Relationships are like bodywork. Both can feel like they're going nowhere no matter how much you massage them, then something just "clicks." At that moment, the finished product you've been toiling over for months or even years can look and feel perfect. My relationship with Cole Foster clicked at a recent visit to his home and work shop with mutual friends Rico Fodrey and Duane Ballard.
I've been the fifth wheel in that posse on several occasions, but for whatever reason, circumstances for making a lasting impression never materialized. Ironically, such an ocassion did finally present itself, over a cheap Chinese buffet with Suzie, Cole's wife.
To people who don't know him, Cole Foster can come across chilly or aloof. I empathize with the man on this misunderstanding, because my own social defense mechanism is to act like a buffoon. I was doing just that over Kung Pao chicken with Mrs. Foster, but her response surprised me. Instead of being repulsed by my loutish behavior, the beautiful and voluptous one-time fetish fashion model engaged me in a creepy iPhone photo showdown, going tit for tat with pics of dwarf strippers, naked gold-plated titties, double amputees and rubber catsuits. This icebreaker painted a lasting picture in Suzie's mind, and later that evening in their hot tub Mrs. Foster told her husband about our little parlor game.
I wasn't present at Cole's hot tub party, but Rico was, so my friend regaled me with the details. Apparently, Cole was impressed to learn that "this McGoo character" had a creepy streak even wider than his wife's. The next day, Cole went out of his way to engage me in lengthy conversations about everything: old Schwinn bicycles, the Japanese chopper scene, Rico's metaphysical rants and of course the stunning '70s custom Bimmer in Cole's driveway. After chatting with the master builder and carcraft legend off and on for six hours, it was time to leave. Not, however, before shooting the man's Salinas Boys garage. Equal parts hot rod musuem, fab shop and Mexican brothel, Cole's work space is hands down the coolest one-man operation I've ever seen.
No hanky panky appeared to have taken place in the aforementioned bedroom hidden in the rafters of Cole's garage, but a nude mannequin and Christmas lights do lend the space a kinky vibe. It's not all fun and games in those rafters, however. Ten feet to the west of the red velvet bed was a coat rack displaying the NHRA funny car championship jacket awarded to the late Pat Foster, Cole's dad, in 1973. Left of that artifact I saw a crate motor, stacks of old car magazines, an impossibly rare magnesium wheel or three, and more trophies and rusty rocker panels than you can imagine.
Beneath the upstairs crawl space lies Cole's main fab and service area, complete with pristine welding station and tool room for grinding, sanding and metalworking. Outside this overstuffed three-car garage Cole stores body parts, raw materials, old machinery, rusty relics and the odd muscle car, chopper or vintage bicycle. Cole isn't a packrat in the truest sense of the word. There's a place for everything, and everything seems in place. OCD might be too strong a diagnosis, but it's damn close.
Speaking of obsessive perfection, nothing in Cole's garage seemed closer to it than a five-window Econoline pickup truck along the south wall. A work-in-progress for a metalcrafter and renowned NorCal interior design specialist, this mid-engine motorcar boasted subtle tweaks Henry Ford himself would be hard pressed to ID. Cole happily talked Duane and me through the project's more esoteric mods, then tossed us to Suzie for a tour of their home.
Respect for their privacy prohibits me from sharing photos from inside the Foster home, but one of Cole's prized possessions must be mentioned. In a metal pill box on the mantle, next to a stunning Jeff Decker sculpture of a crossdresser on a vintage V-twin, Suzie showed me a dirty trap from a kitchen sink. Whose kitchen sink, you ask? Why the King, of course. Yes, Cole and Suzie Foster own a sink trap from Graceland. How they procured it is no one's business. Suffice to say like everything else Cole Foster touches, it seems absolutely perfect.
Someday, when the king of car and motorcycle customizing is dead, I will display the tooth brush I stole from Cole's bathroom on my mantle. Thanks for the tour, my friend.