I’ve heard it said that there is a defining moment in everyone’s life, a moment where everything falls into place.
I don’t think that’s true.
For me, life didn’t change suddenly; there was no one moment where it all became clear.
There was however, a period in my life where I challenged and overcame the things that left me feeling stagnant and overwhelmed. It was a series of events that shaped who I would become.
This is how it happened for me…
I started the car and followed Arnie out of the gas station. Frank handed me a beer as I tried to keep up with Arnie on the freeway. We were weaving in and out of traffic when I saw the red and blue lights about five cars behind us.
The cassette player was at full volume, so I hadn’t heard the sirens. I couldn’t get pulled over. It wouldn’t be just a speeding ticket. I wasn’t old enough to drink; we were both carrying weed, had a bong, and I was driving a car that we had kinda stolen. If I were hauled in it would mean at least one night in jail, huge fines, and death by grounding. I’d be grounded so long my friends would all be married by the time I got out of the house again.
The cop was almost behind me when I saw the freeway sign. It was a quarter of a mile to the next exit. Waiting till the last second, I gritted my teeth and whipped across two lanes of traffic onto the exit ramp. Well, almost onto it. I hit the curb and took some vegetation along for the ride.
Frank was freaking out. I was starting to worry a bit too at this point, but it was too late to change my mind. “What the fuck are you doing?” screamed Frank.
“What does it look like? I’m saving my ass!” I went left at the end of the ramp because right was the obvious choice. I checked my rear view. The cop didn’t make the exit. He must have been following Arnie I thought. Frank kept looking back as I wove the little car through a few more streets.
After a minute Frank spoke again, somewhat calmer. “Dude, slow down now. I don’t think they followed us.” I turned down the tape deck, made one more turn, and slowed the car. It was a quiet residential street. Without the engine noise and adrenaline buzzing through my head, I had a different thing to worry about – the noise that was coming from under the car.
“Can you hear that?” We listened and for a moment I imagined the muffler hanging off, Rover taking his last breath, spare tire dragging, or something like that. I stopped the car on the quiet street. We both got out and walked around to the back of the car, Frank still complaining.
“Now we’re screwed. We’re miles from home.” I looked under the back of the car and pulled out the shrub that had once been freeway landscaping. We both started to laugh in relief as I tossed it onto the lawn next to us. “Dude let’s get out of here before we attract any attention.” We hopped into the car, turned the tape deck back up to full, and finishing off our beers threw the bottles out into the street as we sped away.
* * * * *
You see, this friend of mine ‘technically’ owns the car. About a week ago he wanted to borrow some money. He was quite good at borrowing money, but not so good at repaying it. During his dramatization of why he needed the money so bad, he promised if he didn’t return the money by Friday, I could have the car. He even went as far as to give me a spare key. Well Friday came and the money didn’t, so earlier this evening we took the car.
It wasn’t all that easy though and that’s where the ‘technically stolen’ part comes into it. I tried calling him at his parents’ house where he still lived, but no one was home. We went over and found the car in the backyard. Problem was, another car was in between it and us liberating the car. I really wanted it. It was about to rain. All I had was a motor cycle and it was Friday night. I wasn’t going to give up that easily.
We looked around and saw a floor jack through a window in the garage. The garage wasn’t locked in any serious way. So we got the jack, lifted the back of the car and slid it around. Then we did the same for the front end and we were on our way just as the rain started. We didn’t consider the fact that his parents might assume the car stolen and call the police. That wasn’t important to us because, that was later, only maybe, and as I said it was Friday night.
Frank needed smokes. More to the point, I needed Frank to stop smoking mine so we drove up to 7-11. It had really started to pour. We got drenched as we hurried back out to the little green car. A heavy downpour was not uncommon for that time of year, but not typical weather for southern California.
When I started the car, the cassette player resumed blasting out the intro part of Van Halen’s ‘Pretty Woman’. Just as I got to the edge of the street from the parking lot, it crescendoed into the first riff of the song. I had no choice. I slammed the accelerator to the floor and executed a perfect fishtail slide out onto Rosemead Blvd. Not sure if I even checked for oncoming traffic.
I was sure this would have upset Frank. He was my best friend, but might not have had the same euphoria for life as I did. He was three years older than me and more the laid-back type. So I looked over at him and explained. “It was written in the music.” He didn’t seem too upset, but said nothing. “It nearly called for a Rockford [a 180 slide],” I further explained.
“I know, but we just stole this car!” he blurted out.
“Not really,” I quietly protested.
“Tell that to the cops.”
We turned off Rosemead Blvd quickly because of all the cars that were honking at us and headed out to the park.
It was 1982. I was 17 and Frank was 20 He was kinda like the big brother I never had and like me, he still lived with his parents. That’s why we were heading for the park. Our folks weren’t real keen on us sitting around smoking weed, playing guitars, and drinking beer all night. My parents would freak if they knew about it, but it was our favourite pastime.
Once at the park, we filled the bong at a drinking fountain and headed for the picnic tables. I had borrowed my sister’s Bingo Boy bong for the night.
The Bingo Boy bong came into being one night when my sister and her friends got a bit buzzed then decided to go to a bingo game. I wonder what the blue rinse set thought of them. While there they bought ink daubers that are used to mark the Bingo cards. They were little bottles about an inch in diameter by five inches tall with a cartoon image of an excited Bingo Boy on the side. After the Bingo game, the only logical thing for her to do was to fashion a little bong out of it.
Frank and I sat at our favourite table under the shelter to wait for Arnie and Frank’s older brother Rocky. The two brothers rarely left the house at the same time. Frank just couldn’t wait to get out of the house. Not that his home life was bad, but he likes to get the party started. I like to get out early too, but with me it’s a feeling that the night is calling. Somewhere out there, something is going on.
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