There is no bigger thrill than hearing an old engine start up again

By Mike Gonzales

Mike Gonzales

Most folks when they are around the corner from turning 70 will retire and travel. Others will start a garden, maybe learn pottery or how to play bridge.

Me, I’m different. I became a personal trainer and opened a boxing/fitness gym that includes house calls. My family thinks I’m nuts. But no, I’m as mentally stable as can be.

See, my passion has always been potential. Not where you are today, but where can you be at your personal best.

I’ve owned a small window cleaning business since I was 19. I am now going to let my son-in-law, Tyson, run with it.

The key to success is not what you are going to do for me, but rather what can I do for you.

My mom would always say “empieza con un sueño,” or “start with a dream.” There isn’t a more powerful thought.

I raised four daughters and I would say to them, “Don’t ever let being a girl get in the way of anything. Always let your passion be your guide, never money. Do something you love doing so much you’d do it for free. But do it so well that someone will actually pay you.”

I got Gage, my grandson, at 6 months, and he is now 13. When he was about 4, we would go to the Modesto area and look for cool old cars to bring home. Dairy farms, orchards, they were everywhere, kind of like a treasure hunt. It was so much fun!

We ended up with six vehicles and named them all. The first was a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. Named it “Midnight Rambler.” Next was a 1971 Volkswagen Bug we named “Everyone’s Gone Surfin’.” The third was a 1979 Mazda RX 7 named “Rotary Rocks” because of the rotary engine. The next was a 1966 Ford Ranchero that Gage named “Huevos Rancheros.” The fifth was a cute little 1977 MG we named “As Is,” because we got it running and left it as it was. Last but not least was my favorite, a 1971 Datsun 240Z named “Z-Ya.”

Photo courtesy Mike Gonzales
Mike Gonzales, right, with his grandson Gage and some if their restored vehicles.

With a little blood, sweat and beers (for me, not Gage), we got those cars on the road again. There is no bigger thrill than hearing that engine start up again. My girlfriend at the time said, “Mike, if you bring another old car home, I’m gonna leave you.” I put my arm around her and said, “Honey, I’m gonna miss you!” Tyson was an immense help.

When Gage and I lived in San Jose, on Sunday mornings before church, we would take sandwiches to the homeless downtown. I wanted to teach Gage two things. One, how fortunate he was. And two, how by making bad choices anyone could end up homeless.

When I would coach I would focus on the “less gifted” kids. The kids with natural talent did not need as much coaching. There is no bigger thrill than hearing a kid say, “Hey, Coach, I got it.”

When I was a youngster, I had won three or four wrestling matches in a row, then I lost the next one. I was almost in tears. I thought my coach was going to be mad at me. I walked off the mat with my head hung low and said, “Coach, I’m sorry I lost.” He put his arm around me and said, “Mikey, there is no such thing as a perfect match. Just a perfect effort, and you just gave me one.” One of my life’s most impressionable lessons.

Going home from the gym one day, it was dark and cold. Gage and I got to a 7-Eleven and saw a homeless man without shoes, so I gave him mine. Gage told me that was something he’ll never forget. In my 70 years I’ve seen a lot of good, but unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of hate and divisiveness lately, in part because of our diversity and differing opinions. No reason for that. We are a “melting pot” for a reason. Being an immigrant makes me sad. That’s the power of this country. The magical, miraculous spirit that immigrants have, whether it’s today or 100 years ago, that drives us to succeed, that starts with one person. So, be that stellar individual who welcomes your fellow human being with open arms, kindness, love, and compassion, regardless of race, gender, where you were born, sexual orientation, or where you worship.

A song by Jackie DeShannon that was popular about 50 years ago fits perfectly. She sings, “Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand, put a little love in your heart. If you want the world to know we won’t let hatred grow. Put a little love in your heart.”

Mike Gonzales is a local businessman. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life. Reach him at (408) 518-9862.



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