Mr. Know It All
MISTER KNOW IT ALL
MEET THE ORIGINAL
By By Vic Krause
MR. KNOW-IT-ALL EXPOSE
JUST WHO IS THIS GUY?
BY RICK SIEMAN
The original Mr. Know-It-All was Vic Krause. There have been other Mr. Know-It-All column writers over the years, and, in fact, I wrote the column under the pen-name of Rondo Talbot for many years. Rondo was created to be an arrogant, snobbish, elitist of central-European heritage. The column has drawn huge amounts of mail consistently. And people have actually come to hate the mythical Rondo.
But real life is often stranger than fiction. Follow along while I relate some true facts about the original Mr. K
When the column was inaugurated, I advised Krause to make his column a clearing house of information, but a center of information with heart. As you have probably figured out by now, my byword is subtlety. I had hoped that Krause would use my methods as a guideline.
But what does that asshole do? He turns the column into a barrage of insults. A travesty of learning. Why didn't I stop him? Couldn't I just pick up the phone and say, "Krause. You've had it. Turn in your pointer stick."
ut there is something I can do: I can reveal the man for the fraud that he is. If enough people come to know what kind of a freak we're dealing with, perhaps Mr. K's stranglehold on people will lessen. Perhaps, even cease.
Thus, the following expose:
First. Credit where credit is due. The man does actually have some impressive credentials. He has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from an obscure Eastern University, but for some reason, worked only briefly in the field. So, for a short time after his graduation, he was a lead singer in a kinky rock group.
It is here I suspect his mind got fried, more than likely from massive intakes of some exotic and highly dangerous experimental drugs. Of course, this is only a theory. But one does have to admit that his mind is a total wreck and it had to get that way from something. Maybe, just maybe, he was merely repeatedly dropped on his head as a child.
THE WEIRD CINCINNATI TRADE SHOW
Cabin fever hits the East Coast every year right around the end of January and the start of February. For the last three months, the bike shops have been struggling to keep their doors open, and customers are far and few between. Some shops are lucky enough to supplement their income by selling and servicing snowmobiles and generators. All over the East, bikes are tucked away in garages, perched on milk crates and covered with blankets or sheets. Only a few crazy people venture out din riding in the bitter cold, snow-covered ground and mucky terrain.
So, it makes sense that the Cincinnati Motorcycle Trade Show is a big hit. Held in February, it's a sign that all the gray days and blinding snowstorms are soon going to be in the past. Customers will come in the shops to look at the new models, perhaps buy a new set of riding gear, or maybe just order some parts to freshen up the old bike. Dealers flock to Cincy, eager to wallow in the display of new bikes, check out the new products, meet old friends, make some new friends, and mostly to get away from the local grind, and of course, to party their guts out.
I flew in to Chicago to meet Vic Krause, where we would then drive together to Ohio and visit the trade show. This seemed like a good idea; not only would Vic and I have another excellent excuse to pig out in a Chicago restaurant again, but we would also have a chance to stop off at Lorain, Ohio, to meet with the KTM guys, then we'd drive to Youngstown, Ohio, to spend a day at my parents' house, before heading south to Cincy.
After getting off the plane at Chicago O-Hare, I grabbed my luggage and headed for the exit, where Vic would be waiting to pick me up. When I walked through the door to the parking area, a nasty blast of Chicago lake-front wind whipped through my thin Bell helmet jacket and my leather shoes immediately got stiffer than plywood. Cold weather does that to shoes.
Seeing Vic and his disreputable Buick Riviera, I waddled over like a penguin and threw my gear in the cavernous trunk. Vic was bundled up like an Eskimo and looked like an extra from Doctor Zhivago. "Man, you lucked out! The weather broke during the night. We're going to get all the way up to 22 degrees today. It's been below zero for the last ten days."
I grumbled: "Swell. Maybe we can go outside and shoot some baskets this afternoon."
Moments later, we were weaving through traffic, heading for Vic's shop in Northlake, the Buick vibrating and shuddering badly, as the worn-out front end threatened to come apart at any moment. "I hope we're not driving this pile of shit to Ohio, Vic. If we hit some ice on the road with this death trap, we're going to slide all the way to New Jersey sideways before we stop."
