May 6, 2016 - H5 - LSDaytona Speedway
I skedaddled away from that unnerving school bus as it blackened the crimson sands from the setting sun on Daytona Beach back in April of 1977, my perceptions gone totally haywire. I could not discern reality from apparition as I trotted along the cool seashore, barefoot and tank-topped, my old worn jeans scratching at my ears.
They have been known to scruff along audibly sometimes but this was ridiculous. It sounded like a herd of squirrels scrambling up my legs and I had to keep checking to see if they’d found my stash of nuts.
Eventually, I stopped scurrying along and just froze in place.
The bizarre noise didn’t cease, though, but continued to rise in pitch.
I whipped around and my jaw dropped.
A group of Hare Krishna’s frolicked towards me, their bedsheet gowns wafting the breeze while their worm-like braids squirmed the backs of their bald heads and their faces convulsed with spiritual bluster. The weirdest of the lot, an old Swami, thumbed a washboard with a guitar pick like he might actually extract a chord out of his goofy contraption…
Thus, the unspeakable scrabbling noise.
One doesn’t observe many of these cult-believers cutting a rug these days but, back then, they routinely popped out of the walls like so many broken bricks and, if you think they’re scary looking normally, try multiplying them by LS-THREE, especially when one of them offers you a paper flower that attempts to bite your fingers.
I noticed an opening in the towering seawall and made a break for it, sprinting around the corner and off the sand, onto a ramp of asphalt. Immediately, a devil’s horde of motorcycles roared down the blacktop incline, bearing down on me on their way out to the beach. I frantically glanced around for an escape plan and, just in the nick of time, spotted a steel handrail above my head. I leapt and grabbed it, chinning myself up onto the elevated sidewalk, away from Satan’s Hellions and their demented machines.
Did I mention that I was young and strong back then?
“Good job, dude.”
I spun towards the voice but saw only a couple of mannequins, one in a bikini, the other in baggies, remember those? These days, we call them board shorts.
The plastic man in the Hang Ten trunks turned towards me.
“Hey buddy, you got a light?”
I padded my pockets and shook my head at the blank face.
From my elevated position up on the boardwalk, I gazed out over the sandy beach with all the cars parked below, scanning for my hitchhiking buddy, Brent, wondering how he was handling all this brain wave distortion. I finally spied him off in the distance, a spot on a rooftop, flinching away from the rivers of ruse that flowed beneath.
I could relate to that.
At some point, I would join him up there on top of Cheech and Chong’s van, a safe haven from these delusional depths of deception, but not yet because I still had more to SEE. I strolled the boardwalk, peeking into doorways, shuddering and moving on. I gazed up at the fantastic Ferris wheel, my hand on my captain’s cap, and decided that would overload my pretention of perception.
I wandered into an arcade but listen to me, my friend, they were different back then.
Video games were but a twinkle in my mind and most games were mechanical in nature, dual processors and virtual graphics decades away. Skeet ball, shuffle bowling, pinball and game cranes that scooped up nickel and dime prizes were all pretty standard.
Except that one…
Right over there.
I marveled up to the driver’s seat and stick shift, steering wheel and big screen, a first of its kind. It cost a whopping dime, and I knew I had one in my pocket, thanks to the nicotine freak with the showroom shorts outside. I dug out the silver and plopped into the bucket seat, enthralled by the newfangled machine.
I thumbed the dime up to the coin slot and several things happened simultaneously.
It morphed into a key which I shoved into the keyhole and cranked to the right…
An engine roared to life, vibrating my seat and me…
The big screen flicked on with a rugged intensity…
Off in the distance, I could see the metallic silhouette of one of my rivals.
I stomped on the gas pedal and my imaginary race car puttered out onto this leathery road, crystalizing into mock reality as I gained speed. I roared down the racetrack, gaining on the flat metal car on the end of a bar, gritting my teeth in determination.
“Oh, you’re going down, man!”
I armed the steering wheel and whizzed past the Lotus 18 Formula One racer, unsure as to how I had come across this magnificent flying machine but here I was, screaming along and feeling confident that I could win this thing.
I roared passed another cookie-cutter car and then another and then I found myself in a rough turn, holding on tight, as my car thundered around the bend. I rocked out of the hairpin and back onto the straightaway, blurring along at an incredible speed.
Another rival racer blasted out of the pits and cut me off…
I slammed on the brakes…
I yanked at the wheel…
The screen exploded in ultra-red light…
A sonic boom thundered my seat…
I screamed and pitched out of my car and onto the road, my captain’s cap doing a Frisbee through the air, my body skidding along the pavement, the trailing cars steamrollering across me.
I lay there, dead, for sure.
“Hey mister, are you okay?”
I opened my eyes to a young boy blinking down at me.
“Well, then, ladies… If you would be so benign as to frighten me with your company.”
- TURTLE ISLAND