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Columns

July 29, 2008

Travels with Uncle Chet: American power on the decline

MINEOLA _ ``Are we almost there?'' asked Buddy from the back seat of Uncle Chet's Ford Ranger, cruising along the highway.

``Nowhere near,'' said Cousin Bruce, who faced the boy across the narrow divide.

I leaned around the bucket seat and said, ``We're about to cross the Hudson River.''

``And then we'll get the truck?'' the second-grader asked.

``After we drive another hour, or so,'' I said, on our way to Long Island to pick up an eBay vehicle.

Bruce, in his curving Obama shades, was sitting cockeyed, trying to watch out the windshield as we slowed down for a toll booth.

``You sure you don't want to take the front seat?'' I asked.

``That's all right, but I'm riding in your truck on the way back,'' he said.

``Me, too,'' Buddy said proudly. ``It's a Toyota Tundra, and it holds three people because it has a bench seat.''

``It's a T-100, not a Tundra,'' I corrected him. ``They didn't even have Tundras in 1993.''

``Remember when `made in Japan' meant junk?'' said Uncle Chet, rolling down his window to pay $1.50. It was a warm, sunny morning and we were on the western approach of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

``Sure,'' I said.

``That was a long time ago,'' said Bruce. ``By the time you were in college, Sansui was a great stereo.''

``That's true,'' I said as we climbed over the rippling steely-blue water. A sailboat and several motorboats glided below on the river Henry Hudson plied 399 years ago.

``In the 1950s, if a tag said `Made in Japan,' that meant `cheap' to most Americans,'' said Uncle Chet. ``We snickered then, but here we are, 50 years later, driving all the way Mineola to buy a 15-year-old Japanese truck.''

``How far would you go for a Ford?'' asked Bruce.

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