Driving through New Haven with my 90-year-old friend Tom out to see the New Haven Christmas Tree brought us to Yorkside Pizza for a bite. While parked across the street, little did I know a family, also doing the same holiday spirit run in a 1970 VW bus, was eager to meet the patty wagon. Determined, they drove around the block four times hoping our paths would cross. As I drive down the street after having a slice of pizza and Tom had a bowl of soup, I look ahead shrieking with excitement as I gazed ahead at this camper decorated with the old fashion big lightbulbs pulled off to the side of the road; it was like a mirage. My visceral reaction highlighted to me how others respond when they see my camper; it truly brings out the best in people. Meeting Eric, his wife Valerie and their son Ethan, brought out the best in me that night. Earlier in the day friends and neighbors at City Point joined in on the excitement in the holiday decorated patty wagon. Jonathan, Michael, Daniel, Garrett, Doug, Kelley, Lisa and Jim, all embracing the spirit of the holiday season.
Patty Wagon Adventures Posts
Embracing the season with some holiday cheer generated by a decorated 1974 VW camper, coupled with enthusiastic customers at City Point Kitchen in New Haven, CT. Three people, three parts of the world, and a common denominator, the VW camper. These fine people were transported back to Pakistan, Italy, and 1965 in New Haven, simply by seeing the VW Patty wagon. The best gift we can give each other is our time, compassion, and respect. Tis the season; Happy Holidays.
It’s the law of attraction happening as in The Secret, along with Kevin Costner’s movie line, build it and they will come. The secret to connecting with like-minded people is to be the person you want to attract. The passion continues with random people approaching this camper and sharing their life experiences and enthusiasm involving classic VW memories. I do not even need to search for folks, I simply park patty wagon, sit back, and I’m approached; it’s a beautiful thing! More people need to start coming with me on this journey. Be prepared, because to wholeheartedly embrace the experience, you must be a shining light, you must truly seek the goodness in people, and you must be willing to embellish their enthusiasm as they try to catch their breath sharing their story. Buckle Up! Journey On, Peace On.
At a time when the country feels so politically divided, borderline hostile, the panacea was a trip in the classic VW Patty wagon to Maine to be with my youngest sister, my niece, and her sons; the perfect adventure for Columbus Day weekend. Typically a 3.5 hour trip ended up as a 5 hour trip, and that was sooooo ok. In this vehicle it really is about the journey almost more than, or in this case, just as valuable, as the destination. The first stop for gas brought an enthusiastic employee running outside with a real camera asking permission to photograph. Patty Wagon commands the paparazzi; its part of being in a league of her own, smile. VW campers are so much more than a cool car, they are a reminder of how life was and how life should be. My sister Carolyn works at the Portland Regency PW had to make an appearance in Portland; it is also classic. Barely exiting the VW when a baby boomer guy approached me eager to share his VW memories as a kid living in a camper in Germany with his family; his dad was in the Navy serving in Germany. Another couple from South Carolina approached the camper with the same eagerness; its a common denominator to us owners. They shared their 1982 VW stories; that’s our high. And if the VW camper high wasn’t enough, being with my sister, her husband Mike, my niece Nicolle, and holding and playing my great nephews, Harrison and Roman, made the fall leaves feel even brighter. Priceless!
As a baby boomer from 1958, I am wholeheartedly embracing this new chapter of the Patty Wagon Adventures life. Who would think I would end up going to classic car shows; not me. Yet, here I am, letting the journey be my guide. I work for a non-profit in New Haven. My job as the CCP Director of Mentoring involves recruiting volunteer mentors to work with kids, ages 10-21, in foster care and/or on probation. Attending a meeting at Klingberg in New Britain, also a program for youth, brought me face to face with a poster in the lobby about the Klingberg Classic Car Show in a few days. As I entered the meeting I was joking with my colleagues how everyone kept telling me I need to meet Wayne Carini, that he is right here in Portland, CT and HE is THE CLASSIC CAR GUY to meet. And now a poster with his name; universe and kismet factor. With tongue in cheek, I proclaimed that my goal was to get a photo with Wayne Carini by my VW patty wagon for my blog. With Lucille Ball being my MO, all smiled and knew I would somehow achieve my spirited goal. As I entered the parking lot and observed the 1908 Rolls Royce, the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Wooden Station Wagons from the 30 and 40’s, with humility and humor, I stated to the man taking my $10 entrance fee, “I think I am out of my league here.” With smiles and reassurance, I was directed to the area with the other wagons. Ironically, there was always a crowd around the VW camper. Young families were especially drawn to it as they envisioned themselves having quality family time together. Families asked if they could sit in it; I let kids climb on the upper loft bed with the top popped. COOL! The echoes of kids begging their parents to buy one was refreshing. Two hours later a gentleman approached me stating I won one of the car awards. In disbelief, thinking he was joking, he explained they allowed kids (since Klingberg is a kids organization) to select their favorite; hands down it was VW patty wagon. I can still hear the words, “Patty, pull your camper behind the Ferrari; we are lining the winners up in a row.” Smile. Not only did Wayne Carini, from Chasing Classic Cars TV Show, hand me the award, Mike Brewer from England’s TV show, Wheeler Dealers, also was in the kodak moment. Goal “on steroids” achieved. While the overall winner was the $2,000,000 Rolls Royce from 1909 driven by Jerry Chase, as seen in this video, I can still feel his passion as he reminisced about his VW bus memories. So what really is value? His VW memories are priceless. My take away, never see yourself as less-than. Also Priceless. Carpe Diem.
