The events I’m about to chronicle are accurate. However, the date frame has been slightly altered and I’ve decided to change the names of the players; fairness to their memories could be misconstrued.
Allow me a momentary flash of retrospection: 1968. The spring and summer of my 17th year had been filled with Frisbeeism, school, surfing, Porsches and racing, never in that order. (Fribeeterians believe that, when you die, your soul goes on the roof and you can’t get it back down.) This was NYC and that last part, racing, was not FIA approved. Indeed, our streets offered a sanctioning body all their own. As the blare of sirens assured us, they were mean streets, unforgiving in nature.
I limited myself to a voyeuristic position in a rather abstract form of gladitorial guts: street. racing, dangerous and illegal. Many of Gotham’s young, impressionable Porsche owners, their pathetic silver spoons tied to a leash, enabling them to “heighten the Experience” of speeds their minds had already OD’d on, would form up under the awnings of a night club on the service road of the Staten Island Expressway. “Hadaar” would carry with it an almost necessary signature, made necessary by the comings and goings of its “made” patrons. Located near the terminous of the relatively new Verrazano Narrows Bridge sat this den of the reticent and sociologically disordered, having all the trappings of post adolescence, aching to pay homage to the few who had already been indoctrinated and accepted into NYCs malfeasance and corruption.
This incongruous fellowship would take their thrones as spurious and mock turtleneck juniors, riding in pastel sports cars, engaged in a dangerous game of traversing, at terminal velocities, this very long span of The Narrows that Robert Moses rammed down the throats of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The backdrop of a jeweled Manhattan skyline was framed by the two spires of this portal colossus as these weekend sorties droned on- that is until a fateful foggy evening in October.
That evening’s entertainment was provided by my pasta bellied, directionless, yet every so jolly sidekick, Freddy- “Fat Freddy,” that is. The need for a moniker in Brooklyn has always intrigued me. The “large one” prowled the boundaries of Bensonhurst. His Mamma owned an Italian restaurant and, I imagined, fed half of “the Boys” for “nuttin”: nice suits-no money, always paying with a scheme.
The fat one spent much of his salary in my father’s garage, behind our house. I found the enjoyment of repairing Porsche cars too much to miss. His indulgence always grew from watching mine. I loved Freddy as much as his 911S Targa. Despite his lardness, he drove like Tazio Nuvolari in the Mille Miglia. Unbeknownst to the weekend warriors with whom he would trade paint, Freddy had a trick that made his “Porsh” run away from the “rat pack.” With the changes we created, his gutteral and raspy voice could proclaim, “Hey, Marko! Dis weekend we’re gonna kick dair asses!” While everyone else concentrated on extensive engine modifications, we secretly shoved a 912 gearbox into “The Yellow U-Boat,” allowing him much quicker acceleration on the way up the main span of the bridge.
Freddy enjoyed women as much as his beloved Porsche. He also liked to drink and drive. His girlfriend was a neighborhood “chick” with teased coif, five inch heels and a penchant for confession on Saturday afternoons. I knew her religious rituals through Freddy. “She’s a good kid; she don’t drink, but can she throw bull. Tank God my bookie meets me in front o’ da choich while she’s in deah. ” Yes, she was a good kid in many ways. So was he.
That October “Hadaar evening” was rapidly degenerating, as much from the weather as from Freddy’s drinking. He was always jealous of guys hitting on his chick. Many of us knew the cocktail of alcohol, jealousy and racing the span would some day be a fatal mix. In walked Vinny the Suit. “Hey, what’s happening, Freddy?” quips The Suit. “I hear dat pieceajunk outside is ready for da dump. No, not yer chick. Da car! Haahaa, ahaahhaal” Well, Vinny’s “crew” circled around him, knowing full well that Freddy’s got 100 lbs over “The Suit,” and may be “carrying.” As expected, one thing leads to another and everyone spills outside: The Suit, Fat Boy, both crews and hordes of wannabes. Two well known “Gousheens” settle the argument by “setting up a sit-down” later in the week. Fat Feddy is p****d. Vinny saunters over to his “Furrayree,” settles into the seat, turns around and yells to Fat Boy,” I wouldn’t touch dat skank you’re wit.”
In a cloud of dust, The Suit splits and the Yellow U-Boat is in rapid transit, behind. Freddy has his chick and has been drinking heavily. It’s all hands on deck as both crews and others scramble to follow those Chariots of Fire over the bridge to Bay Ridge. One last time.
The newspapers had it all wrong. Some illiterate redneck, pushing 18 wheels, decided to turn across all the lanes and into the Belt Parkway exit at the far end of the span. Those of you who know this crossing realize that no commercial traffic is allowed on “The Belt.” There’s no room for a big semi.
Freddy and The Suit knew that too, but realized what was happening too late. Later that night, or should I say that morning, NYC Highway Patrol cops couldn’t peel the three players from their fused coffins. Then, three funerals, all with the usual Brooklyn ornamentation, attended by a veritable Who’s Who of the world of the streets- crying and swearing and a lot of cheek kissing.
Sad to say, other Porsche People have followed Freddy, Vinny the Suit and that good girl. It never ends. But drive Porsches, take chances and be good boys and girls.
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