Tag Archives: #death

1972 Buick Riviera GS – Golden Brown

A story told from the car’s perspective:

A Premium Machine

It was another day at the Buick dealership. Another day of being shown off by Buick salesmen in their patterned suits, squeaky loafers, and slicked back hair as they paraded people, who had no business in a car like myself, around me. People getting inside me with their dirty shoes, messing with my buttons, and asking for test drives. Hearing them try to haggle over my sticker price always annoyed me. I’m a premium machine, a Gran Sport! I don’t want you if you cannot afford me. This day, however, was different because he walked in…

The first moment I saw him I knew he was different. Wearing a silver suit that shined like chrome, diamond pinky ring, and carrying big wads of cash in his black leather coat. He paid for me in cash! I can still remember the expression of disbelief on the salesmen’s face when he saw all that bread being laid out on the table. “Wrap her up, I’m taking her home today!” my new owner exclaimed with a cocky grin as he pointed to me. I had never seen a man so confident and aware of his motives. He knew what he liked, and had the money to obtain it, and what he liked was me.

He wasn’t the tallest man, but you would think he was seven feet tall by the way he carried himself. Always dressed in the finest suits and sporting different tinted color glasses each day. He had at least four different pair of sunglasses displayed on my dash. I always made sure to drive as smooth as possible as to not disturb them from their place. I could feel the rim of his gold rings when he grabbed the steering wheel. He must have been a very important man because he never bothered to lock my doors wherever we went. As if he knew no one would dare try to rip me off.

I was painted gold with a white vinyl top and brown leather interior; I was such a stunning machine back then. Didn’t take long for my owner to start spoiling me by buying me a set of white wall tires and chrome wheels to make me look more distinguish against those snobby Eldorados and Continentals. He always drove well-mannered and never abused me, always making sure I was warmed up before setting off. On occasion he would put his foot down to remind himself that I was much more than just a pretty face. My big 455 heart would suck up air and turn gasoline into torque as I ran up to 110 mph, hovering over any imperfections on the road. He was the coolest cat I had ever met, and other people seemed to share my opinion.

Custom Work

One day I remember being taken to a warehouse to see a mechanic dressed in street clothes. The man took a blowtorch to my trunk and made a hidden compartment in me. It didn’t hurt, but I felt strange having a hole cut in me for no reason.

From then on, my owner, who was often referred to as “The Jockey” by people who greeted him, would take me all over town for work. I never expected to be used as a hauler, but we went to the docks and he loaded a big brick shaped package into my trunk. We drove home and by the end of the night he had dozens of little golden brown bags that he placed in the trunk’s hidden compartment.

That’s when we would go to work – cruising into the darkest parts of the city. A side of town full of degenerates and vagabonds, no place for a Grand Sport like me. I hated rolling on filth covered streets and having low class women sit on my hood while my owner was inside a nightclub, working. Sometimes he would park me in a cold dark alley so he could check whatever it was that was hidden in my trunk.

Hitting the Streets

Going to work was always a nightmare of being surrounded by the scum of humanity. Once, a drunkard used my wheel as a urinal before losing his balance and falling over onto my rear fender. I felt his weight of soiled regret on my body work and wanted to shake him off like a horse brushing off flies with its tail.

Degenerates were always hounding my owner and would lean on my doors whenever they begged him for something. “I’m jonesing man, just need a taste to get me through the week!” One vagabond said to my owner. I didn’t understand what he wanted or why he seemed so desperate. He couldn’t stop twitching and looked as if he was about to have a nervous breakdown.

The nights were rough but the days were worth it. My owner loved taking me on scenic routes and dined at the finest restaurants where I felt more at home in the valet parking lot being hand washed by the staff. The sun would dance off my gold paint wherever we went and I loved hearing my voice sing as my 455 heart hummed with the smoothness of a knife slicing through butter. Those were the days I truly enjoyed being with my owner.

I felt like the good times were going to roll on forever, but suddenly it came to horrifying halt.

Night of No Return

It was a particularly dark night as the moon hid amongst the stars. I was sitting in the cold alley waiting for my owner to take us home. Suddenly, I head a noise in the shadows near the dumpster that was next to me. I saw two figures lurking, trying to hide themselves as best as they could. Then I heard the sound of my owner’s boots hitting the pavement as he made his way towards me from the rear. The two figures began to move out of the shadows and I saw that one of them had a switchblade in his hand.

I couldn’t see what happened because they were behind me, but I heard one of the men threaten my owner with the knife in exchange for the money he had. I didn’t hear my owner speak, all I heard was the commotion of shoes scrapping along the asphalt followed by the sound of a gun be fired! A sickening noise of air being forced out of a person’s lungs was next, followed by the weight of a body being dropped on my trunk lid.

