Rabu, 14 Maret 2012

Demo Derby Redux


Three Labor Days ago Richie Boy drove to Ditch Plains for a morning surf session. His Brazilian wife was intent on taking in the sun. The incoming morning tide was building green glassy tubes held up from a rare offshore breeze. Within an hour they'd be overhead. I wasn't joining my longtime friend in the water and he gave me the keys to his LandRover.

"It's an $80,000 car. Don't smash it up."

"I haven't had a car accident in over three decades." I was planning on driving out to the Hither Woods. The Landrover had an off-road permit plastered on the windshield."That's because you don't drive a car." He pointed to the vee-shaped scar on my right forearm. "You do have accidents on motorcycles.""That wasn't my fault." A car had veered into my lane on the Jomtien Hill Road and clipped the handbar of my 125cc Nuovo. Broken glass gashed my arm. The wound looked like a shark bite. Sixteen stitches had closed the wound. The driver of the car never stopped to see if I was okay."Accidents are always your fault, even when you're not at fault. Drive safe." Richie Boy hefted the longboard over his shoulder and trotted to the beach, as his lovely wife blew a kiss. Holiday-makers were sleeping late. The traffic along the Montauk Highway was reserved for family with wide-awake children. I drove the speed limit. The cellphone rang, as I turned off the highway. The town police were not in sight and I answered the call."I'm going to the Columbia County Demo Derby." It was Deb Parker calling from the North Country. The tattooed punkette had moved to the country after the birth of her son. The mountain air was good for kids.

"Demo Derby?" ABC's Wide World of Sports had featured Demo Derbies on Saturdays during the 60s. Drag Racing was another staple of their programming. "I haven't been to a demo Derby since 1969."I stopped the Landrover on the shoulder.

"That's 40 years ago." The former East Village bar owner exclaimed like I was a heretic. Deb came from Westchester County, but liked playing white trash. She was friends with Merle Haggard. She "Good fun, my son loves watching cars getting smashed up."

"Any Jap cars entered in the Demo Derby.

"None."

"Any Hummers?"

"Just pieces of shit."

"Last time I saw a Demo Derby was in Norwood Arena." The race track outside Boston featured drag racing, dirt track, and demo derbies. "I was there with my schoolmates. The six of us in Dave Quann's Cougar. Another boy from my hometown, Moon Mullins, had driven his family's station wagon. We drank beers in the stands for the first couple of heats, then noticed Moon wasn't around. None of us thought much about it, until the next heat was announced and Joe drove out onto the track with his family station wagon. His friends and mine gave him a standing O. The checkered flag was waved 'go' to the competitors and Moon circled the arena before being broadsided by two car on his fourth time through the figure 8. We died laughing. Everyone had to fit in Dave Quann's Cougar. Moon was sent to military school after that. He went to Viet-Nam in 1971. He came back and married the prettiest girl in town. He still tells the story about the demo derby. We all laugh too."

"Men will be boys." Deb had seen it all. She knew what men were. Her son's name was Earl.

"And proud of it too."

"Same as my son." His name was Fenway like the park."You should come up some time." Her house was five hours by train from New York."I'll come up for the color of the trees." It wasn't a promise, but it sounded good. I hung up the phone and drove into the woods. None of the trees jumped into the road, but they looked like they wanted to play demo derby.Everyone does given the chance.

Get your motors running.

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