Saturday, October 25, 2014

DRUNK DRIVING HOUR by Peter Nolan Smith

During the early 1970s my college comrades and I drank at the Hi-hat Lounge in Brighton. The girls were young, the drinks were cheap, and we sold 'ludes and mescaline at the bar. Neither of them were the best available in Boston, but we were always in supply, so the bands playing on Commonwealth Avenue visited us before and after gigs. I even sold LSD to AeroSmith and they invited us to their show. They weren't big yet, but the band attracted co-eds from every university within 25 miles.

That night my friends and I crammed into my VW Bug.

"Can you drive?" Peter Gore asked from the passenger seat. We had hitchhiked across America in 1971. A carload of drunks had begged me to drive their Riviera from Reno to San Francisco. Peter had sat in the back. We drank warm whiskey through the Sierras. He hadn't trusted me behind the wheel since.

"Of course I can drive." I had only dropped a 'lude and guzzled several whiskey cokes. Something about his question bothered me and I said I was going to run every red light to Kenmore Square.

"Don't do that." Peter buckled up his seat belt. No one in 1971 wore one. We had all seen too many films where the passengers burn in their cars, thanks to a defective seat belt. The other passengers were more enthusiastic, then again they weren't in the suicide seat.

I blew the light at the first BU dorms and then another by the Boston Club, however we were approaching the Charles River Bridge. This was a much busier intersection with cars coming all directions.


Everyone cried out with good reason and I braked too late to avoid slamming into the back of a Mustang.

"Asshole." Peter was pissed.

"Anyone you hurt?" I pulled over to the curb..


Everyone was fine.

"Sorry, I was an asshole." I got out of the car to examine the damage to both vehicles.

My front fender was slightly bent.

My friend at a body shop in Dorcester could fix it for maybe $200, but the Mustang bore a major dent.

Maybe $1000, which was a lot of money.

Cars were swerving around the Mustang. The driver was puking out the open door. I walked up to him and he wiped his mouth, saying, "Sorry, for running that light. Are you okay?"

"I'm good."

"I'm really sorry."

The drunken fool thought the crash was his fault.

"Don't worry about it." I was lucky.

"How much you want to fix your car?" He pulled out a wad of cash.

"Nothing." Peter pushed me back toward my car.

"Nothing isn't going to fix my fender." Five $20 bills seemed fair.

"Thanks." The Mustang driver got back in his car and drove off toward Cambridge.

Later at the Aerosmith show we laughed, when, Peter calling me, "Boston's worst driver."

"But I met my match with Mr. Mustang."

Drunk driving hour was a weekend ritual in the last century, but several years ago the Palm County police had a world-class violator in their sights. The driver refused to stop for the officers in pursuit. He ran red lights, crashed into another car, a fence, fled the scene, and when they finally stopped him, the cops cited the offender with 50 tickets.

One was not wearing a seat belt.

All sounds too familiar.

I wonder if Peter Gore wherever he is thought the same thing.


I don't drive anymore.

I drink no less.

Best for everyone if I walk and I'm sure that Peter Gore feels the same way too.

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