Something warm began to spill on my paint and drip off my bumper. A pair of running footsteps was the last thing I heard before everything went silent. Minutes felt like hours as police sirens echoed in the distance. I had an idea of what the weight on my trunk was but was too scared to even imagine it. The weight on my trunk started to shift slowly as I heard the sound of his last breath before feeling the full weight relax on me. I knew what it was, but I did not want to bare it.

When the police arrived I heard them say that he had tried to pull a gun but was overpowered and stabbed repeatedly. My owner had been killed trying to defend himself and had bled out lying on my trunk. I was devastated that he was gone. I loved him…

I was towed to the impound yard where I have remained ever since. My paint has long been burnt off by the sun and I am no longer the stunning machine I was in 1972. Rats have turned me into a motel and I sit with the guilt of not being able to warn my owner. I doubt I’ll ever have another owner again because of how ugly I look.

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All I can do now is park in silence with memories of coastal runs and turtle wax massages. The memory of my owner will live on in the bags of golden brown hidden in my trunk.

The Skeleton Driver

Headlights cut through the darkness of a lonely highway as you watch the yellow lines getting swept under the front of the car. You have an endless stretch of two lane blacktop all to yourself. The only noise passing through your ears is Johnny Cash’s somber voice as he sings about wishing he was stoned on a Sunday morning. The steady repetition can make it easy for someone to wander off into the depths of their subconscious while they let muscle memory take the wheel. Least that’s what was happening to me as I suddenly realized I couldn’t recall the last couple of miles I had driven. I was on my way home from the bar after yet another night out with Johnny Walker, and his wing-man Miller, as they helped me drown the demons that chased my soul every night.

I never considered myself a bad guy; even when a dirty, self-entitled, draft dodging hippy spat in my face as he called me a baby killer. No sir, I was not a bad guy, just a man put in a bad situation. Even with the start of a new year just a month away I felt that 1972 was only going to bring 365 days of liquid dinners and sleepless nights of regret. “I was following orders, I did nothing wrong.” I would tell myself to try and convince me that I was alright. Sitting behind the wheel of my ‘64 Chevy step-side, my body felt numb as the truck rolled along the dark road. My mind began to drift off again into the alcohol fueled anarchy of my imagination, and I could feel goosebumps beginning to form on my arms as ice cold sweat starting running down the back of my neck. My mind was going to take a trip, a trip back to Vietnam, 1970.

First thing I heard before I went back was the sound of my lieutenant yelling at us to clear a village of all hostiles. Feeling the weight of my gear on my back as I we marched into the village. We didn’t have to be stealth, the moonless night and pouring rain gave us plenty of cover to walk in unnoticed. Intelligence had told us that this village was a suspected supply dump for Charlie, and we were ordered to search and destroy. I had heard the stories of Charlie using civilians as suicide bombers to trap unsuspecting GI’s. Hiding a grenade in a baby stroller, or a woman hiding a bomb in her hat as she walked up to a platoon before detonating.

We wandered through the village, using the storm’s lighting strikes to see where we were going. It was the middle of monsoon season and there were times when I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be dry. Paranoia, exhaustion, fear, and impaired senses make for a deadly cocktail as most of the men, including myself, balanced our minds on a tight rope between sanity and suicide. I started to remember the vision of muzzle flashes as one man in our unit begin to open fire at a hut in the village. My ears going deaf and not being able to hear myself think; the high pitched ringing echoing in my head as I opened fire with my M16.

That was as far as my flashback went because I was suddenly thrown back into reality when the interior of my truck was filled with an orange glow from a set of headlights coming up behind me. “Turn off your high beams asshole”, I muttered to myself as I eased the truck to the shoulder to let the car behind me pass. The car wouldn’t pass me though, it just kept inching closer and closer to my rear bumper. Before I could decide on whether or not to brake check this dude I was greeted by a sudden shunt as the car’s front-end kissed the back of my Chevy truck, and then sped up to ram into me. Dropping the column shifter down into second gear, I forced the Chevy to give me every single rev the tired V8 had to give as I stood on the gas pedal.

I was pushing 90 as the Chevy bounded over every imperfection on the road. The car chasing me didn’t lose a beat as it stayed glued to my bumper, ramming into me as if it was hammering in a nail. Adrenaline was pulling me out of my drunken haze, trying to keep the truck from fishtailing as the hits started getting more and more violent. I could feel the truck wanting to let go as every shunt pushed the rear wheels faster than they were turning. Suddenly the car backed off, enough for me to get the truck stable. The orange light even began to dim as if the car was slowing down. The faint sigh of relief lasted only a few seconds before I was completely blinded by the orange light and thrown back in my seat by a metal crushing slam that managed to push the rear-end off the ground long enough to lose traction. Richard Petty couldn’t have done a much better job of preventing the truck from spinning out. All I could do was hang on as the truck began to spin circles down the road before smashing through a guardrail and slide down an embankment. I tired the brakes but the truck skidded on the grass before crashing nose first into a tree. Everything when black at the moment of impact as my face greeted the steering wheel.

