‘Why you egotistical SOB, just who do you think you are?'
ou do a lot of sitting by yourself when hunkered down in a booze and dope rehab center. Especially in the mornings. In my case, a quiet 70-person set of rooms located in reasonably nice Brahman, tree-lined Pasadena, the home of college football’s Rose Bowl, and the Raymond Ave. Crips (they’re one street over from our domicile) have a decent calming effect. Recovering from a roughly million-dollar dope and booze habit requires the client to examine his conscience, go through his or her back pages, and take a look at what many times are unflattering things about yourself. To cast your thoughts to the wind, a breeze that has the potential to bring about a copious flow of lachrymal fluids (you know… weepy) when recalling genuinely stupid, selfish, and dangerous things you did while under the influence.
I go up and down on this. There are mornings where I arise at 7 a.m. (a time I normally was coming home from roughly 1980 to 1990), just go out and sit by the Spanish flagstone patio and fountain and toss back some great memories. Oh baby, there were plenty of good ones. For instance, when drag race buddy and all-time race pal Niles Smih and my baby brother Mike attended a big Fall Top Fuel and Funny Car race at1980 Fremont Raceway (a year before the inaugural NHRA Golden Gate Nationals) and saw a great show where a genuine up-and-coming Top Fuel racer Gary Cornwall beat a wheelstanding Jerry Ruth in the final.
Great e.t.s, big mphs, and a trunkload of minor league felony adventures framed the kind of weekends like Fremont that made my life. On a morning before qualifying or the race, the three of us would arrive early at the LeBaron Hotel just off the Nimitz Freeway and order our usually massive breakfasts. We border-line psychotics believed the old adage that the most important meal of the day was breakfast and we tore into it like an enraged pit bull slamming into a baby carriage.
Rangoon crepes, Eggs Benedict, quail eggs, a half-pound side of breakfast ham ringed by dog-turd sausages, an optional Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, cherries jubilee, tortillas, and several carafes of the house Zinfandel. We’d then repair to the restroom and fight off the bound-to-happen downer from this avalanche of artery-clogging wreckage with a half gram of Peruvian Mother of Pearl and roll three or four get-acquainted Congolese purple filterless cigarettes. I’d make sure I had my reporter’s notebooks (they were melting between my fingers and onto the carpet of our ’72 Gremlin rent-a-car in a hallucinogenic glorb) and then one of us would throw the car into reverse, charge down Durham Road at about 70-80 mph looking back on the great time we had just had. One of us pointed forward to see oncoming traffic and to officially anticipate the great afternoon that we’d blast through in a blizzard of hallucinations, incomprehensible blabber, and Fremont Raceway beer.
Those were the good times.
There were moments on the rocks (“rocks” as in bad or at the very least, weird times). To wit, some time in the 1980s, NHRA and particularly National DRAGSTER, worked out a deal where staff members would be given new current-year performance cars and road test them like Joe Citizen. Like all the moto-fellatio drivel in the trades, we attempted to do the drill rightly… excellent 0-60 acceleration, smooth ride, readable strategically placed gauges, glove compartment accoutrement ranging from B-D 100 syringes and coke mirrors, and factorially power brake smooth stops that contained the white trash in the interior.
I was the second car tester at National DRAGSTER and somehow it didn’t go quite to script. My friends and I went to NHRA headquarters (I think in 1984 or 1985) and picked up a new high performance Ford Thunderbird and road tested it at the place we thought we could whip this baby through the turns. The road course would be Highway 33 between Frazier Park and Ojai and this asphalt anaconda looked like just the place to give this ‘Bird a flight pattern, and we did… a fatal flight pattern.
To backtrack briefly, I am not mechanical at all. In my only high school auto shop class, I received an “F.” I didn’t get my drivers license ‘til well into my 30s. Most of today’s 40-50 button TV channel changers have wound up in thousands of plastic pieces after bouncing off the hood of a car 10 stories below my hotel room. I cannot work them. That enrages me. Because of warped prejudice, a few of my fellow staffers thought I posed a substantial risk messing with one of these bullets.