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Car People - April 2007 Detonation

Hear Bob work, see Bob think, watch Bob run, read Bob's column!

Mar 16, 2007
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Bob, the Devil, and Honda
One year ago in this space, I shared with you the most difficult chapter in my life, the death of my daughter. It was an unusually emotional piece for me, reflecting the confusion and severe sadness I was going through at the time, and also kind of serving as a healing tool, a way to get some grief out of my system.

Looking back, I wonder if it was the wisest thing to do. Not that it was received negatively, or that it made me uncomfortable. Quite the contrary, my wife and I were awash in support from all segments of our lives, for which we will be eternally grateful. I even got several reader E-mails wishing my family and me the best, including some from a handful of guys that had gone through the same pain. But admittedly it was a very frank disclosure, and not the kind of thing one commonly finds in an automotive rag (not to mention that, in this culture anyway, men are not encouraged to be so open).

It was and is a huge part of who I am, though, and while it isn't something I share everyday with my colleagues and friends (I wouldn't impose on them that way), I still have to deal with it. See, the thing about losing a child, even one you hardly knew, is that it can still have an unfathomably crippling effect. And once I was done doing the things I had to do as a husband-foremost among them, caring for my wife-I had to find a way to mend the zeal for life I had before this horrific chapter unfolded.

As a dude with automotive inclinations, and lucky enough to work where I do, some of the mechanisms for a comeback were already in place. The first track day I had after the experience was a total cathartic exercise. Moving my personal DC5 project closer to its modified culmination also proved satisfying. Heck, wrenching on any car these last 12 months has been rewarding, reminding me a lot of the stoke I had when I first started tinkering underneath the hood as a teen.

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I think it's for these reasons that I had such a memorable time at the 24 Hours of Lemons. Yeah, I know I spent my entire column last month raving about the event, but again, the little things that we take for granted as car people-seat time, turning wrenches-really helped clear my mind, offered an escape, and gave me a measure of control over life I felt I had lost.

Another passion that got me through the tough times was music. Being a 30-something who is just about a 40-something, music has been off the radar for a while. As I prepared for a parenthood that never happened, I was even less of a listener, in part because my priorities had changed, and also because I have such exacting expectations of the entertainment I consume. While it was easier in my youth to stay connected to all the cool stuff I liked-think metal, thrash, and punk on the fringes-the older I got, the harder it was for me to find tolerable artists.

I'm the first to admit that I didn't expect to find any salvation in the sounds of today, but that's sort of what happened. The unlikely return to musical distraction was facilitated by a couple of guys here at the office, as they fed me a steady diet from contemporary groups like Pig Destroyer, Soilent Green, Goatwhore, Mastodon-truly evil stuff that captured the same grit of the bands I listened to in my salad days, only executed with much more aplomb and expertise. The kids today can play.

Amid the tumult, pain, and confusion of the past year, these things made me happy, and who knew that happiness could come so simply? Even though I would trade it all to have my daughter alive today, and I still have much healing to do, at the depths of my despair I never imagined the things that excited me as a kid could still keep me going as an adult. But then when I put it that way, I guess shouldn't be surprised.

Bob Hernandez
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