Within the darkness, the memories started once again. I had been in the jungle for nearly 6 months and I knew I was never going to be the same again. The smell of death and decay was an invisible fog that never lifted, but instead fell over us like the thick humid air. Even my hands looked different when I stared at them, they were now the hands that had taken life away. I had six confirm kills to my name, and at least a dozen unknown. It had gotten to the point that I no longer saw Charlie as humans but rats that needed to be exterminated with napalm. My morals were slowly being erased by the horrors of war and I could feel the change happening but couldn’t stop it.

After we had cleared the area of Charlie, we had gathered all the supplies into a huge pile. Hundreds and thousands of pounds of ammo and guns being prepped to get blown sky high with explosives. The lieutenant ordered me to check the last hut for stragglers. “Clear it!” He barked. When I stormed into the hut all I find is a family of 6 small children, couldn’t have been more than ten or twelve years old with their eyes wide, stricken with terror. I spotted a couple of AK-47 rifles at their feet and a box of ammo behind one of the kids. “Davis! Clear that hut now!” yells the lieutenant, not knowing what I am staring at. I wanted to turn around and just pretend I didn’t see them, “walk away…” I thought. I lower my M16 and motioned my foot backwards to turn around. I was almost out, just a half second later and I would have been outside in the rain again, but I saw it. I saw a sudden movement out in the corner in my eye and my training took over. After the last full metal jacket casing had finished bouncing off the wooden floor, a lightning strike showed me what the sudden movement had been. It was my own shadow! My own paranoia had made me kill 6 children. I stood frozen in shock as I watched the collecting pool of blood crawl towards the tips of my boots as I felt the last moral in my soul being washed away by cold sweat.

The image of my shadow towering over the corpse of innocents shocked me back into conciseness. Drunken adrenaline kept the pain away but I could feel warm blood running down my face from a gash in my head. I put all my weight up against the door to force it to open as I stumbled out. Standing myself up to try and catch my breath, I looked around to readjust my eyes to see where I was, and what that orange light had been. Took only a moment for me to hear the sound of a souped up engine in the distance, a thumping clank of an engine with a hot camshaft singing through a pair of straight pipe exhaust. I heard the sound before I saw the source, but when I saw it I questioned whether or not I was still dreaming.

The orange light dimmed to show a ‘68 Cadillac hearse. The paint was animated as it bubbled and boiled as if it was under extreme heat. Suddenly the orange headlights turned off as a figure stepped out of the driver side door, and a neon green light beamed from within the interior of the hearse. “Who are you?” I shouted at the man sized figure. The figure stood there for a moment before walking down the embankment up to me. The red glow from my truck’s taillights were enough for me to see who it was and I froze with terror. The driver was dead! His suit was covered in mud and dirt as his skeleton hands adjusted his tie before looking up at me to revile his face. A skull with maggots and worms crawling inside his eye holes. My legs wouldn’t work, all I could do was tremble in fear as every instinct in my head was praying for me to run, but I couldn’t. The skull’s jaw moved as if it was going to say something, “Judgement”, was all it said before it launched itself at me. The last thing I saw before it all went dark was its mouth opening and running towards me in the blink of an eye.

When I opened my eyes all I could see was darkness, and when I tried to move I realized I was in a confined space…a coffin. I could still hear the engine running all around me, it was running at full throttle. “I’m not dead! You can’t do this! I am NOT DEAD!” I shouted into the dark. No answer. I couldn’t tell if it was tears or blood that was running down my cheeks but the panic was starting to set in as I begin to hit, kick, and scratch at the walls around me. Shouting for god and his mercy as my finger nails snapped off my flesh trying to claw away at the wooden box. Suddenly, I was jolted forward to the end of the coffin as the hearse slammed on its brakes to come to a stop. I silenced my screaming to wait and see what happened next.

I felt like a rag dog as the coffin was unloaded and dropped on what I hoped was solid ground. The coffin doors flew open and I was looking up at the night sky again. Not waiting to get trapped I jumped out of the coffin and looked around at where I was. I was still on the same road, the two lane blacktop I always used to get home. It wasn’t until I turned around that I saw emergency vehicles blocking off the road to attend to an accident of some kind. I felt a gust of wind push me forward to investigate what had happened. Paramedics and fire fighters seemed to run past me as if I didn’t exist, scrambling to attend to whoever it was that was injured.

Passing the blockade of police cars I saw three body bags on the ground side by side, one was noticeably shorter than the other two. Beyond that I saw the cause behind all this commotion, it was a head on collision between a station wagon, and a pickup truck…my pickup truck. The front-ends of both cars had vanished as they had both been pushed in like soda cans from the impact leaving nothing but bits of metal and glass scattered across the asphalt. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had just been driven off the road into a tree by a skeleton in a hearse and now here was my truck, completely demolished with three body bags as a result of it. I wanted to run away, run home and fall asleep so I could wake up from this hellish night terror. I wanted to wake up in a pool of my own sweat again just as the nights before, at least then I would take comfort in that this was all just a horrid dream. Why couldn’t I wake up!

