On March 18th, I stood with many other supporters of AJ’s Music Cafe and made the pledge to buy American: On my honor the next car that I buy will be a domestically-built, Detroit-born automobile.
I giggled because earlier that day, smoke had been pouring out of the hood of my faithful 1997 Honda Civic’s. The next day, my mechanic told me it was beyond repair.
On April 3rd, two days after the completion of AJs Music Cafe 313 hour Assembly Line II Concert Second Shift, I drove out of Golling GMC in a American made 2006 Cobalt.
Ironic? Yes. But hopefully, representative of the paradigm shift born in a little cafe on 9 mile, just west of Woodward in Ferndale, Michigan.
The new paradigm? We’re all in this together.
That mantra is why AJ O’Neil created both the 2009 Assembly Line Concert and 2010 Assembly Line Concert Second Shift, which he calls, “A 13 day, 313 hour, non-stop tribute to The American Worker and Manufacturing.” Last year, the cafe broke the Guiness World Record for the longest continuous concert with 288 hours of music. AJ plans to top that record this year.
Local singer/ songwriter William Reynold mentioned one reason why we’re all in this together: “Nearly everyone in this area has a family member or a friend who works for the Big Three.”
However, over half of the vehicles on the road are foreign made. This statistic concerned AJ O’Neil because, “My neighbors make cars.” The solution? “When we buy domestic products, we contribute to our own recovery,” he said. AJ chose to use the Assembly Line to raise awareness that we can improve our economy and help our neighbors by buying American.
Every time I arrived at this year’s Assembly Line, which lasted from March 19-April 1, 20010, I found AJ behind the counter, making coffee, greeting guests, and smiling.
According to Mark 9: 33, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” (NIV Bible)
Case in point: over 100 hours into Assembly Line II, the cafe ran out of coffee lids. A patron purchased some of their home- made chili only to storm back in minutes later demanding, “Who’s going to come out here and clean my truck?”
The chili had spilled all over the interior.
“I cleaned the truck,” AJ told me. Although this was like a quarter back leaving the field in the middle of the game, he said,“It seemed like the most important thing I could do at the time.”
This humility and heart of service may be one reason why so many invested their time in Assembly Line II.
Dennis O’Neil, AJ’s brother and fellow worker at the cafe, said the concert was designed to bring people together. He could be found behind the scenes washing dishes and working tirelessly alongside his brother. Although clearly commited to the project, he said, “I’ll tell you one thing: don’t give him any more ideas. After this, we’ll need a sleep marathon.” He said the biggest challenge was to keep everything going: the music, the cameras, etc.
The brothers had some help. Former lighting engineer for Cadillac and producer for Assembly Line II, Steve Brooks, used the Vehicle Development Process (VDP) in planning the concert. VDP is the process to bring a vehicle from concept to reality. He implemented many security measures like having back-up musicians and instruments, to keep the concert running smoothly.
Nancy Wilson, who sang with Judy Moon and the Moon Spirit Band, said she was part of the event because, “I love music and American cars.”
William Reynolds played three different slots, two to fill in for others, as well as asked the credit union he worked for to sponsor the event. He called it, “The least I could do.”
MC coordinator and stand-up comic, E- Square, said of Assembly Line Concert, “When I go home at night, I feel that I’ve been part of something important.”
Isn’t that what an assembly line is all about?