.6 and automatic was very much in tune with America’s new-found love for small cars during the second energy crisis. I’ll spare my full assessment on a coming CC, but let’s just say it won’t do much to rehabilitate my growing reputation hereabouts as a Ford hater. Like almost all small cars form Detroit, the Escort started out very flawed, and eventually the worst of the warts were sanded away and they turned into half-way decent but serviceable cars. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough, given the competition from Japan. ‘Nuff said for now.

My father did something totally out of character in 1985 or 1986. He actually called me up to get my recommendation for a new car, as long as it was a domestic. The answer was instantaneous: a Taurus. It was light years ahead anything else from Detroit, and these early versions with the Vulcan 3.0 and automatic were actually devoid of the notorious problems with the 3.8 and the later transaxles. It was a breakthrough car, and one could rightfully say it was the mold of which the whole Camcordia class has been cast from ever since. Quiet, smooth riding yet not a bad handler; for the first time that balance did not elude Detroit. He loved it and it gave him very good service. But he never called and asked me for advice again. Go figure.

Somehow, I was able to co-opt my father in the decision for Mom’s next car. Despite his rabid anti-import sentiment (he was still smarting from the fragile Opel and the crappy service he got at the utterly disinterested Buick dealer) I talked her into asserting herself and buying a Civic sedan; I’m not exactly sure which year, but one of these. And she fell utterly in love with it. It was bright red, and she called it her sports car. Without going into the unflattering details, let me just say that her innate ability to have a relationship with a car and the corresponding driving skills profoundly overshadowed those of my father. He wouldn’t like to hear it, but so it is. And he doesn’t read TTAC. Anyway, that Civic was one of the joys of her life, and she always looked forward to driving it. And it was utterly dead reliable.

By 1993, there would have been so many easy choices for my father with which to replace the Taurus. But for some  inexplicable reason, he now turned to the company I so wanted him to buy from in the sixties: GM. But he waited thirty years too late to buy the right Skylark. I couldn’t believe it when he proudly told me of his new Buick. Let’s just say it’s still in the garage, and the fact that the two of them have survived this long with each other is a minor miracle. He was always a driver who didn’t inspire confidence, and at the age of ninety, we all shudder to think he’s still at it. None of us have gotten in with him for years, unless it was absolutely essential. The truth hurts sometimes. Maybe the Buick is his good luck token.

One day a few years ago, my father took my mother’s Honda for a drive, and came back with a new Saturn Ion coupe. And she didn’t stop letting him hear about how unhappy she was about that for years. I’m sure he meant well, but…well, its probably better I just stop now. They’re old, and we’re here to celebrate the fact that they can both still (sort of) drive at all.

There will never again be any more new cars in this old garage. And despite some of the questionable choices, the cars got them through their very full lives. So I celebrate them all, and will miss them, even the Ion and the Buick. Possibly even most of all.

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Curbside Classic: 1962 Ford Fairlane http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-1962-ford-fairlane/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-1962-ford-fairlane/#comments Fri, 02 Apr 2010 14:59:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351247 They say you can’t go home again. True enough, but as you read this, Edward and the rest of my family and I will be winging our way to Baltimore for a long overdue family reunion. My father recently turned ninety, and my mother will be eighty-seven soon. So what is the obvious choice of […]

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They say you can’t go home again. True enough, but as you read this, Edward and the rest of my family and I will be winging our way to Baltimore for a long overdue family reunion. My father recently turned ninety, and my mother will be eighty-seven soon. So what is the obvious choice of today’s Curbside Classic? The Niedermeyer family car from the early sixties, a black 1962 Fairlane, and in every way exactly like this one, except that ours was the base stripper, not the deluxe 500 like this one. That alone tells you something about the old man.

If you want to properly place this Fairlane in the Niedermeyer family history, here’s the corresponding chapter of the Autobiography. Or the Cliff Notes version: We emigrated from Austria in 1960 to Iowa City, Iowa, my father having been recruited to the University of Iowa, and bought a used 1954 Ford Mainline sedan upon our arrival. Six year old cars back then were already geriatric; my five year old xB is barely a teenager in comparison. The ’54 Ford blue whale was roomy for a family of six, and did the job, mostly, except for not wanting to break its slumber on cold winter mornings. But it was feeling its age, so one day in the winter of 1962, my father unexpectedly showed up with this black Fairlane, bare bones except for the brand new 221 CID V8 and the Ford-O-Matic. I had very mixed emotions.

Yes, it was a new car, not just factory fresh, but the ’62 Fairlane was a totally new creature from Detroit: the first intermediate-sized car from the Big Three. Sure, Ramblers of the times were essentially mid-sized cars, and perhaps the Studebaker Lark should best be considered one too. And it was the remarkable success of the Ramblers that undoubtedly inspired Ford to take the lead with the new Fairlane.

Keep in mind, this was just two years after Ford’s smash success with the Falcon. And just as the Falcon was the basis for the Mustang in 1964, so it also sired the Fairlane. In fact, it would be fair to say that the Fairlane was just a stretched Falcon, the kind of thing done routinely nowadays. And just to confuse matters even more, the Mercury Comet slotted in between the two in length, although it used the narrower width Falcon body. That kept me scratching my head back then. Ford was ahead of the times, and if you wonder where Lee Iacocca got his inspiration for endless variations and different lengths for all the Chrysler K-cars, here it is. History inevitably repeats itself.

