Hidden histories, Georgia-Lina values

Reset by hands-on history and a random Pennsylvania redux

Puerto Rico’s part of the US, ya know? It’s just part of being an American. Take care of each other — it’s just what you do.

In the chill of a fresh morning, flying south

High trees lined the state highway and back roads coming down North Carolina to Fayetteville.

Restaurants serving liver for lunch specials, and gizzards. A “bricklayers seminar“ was offered for free at the local meeting house.

Each town carried a set of signals for its history — worn as roadside signs and declarations of culture affirmed.

Old farm Carolina.

We ran down I-95 for a stretch.

At the South Carolina Welcome Center, an angry man struggled to line up his ailing Ford pickup onto the back of a U-Haul trailer. I approached to offer help, just as a hastily setup ramp gave way, the truck’s right side collapsing hard onto the pavement below. The man yelled profanity at the machine and his wife.

To my right, a man stood smoking. We had the same thought — could we even help him at this point? Would he let us?

“He needs to cool off, no sense in trying to help somebody who won’t let you.” the smoking man said, after I described the tools in my trunk the Ford driver might use.

A minute later, he was back in the truck. Forced into reverse, it squealed and crashed off the back of the trailer. A loud knock came from the engine — rod knock most likely I thought — followed by a cloud of white smoke (burning oil like crazy). He angrily launched the truck up and onto the bed. He jumped from the cab of the truck and pointed for his wife to get back into the U-Haul, adding his own version of “told you I had it”.

Dave Potsby — the man smoking next to me — asked about the Buick.

A few minutes later, I learned he was from Pennsylvania. He introduced me to his wife — they had both retired from Polk — the state institution I had demonized in my mind.

Cindy and Dave Potsby, Polk retirees and long-drive experts

How unexpected.

They knew the Barber Center, the history, everything I had assumed and feared and believed to be true.

It was a reframe, a balance to the harsh depictions of a place set as evil in my mind from an early age.

They spoke of the abandoned children, the tradition of ashamed mothers dropping babies with any kind of condition judged abnormal.

Individuals had individual stories. Their “limitations” and incredible talents and tragedies were unrealized and unwanted by the wider world. I held back on mentioning my own sister — how Polk was an option at her birth — so I might listen on an unbiased, insider account:

Before I recorded, they described bonds with Polk’s residents — the duties which angered some and they accepted

A fork appeared: Myrtle Beach and Florence. One in service of the other. Towards Florence we drove, to see the town that serviced the tourist destination.

In Florence, both the B. Wright Tourist home and the Ace Restaurant had been long since paved over. Green Book stops were concentrated on a single street. MacLeod Health Complex stood in their place — a sprawling medical facility built in the last 10 years (or so I judged from its clean and new-corporate appearance).

I continued on to the last Green Book stop — which had become a bank. It was a continuing theme in my search. Most of the stops in the larger towns had been replaced since 1956.

A walk down the last stop’s street brought me closer to what looked like houses with some time on their structures. The first was a converted house-to-minichurch — the “Believer’s Way”.

A man in the back of the house next door waved back to me as I passed. I walked over to talk. Melvin was putting in a new door on the former Green Book Tourist home. He immediately dropped his eyes and head to the ground when I began to speak, calling me Sir after every response — in a submissive, anxious tone.

Beyond the interruption of his afternoon work, I wondered why and what he had experienced that made him react with such visible fear?

He never made eye contact until I asked about his Home.

We stumbled through the history he knew, his brother’s purchase of the house decades ago

He had to finish his work.

Willy Cooper, the current owner, was his brother. He may have bought it from the John MacDonald I had seen listed as the name of the house. John and his family were either White or Indian as he remembered seeing on documents and hearing from his brother.

I was left with the first sign of a Green Book Stop owned by a non-black.

Race finds us

I flashed back to something my old teacher Mr. Carpin had said after he heard my take on the Green Book.

“…Black versus White. That’s what you’re looking for.“

I wasn’t looking for the racial divide, I was just looking — and listening.

It followed and found me.