"Nope. I figure we'll take my motor home; we'll go in style!
Two days later, we were on the road, with the huge meals we'd eaten in some of the finer Chicago restaurants sitting in our stomachs like lead sinkers. Our first stop was Lorain, and a visit with Jack Lehto and Rod Bush at KTM. We also paid our respects to legendary John Penton, the short, stocky, powerful man who was a true dirt bike pioneer.
Onward to Ohio, Vic piloted the big motor home skillfully across the snow and ice-covered roads, while we talked about story ideas and bench-raced at peak rpm. We headed south, with the motor home drifting around on the snow-covered roads, and somehow made it to Cincinnati without crashing.
As expected, the trade show was packed with dealers and enthusiasts. Vic and I spent two solid days walking around, setting up tests and cutting deals. You can get a lot done at the Cincy show; most of the West Coast magazines tended to ignore the East Coast, and our presence was appreciated.
The next day, things got strange. I was checking out the displays in one section, while Vic was trying to brow-beat an after-market supplier down on prices. There was a crowd of people around one display that caught my attention. An LPS rep was extolling the virtues of that well-known water-displacing lubricant.
One of the most dramatic things he did raised some eyes in the gathered crowd. There was a large aquarium tank on the table in the front of the display, and the rep took an extension cord with a light bulb socket on the end, sprayed a bunch of LPS into the socket core, then immersed it deep into the aquarium. He then sprayed the base of a light bulb liberally with LPS, and stuck it in the water, and with both hands in the water, screwed the light bulb into the end of the extension cord socket.
The bulb lit up and everybody oooohed and ahhhhed. It was an impressive demonstration! Then he followed it up by taking an electric drill, sprayed the LPS inside the guts of the tool, dunked it into the water and squeezed the trigger. The drill started spinning and the water churned up a frothy mass of bubbles. More oohhhs and aaahhhs came from the crowd.
This was exciting stuff, so I went to grab Vic and show him the display. "I don't see why you're making such a fuss. After all, I have a degree in electrical engineering and I fully understand the mechanics of the demonstration. No laws of physics or electrical energies are being violated. Still, I will come and inspect the exhibition and explain the mechanics behind it to you."
We walked up and joined the crowd in front of the LPS display and listened to the polished pitch of the rep. "Who would like to participate in our next experiment and receive a free large spray can of multi-purpose LPS just for helping us out?"
I gave Krause a sharp nudge in his lower back and pushed him forward. "Ahh, a volunteer. Step right around behind the table sir."
With all the eyes on him, Vic could now not back out. "Hmmmpf. I'll go along with your side show, but not for one paltry can. Make it two cans and you have a deal."
I whispered in Vic's ear: "Why are you holding out for two cans instead of one?"
"A simple matter of economics, Hunk. These cans will go right up on my shop shelf and sell for about three dollars each. My skills do not come cheap."
The rep thought it over for a moment and beamed a smile. "Sure. Why not? Here, you can try the electric drill test."
He picked up a small Black and Decker drill, aimed the LPS nozzle inside and guts of the drill, and sprayed until the lubricant dripped out. Then he handed the drill to Vic. "Here you go, buddy. Just stick that drill in the water tank and turn it on."
Vic's eyes got real big. "Are you sure I won't get shocked to death with this experiment?"
"No problem, pal. Just stick that puppy right in there and let'er rip!"
Vic pushed his right sleeve up and held the drill above the water, his hand shaking badly, as if he was terrified.
"Hey, c'mon. It's no problem. I do this stunt forty or fifty times a day."
Vic shook his head from side to side. "I don't know about this. Maybe there's some trick you do; I mean, that's a live electrical cord plugged into that drill. Make it three cans of LPS and I'll do it.”
The rep sighed, but since the rather large crowd was staring at him, he didn't have much choice. "OK, partner, you drive a hard bargain. Three cans it is."