So why wasn’t I as excited as I could/should have been as a nine year old car fanatic when Dad shows up with the first brand new car ever? Let me count the ways, starting with the neighbors across the street. They had a matching brace of 1960 Bonnevilles; a hardtop sedan for him, and the wagon for her. I obsessed on them, and had my heart set on the 1962 versions for the Niedermeyer livery. The fact that the car-nut in the family wasn’t even consulted alone was hard to take, but that pattern was to repeat itself endlessly, except for two notable exceptions.

Given the fact that we weren’t exactly a touchy-feely sort of family, I definitely had my eye on a wagon with a third seat for a little elbow room. In 1962, my sister was fourteen, my older brother twelve, and my younger brother three. The painful reality is that the Fairlane is roughly about the size of today’s Civic or Corolla. Extended skin contact with siblings was not my idea of how to spend two days straight on our vacation trips to Colorado.  And before I forget, nobody ever rode in the front middle; we had to do skin contact; he didn’t.

Our Fairlane was utterly stripped of any excess ornamentation, worthy of taxi-cab service. But in my father’s eye, the cheap seat upholstery was something to be well preserved, so he ordered a set of clear plastic seat covers from Fingerhut, the perfectly smooth ones, not the more expensive ones with raised bumps on them to create channels to drain the rivulets of sweat away. No, that would have been extravagant. We literally had to peel ourselves off those seats in the summer, given the short shorts of the era.

It gets worse. My dear father always had a severe issue with drafts, especially around his neck. And he’s always cold; rarely will you see him without a cardigan (or two), even in the summer. So only the front windows were allowed to be opened a tiny crack, even on the hottest summer days. Air conditioning? What’s that? So that’s how we spent two days each way driving to Colorado every summer, and on other trips. But it gets worse yet! In 1964, we were all two years older and much bigger, and my mother was seven months pregnant, and we all crammed in for a three day torture session to the New York World’s Fair, and then back again.  If a child was forced today to endure what we did on that trip, jammed into that hot black Fairlane, and the resulting expressions of emotions it engendered, the Child Protective Services would have cut that trip well short, somewhere in Ohio, I’d say. Father, somehow I still love you, despite the miserable cramped black Fairlane you tortured us/yourself with. Didn’t you know you could buy a full-sized wagon for just a few hundred dollars more?

He finally (almost) tumbled to that in 1965, when the Fairlane was traded in on a 1965 Dodge Coronet eight-seat wagon; technically still a mid-sized, but a huge improvement. Since it coincided with my sister’s departure from the family fold, skin contact issues took a huge step forward. Kids today have no idea what we endured back then. And kids in the Depression would undoubtedly have thought us to be spoiled babies. And so on…

Enough Niedermeyer family carma. The Fairlane wasn’t quite the success that the Falcon was. But then that was a monster, selling almost a half million in its first year. Nevertheless, it was another coup for Ford in its ability to expand at the expense of GM in the early-mid sixties, by expanding into niches that hadn’t been exploited fully yet. And undoubtedly, the Fairlane was developed and built on the cheap, given its Falcon bones. The only noteworthy thing about it was it was the first car to use Ford’s brand new small-block Windsor V8. Why the hell Ford chose to build it in a 221 cubic inch version, with a modest 145 (gross) hp is hard to fathom. By mid-year, the larger 260 CID version already debuted along with the bucket-seated 500 coupe. And a year and a half later, the definitive 289 replaced them all. Ford like to keep the boring machines guessing.

The little 221 was a smooth and tidy mill, but it was no more powerful than the Chevy 230 or the Chrysler 225 slant sixes, and because it had eight cylinders, it intrinsically had a less favorable torque curve. After 1963, the 221 inch V8 was gone; an oddity of Ford history. But the fact that our stripper Fairlane at least had the little V8 was its redeeming grace. That badge on the front fender meant more to my self esteem during that difficult period in my life than my father will ever know. I might not be who I am today because of it. Thanks, Dad!

My sister used to come to pick me up from grade school every Wednesday to drive me and a friend to the all-city orchestra rehearsal. On the one slightly longer stretch of road near the school we would goad her to floor it. She obliged, but we had to floor and kick-down our imaginations to experience some sort of true and visceral accelerative experience. With the two-speed Ford-O-Matic (technically it was a three speed, but one had to engage Low manually, which sis was not doing) the little V8 whispered rather than bellowed its efforts to accelerate the fairly light 2800 lb sedan.

This particular forlorn Fairlane sits in front of an old house near downtown, owned by a couple of young sisters who live in the upstairs apartment. I know this because it has a For Sale sign on it now, and I talked to the guy who lives below them. He’s tired of looking at it, and told me that they would probably take anything for it, since the next stop is the junk yard if no one steps up. He encouraged me, eager to rid himself of the eyesore. I though about it briefly, but then I remembered the words: you can’t go home again. And even if I could, I’m not so sure I’d want to.

More new Curbside Classics here

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