Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TIME HAS COME TODAY by the Chambers Brothers

In the late-60s I attended a Catholic Boys high school ten miles away from my house. No buses or trains ran between the suburbs on the outskirts of Boston and only connection between these bedroom communities was Route 128 orbiting Boston from Nantasket Beach in the South Shore to the North Shore fishing port of Gloucester.

Boys from my high school had three choices of transportation from my high school. Freshmen and sophomore were stuck on expensive private buses, while upper-class students organized car pools sharing gas and driving. The final option was hitchhiking, which required walking from the school to 128. For some reason townspeople never picked up Catholic schoolboys, but getting a ride from the East Street exit was easy, since sex predators cruised the highway for teenage boys.

"You ever seen a naked man in the shower." They loved that line.

Car pools avoided that sexual confrontation and mine was divided between my VW Beetle, Chuckie Manzi's Plymouth, Frank Monaco's Comet, and Tommy Dangree's Mercury Cougar. Every afternoon we hit 128 to race the other teenagers on the eight-lane highway. My daredevil driving skills in the VW beat out more timorous drivers behind the wheel of muscle cars, but Tommy's Cougar GT was powered by a 390 FE V8.

That car accelerated down the ramp and Tommy's specialty was the speed record between East Street to Rte. 138 beneath Big Blue Hill. The distance was three miles. His best time for the autumn of 1968 had been 2 minutes and 21 seconds, until one spring afternoon WMEX started playing the Chambers Brothers TIME HAS COME TODAY upon our reaching East Street.

"How long is this song?" Tommy shouted back over the salt-marsh grit of the 50,000 transmission.

His radio had one volume.

Loud.

"The AM single is 2:37," I answered knowing that WMEX's format never allowed the 11-minute-plus version.

"I'm going for the record. Time it." Tommy stamped on the accelerator. His tank was filled with Sunoco's best octane 100 from a musclehead gas station near Wollaston Beach. The tachometer redlined and the speedometer swung right beyond 100.

110.

We had an open road.

120.

The other cars were a blur.

"Time has come today." The four of us sang with the windows shut for aerodynamics.

He hit 126 heading up the incline to 138 and Tommy braked for the exit. The Cougar fishtailed into the cloverleaf followed by the smell of burning tires and us singing the final chorus.

Now the time has come
There are things to realize
Time has come today
Time has come today

"How fast?"

"2:05." According to my Timex.

"I'll break that one day," Tommy boasted with high hopes.

Speed was his drug, however he failed on numerous occasions to better that time. Traffic or weather interfered with his many attempts and twice state troopers stopped him for violating the speed limit.

My efforts in the VW Beetle were pathetic. Its top speed 85 with a tailwind and the 60s ended without any one bettering Tommy's speed.

The record seemed as safe as Babe Ruth's home run record, then in the Spring of 1973 my favorite cousin dropped off his prom date near my high school. Her name is unimportant. Errol was wearing a black tux. His shirt had ruffles and his red tie was undone. He might have had a few beers before getting behind the wheel of his father's Sky-Blue Lincoln IV with a white hard-top. A 460 in³ (7.5 L) Ford 385 series V8 engine was under the hood. The twenty-foot long sedan was a monster.

It was 3am.

There was no traffic on Route 128.

Errol tells the story this way.

"I gave the beast the gas and saw the fuel gauge drop a few inches." The Mark IV sucked gas like a black hole. "Zero to 60 in two seconds. I stomped the pedal to the medal and within a few seconds I'm at 100 mph. The speedo went to 160 and I kept both hands on the wheel, as the car hit a small bump in 128. Only at that speed with that car's suspension there are no small bumps. I was launched into the air and the Mark IV hit the highway in acceleration mode. I swear on our grandmother's grave that I made the 93 exit in 35 seconds and 138 in a minute-ten. I must have broken the sound barrier. I was traveling that fast."

Errol loved telling this story and I sort of believe him, since for me all stories are true if interesting and no one is going to break his record.

Not on 128.

Not with all the traffic.

Not in this century for some pleasures have been lost to the 21st Century like driving a Mark IV Lincoln at full speed without worrying about the police. That sensation is lost forever, but not the excitement of hearing TIME HAS COME TODAY and to view the Chambers Brothers classic hit, please go to the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHfB63ln1Ig

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