Vic winked at me, and I could see the dollar signs in his eyes. Then he let out a deep breath, paused dramatically, and plunged the drill into the water.
"Go ahead. Turn it on, pal."
Vic closed his eyes like someone bracing to get a needle rammed into a vein, and squeezed the trigger. The water started churning around as the drill spun, and just then, Vic let out a loud aaaaaahhhhhhhhh! He began shaking and shuddering like a wild man, and his arms and legs shot straight out!
The drill darted back and forth in the aquarium like a hooked trout and the crowd jumped back, alarmed. Then the drill whacked into the glass wall of the aquarium and shattered it. A wall of greasy water poured out of the broken glass tank, ran all over the display table, and washed piles of literature off to the floor.
Vic looked at me. I looked at him. Then we both ran like hell away from the booth and out of the convention center. As soon as we got outside, we started laughing like lunatics. Vic suddenly got a serious look on his face: Do you think I should go back and get my three cans of LPS?"
On the way back from the Cincinnati Trade Show, it started snowing heavily, reducing our visibility. So we stopped for a giant bucket of chicken and a case of beer.
The rest of the trip produced a veritable mountain of chicken bones and empty beer cans. During this white-hazed trip, Vic and I came up with the idea for Mister Know-It-All. Taking bits of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the personalities of some very real people we knew, and the attitude of a European-educated snob, Mr. Know-It-All became a reality.
In later years, the name Rondo Talbot appeared under the column. Rondo was a name I fabricated in the early years of Dirt Bike magazine, when we used to do a European News section. So now you know.
Now, rather than make this a long drawn out biographical sketch of a maniac, this writer will merely point out only a few of the bizarre happenings to which he has been a witness.
The first occurred before the last fateful Barstow to Vegas desert race, in which Mr. Know-It-All was a contestant and a member of the crack Modern Cycle Cross Country Racing Team.
Preparation of the bikes took much time and often work went on well into the nights. Finally, the machines neared completion and they were fired up in the well-lit MC garages to check them out one last time.
As the fates would have it, one of the bikes, a 400 Maico, wouldn't fire. Even after putting in a fresh plug ... nothing. After a quick check of the electrical system, I took a guess. "Oh well, it's probably the points. Sometimes you have to run a little bit of sandpaper across the points to get them working right."
This statement brought Mr. K out of his chair like 220 volts had iust been sent through a pair of wet shorts. "What!!! What am I hearing? What kind of a barbarian are you, sir, that you would destroy a brand new set of Maico points without checking into the real problem? As an electrical engineer, I demand that you step aside and let a pro in. This is mere child's play for those of us in the know."
Awed, I stepped back and let the bearded wonder rip into the electrical system. After all, the man had degrees out the kazoo, while I regularly got confused plugging in a toaster, let alone troubleshooting a magneto/point/coil setup.
He ripped off the mag cover and started to make checks. After 15 futile minutes, he turned to me and said, "It's hard to trace down a toughie without the right equipment. If I just had a circuit tester, we could isolate the problem in a hurry."
I produced a circuit tester.
Twenty minutes later, he looked up from the jumble of wiring and pronounced, "I'm going to have to go inside. This looks like one of those tricky problems. Got a soldering iron?"
I produced a soldering iron.
Twenty-five minutes later, the system was apart and strung out all over the floor. It looked a lot like a computer that had barfed its guts out. Mr. K. turned to me and said, "A circuit tester is alright if the problem is simple, but if I could just lay my hands on an ohmmeter, we'd have this stinker licked in a hurry. Of course, I wouldn't expect a twit like you to have an ohmmeter."
I produced an ohmmeter.
Mr. K. sat down and proceeded to fiddle with the ohmmeter, muttering various shades of satisfaction and dissatisfaction throughout. "This thing has too wide a scale and fine readings are next to impossible. What we really need here is an oscilloscope. But, I suppose that's too much to ask for?"
I produced an oscilloscope.
He grunted something unintelligible and sat down to work. Over the years, I have accumulated a great deal of goodies, in the hope that someday, they might come in handy. This looked like that day.
