The Nylander saga continues and it’s holding up the continuation of serious blogging and book writing. So in the spirit of the wait, I decided to recall a story from 1979 relating to cars and other things guys like to think about.
I hated automobiles. Dad was an ace mechanic who in the early 60’s with the assistance of an English partner began a repair garage. The two met whilst employed by International Harvester, a renown farming equipment and trucking firm. We didn’t specialize because there wasn’t a truck, car, transmission, engine, import, domestic or humpty dumpty that we couldn’t put together again. Come later, I’ll expand. On this day it was a hot sunny clear afternoon and the beginning of a summer weekend for me and all the other late teen to early twenty Travolta boys. The strip mall that housed our billiard hall was lackadaisically surrounded by factions of the Sabbatini, Napoli, Abruzzi, and other commonly notorious Calabrese and Abruzzese. Scattered amongst them were offspring of former elements of the Greek and Yugoslav, infantry and partisan army. We were friends or by extension acquaintances and in general a good bunch of mis-guided boys hanging around our cars. Dominic and I were athlete’s, and hungry as per normal, had picked up a couple of excellent tasting slices of pizza from Mama’s. It’s strange as to what the memory retains as relevant. So when Bruno and several of his friends in tow, approached with the sun blazing behind them, we were leaning on the side of my car trying to devour this oozing with cheese and meat slice, and more than anything were perturbed that someone would find this time to intrude. I recall Dom stretched left and myself to the right concerned that some of the topping was going to fall onto our pants and shoes. With our mouths stuffed full, eyes squinting, we glanced sideways as we ate, at the silhouette of arms crossed Bruno and a number of his cohorts.
Some months earlier I’d gotten to work and Dad took me out to the back of the shop to take a look. Disinterested was I, of this colour faded ugly lime green, with patches of rust, 1972 Buick Skylark. I was foreshadowing destination scrapyard and prayed I wasn’t required to work on this customer’s car. “I think you should buy this car for $400.00 with your next paycheck”. Was he serious? I was in a private school, be it a cheap one and now I was to be seen in this! We had a Chrysler Newport, slash yacht, plus two T-birds with choice of black leather interior and the other some kind of red velvet, drive me crazy felt, virtually new and most definitely fresh. Plus as mechanics we had unlimited access to a multitude of insured exotic vehicles. Only dad and I drove in the family. Would I be required to pick up my dates in something this unbecoming. Certainly not. I was having a hard enough time anyway, so why contribute to my detriment. Days later with little additional work we passed and signed our own safety inspection and it became road worthy. Only God knew why was I driving this monstrosity. I found it irksome that when stopped at a red light I needed to be cautiously gentle with the gas peddle as the car would hop forward potentially rear-ending the vehicle in front. Of course I kept this thing away from my female persuasions.
Dominic and I had finally gained control over our pizza slices and were now operating on the main body of our tasty treat. We were kind of beginning to wonder why the fellas had approached us at this inopportune. Bruno was more so Dominic’s friend, although he and I exchanged money frequently, with me likely to lose to him in table soccer, Ramino and Briscola and him to me, shooting pool. At times he’d be condescending but never anything approaching malicious or threatening. “That’s a piece of crap”, “it’s a piece garbage”, “it’s shit”. Honestly I had no idea what he was on about. Certainly wasn’t my pizza. It took me a few moment’s to see he was looking past me at my car. For goodness sake, I said, “yes, yes, your right it’s a piece of garbage, crap”. I was in full agreement of his analysis. In the way the conversation began and because of complete ignorance, I thought we were bonding by agreement. Our minds were melding with his mutual support and insight of how I felt about this uninteresting, from hell, pile of steel junk. It was considerable before I realized he was intentionally slighting and even then was inconclusive of the direction we were heading with this. “Bruno your right, what do you want me to tell you, yes it’s a shitbox”. I wasn’t about to tell him to leave me alone, so on he went. I deflected and he attacked. Without design or speculation and unwittingly, I suddenly had enough and blurted out “Okay I’ll race you”. Bang, without hesitation he throws out the time and place. It’s been forty years but I believe it was at eight the same evening, some four hours after his contrived and my unanticipated negotiation, at either Pharmacy or Warden north of Finch in T.O.
Bruno had purchased a fully loaded 1980 Mustang Cobra which I’d never seen, as if I even cared, for something in the neighbourhood of $38,000.00. I came to suspect that I was to serve as his first victim before he’d moved up to the Camaro, Trans Am local street circuit class. Upon arriving at his pre-determined racing destination, had I permitted, my jaw would have surely dropped to the ground. Both sides of this freshly paved street to nowhere, eventually turning into a dirt farm road, were bodies lined several deep, in the hundred’s and could easily have topped, a couple of thousand, youth. I was stunned. Who knew? Certainly not I, because I for one, was sick of seeing, smelling, touching, burning and tearing my skin on the inner guts of cars. I just showed up to lose, save face by accepting the challenge and to halt his incessant yapping. I was thinking him and me and a couple of friends. The event was a blur. We lined up on the starters line with our respective best friends in the passenger seat. Shock was the operative word as we reached 60mph and found I was a half car length in front. Dom was laughing and freaking because he liked speed and enjoyed winning, especially when all initial signs pointed to certain defeat. At this point I became confident that I could maintain or grow our lead to about the 110mph mark and my concern by trial was, that my car would stop stroking and kicking and begin to level off in that speed range. Luck would have Bruno bail and I kept going until I hit the first dirt road west, leaving a horseshoe trail of dust behind. Dad had that car purring like a kitten. Am I allowed to say that. That was my only competitive race. I hated cars and still do.
Tracy Chapman———-Fast car
Linda Ronstadt———–Hurt So Bad