I closed my eyes, “Wake up man! You need to wake up! For the love of God, wake the hell up!” I shouted. Then I heard one of the paramedics, he was shouting, “clear!” and I felt an extreme wave of heat fly across my chest. It was enough to knock me down to my knees. I turned to the ambulance to see a crowd had formed around the two paramedics. As I made my way to ambulance I could feel the strength leaving my body. I felt weak and was knocked down by another wave of extreme heat burning through my chest. I carried myself as my legs began to start feeling numb until I reached the crowd of firefighters and policemen who were surrounding the paramedics.

What I saw next threw me into shock. It was me! My legs were gone! They had been completely chopped off in the accident, my face was nearly unrecognizable, just a vague resemblance of bloody flesh. “It’s no good, I’m calling it, 12:01 am November 21, 1971.” Said the paramedic. “I’m dead…” I thought as the fully realization of my fate had become clear to me. That’s when I heard the sound of the engine again and saw the haunted hearse slowly creep up to meet me. The skeleton driver stepped out yet again and pointed at me. “Judgement”, it said in an oily voice that shook me to my core.

“Tragic, this family was traveling back from vacation.” I heard someone say but nobody was around. “How do you know?” said another voice. “I found these Disneyland Mickey Mouse ears on the side of the road, must have belonged to the little girl.” My eyes widen. The little girl, the smaller body bag. I had killed a family, and myself, in a drunk driving accident. I remembered now. Driving on the road, seeing everything go black as I tried to fight the urge to fall sleep just before I saw a set of headlights in the distance. So much innocence taken away by my hand and now it was time to answer for my mistakes. The skeleton driver opened the coffin for me to get in, but I refused to get back in that box. I turned to run away into the night. The driver stood like a statue as he pulled a handheld scythe from behind his back and then set off sprinting holding the scythe over his head.

The skeleton driver wiped the blood off his scythe before placing it carefully back in its engraved silver case. He placed the now loaded coffin in the back of his chariot of hellfire before adjusting his tie one last time and getting behind the wheel of his Cadillac. The orange headlights beamed as the engine cranked over, spitting fire out of the exhaust. The bubbling black paint boiling intensely as the hearse roared away down the two lane blacktop before vanishing into thin air leaving no trace of its presence. All that was left on the road after the accident was a set of military dog tags that had appeared to have been burned.

Happy Halloween Everybody – J.G.

Curse of a Speeder

To my friends and family, it is no secret that I like to drive fast occasionally. Some people say I have a problem, others say it is just a side effect of being young, but I see it as a way to forget about the annoyances of everyday life. Every day we are constantly bombarded by the media about horrific events happening around the world, flooded in a tsunami of ignorance on social media by people who are masters at spraying hate and fertilizer out of their mouths, and that’s just checking your phone in the morning. Life is hard, but it is simple, its people that make it complicated. In order to keep one’s sanity, one has to find a way to get away from it all – even if it is just for a few minutes each day.

I confess that I am a speeder, although I do not drive like a madman. Like most people with my, “problem”, I do enjoy painting asphalt with rubber, going sideways, and reaching top end speeds when the conditions are right. The problem with this relaxation technique is that police officers do not find it very amusing and love showing their disapproval in the form of traffic tickets. I could fill a glove box, and I have, with the number of citations, warnings, and court receipts I’ve collected over the years. I am here to talk about the struggle of being a driver with an exuberant driving style.

At this point, some of you might be thinking that I am just an obnoxious punk whose only problem is being too stubborn to slow down and letting his ego fool him into thinking he’s the next Richard Petty. Before you unleash your judgement upon me, please let me point out that I know I am not a professional driver and I know that I can be as stubborn and rebellious as a teenaged mule. However, I do need to point out that because I have a passion for driving and car control, I do feel that I am at least more qualified than the average driver. I’m certainly safer than someone who’s bad habits behind the wheel consist of applying makeup, checking their Twitter feed, or sending Snap Chat videos of them looking into a camera while their favorite song plays on the radio. Those are only a handful of bad habits that I witness on a daily bases when I’m traveling on the Interstates.

When I say I have a passion for driving I mean I love it! To me, driving is a skill that is fun and challenging. Most people can safely drive a car from A to B and not give it a second thought for the rest of the day, but I like knowing what a car can and can’t do as far as braking, steering, and acceleration. It is important to know how a car will behave during an emergency, so yeah sometimes I like to give a car’s ABS system a workout and drive it like I stole it. But, there is nothing more relaxing, in my opinion, than being behind the wheel of a car on a beautiful, low traffic, day with your favorite playlist humming through the stereo. You don’t need to drive fast in order to enjoy driving; sometimes a nice quiet drive is all you need to get your stress out.