Hearing random people enthusiastically share their moments about quality time with their family, in a VW camper, is priceless. People who have a history with VWs almost have difficulty catching their breath when they see a VW camper. It is like a kaleidoscope of memories are flooding their brain and heart; they are back in a time warp. Dave and Jane both had their own memories with VWs as they eagerly saw the patty wagon and ran over to share their experiences. Dave owned one in the 70’s as a teen and Jane as a kid in the 60’s with her a family. She can still recall the day her dad brought it home. And to boot, she was able to access a family photo from the 60’s in the VW bus. I guess technology has its place for that perk. Rick and his daughter Julie saw the patty wagon in downtown New Haven. This vehicle is one of those exceptions that when people are looking in the windows, its cool. Rick works for Yale and owned 3 VW Campers in his life. His daughter Julie was visiting from Boston and was also able to quickly access two of the three VW campers, one from her childhood and the one they presently own. Svenia and Zach are from Germany. They were involved with the kayaking event for the International Festival in New Haven, which landed them at City Point on the New Haven Harbor. They saw Patty wagon and immediately shared their story of family life with their kids and two large dogs. As parents, they realize the value in having kids put technology away and talk face to face, play games as a family, draw, and eat together. To find value and contentment is this tight space; priceless. Peace on.
My humble hometown of Ansonia, CT, while only 6 miles by 6 miles, is filled with memories beyond larger than life. My great-great grandparents, on both the Italian and Irish sides, came to America in the early and mid 1800’s. The Irish relatives came to America due to the potato famine in Ireland. They opened a fish and meat market on Main Street in Ansonia in 1861. Despite the IRISH NEED NOT APPLY signs, my great-great grandparents, Peter and Mary Mulligan, were so thrilled to be in America, they named two of their children after USA Presidents. My great grandfather was named George Washington Larkin, once the sheriff in Ansonia, and his brother Alexander Hamilton-Larkin. My great-great aunt had a school named after her in Ansonia called Annie E. Larkin School, now the Ansonia Police Station, after having taught immigrant children there for over 50 years. My grandparents owned Larkin Real Estate and Insurance in the 1940’s, where eventually my mother Judy, and her brothers Jack and George, were also working in the family business. To this day my mother, Judy Larkin-Nicolari, works in real estate for Coldwell Bankers; all the small family businesses found it hard to compete in contemporary times. My sister Lynne ironically opened a store called Moodswings in the exact location on Main Street where our grandparents had their Larkin Insurance Company. My grandparents went to Ansonia Public Schools in the 1920’s, my parents in the 1950’s, my sisters and I in the 1970’s, and my niece Kelly, Lisa’s daughter, in the 1990’s. Four generations. My Italian side got on the train from Ellis Island, saw the smoke stacks in Ansonia, and with the thought there must be work here, got off. They have been there ever since. Three generations crammed into a small house on Central Street, yet they were happy growing tomatoes and making sauce, aka gravy. My father, Dr. Richard F Nicolari, recalled when the ice man delivered the ice block for the refrigerator. Imagine. My grandfather, also Richard, a blue collar guy who worked at the local YMCA for 45 years and at the Anaconda American Brass for 50 years, was clearly a man with a work ethic. He was certainly proud of the day when his eldest son, my dad, became a school principal at 26 years old and then Supt of Schools in Ansonia at 34 years old. They didn’t say much, but the lump in their throats spoke volumes. As a kid, I always found it interesting how the Italians went to Holy Rosary Church and the Irish went to Assumption. My mother must have won the toss because we went to Assumption Church and Assumption School, also my mothers alma mater. Her parents lived directly across the street. To this day, whenever I leave Assumption Church, I find myself in a flurry of visuals as I gaze across the street and picture me with my sisters and cousins in our Easter bonnets on THAT wall. And when I take a ride to 35 Johnson St, the Larkin homestead where the four of us grew up in the 1960’s, I cant help but picture my sister Carolyn being taken to the hospital for sticking a pebble up her nose that would not come out. And here we are. My sister Lisa presently teaches at Ansonia Middle School; I taught and was a school administrator for 28 years in Ansonia. And through all the ups and downs, our parents were always unconditionally proud of their four girls. As my sister Lisa faces a new chapter in life, putting her house on the market and considering leaving her hometown of Ansonia, emotions are flying as the unknown awaits. When my friends initially drive through my hometown, I can almost read their minds upon entering this middle class town with not much fanfare. However, leaving, they are all green with envy of my roots, and all know, that is priceless.
