Thursday, April 03, 2014

***Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night-When “Stewball” Stu Ruled The Highways


From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin

Scene: Brought to mind by the be-bop cover art photograph of a “boss” two-toned 1950s Oldsmobile sitting in front of a car dealership just waiting to be driven off in the “golden age of the automobile” night.
“Stewball” Stu loved cars, loved 1950s classic “boss” cars, period. And on the very top of that heap was his cherry red ’57 Chevy. The flamed-out king hell dragon of the Mainiac highways, especially those back roads around his, our, hometown, Olde Saco, close by the sea. Not for him the new stuff, the new “boss” Mustang, Mustang Sally ride I am crazy for, or would be crazy for if, (1) I was older than my current no-driver, no legal driver fifteen, and (2) I had any kind of dough except the few bucks I grab doing this and that, mainly that.

And how do I know about Stewball’s preferences, prejudices if you want to put it that way? Well I, Joshua Lawrence Breslin, have been riding “shot-gun” to Stewball’s driver for the past several months, ever since I proved my metal, my Stu-worthy metal, when I “scrammed” a while back when Stu moved in on me and a hot date I had with a local Lolita and three was a crowd.

Ya, Stu and me are tight, tight as a nineteen year guy who is the king of the roads around here can be with a fifteen year old guy with no dough, no drivers’ license, no sister for him to drool over, and zero, maybe minus zero, mechanical skills to back him up. So you see me flaking out on that Lolita thing meant a lot to Stewball, although he is not a guy that you can figure something on, not easy figuring anyhow.

[Hey, by the way, by the very big way, that Stewball moniker is strictly between you and me. Some of the guys that hung around his garage (really his bent out of shape trailer home rigged up with all kinds of automobile-fixing stuff all over the place) started to call him Stewball among ourselves after we observed, observed for the sixty-fifth time, Stu loaded before noon on some rotgut Southern Comfort that he swore kept him sober, unlike whiskey. Like I say don’t spread that around because Stu in one tough hombre. I once saw him chain-whip a guy just for kind of eyeing a Lolita (not the one I butted out on) that was sitting next to him in that cherry red Chevy at Jimmy Joe’s Diner, the one down on Route One, not the one over on Atlantic Avenue. Enough said, okay.]

Let me tell you about one time a few months back when Stu proved, for the umpteenth time (although my first time, first really seeing him in action glory time), why no one can come close to him as king of these roads around here, and maybe any. It was a Friday night, an October Friday night, just starting to get to be defroster or car heater time so it had to be then. Stu, who lives over on Tobacco Road (I won’t tell you his real address because, like he says, what people don’t know is just fine with him and the girls all know where he is anyway. Ya, that’s a real Stu-ism) picked me up at my house on Albemarle Street (got that girls, Albemarle) like he always does, sometime between seven and eight, also as usual.

We then make the loop. First down Atlantic passed the Colonial Donut Shoppe (they serve other stuff there too) to see if there was a stray clover (A Stu-ism for a girl, origin unknown) or two looking to erase the gloomy, lonely night coming on. (I hoped two, two girls that is, because while I am glad, glad as hell, that I did right by Stu with that "hot" Lolita (and she was hot, maybe too hot for me then, not now) I don’t want to make a habit of it, being Stu’s “shot-gun,” or not. No dice. So off to Lanny’s Bowl-World over on Sea Street. Guess it is kind of early because no dice there either. Well, it’s off to “headquarters,” Jimmy Joe’s Diner on Main Street (really Route One but everybody local calls it Main).

Now Jimmy Joe’s has been Stu’s headquarters for so long that he has a “reserved” spot there. Yes, right in front just to the left on the entrance so that he can “scope” (Stu-ism) the scene (read: girls, Josh-ism). Jimmy Joe, the owner, felt that Stu was so good for business, Friday night hot teenage girls crowding the place looking for fast-driving guys and fast, or slow, driving guys, ready to, well you know I don’t have to draw you a diagram, business so he had no problem with the arrangement. Except this Friday night, this October Friday night, Stu’s reserved spot is occupied, occupied by a two-toned, low-riding 1956 Oldsmobile that even I can see had been worked on, worked hard on to create maximum horse-power in the minimum time. And inside that Oldsmobile sat one Duke McKay, a guy some of us had heard of, from down in Kittery near the New Hampshire border. So maybe Duke, not knowing the local rules, parked in that spot by accident. Yah that seems like the right answer.

No way though. Why? Because sitting right next old Duke, actually almost on top of him is that Lolita that I made way for to help Stu. Said Lolita (not her real name because she was, and is, as I write, uh, not “of age” so Lolita is a good enough moniker) looking very fine, very fine indeed, as Stu goes over to the Oldsmobile to give Duke the what for. I can almost hear the chains coming out.

But Stu must have had some kind of jinx on him, or Lolita put one on him, because all he did was make Duke a proposition. Beat Stu in a “chicken run” and the parking spot, Lolita, and the unofficial king of the road title were his. Lose, and he was gone (without chain-whipping I hoped) from Olde Saco, permanently, minus Lolita. Now I can see where this Lolita is worth getting a little steamed up about. But take it from me Stu, until just this minute, was strictly a love them or leave them guy (leave them to me, please). Duke, with eight million pounds of bravado, answered quickly like any true road-warrior does when challenged and just uttered, “On.” And we are off, although not before Lolita gives Stu some madness femme fatale look. A look, a pout really, which you couldn’t tell if she was in Stu’s corner or wanted to see him in hell. Girls, damn.

A chicken race, for the squares, is nothing but a race between two cars (usually two), two fast teenager-driven cars, done late at night or early in the morning out on some desolate road, sometimes straight, sometimes not. The idea is to get a fast start and keep the accelerator on the floor as long as possible before some flame-out. For Olde Saco runs they use the beach down at the Squaw Rock end since it is long, flat, and wide even at high tide, and the loser either winds up in the dunes or the ocean, usually the latter, ruining a perfectly good car but that is the way it is. Most importantly it is out of sight of the cops until too late.

So about two in the morning one could see a ’57 cherry red Chevy lining up, with me as a “second,” against a ’56 Oldsmobile, with Lolita as Duke’s “second.” Jimmy Joe’s son, Billy, acted as starter as usual. And they are off. Duke got an extremely fast start and was maybe thirty yards ahead of us and it looked like we done for when Stu opened up from somewhere and flat out “smoked” the side of Duke Olds sending his vehicle off into the ocean, soon to sputter in the roaring waves, and oblivion. Stu stopped the Chevy, backed up the several hundred yards to the vicinity of the distressed Oldsmobile, opened up the passenger side door and escorted Lolita, as nice as you please, to his king hell Chevy. And she was smiling, smiling very, well let’s put it this way, Stu’s got a big treat coming. And Josh? Well, Stu yells over “Hey, Josh, hope you find a ride home tonight.” But do you see what I mean about Stewball Stu being the king of the roads around here. What a guy.

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