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Pete’s Blog&Grille: Me and my new gang, 10 years in

Editor Peter's Pinball machine. He's had it for 30 years.

“Who—or what—was that?” I asked Stephen Petit, at the time Today’s Trucking Editor.

We were standing at the back of a crowded, liquored-up banquet hall in Louisville, Kentucky.

At the front, on stage, was a tall, lanky and awkwardly constructed gentleman who, when he leaned over the podium, lurched forward like one of those building cranes that seem to be on the verge of falling over frontwards.

Petit: “Name’s Kolman.”

Me: “Is he nuts?”

Petit: “That would be a pretty fair assessment.”

It was 2004. I had yet to join the staff at Today’s Trucking but was on assignment for the magazine and we were at something called the Truck Writers of North America Annual Dinner. The guy on stage had the crowd laughing like a bunch of high-school-cafeteria stoners.

The Truck Writers of North America.

Who Knew? Who knew that there were so many people making a living writing about trucks? (About 150 of which were members of the TWNA - at last count.)

And who knew that I’d be one?

The acronym, TWNA, is pronounced tuna like the fish. And the group, which I have now been a proud member of for 10 years, is one of the most literate, best-travelled, and oddest assemblies on the planet.

The accents alone could equip a platoon of Mel Blanc characters.

There’s Mexicans; Brooklynites, Alabamians? (What do you call those people? Alabamaniacs?) Brits, Canucks. Quebecois; Californians and one multilingual Swede whose accent is completely non-identifiable. Somebody called it Mid-Atlantic.

Their bona-fides?

One woman writer is a former truck driver. There’s high-school dropouts; a few army vets and at least one army brat. There’s post-graduate-degreed English Lit-majors and a former U.S. Congress policy advisor. I know of one published poet, a small combo of musicians and a mechanical engineer. 

Another TWNA guy used to work for a newspaper where the pay was so lousy on the way home from work he literally hunted for supper. In Canada!

My immediate boss, Rolf Lockwood, is one of TWNA’s founders. So is Kolman, who, for a time was TWNA’s “president for life.”

What’s Rolf like you ask? Besides being a soft-spoken guy and founder of this publishing company I work for, he owns an increasingly eccentric collection of motor vehicles, he loves his daughters beyond cosmic measure and recently posted the following on Facebook:

“An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. ‘In English,’ he said, ‘a double negative forms a positive. However in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there’s isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.’ A voice from the back of the room piped up, ‘yeah, right.’”

Atsa ma boss.

As for that Kolman guy I mentioned earlier?

QUITE MAD MEN: David Kolman, Alfred E Neuman and Editor Carter

David Kolman once told a joke that was so good it got him fired. It was lethal—just like Monty Python’s deadliest joke sketch.

(You know what I’m talking about. The English Military Brass learned that a local gag writer created a joke that was so funny you died laughing, so they taught their soldiers to yell it in German across the battlefield so the Nazis would roll over and die.)

That’s how deadly Kolman’s joke was.

And I’d share it with you here except I’m a big chicken. I don’t want to be like the Brit translator in the Python sketch who saw a few words of the killer joke and spent two weeks in hospital. Ask me in person sometime.

Plus, if I got fired I might have to quit TWNA and I don’t wanna. TWNA’s 25th Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 27 in Louisville and I plan on being there.

I like to think that the cred that keeps me getting invited to TWNA meetings is that I have, in my very basement, a working analogue two-bits-a-game 1972 Night Rider Pinball machine decorated to look like a Peterbilt truck AND I once had a letter to the editor, complete with snarky response from the editor, in MAD.

I should also grudgingly admit that TWNA fosters professional journalism among its members and ensures audiences receive as accurate and thorough reporting on the industry as is possible.

But that’s hardly my point here.

The point here is, — in a severely twisted Groucho-ism, TWNA is one of the only clubs I’d join that would have guys like me as a member.

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