Such is Luck
I paid good money for my second car ó nine hundred dollars, earned by the sweat of my brow. I was seventeen, impatient, enthusiastic, melancholy, observant, blind, hopeful, brash, courteous, considerate, moody, defiant, and ignorant. In other words, I was a jackass, proof of which had been recorded by means of the picture on my driverís license.
I was also a very good driver, and remain so to this day. Knock on wood, in my thirty-four-year driving career, I have had no accidents and only one ticket, which was for driving eighty miles an hour early one Sunday morning on Highway 152, east of Los Banos, California. I could have been going ninety, or a hundred, but, as Iíve mentioned before, I have never cared for high speeds ó unless, of course, I am in a hurry to be somewhere else. Even then, safety comes first. I would never speed in a school zone, for instance, nor do I believe in weaving in and out of traffic. If the highway is wide and empty and I have several hundred miles ahead of me, I open the throttle, as people used to say. If the road is cluttered with foolish drivers, tumbleweeds, or cattle, I slow down.
I must admit, this is easier now that I have a worn out old van with a six-cylinder engine. But then ó oh-ho, then, when I was a young jackass ó I had a 1967 Chevrolet Impala Super-Sport with incredible power. Eighty miles an hour was childís play, as the polite patrolman very well knew. The truth is, I was doing a little over eighty. But when I greeted the officer and he saw what a reasonable person I was, and reminded him of the fact that it was early and he and I were the only drivers on the road, he said he would write the ticket for eighty, and thus allow me to avoid a mandatory appearance in court. I thought it was very nice of him.
Back in 1975, I used to tear up the road late at night between Fowler and Fresno, howling down an abandoned Clovis Avenue at ninety or more miles an hour after visiting the brave young woman who was soon to be, and still is, my bride. A trip that took nearly half an hour during the day, I made in about seventeen minutes. It was partly in the timing. There was a stop light at Jensen Avenue, which changed quickly and at regular intervals. Since I could see the light from a mile or two away, I was able to adjust my speed as I approached, past a row of palm trees, an orange grove, and an Armenian-owned fruit stand with old tractors on display, and then blaze through when the light was green, after which I would slow down to about seventy and enter the southeastern outskirts of Fresno, its pavement breathing and sighing and cooling in the intoxicating, semi-rancid night air.
I was soon joined by other late-night, early morning drivers, all of whom I wondered about, and for whom I felt a great and tender concern, and then, for the last short leg of my journey, it was necessary to observe the speed limit.
I didnít mind. When I pulled into my parking space in front of Apartment 107 at the Heritage Apartments near the corner of Cedar and Gettysburg ó behind the gas station and a bar called The Graduate, and across from the grocery store and dry cleaners with a patch of weeds nearby ó and stepped out of the car, I always felt invigorated and inspired, as if I had discovered a rare formula for living ó which, in fact, I had. Or, it had discovered me. Such is youth. Such is insanity. Such is luck ó to roar off into the night, and to be protected by an invisible force that for some odd reason still wants you alive.
April 2, 2006
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