The Curse of a Speeder is that once you’ve earned a reputation as a speeder some people will label you as being reckless or a, “Bad Driver”. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never wrecked, practice car control – to most people speed equals danger. The irony of it is that people who text and drive do not, for the most part, get the same stigma. Sure there are campaigns warning us of the dangerous of texting while driving, but we all think, “That won’t happen to me, because I’m careful”. Maybe you have a system of only answering a buzzing phone when you are at a stoplight, or maybe your eyes can part into two different directions like a chameleon. Whatever the system is, the response for someone who texts and drives is usually, “Oh? Haha, I do that to sometimes”. The usual response for someone who speeds is, “Oh. Be careful…”

This year alone I have received two speeding tickets, three months apart, in two different cities. What annoys me is that when the police officers spotted me on their radar, I wasn’t trying to speed I was simply driving. The first time I was caught speeding I was driving home and I knew I was getting on the interstate so muscle memory took over and I sped up before the on-ramp. The second time, I was traveling between cities. I was passing a convoy of five semi-trucks and I sped up because I hate when they bounce peddles and road dirt off my hood and windshield – that landed me speeding ticket number two. If I was doing triple digit speeds or doing donuts in a parking lot than yeah I would have gladly accepted my law breaking punishment, but speeding up a mile before an on-ramp or passing semi-trucks is not what I would consider, “reckless driving”.

Since I am still under 25 years old, taking online defensive driving courses in order to reduce, and dismiss, a traffic citation is an option I always take. The problem is that the course is six hours long, and hilariously outdated. The safely videos shown were filmed in 1994, so you hear instructors recommending you to purchase a vehicle with Anti-Lock Brakes and telling you how to use them. Safety features in cars, and traffic laws in general, have changed a lot in the last two decades, so the course is a joke. It is detention for drivers.

A better system would be a written Driver’s Ed exam that you need to pass in order for it to count as taking a defensive driving course. It wouldn’t take you more than half an hour and at least then a person is forced to review traffic laws before getting a ticket reduced or dismissed.

Auto makers build cars that practically beg us to break the law. The new Ford Focus RS has a Drift Mode button which allows you to slide the compact car around a corner easier. Dodge created the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, normal family sedans that can reach 200 mph. That is like a general store selling high proof whiskey in a dry county. Why make such powerful cars if the average driver has no place to fully enjoy their bang for the buck? Not everyone with a fast car has time to go to a drag strip, which are constantly being closed, or a race track, which don’t always offer track-days here in the U.S. The easier option is street racing and that is about as dangerous as it can get.

So what is a speeder to do? We are entering an era where cars are getting faster and traffic laws are getting stricter. It’s not like in the old days when you could in fact out run the police if your car was hot enough, the days before dash cams and speed cameras. It is a curse to have a need for speed these days, one that can affect your wallet as well as your health.

I think I can speak for most people who can relate to my story that we won’t change, driving is a passion and speed is a byproduct. There are always a few rotten apples that spoil it for all of us by not being able to control their cars or not knowing their own limitations, but we are not a danger to the public nor should not be seen as such. We just like to fully enjoy our cars as the engineers who designed them intended us to. If they built a car that can produce 707 horsepower, why shouldn’t we be allowed to experience every last galloping pony? So whether you are a speeder or see driving as a chore remember to keep your eyes on the road, and both hands on the wheel. Drive safe everyone.

Mad About Furious 7

The Fast and the Furious films has become one of the highest grossing film franchises ever, rubbing shoulders with the film greats like the Star Wars trilogy. I have a lot of issues with these movies, for a variety of different reasons, but since the release of the most recent film, Furious 7, I can no longer bite my tongue. The Fast and the Furious movies suck! This coming from a true gearhead. They took a cookie cutter plot, added some Easter egg colored Imports and made a successful street racing movie that jumpstarted a new trend of idiotic car modifications. Hollywood, no different than any other big business, is greedy so naturally they made a sequel. Six films later, and the F&F movies have jumped the shark and driven so far into fantasy land that I am surprised they don’t just call it what it is, a video game you watch instead of play. Because where else would you see cars jumping out of airplanes, fight with tanks, run 24-speed transmissions, and have drivers walk away without a scratch after jumping out of a speeding car.

As a writer, I find the plot of these movies to be a joke, and as a Gearhead, I get angry when I find out how many valuable and desirable cars they have destroyed in order to film a, “car chase”, that doesn’t come close to the standards of Bullitt or the Original Gone in 60 Seconds film. I am surprised more Gearheads do not feel the same as I do since most of us would cringe in horror if we saw a 1968-70 Dodge Charger get blown up in front of us, yet we pay $15 to see a dozen Chargers be destroyed on a big screen. Open your eyes! These films are NOT directed at Gearheads. The F&F target audience are the same group of people who enjoy Michael Bay films, people that like explosions, shiny things, and boobies. All flash and no substance is their motto.