Crossed paths with Tom from Perkins Printing on Elm St in New Haven totally by chance. After yoga class and a bite to eat, I slowly re-entered the world and observed a man strategically placing new lettering on Café Java’s windows. I recall my sister Lynne, the business minded sibling, suggesting I advertise my blog on my camper. Now after 9 years of going to this yoga studio, I never noticed, or really paid attention, to this printing place right under my nose at 50 feet away; so much for thinking I am astute. After selecting the color and the Mary Tyler Moore font, as Tom coined the phrase, I returned a few days later for the big day. Now parallel parking patty wagon is challenging without power steering; so the moments of parking at the corner is serendipitous. Though a 60 second dash to announce patty wagon has arrived and ready for the big day to blogvertise; ran out and ouch, a $50 ticket. Well, the Mary Tyler Moore font took the edge off as I felt like tossing a hat in the air to make it all better. (Boomers get that). Ironically, the next day I see my yoga buddy has a parking meter down to 2 minutes. Knowing her elderly mom was with her and they were delayed at yoga; I added a few coins to add to her time. Now I believe most people do these random acts of kindness and that my gesture was not so magnanimous. However, I share these moments to reinforce how the big things in life are really the little things. I am gently reminding us how good it feels to be kind and create an energy shift. The other day my cousin’s daughter, Kayleigh, was so excited that a random person paid for her lunch. Keep it going. Peace on.
From Downtown New Haven to City Point, real people share enthusiasm and memories of their VW experiences. Mark, a former student from the days I was a teacher, is now working at Shell & Bones, yet more importantly, is a proud dad to an amazing son. Ironically, as he was having his picture taken by the patty wagon, my sister Lisa stepped out the City Point Kitchen and introduced herself to Mark’s son; she would be his teacher in two years when he gets to middle school. Embracing the two degrees of separation, it’s not six. My neighbor, John Williams, a criminal defense attorney in New Haven for 5 decades, yes 5, was eager to share his memories of his days at Harvard in the 1960’s and his trips to DC in a VW camper bus. John was instrumental in the Black Panther trials in New Haven in the late 60’s. Quite a memorable way to start a law career. Patrick is a guy I randomly met while dropping a friend off at the New Haven Train Station. He was taking a photo of the patty wagon, like many do, and shared his 1960’s VW memories that involved his dad and older brother. After lunch at Shell and Bones, my dear friend Margreth, who was visiting from CA, and her two friends, David Freeman, and his wife Sylvia, were excited to see the PW. David, a the former CEO of Loctite, shared over lunch that he was following my blog; very humbling; and now he is a part of its journey. smile!
Growing up in the 1970’s would bring every teenager in New Haven County to the Rubber Match on Dixwell Avenue. It opened in 1973 as the local head hippy shop, and still exists today with John the original owner. John was blown away by the memories that ran through his head about VW campers when he saw mine parked in front. PS I only bought some peace sign stickers. As I sat on the bench at CPK, I observed three people looking at the patty wagon. I announced myself as the proud owner. Dolly, now my new best friend, ran up and hugged me. Two complete strangers serendipitously captured in a moment in time by a vehicle. Her daughter and son in law were observing this interaction like it was a spiritual experience. Well, it was. Dolly could not contain her enthusiasm as she shared how she was at St Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury yesterday and in the room was a VW calendar; one looked exactly like mine. She silently thought she would love to see this camper. And voila, the next day she is in New Haven and parked next to patty wagon. You can see why she is hugging the PW. It was a divine intervention. John (yes another John) is a cool contemporary hippy chiropractor in New Haven. He cracked my neck a few times. Thanks John. New Haven Attorney Joe Rini and Attorney Annie Levitt from West Haven give peace signs at the PW. Where did all these attorneys come from? Smile. And the brother I never had, Brian, an amazing drummer of the Panacea Brothers, shares a PW moment.
Lastly, IKEA, enough said; ask Michelle (inside joke). If you visit New Haven and have a VW story, track me down; be a part of the adventure. Join the journey. www.pattywagonadventures.com