Sunday, June 26, 2005

Joy Ride

I'm forty years old, and still afraid to tell my dad what I'm about to tell you.

First, a little background. If you've read my blog so far, you've probably noticed a theme of underlying sadness, and may conclude that my life, at least in my estimation, has been one sorrow to the next. It's true that I yearned for a normal life, but in between the bad times there were some incredible moments that sometimes stretched for months, even years.

My dad. My incredible, adventurous, fearless, reckless, defiant and rebellious dad. Rules were for other men, and nothing was too immoral. His mind was like a prism that refracted life in all it's glorious color. There was nothing he couldn't do, and nothing he was afraid to try. For all the carnage he left in his wake, he made me the man I am today. He won't author any bestselling parenting books, but the man taught me to fly.

Mostly by reverse example. I credit a lucrative career and a wonderful marriage to a lifetime of eating Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, sleeping in the back of pickup trucks under leaky tarps, and playing Name That Step-mother.

But sometimes the old man was a lot of fun. When I was eleven, he called me from a bar in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Apparently there had been a police raid and he was twelve beers over his limit. He needed me to come get him. Dad had recently come into some money, and true to form, when dad had money, everybody had money or toys or both. He came home with a motorcycle trailer loaded with new bikes for myself, my six year old brother, and my step-mother Lorrie. His was a Suzuki 250, a very loud and very fast bike that I had been eyeballing for some time, but dad wouldn't let me touch.

"Now listen to me," he said, "you have to ride my motorcycle, because it's equipped for the road."

"You're kidding," I screamed.

"Now hold on a minute," he warned, "I'm absofuckinlutely serious here, so listen up!"

"Ok," I said meekly, but the excitement bubbling and he knew it.

"You drive the speed limit and don't attract any attention to yourself. Do you understand me?"

"No problem dad, speed limit, no attention. Got it. Be right there."

He paused. "I'm serious..."

"Ok," I said, feigning exasperation.

The bike was in the garage. I stepped onto the left peg and kicked my right leg over and sat down on the seat. Neither foot could reach the ground at the same time as the other. I turned the key on and kicked started the engine. One kick and it roared to life. I pulled the clutch and shifted it into first, then rocked the bike until it stood almost upright and let it rip. I flew out of the garage like I was shot from a cannon, leaned left and turned onto the street and opened it up, full throttle. What a rush.

Dad loves to tell the story today -- with grand embellishments, of course. Sure he was mad that he could hear me coming for blocks, or that I kicked up gravel in the parking lot as I skidded to a stop, but he was also proud of his boy, with a distinctly familiar irrespressible spirit.

So, back to the raison d'ĂȘtre. Jeez.

When I was fifteen, I was aching to drive a car. My dad had an old style Voltswagon Beetle, dark blue like a festering bruise. It was a small car and had a manual transmission, which I reasoned would not be unlike shifting a motorcycle. One night, when dad had been drinking and was definitely passed out for good, I decided to take it for a ride. It was probably one or two in the morning, and most of the world was comfortably numb. In those days, Juneau only had a few cops, and they weren't hard core like they are today, but still, even they would have found some fault in what I was doing, so I was scared to get caught for more than one reason.

I put the car in neutral and pushed it down the street a ways, fearing that dad would wake up to the distintive cough of old reliable's engine. I drove up the highway towards the Mendenhall Glacier. I was doing good for a while, until I turned too sharply and scraped the entire passenger side on a stop sign (that appeared out of nowhere, I swear!), clipping off the door handle and denting the rear tire well.

This is one of those times in life that I really wished I was dreaming, and for a moment I actually considered that it might be true. There were only two things certain in life, imminent death and taxes. Like Arnold Swartzeneger in Terminator, possible excuses were scrolling through my mind, but unlike Arny, I was shooting blanks. There wasn't anything more for me to do now but go home and meet my maker.

I acquired a full head of steam, turned the car off and coasted it in neutral for half a block and into my driveway. I snuck into my room and tried to sleep, which seemed like an eternity in the making.

"God dammit!" I bolted awake. Dad was having the expected reaction. Any minute now my bedroom door would implode. I only prayed that my death would come quickly. "Somebody wrecked the f$#^& car!"

The storm was collecting and the cloud was about to burst over my head, when there came a knock on the front door.

I ran to my bedroom door and put an ear to it. A woman who lived in the apartment across from us introduced herself, and said that she knew what happened to the car. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, I'm so dead.

Then, the most amazing, most miraculous words came from her mouth. "Last night, I heard a car screeching in the driveway, and a loud crashing noise. I heard someone cussing, the slamming of a car door, then the squeal of tires. I ran to my window just in time to see a green station wagon fish-tailing out of the driveway and onto the street. I came out and saw the dents on your car."

I don't know if you believe in God, but that night, an angel arrived upon the Chinook wind and delivered me from the beating of a lifetime.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Maybe that angel was a neighbor who didn't have to want to call the authorities on your Dad. LOL!!

This kind of love here? This is nice. Have there already been other stories told about a boy and his father like this? Because if not, or even if, I think the world can stand to read a few more.