Fix it again, Tony

When I was close to graduating with my journalism degree back in 1973, my parents decided I needed a slightly better car, so my father took me to a used foreign car dealer near downtown Atlanta. The dealership was in a multi-story warehouse. Up on about the third floor, they had two Fiats. One was Petty blue, and the other was yellow. I liked the yellow one, so that’s the one I got.

This is what it looked like.


This is not my car, but it looks exactly like it. It was a 1971 Fiat 124 Sports Coupe. I loved it. Despite the common perception, it was a modern, sophisticated, reliable car. It had four-wheel disk brakes; an aluminum, double-overhead cam engine; and a five-speed transmission. It drove like a sports car and got 30 miles per gallon. I drove it all the time I worked at the newspaper in Augusta and I drove it to California when I moved to Lake Tahoe for a while. Then I drove it back home and kept it until I went to graduate school in 1980. I sold it a few years after that to a fellow graduate student.

It never lived up, or down, to the old joke that Fiat stood for Fix It Again Tony.

When I was in graduate school, Leah, who I had not seen in years, was working in Atlanta. One day she called me because she was having some problems with her car. This is the 27-year-old Leah with her car.

leah and her fiat2

It was a Fiat 124 Spider. It was basically the same car I had but in a sports car body. The picture is a fuzzy print I scanned. I can tell from the bumper that the spider was a newer model than mine, but we can’t figure out exactly what year it was.

Unfortunately, Leah’s Fiat ended up wrecked. And unfortunately, we didn’t see each other again for many more years.

Leah and I would both love to have either one of those cars right now. It’s possible to find one on the used market for a not-too-unreasonable price. One used-car price guide says that coupe prices range from around $5000 to $10,000, and spider prices range from around $5000 to $20,000. Another web site says that very few coupes survive today, mainly because the bodies rust so badly, but that the running gear of many coupes lives on in spiders.

Here’s what made me think of 40-year-old Fiats.


I found the original manuals for my old Fiat in a trunk that I hauled around through college and for years after that. For some reason the manuals didn’t make it to the person I sold the car to.

Clearing out my mother’s house has been like an archeological dig of my own memory. I feel sure I’ll have more posts based on the memories I have excavated.

Once I was a runner

I wasn’t an athlete in high school, and certainly not in college. When I graduated and started working at the newspaper in Augusta, I started running regularly. I didn’t run for conditioning, or to compete, or to associate with other runners. I just liked to run. I liked running up hills, I liked running in miserably hot weather, and I liked running in cold weather. I felt good when I ran and I felt good after I ran.

When I quit the newspaper in 1976 and moved to Lake Tahoe for about 18 months, I started running more seriously. The great thing there was that I could run on dirt trails in the woods. In early summer of 1977 I decided to run the Silver State Marathon, which took place around Labor Day near Carson City, Nevada. That was my first race. I trained all summer, gradually increasing my distance, if not my speed. I was happy to finish in under four hours, although about midway in the race I developed a blister on one heel that was about the size of a silver dollar. How appropriate.

When I started graduate school at Georgia Tech in 1980, I got even more serious about running. I had an eight-mile course that I ran every day after school. I wasn’t interested in racing. I enjoyed the time I spent on my solitary runs. I would see someone jogging along my running course and think that I wasn’t like them; I was not a jogger, I was a runner. I couldn’t imagine not running.

Eventually I decided to run a few races. I don’t remember how many I ran in my racing career, but it was less than 10.

These race numbers were in an old trunk I found while cleaning out my mother’s house.


I don’t know which races the unlabeled numbers came from. The Mountain Goat 8 Mile was run at Berry College. The course wound around a dirt road on Lavender Mountain, not too far from where we live now. I also don’t remember the times I ran in all those races, but I was fairly happy with them.

The last race of my career was a 15 km run, the Chieftains Road Race, held in 1984 at Berry College. The certificate in the upper right of the picture is from that race. The winner of the 15-km race was from Mexico City. He ran and won the 5-k race to warm up for the 15-k. His pace was about 5:50 per mile. My pace in that race was a little over 6:22 a mile, the best I ever did. I was fifth in my age group (30-34), and I actually beat the fastest woman runner by about a second.

Not long after that race my knee started hurting. It got bad enough that I had to stop running shortly after that. I swam for exercise for about a year, and then started running again. Slowly. Very slowly. And then not at all. I miss running. I even dream about running. Now I can hardly run across the street.

But once I was a runner.

First hummingbirds

The first hummingbirds have shown up here on the mountain. We realized it when one flew into the sliding glass door in our living room about three days ago. We heard a thump and then saw the bird fly away.

Time to put up the feeder.

Several have started feeding. Based on what I’ve read, they are probably the males, who have arrived to stake out their territory. This shot, taken through the glass, shows two. The one you can actually see is a male.


We have always mixed our own hummingbird nectar. Everything we read said use one part sugar to four parts water, but at this site, they say that the one-to-four mix has about the same amount of sugar as the lowest concentration in certain flowers that hummingbirds feed on. They say using a higher concentration, even up to one-to-one, encourages the birds to come to your feeder. The concentration can be lowered gradually to the one-to-four mix.

The site has some more interesting facts about hummingbirds, as well as some advice for ways to  rescue a hummingbird trapped in a garage. I’m going to keep that in mind if another hummer ends up trapped in our garage.

Friday Felines

Zoe gets his closeup.

zoe up close You can see that he’s a little cross-eyed. He was lying on the sofa here, where he looks his most innocent.

There’s a little dark grunge in the corners of his eyes. We think it comes from the eyedrops he has to get for his glaucoma. Cleaning his eyes is part of the twice-daily ritual of putting in his eyedrops. I clean them out, and then by the next time he gets his medicine, his eyes are grungy again.