So… I’ve been gone for a while. Part of it was that I got sick again. This pneumonia is proving tough to beat. But another part of it is that I was working with a friend at Nelson Ledges and then participating in the first-ever Road&Track Performance Car Of The Year. Please tweet that as #pcoty, thanks. It will make Alex Kierstein, our brilliant and fearless social-media guy, happy.
As part of this deal I had access to everything from a Ferrari F12berlinetta to a Fiesta ST at a racetrack and on some fast back roads. It was critical that we pick a winner from a very diverse group and that our impressions be both correct and comprehensive. I was down, totally willing to push the F12 to a stunning 138mph through a dicey Kink turn before smoking it down into a rough, narrow-apex hairpin. But as much as I wanted to do all that, I wanted to hang out with the boy for a little bit even more.
First, the SLS AMG GT. John adored it from the moment he saw it. He knew it was a “marsaydees” but it seemed very different. “We can’t go too fast with the doors up, Daddy, they could fly away and I don’t know how to help you put them back on.” Not to worry, kid; we won’t go too far in this one.
The next day it was time for the school run and I broke out the SLS AMG Black Series. Retailing for $296,000, it’s outrageously priced and outrageous in every other respect, but it’s utterly brilliant, and when it was time to choose our winner for #pcoty the staff unanimously decided that we’d like you to buy the magazine so we can all afford to eat. So I can’t tell you yet.
John thought this one was much faster than the red one. He was right. How did he know? “It has this wing on the back and that’s what a race car has.” When we got to school, some of his friends came out to see the car. John explained to them about the doors and the going fast and the loudness.
I’m an old man with a young son. One of the twentysomething mothers brought her yoga-toned body out from the school and said she’d like to lie on the hood. The hood is carbon fiber but this mom was a genuine blonde waif so I said to go for it. She chickened out.
“Let me come back,” she offered, “with makeup and a bikini.” Maybe next time.
Today’s another marsaydees day for John; I’ll pick him up in my 560SL for the first time. No airbag on the passenger side, which is why I bought it. He likes riding in cars like that, likes convertibles, likes to accelerate. There are times that I wonder if he will remember these days. There was one time during the past few days where it briefly looked like his last memory of me might wind up being the drive in the big yellow car with the special doors. But with that on my mind, I turned the wick down for the rest of the driving week. Better to return home alive than to die in epic fashion. Better to have a father than to have a great story to tell.
Yesterday I had an extremely unhappy surprise when a former friend of mine decided to try to cash in on my notoriety in this business and make some money at my expense. I was angry and I think that a few years ago, say, in 1997 or thereabouts, I might have punished this person in some lasting and deeply unpleasant fashion. I found myself sitting and contemplating the prospects of that. But then I realized I was sitting at a lake with my foot out of the door of an exceptionally rare and wonderful car and I thought about telling John the stories of all the stuff I have done and all the things I’ll do and all the things we’ll do together.
There will be three people who will sleep safe and sound tonight. I will, because I am okay with my past and hopeful for my future. John will, because we’ll have a fun drive and a fun dinner and there will be more stories and drives and fun in the future. And my former friend can, as well, because my son, without even knowing it, stepped in to save him. The same way he stepped in five years ago, to save me.