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Winter Crash Course in Truth

By Jeffrey Bell-Zekas, Class of 1972

It was winter, and we were bored. My buddy, Fred, and I got bored a lot during our high school years. Friday night would arrive, and of course, neither of us would have dates...what to do? In our case, we would go out “cruising” in Fred’s parents’ 1966 Buick. We theorized that having a “nice car” would ensure picking up “babes”. Failing miserably at picking up girls, we would instead spend the night street racing. We carefully laid out a raceway (on city streets) where we would burn-off our excess hormones. Upon arriving at the secret location, we would flail the ragged sedan until its tires smoked and brakes were glowing red-hot. Imagine the tunnel scene in the movie “Men In Black”, and you have a pretty good idea of how maniacally we drove.

There was another co-conspirator in our weekend fun. Our good buddy, Bob “Crash” Hedman, liked to play “chicken” with the neighborhood trash cans. Weaving crazily through the alleys and backstreets, Bob would aim at a trash can, swerve, and “Boom!”, flatten it like a crazed cruise missile. On a good night, he could demolish twenty or thirty of the buggers. Soon, it became a competition between the three of us, as to who could destroy the most cans in one run. This “crash course” in driving skills ended for me late one dark night, when I missed the can, grazed off the alley wall (sparks flying), and came to a sudden, perspiration-stained stop.

After several months of “bombing runs”, we decided to invent a new game. The game was called “slalom”, sort of a downhill ski run for cars. In our case, the slalom was through a quiet neighborhood in Brentwood. And our “snowboard” was a four-ton Buick with bad brakes and even worse steering.

Two weeks of “car slalom”, and the steering and brakes were totally fried. The Buick now handled like a Mexican taxi in a snowstorm. Fred’s parents were mystified by the sudden, reduced performance of their family chariot. We grinned and feigned ignorance. Needing new wheels, Fred had the answer in the form of a ‘59 Chevy two-door with a hot rod engine, chrome wheels, and leopard skin interior. Despite only getting ten miles per gallon, the Chevy was impressively fast and loud. Unfortunately, the “chicks” were not impressed by his hot rod. Although having your own car meant (sometimes) giving rides to pretty girls, still, no dates materialized.

We had wheels, money, and spare time, but we didn’t know where to go from there. How did you get a girl to go out with you? Was there a magic elixer you gave to them? Did you need “a good line”? Or did you have to be older, with lots of money?(After all, Hanna, the class beauty, was dating a guy ten years her senior). Three years later, with no dates, we were thoroughly convinced that owning a car had nothing to do with finding a girlfriend. But, heck, we had fun, living recklessly, wind in our hair, not caring where we went or what we did. And all the crashes prepared us for the adult world, where you wander aimlessly, hit a lot of walls, but occasionally find truth. Oh, and one of those truths was: it sure helps to be an old guy, with lots of money.