RE: Randy Garbin of Roadside Online and BTW...
Tue, 12/14/04 3:45 AM
Hey Fellow Roadfooders,
I respect Mr. Garbin's right as a publisher to voice his opinions and to express his rights of speech. With those rights come responsibilies however...to be fair, honest, unbiased and factual.
As the alleged "thief" of said clock, I'd have to mildly agree with the comment that Randy is angry at the world. Well, perhaps not angry, but certainly frustrated. He's a writer in search of a cause and he's managing to alienate a lot of the more passionate diner fans out there. Many of them wrote to me after he published his essay, deploring his unwarranted attack. I don't think he realizes how much of an embarassment his is to himself.
I was always an avid supporter of BTW and its less-flashy predecessor Roadside Magazine. I met Randy about 10 years ago at, ironically enough, a diner auction. We were both there to be sure the diner ended up in appropriate and loving hands. I had written him previously and subsequently, a few of my photos, and the occasional letter to the editor appeared in Roadside. He always seemed like a decent guy.
I eventually moved to California to continue my career, following the death of my wife at age 26. (Randy used to have a link on his site to an essay I wrote about my wife and I visiting more than 500 diners while she was ill, and the great people we encountered, no pun intended). He was a friend in the diner world.
We occasionally kept in touch and I kept him up to date on film projects I was working on. He eventually sold out Roadside to a seed company and then the magazine quickly folded (just after I renewed my subscription, darnit!).
A couple of years ago, I was strolling through Ebay and came upon the clock. I couldn't believe that there was actually a Worcester Lunch Car clock up for sale. A flurry of emails began with the seller. I was worried that the clock had indeed been stolen from an existing diner and was trying to ascertain his valid ownership. Eventually, he faxed me documents that proved his undeniable ownership of the diner (even Randy admits that he once owned it). Eventually we talked on the phone. According to the seller, he had purchased the shuttered diner with the hope of fixing it up. Health problems got in the way and now the diner was set for demolition because he couldn't find a buyer. He also stated that he couldn't afford the land payments. He had removed whatever items he could and was now forced to sell those that he had kept. Honestly, once I saw all of the paperwork, I had no reason to doubt him.
In other words, I had done as much as I could to prove the man's valid ownership of the diner and of the clock. When final bidding came down on the item, it was a hotly contested bidding war. Finally, I made the highest bid, and it was indeed high - a few thousand dollars. Part of the reason I wanted the clock so much was because of its origins. It came from a diner that was originally from the town where I went to college and where I met my wife. She and I actualy fell in love over coffee at a diner!
I felt that if that clock was to be sold anyway, which it was going to be, I would make a ridiculously overpriced purchase and see if I could get it. I truly didn't want it in the hands of someone who couldn't realize the magnificence of the clock. (I had thought about all of the conversations that clock had witnessed. Wow.) It was one of those purchases where you empty the wallet to fill the heart.
Well, a couple of years later, I got an email from Randy, who had visited my personal website and saw the photo of the clock. He essentially called me a thief in that first email and told me that if I had any conscience, I'd return the clock. It seems that the diner did eventually find a buyer and was not demolished after all (I live on the other side of the country so I had no way of knowing. I had even listed the diner on my website as demolished). I replied to Randy, telling him about the investigation I made into ownership, and that it had in retrospect been an unfortunate sale but that I had spent a good deal of money on it, and what exactly did he expect me to do, having rightfully purchased it from its rightful owner who claimed the diner was to be razed? I also mentioned in passing that if the clock was going to be sold anyway, at least it went to someone who truly respects it.
I was awaiting a valid response (he may have written once and said simply, "Let your conscience be your guide") but instead, a few weeks later, I recieved an email from one of the nation's diner experts, who I had corresponded with on occasion. He was outraged that Randy had written a scathing essay about me, calling me a thief. I couldn't believe it. I rightfully bought something off of Ebay, and now I was a thief? I wrote a letter to Randy explaining my side of what had happened and he refused to publish it.
Do I wish the clock was never removed from the diner? Of course I do. Randy has decided to target me for some reason, simply perhaps because he had my email address, when the person he should be centering his complaints on is perhaps the seller. I bought something off Ebay. that's it. My whole website is about the preservation of not only the buildings but about the aura of those fabulous eateries and I would NEVER intentionally harm one of these places.
Randy, in my opinion, is a guy who wanted to make a name for himself as a writer and publisher, and he is indeed a talented individual. His magazines have always been entertaining love letters to the places I love on America's back roads. I do think he's frustrated that his magazines have never really taken off and I also agree with another diner fan who wrote to me, that Randy, if he had had the money, would have been my "biggest competition for that clock".
I truly understand his side of it, at least in the way he sees it, and to him it should be easy for me to just throw money and memory away to make some frustrated writer happy. He calls me greedy (conveniently forgetting that he sold his first magazine to make a buck and ended up cheating subscribers out of forthcoming issues)
The ultimate punchline is that a month or so after he blasted me for doing what millions of people do every day on Ebay (though I wager few investigate as I did), he sent me an e-mail, asking if I wanted to renew my subscrition to BTW!
I respectfully declined. Well, maybe not respectfuly.
I'm sure if he sees this posting, he'll blast me again. If it makes him happy, I'm glad to oblige. A man who uses his responsibility as a journalist so inappropriately needs all the publicity he can get, I suppose. I do wish Randy the greatest success and I hope he sticks to wahat he does best and keeps spreading the word of the road. It's important.