Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ritchie Rock

If you keep heading north on Laurel Canyon Boulevard instead of hanging a left at Lookout Mountain Drive, a little further up you'll run into Mulholland Drive - that famous twisty street that winds through the top of the Hollywood Hills from Sepulveda and the 405 Freeway on the west to Cahuenga on the east. Actually it goes even farther west than the 405 but back then that part wasn't paved. The "civilized" portion was east of Sepulveda.

Next to LC, that was our main cruising destination, when we had a destination. One thing pretty much every Friday and Saturday night had in common those days was that no matter what each of us might have been doing, we'd make every effort to rendezvous at Bob's Big Boy on La Cienega, the one that was a little ways north of Fedco. You remember Fedco, don't you?

With no cell phones back then, the unwritten rule of getting in touch with one another was to cruise past Bob's to see if we spotted a familiar car, which often we did. Or, if we were all together to begin with, that's where we headed for a late night snack. David always ordered the same thing: the Bob's Big Boy combo consisting of a Big Boy burger, fries and a side salad with bleu cheese dressing. It cost all of $1.05. Add a 10% tip and you were eating for about $1.15 plus tax, if they even charged it on restaurant food back then. I don't think they did.

This particular night, the configuration consisted of David driving the SMD944 Battlewagon, Rick, and me. We started at the western paved end of Mulholland and headed east.

What's nice about that street, at least at night, is it is so empty. There's hardly anyone to get in your way. And it is scenic. As the street twists and turns through the hills, vistas on one side and then the other open up to reveal panoramic views containing seas of sparkling lights in the San Fernando Valley on the north, and the Los Angeles basin on the south.

I already told you yesterday David had the messiest room I ever saw. And he also had the distinction of being the most daring, i.e., reckless, driver among us. He took the Battlewagon to the limits whenever he drove and that night on Mulholland was no exception.

As he navigated the road, me in front next to him and Rick in the back, headlights appeared in the rear view mirror. "Oh, so we've got someone looking to tail me, eh?" said David as he kept glancing at the lights. "Okay buddy, let's see what you've got."

With that, he pushed the pedal further towards the floor and the Battlewagon responded. So did the person following us. "This guy is good," David remarked as we wound our way through the curves and sped it up on the short straightaways. "I have to hand it to him, he's good."

I had a tape recorder with me. I don't know why, but I did. So as we went from curve to curve, I provided the narration along with Rick's commentary and of course, David's assessment of our pursuer's skills. No matter what maneuver David tried, the car behind stayed right with us.

"What's that smell?" asked Rick.

"Brake fluid," David answered.

"Brake fluid?"

"Yeah, burning brake fluid. It's getting a little low because I have to keep pumping the brakes a lot. Don't worry, she'll hold out."

A little while later we came to a traffic light and Laurel Canyon Boulevard. David pulled to a stop then threw open his door and went running back to the '65 Mustang behind us. I wondered what he was going to do.

"Gimme five!" he shouted as he extended his hand to the young guy sitting in the Mustang. "That's some mean driving you did," he added. The guy in the Mustang said something but we couldn't hear him since he was still inside the car.

While they exchanged words, Rick and I did as well. "That guy has a Mustang," I said. "We're in this big Chevy station wagon. How could he not keep up???"

"It's like chasing a blimp!" laughed Rick.

David finished his conversation and ran back to the car. The light changed and David waved the Mustang to go first, which he did, roaring off to the east side of Laurel Canyon. David followed in hot pursuit. "Okay, let's see how you handle being the mouse," he said. "Here we go, hang on!"

"I smell more brake fluid," Rick announced.

"She'll hold."

Meanwhile the Mustang pulled farther and farther ahead and finally the taillights disappeared. David eased off the accelerator and Rick and I eased off clutching the seat.

"And it appears the Mustang has triumphed," I told the tape recorder.

"I had to ease up because of the brakes," David said. We continued heading east and finally came to the end of the road where it met Cahuenga, near the Hollywood Bowl. At the bottom, David pulled over to let the brakes rest. "Give them a few minutes and they'll be back to normal," he assured us.

"Where to now?" asked Rick.

David had a gleam in his eye. He sat there biting his thumb, pondering the situation. Finally, he spoke. "Shall we go back up?"

"What??" Rick and I said in unison. "Go back up?? What about the brakes?"

"Yeah, the brakes," mused David. "The brakes.." He thought for another moment. "They should be good to go for a while. What do you think?"

"I think we should go to Bob's," I said.

"That guy in the Mustang said he goes up and down Mulholland. I bet he's back up there." David was on a see-saw.

"And so?" Rick said. "So what?"

"And so maybe we should go see if we can find him again. What do you think?"

It was the kind of 'what do you think' that can only have one possible answer no matter what anyone might say. Nevertheless, Rick and I were reluctant.

"Those brakes weren't doing too good," we told him. "Maybe we should call it a night and head on over to Bob's. Maybe Duane is there."

David still had a sly smile on his face as he toyed with the idea, weighing the risks. "He's got to be up there somewhere," he said. Meanwhile Rick and I sat there.

"It's your car," we told him. "Are you sure about those brakes?"

[To be continued..]

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