I’ll prove my point by going through the plot. For those who have seen the movies, you know that the story in part three, F&F Tokyo Drift, ends with Vin Diesel’s character, Dom, in Japan about to race the main character of the movie. That movie was released in 2006, right? Now, the following 3 films in the series are supposedly the events that lead up to Dom being in Japan, and the death of supporting character, Hun. The problem with that is that they apparently do not care or failed to notice that if something takes place in 2006, and they want to tell the story of what happened before that, then you cannot use cars, phones, and technology that came AFTER 2006. I have yet to read an article that had noticed this, and I feel like the F&F movies are proving that most people do not care as long as the cars are shiny and Vin Diesel is punching something.

I could let this slide if the action scenes were good, by good I mean realistic. Although they are before my time, I grew up watching classic films that were made with Gearheads in mind. Films like The Love Bug (1968), Vanishing Point (1971), Two Lane Blacktop (1970), Dirty Marry and Crazy Larry (1974), and even the Dukes of Hazzard series (1979-85). Films before CGI, were if the director wanted a car to jump through a building, they hired a steel nerved stuntman to drive a reinforced Chevy Nova and crashed it though a real building. There was no shaky-cam effects, no rapid jump-cuts between the actor and the chase. Back then, they wanted a viewer to see the chase from a far to fully enjoy the stunt driver’s handy work as they powerslided around a corner or rammed a car off the road. The F&F movies don’t really have car chases, if you think about it, sure they have one or two chase scenes but it is usually filled with the actors “driving” from the safety of a green screen, while the rest of it is a rapid cut of shifting gears, car close ups, and crashes. There is no clear direction as to where the cars are going or what the hell they are doing. It’s all just noise and angry expressions. Yes the F&F movies do have some amazing stunts, and my highest respect to the stunt men and women who preform them, but I don’t think these movies will be remembered 50 years from now for their car chase scenes. Maybe their gear-shifting scenes, since manuals will be a thing of the past by then.

My biggest issue with the franchise is how they used the tragic death of Paul Walker to sell more tickets, and music. Paul Walker was a good actor, genuine Gearhead with a passion for racing, who worked with charity. When I heard that the ending of Furious 7 was a real tear jerker, I looked for it online. SPOLIER ALERT!! Paul Walker’s character, played by his brother with CGI used to make him look like Paul, drives up in a Toyota Supra next to Dom’s Dodge Charger. It is a reference to the first F&F movie ending, where they raced in similar cars. The movie cuts to a montage of Paul Walker’s character through the film series as Vin Diesel narrates saying they will always be brothers. Then cuts back to the two cars driving up and then parting ways as the road splits. I don’t know, but to me that seemed a little half assed. One of the many things people love about the movies is that Dom and Brain love racing each other to see who is the best out of the two, wouldn’t a more touching ending be that Brain finally wins against Dom before going off to be with his family? It would also be reflection of Paul Walker and his own true passion for driving. Then have video clips of Paul Walker and the type of person he was during the ending credits as a farewell montage. Not two weeks after the release of Furious 7, rumors of an 8th film already in the works start to fill the internet. I find that to be in bad taste, because if one of the main stars that made the franchise what it is passes away tragically then that should be the end of the franchise? Makes a person wonder, if it were Vin Diesel would the franchise have ended? It proves that it is no longer about the film’s plot or storyline, just about the money and milking the cow for as long as they can, much like the Transformers franchise.

The Fast and the Furious franchise should not be welcomed by Gearheads, because it is just a money hungry film that would destroy a rare Ferrari GTO without a second thought if it meant people would pay to see it. The cars spend more time flying through the air than on the road, so it is no longer a movie that a Gearhead can enjoy for the realism of driving action, and the story line seems to have been written by a group of seventh graders. People tell me that these films are, “Just for fun, and not to be taken so seriously”, which I understand, but if I wanted to see a movie like that then I would just watch Die Hard, because at least the main character gets hurt in those movies.

Feeling Fast

Being a young Gearhead with a fleet of vintage cars (I did not mean for that to sound like I was showing-off) means that I sometimes get lectured by gearheads of an older generation on the dangers of driving fast or car control. All I can do is sit there and nod in agreement, because I am still at an age where if I respond with, “yes, I know already”, I will sound like a cocky young punk who will eventually learn the hard way. But, I’ve collected my fair share of city miles as gearhead when it comes to driving. I’ve totaled a car, crashed a car, been wrecked into, experienced a car that is out of control, break downs, left stranded on a dark highway, pushed a car home, dealt with police on multiple occasions, and even partaken in a casual streetlight drag race. So I’ve been around the block, and left the tire marks to prove it.

