Tuesday 5 July 2011


Despite the odd attempt on my life, there was plenty of scope for good times. The Fairlane took me all over the country. I drove straight through from Sydney to Brisbane in it once, stopping only to refuel and wipe bugs off the right arm of my leather jacket. I drove people to formals and weddings. I power-parked it at Harry's Diner every Friday night for three years.

In Sydney for another car-club jaunt.

Like I said - I drove a lot, and experienced a lot through the windscreen of that car.

One cold Friday night in August, my girlfriend and I decided to go for a drive. It was a beautiful, clear night to in your late teens, cruising in a classic car, windows down, stereo on. Just talking and listening to music and being silent. I can't remember when the drive got out of hand, but it was nearly midnight when we turned back north in Lismore. We headed home the back way, planning to go through Nimbin and Uki, crossing the border on Garden of Eden Road at Tomewin, then back through the Tallebudgera Valley to the highway.

We were on the Kyogle road, and I was in the groove, sitting around 150, dropping back to second for the big sweeping corners and letting the gearing pull the revs up and slow the car a touch. It was magical. I barely registered seeing the shape on the side of the road, but something told me to stop. I braked heavily, but by the time I stopped and worked the column shift back to reverse I was a hundred metres or more past it.

It was a man on the side of the road, covered in blood, holding an unconscious body up by the arms.

He was in the back seat before I stopped reversing, babbling about brakes and a corner and the windscreen and not-that-much-to-drink-anyway. We could hardly see them in the dim interior light, but we could smell coppery blood and Bundaberg Rum.

The drive from there was surreal. I still recall it as snatches of memory - the man waking up and screaming for us to stop the car. A hand grabbing my shoulder, leaving a smear of christ-knows-what. My girlfriend desperately trying to raise an ambulance on the out-of-range mobile. A moment of absolute silence when I shifted down and hit 6500rpm in second pulling up a big hill. I remember that clearly, my hand working the cold shifter and a quiet voice in the back seat saying "nice car, man". I said "yeah, thanks" as the tyres howled under brakes around the next corner.

We were in Murwillumbah in no time. Finally we got through on 000, who refused to give us directions to the hospital and berated us for not calling them sooner. I found the hospital eventually. There were nurses with stretchers waiting in the carpark, along with a bored, tired looking copper leaning on a VT Commodore patrol car.

He asked me the usual - name, address, date of birth. I told him this absent mindedly as I looked at the mess on the white velour seats, blood and skin and mud and dirt and urine and other things I couldn't identify. The copper said something I didn't catch.


"Your birthday. Happy Birthday mate."

I don't think anyone has more than a handful of life-changing experiences. I've never put my finger on why, or exactly what changed, but I've never felt the same about anything after that night.

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