Laced all throughout American history, each stop became a reference point for our denial. The tensions, violence, and mistrust between Americans did not materialize from technology, it was built from our history as a product of the failure to peacefully melt.

Technology just added fuel to the fire.

Like a well tune carburetor (unlike my Buick’s) we have had our periods of smooth and steady burn. The backfires and blown engines along the way victimized the involuntary passengers most.

We live in the exhaust and pretend we can see clearly.

The unbalanced ratios and excesses of a power-hungry American car moved us quickly and left us stranded, afraid to ask each other for help. Driven mainly by white Europeans and their descendants, the car and its passengers were taken for granted.

In the rush to achieve, to dominate, to escape and find — we made what we thought a better Home.

Georgia’s not-so-short pitstop

First moves west

My first taste of “direction back” came as I pulled onto I-20 West: a mixed feeling of moving towards an eventual end-of-trip and a place somewhere west I might recognize.

Sunset hit just as I crossed the state line into Georgia. The sole AirBnB-listed house was empty, save the collections of Christian symbols. Everywhere sat paperback copies of the New Testament and references to Scripture. Small trinkets, mostly Teddy bears, sat on the tables and the dresser. Back-lit crosses hung on the walls.

With a lingering smell of mildew in the air, I settled down and slept by an open window. The night air in Georgia went cold fast. I woke ~ 3am, just long enough to find another blanket and slip back into wild dreams of alternate adventures on the Roadtrip Americana.

The overnight in western Georgia turned into more.

In the morning, my bags packed, I cranked the Buick. I cranked again, checked the kill switch, pumped the gas. Listening for a turn — all seemed ok except for the actual start. I poured a touch of gas down the throat of the carb itself (last ditch to feed the internal combustion fire — if fuel was the problem).

A couple of calls later, I had a sounding board in Mickey (the backyard PA mechanic) and my dad. Either fuel or spark was missing, as always.

I set aside my pride and my expectations for moving West that day.

With a few more local calls, I found a shop who seemed to know their stuff just down the road: GeorgiaLina Automotive.

A tow truck for a mile? I considered pushing (or finding help to push) and a coast the mile or so to GeorgiaLina. Pride kills —this is a perfect example.

I called the “free” Roadside Assistance on my classic car insurance — and came to peace with my “weakness”.

He was pro, and quick — problem solved.

All is good. What a privilege the entire trip is. I don’t need to fix everything myself, start to finish. This is practical, this is the present problem and solution.

GeorgiaLina stories

As I explained what had been done and how it happened, the shop owner — the wife, one of them anyway — stopped me.

“You don’t want a job do you? ‘Cause we need a few more mechanics around here.“ she said, after I described the recent wrench work.

It was flattering — a reassurance to my knowledge, my new knowledge, of the wildCat and how old cars work.

The entire family worked there.

Andy, the husband, listened intently to his wife describe my problem. His daughter and niece worked at the front desk, and all the places in between.

They were moving plenty of cars through, and I felt an uncertainty, a lost realness.

I had carefully avoided (most of) the non-local, the mass produced, the insulated and prescribed American experience. My fear was foolish, of course.

Outside, Andy was on it. We got to the root of it as I cranked the starter and followed his lead.

“You check the wires? You can hold em to feel if they have spark, ya know?” he said with a slight smile.

I knew that one, and was too chicken to check that way (take the shock in my hand). The other method of watching for arc by placing an unplugged wire on the engine manifold was new — a trick I would save for later.

Sure enough, no spark — looks like my distributor went out.

I had just put a new one in, the week before with the backyard mechanic boys of Pennsylvania — a fancy new HEI to take care of my timing issues for good.

We swapped in another coil, another module — no dice. Something deeper was wrong with the part itself. It was a cursed component.

“New doesn’t always mean new.” Andy noted.

It surprised me how calm I stayed.

In a few calls, a new distributor was on its way from Atlanta for the next morning. We paused. The Buick would be safe inside for the night.

In the meantime, I took a breath and wrote.

Each day my writing comes easier. It has changed from a needed task to a craving.

I satisfied my craving that night — flowing for hours on end, processing and translating and framing the mass of human data from the past few days.