About a week ago, my uncle Mike got to test drive my 1969 Camaro. Unlike myself, he is from a generation when my Camaro was just another everyday daily driver, so I had no problem tossing him the keys to my time machine. The test drive was like a flashback to the 1970’s for him, back to his youth, and he drove my poor Camaro as such. Afterwards, he mentioned to me that I should probably sell my Camaro and invest in a muscle car I really wanted. Reading in between the lines made me realize what he was actually telling me. What he was really telling me was that this hot Camaro was too much car for me and that I should get rid of it before they use it as my coffin. I know he wasn’t saying I didn’t know how to drive, or insulting my ability, he is just looking out for my own safety. That being said, I was still a little annoyed, because I am not a teenager anymore. If I was 16 years old and had this Camaro I would completely understand, but I’m a month away from being a college graduate! That experience got my thinking of physical and emotional feeling of going fast. People that have only one class of vehicle, only trucks or only new cars, all their lives won’t understand when I say that 100 mph can feel a lot faster or a lot slower depending on what you are driving.

For example, when I am driving my mom’s brand new 2015 luxury sedan or my slightly used 2013 econobox down an interstate and I decide to push the needle past 100mph, I feel totally relaxed. Why? Because thanks to modern technology most new cars feel like their only doing 70mph when they are in fact traveling well over 100. Not to mention all the latest death-proof safety devices such as traction control and stability control that are designed to keep us between the ditches. So at 120mph, my little econobox has reached its limited top speed and I could drive it with one hand knowing that if the car were to suddenly get loose there is a good chance I’ll get up in a field, but with all four wheels still on the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is not a safe speed, and I do not condone speeding on public roads, but I’m saying that modern cars can feel safe even at high speeds. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a different story.

If I switch keys and get behind the wheel of my truck, which is limited to 101mph, the speed feels utterly different. Now I have no choice but to keep both hands on the wheel and become aware of any extra play in the steering wheel as the truck hops along the interstate, swaying over every imperfection on the tarmac. Eventually you get used to the sensation that the truck is floating, but not before you tighten your seatbelt and hope the suspension doesn’t travel so far up that the rushing air lifts the rear tires up. Because if they do lift, and lose traction, then you’re going to need a faster set of hangs, and a new pair of shorts, to counter steer your way to safety.

Finally, we get inside the Camaro, and to be completely honest I do not know what the top speed of that car is because I have never pushed it beyond 90mph. Reasons being because well… it scares the living crap out of me. As the Camaro angrily fights the law of physics to reach 90mph, the cold sweat on my palms weld my hands to the steering wheel as I basically hang on for dear life. At that point I am not driving, I am just aiming the car in the direction I wish to go and praying it wants to go that way too. All while knowing that if this car decides to misbehave, as old cars often do, that I will be crashing through the gates of heaven, upside down, in a 360 spin before I even have a chance to downshift. Feeling the vibrations at the wheel as the car brawls it way through the air, all the 1960’s technology shaking and rattling inside the interior makes the car feel like it’s about to break the sound barrier. Exciting, yes, but the sense of the grim reaper riding shotgun is right behind it.

I know most of you who will read this will know exactly what I am talking about and think that I am just a broken record, but not everyone has the luxury, or desire, to max out every car they come across. Regardless of what your views on speed are, whether you think it kills, is a drug, a cure for a bad day, or you just do because you enjoy it, speed feels different. Three different cars speeding at the same rate of time and distance will have totally different sensations and emotions. It’s one of the many occasions where a car can have a direct impact on your emotional state.

The Final FInish Line

           Motorsport can be a deadly sport, as any fan or driver will tell you. The following is a tribute to those Drivers who went beyond the limits of man and machine in the name of victory.

 I wake up feeling like I had just experienced a nightmare, panting and sweaty, and then I notice that I am laying on asphalt with my race suit and helmet still on. I try standing up but I feel very weak and stumble to get on my feet. It dawns on me that I don’t know where I am or how I ended up standing in the middle of a road. A two-lane blacktop in the middle of some kind of desert, least that’s what it looks like, only the temperature isn’t warm and the sky is an orgy of purples, pinks, and orange coloring. I feel my helmet and can feel that my visor has been broken off on half of its face and scratches riddled the rest of it. My race suit is scorched like it had been in a fire. I look around for signs of life, but all I see is dark sand and a string of telephone poles that seems to go on forever along the left side of the road. A burning sensation travels through my body when I turn to the right to see my Formula 1 car laying in the sand, upside down and completely engulfed in flames. I fall to my knees in shock as I see the car explode. A human like figure in the cockpit burns in the inferno motionless – I was dead.

Faint memories of what had happened begin to imagine themselves in my head. I remember the car getting loose on the straight away, something in the suspension had collapsed. I remember counter steering as the car turned violently to the left, straight into the barrier separating the pits from the track. The sound of metal and carbon fiber crumbling was the last thing I remembered before waking up here. This feeling is strange, knowing you are no longer alive yet not feeling any since of depression or sadness. Instead, it has been replaced with a relaxing sense of numbness. I don’t know what is going to happen next.

