DEMO DERBY REDUX by Peter Nolan Smith

Last August I weekended in Montauk with Richie Boy. As we left his bungalow off Ditch Plains, the diamond dealer handed me the keys to his Mercedes SUV.

“You drive into the city.” The two of us had had a long night at the Liar’s Bar in Montauk.

“You sure you want me to drive.” I was in no better shape than him. “I mean this is an $80,000 car.”

“Don’t smash it up.” Richie Boy had newly-born twins waiting at home. He needed the sleep and he crashed out before we reached Easthampton.

Traffic accordianed through the various beach community. All the weekenders were heading back to New York

Approaching the Long Island Expressway my cellphone rang. It was Red Deb. My longtime friend lived with her family in the North Country beyond Albany. We hadn’t spoken in months and I pulled over to stop on the shoulder.

“How’s it up on the edge of civilization?”

Her town had a one blinking red light, a hunter’s bar, a diner, and three churches for a population of a little over 400.


She quickly explained about wanting to purchases a diamond wedding.

“I can hook you up.”

There was a loud roaring in the background like a buzz saw.

“What’s that noise?”

“I’m at the Columbia County Demo Derby.”

“Demo Derby?” ABC’s Wide World of Sports featured Demo Derbies on Saturday. Drag Racing too. “I haven’t been to a demo Derby since 1969.”

“That’s 40 years ago.”

“A long time.”

“Yep.” Deb came from Westchester County, but liked country. She was friends with Merle Haggard.

“Any Jap cars in the derby?”


“Any Hummers?”

“Just pieces of shit.”

“My last time I went to the Demo Derby was at the Norwood Arena.” The race track outside Boston feaured drag racing, dirt track, and demo derbies. “It was a summer night in 1969 and I went there with my schoolmates. Five of us were crammed in Dave Quann’s Cougar. Another boy from my hometown, Joe Tully, was also at the arena. He had driven his family’s station wagon, a Chevy with a 327 engine. It was a family car and not a racer. Joe’s license was suspended for joyriding. He was a natural juvenile delinquent. We drank beers throughout the first couple of heats. None of us noticed Joe’s disappearance, until the next heat was announced and Joe drove onto the track in his family station wagon. His friends and mine gave him a standing O. The checkered flag was waved to start the heat and Dave’s car circled the arena. He was broadsided by two car on his first pass through the figure 8. On the next lap the station wagon was rear-ended by #54. Thirty seconds later the Chevy was pinned against the wall. Its cracked radiator spew steam and we were wracked with laughter. Joe crawled out of the crumpled car with a huge grin. His father sent him to a military school. After graduation he was airlifted to Viet-Nam in 1971. Joe came back and married the prettiest girl in town. He still tells the story about the demo derby. We all laugh at it too. Some things never stop being funny.”

“Men will be boys.” Deb knew what men were. Her son’s name was Earl.

“And proud of it too.” My son’s name is Fenway.

Like the park.

I hung up the phone and stepped on the gas. The LIE was packed with vehicles. Not one of them was wreck, but all I could hear were the words on the Norwood Arena announcer.

“Gentlemen, start your motors.”

I didn’t have to be told twice.

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