Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"The Dodge Daytona"


The school year was 1989-1990. I was in 8th Grade at Union Park Middle School in Orlando, Florida. It was the second middle school I had attended - the first being Tuskawilla Middle School in Winter Park, Florida, which I went to for the first half of my 7th grade year, before switching to Union Park.

School sucked, to say the least. I was very unpopular. I had a few "friends", but they were just as unpopular as I was. I was bullied just about every day for everything from my clothes and shoes to my weight to the bag that I carried to my northern accent to the fact that I was Catholic in a primarily Baptist area. Some days it was verbal... Some days it was physical. The teachers and other staff did nothing, in fact - sometimes it was THEM doing the bullying!

Every day sucked, and I dreaded going to school. My stomach hurt constantly. I got headaches. I was making myself sick.

Then my brother Peter came down from Connecticut for a visit. He stayed for at least a week. While he was there he rented a brand-new black 1990 Dodge Daytona, exactly like the one pictured above.

He asked me how school was going... and I was honest with him and told him everything that was happening to me. That was something I just couldn't do with my parents! He and I talked for quite a while and he gave me lots of advice... comebacks to say when people would bully me... things like that. Then he told me that HE would be taking me to school the next day.

I'll never forget all of the attention we got when that Dodge Daytona pulled up in front of the school. Looking back, it wasn't like it was the greatest car ever made or anything like that - but in 1989/1990 it was one hell of a freakin' cool car! Kids and parents were stopping to stare at the car... to see who the heck it belonged to. Peter seemed to be getting a kick out of that - and revved up the engine a bit. He gave me a hug and told me not to take any shit from anyone that day... and I got out of the car.

People were shocked. Why the hell was one of the least-popular kids in the school getting out of such an awesome car!?! Immediately kids who would regularly bully me were coming up to me to tell me how cool the car was and to ask whether it was my dad's. As Peter sped out of the parking lot, everyone - even school staff - had questions.

And it felt awesome!

Peter brought me to and picked me up from school every day while he was visiting. On the way home he would have music blasting - mainly classic rock. We'd do a bit of cruisin', sometimes stopping off to do a little shopping or to grab some food. He bought me some new clothes and a new bag for school. He joked about wanting to take me to "Erotic Doughnuts" - a topless doughnut shop that was, believe it or not, less than a five minute walk from the school. We didn't, of course.

One day we were driving around with the music as loud as we could stand it - and Peter was drumming very intensely on the steering wheel, while I drummed along on the dashboard. Well, our drumming screwed something up because suddenly the car went absolutely bat-shit haywire! The windshield wipers kept turning on and off... as did the turn signals. All sorts of electrical malfunctions started happening. Peter said something to the effect of "Fuck! We broke it!" - but we kept on drumming until it all stopped. It didn't go back to normal though... when he'd make a turn the turn-signals wouldn't automatically shut off anymore... and now and then the windshield wipers would turn themselves on.

The car continued to flip out during the remainder of Peter's visit. I have no idea whether he even mentioned it to the rental agency when he returned it.

Over the years that story would come up many times while I'd be a passenger in the car with Peter and he'd start drumming on the steering wheel - saying something like "Remember the Dodge Daytona?" or "Lets see if we can break this one too!".

Just another memory of time spent with a truly awesome brother.

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