My own American History was taking shape.

Car Issues at GeorgiaLina

“Yeah, I got a car issue. Got issues with box trucks, with old muscle, got issues and my cars keep growin” Andy explained of his collection.

We toured his car yard in the back of the shop.

“I was burned and raised in that ‘der 72 Comet. Momma bought it new from the showroom floor” Andy said as we passed an entire side of the shop with cars of all decades lined up by some order of priority.

Many decades and states of rust and repair — he knew them all and what needed to be done

His Demolition Derby car sat ready to be wrecked again.

“I took tools and my lights down last time, ended up workin’ on other peoples’ cars more than my own — slapping them back together to take more beatin’” he said with a laugh.

“Not sure if I’ll be racing this year, got so much going on.”

A Ford LTD, built to be wrecked and repaired — just enough to be wrecked again.

Inside, Andy and I spoke in the hall to the shop on my trip and project. His wife Erin voiced her concern over my “making a documentary“.

It had the sounds of doubt I had heard before, and the new American wariness of “strangers” — despite her obvious trust in people.

Still, They loved to venture into the unknown

“[Kinda like what you’re doing] Me and my wife… we just get in the car sometimes — phones off, no GPS or nothin’. Get to a stop sign: OK — which way, left or right.”

“I wasn’t born with a golden spoon in my mouth.”

At one end of the office, a prominent collection box stood for the relief effort in Puerto Rico.

“It’s just… being an American. Everybody should do that. World would be a whole different place.”

“We’re all Americans. Don’t care if you’re in China, we help each other out — all people. Helping your brothers and sisters out.”

His wife describe their journey to starting our own business. The little taste of their entrepreneurship came through. They took a leap of faith — one supported by their faith in each other and that in God.

“A few weeks before we started GeorgiaLina, we had $100 in our checking account. We were living paycheck to paycheck and and all of a sudden, God removed every obstacle, every excuse we had to not do it.”

Andy and Erin in front of the sign they fought with kindness for.

Even when there’s a conspiracy between their former landlord and some of the county officials to put up blocks, they killed them with kindness.

She translated from the Bible, “If someone puts a mile in front of you, you give them back 2 Miles.”

Andy framed the car yard and all the cars. They were more than unfinished projects.

“When times are tough, the junk cars pulled us through. Sometimes, I’ll sell them or scrap them, make sure the electricity and the house gets paid.“

“My daddy taught me you don’t turn down nobody And no business. I work on everything, ‘fer anybody” — Andy’s learned philosophy .

Kevin and Andy — they’ve worked together for years now, like family — rattled off fishing stories in the front as they wrapped up repairs for the day. Catfish, perch, the occasional, inedible Gar — all caught and most fish-fried. They loved the country, their country — their land and slice of Georgia.

Kevin, long-time GeorgiaLina mechanic, goes through timing with an old-truck customer

I watched people flow in and out of GeorgiaLina.

They knew and trusted — appreciated the family. Andy gave advice freely, even to those who were wronged by others — how they could repair and resolve. How they could move on — in their cars and in their lives.

Georgia is perfect to them, the changes in media, in the community is felt in a handshake

How Cars work, how people (used to/can still) work

As I said to my dad once during a car wisdom session: all this new-old car learning has mapped to other things.

I understand systems, history, people better and deeper because of my adaptation, because of what the Buick has taught me and where it has left (taken) me.

When we used to work on cars ourselves, when they had more “problems” more often — we had to rely on each other. We spoke more and listened more — not just about cars.

“No one thinks about what’s going on, they just plug in a computer and wait for the answer. Technology makes us dumb.” — Kevin, GeorgiaLina mechanic.

We gained the convenience of more reliability, of less problem-solving. We lost our need to talk — and the experience of caring for the things and people around us.

Alabama called me out onto the highway

I listened to the WildCat’s engine wind out smoothly. The new distributor was timed well, the Roadtrip continued on to Alabama.

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Honest history & proposals from a conflicted futurist.

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Travis Kellerman

Travis Kellerman

Honest history & proposals from a conflicted futurist.

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