A familiar sound causes me to turn around to see what I hope it will be. The sound of a push-rod V8 rumbling through the still air approaches me. It’s a white 1970 Dodge Challenger cruising towards me and stops just inches away from of my feet. The white paint seems to glow instead of shine and the interior is solid white as well, even the instrument panels and pistol-grip shifter. It sings to me at it pours more gasoline into its six pack intake and opens its driver side door for me to get in. I can feel music waves flowing though my head as I step into the white vinyl interior, pretty sure it’s an instrumental of Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. Closing the door sets the car off in motion as it  travels down the two-lane blacktop on to what feels like nowhere. Confusion, paranoia, and anxiety crowd for my attention as they fight it out in the pit of my stomach. The car is taking me somewhere, I don’t know where, as the pistol-grip shifter moves on its own when it shifts from second into third gear with smoothness of a bolt-action rifle.

Time seems to have no relevance here because I sense that we have been traveling for a while but I have forgotten how to estimate time, just feels like I’m a treadmill. Time takes a backseat as I see figures in the rear-view mirror. They get closer as the Challenger speeds up with an effortless grunt from its 440 engine. Echoes of man made machines begin to fill the desert air as I see a light in the horizon begin to shine which illuminates the approaching shadows in the rearview mirror.

The first shadow came to light as the Challenger sped up to 100 miles an hour, staying as steady as a locomotive, and takes form in the shape of a 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR wearing the number #20 with the driver name of P. Levegh. I tried to see into the car to get a look at the driver as it got along side of me on the left, but the windows are completely blacked out like a pair of aviator sunglasses. Dressed on the front fender were the words, 24 of LeMans 1955. The Mercedes drives off, crossing over to the right lane and vanishes before the Challenger catches up to it. I grab the steering wheel tightly as I see a second shadow speeding up towards me in the side view mirror.

1970 Can-Am race car took the shape of this shadow, showcasing the driver name B. McLaren on its side and Goodwood Circuit 1970 just beneath it. Sporting a bright yellow paint job and a #5, it brought me memories of racer X from the cartoon series Speed Racer as it races off into the distance before also vanishing into thin air – the Challenger soldiers on mile after mile. The yellow lines on the road begin to glow as the Challenger positions itself in the middle of the road. The light on the horizon keeps getting brighter as the purples, pinks, and orange colors in the sky slowly begin to transform into greens and blues, and I start to notice stars in the sky.

My astronomical observations are interrupted by two more shadows coming behind the Challenger. I glance in the rear-view mirror just in time to catch the sight of a rear wing from a Formula 1 race car, branded in Marlboro red sponsorship and a bright yellow helmet in the cockpit. Before I can get a closer look I am greeted by an ear full of American V8 noise coming from a NASCAR stock car pulling up next to me on the right. Painted black with a big #3 on its door and the driver name Dale Earnhardt written on its roof line and the words Daytona 500 2001 on its front fender. I knew who this was but it too had blacked out windows and all I could do was watch as it downshifted and roared away into the air. Almost at the same time, the F1 car crept up on my left side. I could see the driver, but his visor was blacked out, so I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t have to read the driver name A. Senna to know it was him. Imola 1994 was dressed across the nose of his car. The driver looked like a statue until his head turned and I could see myself in the dark reflection, he motioned with his hand and pointed to the light at the end of the horizon. As I turned to see what he was pointing at, the race car drove away, shooting flames out the back as it shifted gears. The echo of its engine ran with the wind long after the car vanished.

The scenery turns pitch black as the Challenger drives up the light which is at the edge of a cliff. The Challenger stops just before entering the light and opens the door, I think it’s asking me to get out. As I stepped out of the car I notice that on either side of the light, which looks like someone cut a garage door sized hole in space, are the cosmos of the universe. Stars and colors fill the background as I watch in amazement. Behind me is absolute darkness, only things I have in front of me is the light and the galaxy behind it. The light hums like a transformer gathering electricity. The Challenger’s paint begins to glow the same level as the light as it bellows one last torque symphony before driving into the light.

I have reached the ultimate dead end, the last finish line. As I walk up closer to the light, nervous butterflies feel like they have steel tipped wings as they bump the lining of my stomach and my hands begin to sweat inside my racing gloves. Before I enter the light I hear the sound of engines running, running at their limit. Revving, redlining, full throttle, and within a split second everything feels okay. I feel at ease as I step into the light, to join my brothers.

              “It takes a special kind of person to want to put their life at risk in the name of a sport. This short story is a tribute to those who are no longer with us, but went out chasing their never ending need for speed. I pray they have all reached the light at the end of the road and found peace. The urge to race is not a skill, it is a destine rite of passage that only few are gifted with the burden of. All I can say is RIP, Race In Peace.”

  • -Jesus R. Garcia