Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dysfunctional Families

Hola, and Happy Holidays here from snowy South Carolina.  Yes, we actually had a white Christmas, the first I’ve ever seen here.  The last one was a few months after I was born, but I didn’t live in this part of the state then, and wouldn’t have remembered it anyhow.

I, like probably some of you, am a fan of the Discovery - TLC series American Chopper.  The show first aired back in the early 2000’s, featuring a father and son team that built custom choppers.  Various theme bikes have often been the subject of the show.  The combined talents of Paul Tuetul Sr. and Paul Jr.  made them famous in the motorcycle industry, and Discovery Channel made them famous worldwide.  Both father and son have histories of substance abuse in their past, but overcame their problems to build a very successful motorcycle business in Orange County, New York, which is about 60 or so miles upstate from New York City.  The show was originally based on showing how custom motorcycles, literally works of art are fabricated basically from scratch.  Another factor soon overwhelmed the technical aspect of the show.  The Tuetul family squabbles and fusses among themselves, often heatedly, and sometimes treats the audience, as well as other shop employees to the spectacle of father and son smashing furniture, doors, windows, etc. in their moments of anger.  What started out being a typical reality series about motorcycle fabrication quickly became a real drama series, a reality soap opera if you will.

A couple of years, Paul Sr. fired Paul Jr., and ended up suing his son for a variety of reasons involving ownership issues of the company, which is called Orange County Choppers.  Paul Jr. struck out on his own, starting up a company called Paul Jr. Designs, and he now builds choppers practically next door to OCC’s original shop.

The former father and son team have not spoken to each other in about 2 years, at least as of the latest episode.  For those of you who have watched the show, you probably have your own opinions about the issues that the family faces.  I will share with you my opinion about the family fight.  I feel that though Paul Jr. has often acted as a bit of a diva on the show, his design prowess is what put OCC on the map.  Paul Sr. certainly had a lot to do with the company’s success, and is a fairly good designer himself.  Since Sr. and Jr. parted company, Paul Sr. has actively tried to sabotage his son’s budding business.  Paul Sr. has talked to various vendors of motorcycle parts and apparently has attempted to bully them into avoiding doing business with his son.  Paul Sr. keeps playing the part of the victim, but it is lately becoming disturbing to me to see the lengths a father will go to in order to see his son fail. 

Are the Tuetuls unique?  Not really.  Probably just about everyone who bothers to read this has experienced disagreements in their own families.  I know my family has had it’s share, though for the most part, my immediate family is rather close knit, and I’m very lucky in that way.  My father and me have certainly had our share of disagreements, but we managed to get over it, or at least I have.  My father is now on the other side of 85, and he needs more and more assistance from his children, no matter how independent minded he is.  With the recent loss of my mother, my brothers and sister worry about our dad a lot these days.  Regardless of any past disagreements, I hope that my dad and I never stop speaking to each other.  I can’t imagine not speaking to my father for months, or even weeks, and then hearing that he had passed away before I could talk to him.  Life is just too fleeting to hold a grudge, especially with a family member.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. could probably relate to this sort of thinking.  He and his father often argued and disagreed when Jr. was a teenager, and there is no doubt that Dale Earnhardt could be a difficult man to deal with at times.  Fortunately, before Dale passed away in 2001, Jr. and Sr. seemed to be getting along better than they ever had.  That peace of mind must mean a lot for Dale Jr.  Had he and his father been on the outs as of February 18, 2001, Jr.’s father’s death would have been even harder for him to deal with.

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