A glance at Mr. K. showed him knee-deep in wires and alligator clips. Little needles wavered back and forth and he expertly flicked knobs from A to D and back again. Occasionally, an "Aha! I thought so!" would burst forth, followed by silence.
Krause looked up. "Sieman, your problem goes deeper than mere instruments can detect. Obviously, the entire magneto is out of phase with the universe at large. If I only had a similar functioning magneto, we could isolate your problem in a flash."
"Couldn't we just check the points?" I pleaded, "I'll have to yank a mag from another motor."
"Would you rather I called a plumber to solve this problem, Hunky?" snapped the All-Knowing One. "Are you the kind of fellow who asks to perform the takeoffs at the airport when you fly? No? I thought not; so, do not tell me how to do what I do best."
I produced a complete magneto. And on he went. And on it went. Into the night. Big Jim and Old Buddy Tom kept vigil. Krause furiously ripped every electrical system in the garage apart; wires protruded everywhere. Still, no spark.
Finally, after the fourth mag had been ripped out of a spare motor, he turned and said, "I think you've got a problem here that transcends the normal problem. Quite frankly, you're lucky that I have been here to witness this unique experience in electrical troubleshooting. No one would have believed you."
"Couldn't we just try to sandpaper the points?" I asked again, this time in a wheedling voice.
For chrissake, Sieman," he yelled, "do you think I've been working on that pile of yours for all these hours for the fun of it? Don't you think I've considered that?"
Nonetheless, I squatted down and ran a sheet of emery cloth through the points, then pushed the kick starter through with my hand. A large, fat blue spark leaped off the plug.
Krause snarled, "I was about to do that. Are you trying to catch this entire garage on fire with that open spark? Man, where is your common sense?"
That was my first upsetting experience. Many others followed as the years went by, but, unfortunately, a large number of these cannot be repeated in a family publication.
My respect for Mr. K. began to dwindle very slowly. Like so many others who have had so much education and so little common sense, the man had abandoned all normal approaches to problems. If he couldn't make a big deal out of a little problem, the answer would usually elude him.
My respect for Mr. K hit the pits when we were heading to Las Vegas for a weekend of wenching and wining, in my venerable old camper. All of a sudden, the running lights went out. Completely out. Nada. Nothing.
We pulled into a gas station in the middle of the desert and proceeded to think the problem out. The owner of the station came out and offered some assistance. "Whatsamatter fellas? Burn out a fuse or sumpin'?"
Krause bristled. "A fuse? My good man, this is obviously an electrical problem of the most serious nature. I suspect that we'll have to dig deep for this one. Back off, for I am about to dig in."
The man backed off.
In less than an hour, Krause had the entire wiring loom of that poor old Ford engine strung all over the driveway. He had borrowed every instrument in the garage except a Sunnen hone, and the only reason he hadn't used that, was because it was bolted to the floor in the number three bay.
Two hours later, the battery was out of the truck getting an acidity check, the alternator had been completely rebuilt, every bulb had been changed at least twice, my oil had been filtered through gauze, an ignition from an abandoned Fiat had been installed in the Ford, and every inch of wire had been replaced with new, non-static wire.
We still had no running lights.
Krause had his feet out of the window and was soldering like a Bessemer furnace.
In sheer desperation, I looked under the dash - way under -and spotted the fuse box. In it, were two obviously burned-out fuses. After replacing them, I called Mr. K. out from beneath the dash and asked him to try the running lights.
He growled. "I was about to try that next, but you stepped in and screwed up my checkout sequence. You ought to feel pretty stupid about now, Sieman," he snapped.
I just shut my mouth and didn't say a word.
The straw that broke the camel's back happened next. Krause and I were driving down the highway in the truck. Rather than listen to the boring local AM station, we decided to plug some Frampton into the tape deck. I handed Krause the "Frampton Comes Alive album and he slammed it into the eight track.
The most horrible sound imaginable came from the speakers. It sounded like a wounded rhino. Immediately, Krause stopped the truck and started ripping wires out and cross checking circuits. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him the box was still on the tape.