Sunday, December 4, 2011
Porsche 911S: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
My experience driving Porsches is very limited. For a short time I had a Speedster and loved looking out through the narrow slits that were the windscreen and side windows giving the impression of driving a Sherman tank. As much as anyone, I enjoyed watching Paul Newman in the movie Harper driving the faded blue Speedster with primer patches and especially liked that the engine heard on the soundtrack was actually that of a Porsche Speedster. Kudos for Hollywood on that occasion. But having most of my automotive experience in high powered, high top-end machines like the GTO and 454 Corvettes, the Speedster felt underpowered on the freeways--nimble though it was on Mulholland--and I always felt like I was having to keep out of everyone's way and in constant danger of being run over by an 18-wheeler. That was not the case with the 911S.
I didn't own the pale yellow 911S Targa I speak of and we may never know who actually did--but more about that later. What was known at the time is that it belonged, if you will, to a friend who came and went in my life leaving a lasting impression and introducing me to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. He was a hold-over hippie with a long braided ponytail and a seemingly endless supply of patchouli oil, also known as hippie perfume. He was a contradiction in terms in every possible way but we hit it off as both of us enjoyed fine restaurants, good movies and a few other things as well. High speed driving counted among them.
I only drove it the one time but could have grown to like the 911S even if it didn't have a V12 that revved to seven grand. It was a thoroughbred and it liked to be let off the leash, which is exactly what happened that night. Running across the desert floor at about three in the morning, I was seeing 130 on the speedometer. I don't know how much the Porsche had in reserve but it felt comfortable and very stable. As it pushed through the dark night, Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida came on the tape player. Up went the volume and, possibly too, the speed. We were listening to the full, seventeen-minute version for those taking notes.
At speed in the dark desert, the road ahead appeared like the optical effect used by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey to represent Dave Bowman's flight through infinity & beyond--an impression enhanced by In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida dialed in to 11. Six minutes, thirty seconds into the song, the music fades to feature a drum solo by Ron Bushy that is at once pagan and mystical. At 9:11, the organ brings us back to the theme which at 11:00 becomes agitated. At about this time, I see bright lights in the distance reminding me again of the Kubrick film when the Monolith is being inspected on the moon--an eerie extraterrestrial scene with cosmic resonance. At 13:04, Ron Bushy is seriously back on the drums and the music incorporates plaintiff sounds that could come from an animal in distress as we come up to the highway construction crew which occupies the right lane for a distance of what seemed like several miles using huge machines that look grotesque half hidden in the dark and partly overexposed by the dazzling work lights.
Should I have slowed? Yes. Did I? I'll leave you to know the answer for yourself. By the time the music played out, the strange scene with its blinding lights was at our six and disappearing into a small speck on the horizon where the vast darkness snuffed it out. It was the most surreal seventeen minutes of my entire life. I've put the video of the song below in case anyone should want to close their eyes and imagine the experience I've described.
As for my friend, he disappeared like those lights in the desert night never to be seen again. Before he was gone, I learned that he had ties to an East Coast crime family, the Porsche was stolen and the police had issued him a document certifying that the Porsche was not stolen. How surreal is that? I'm just glad I didn't know all of this that night in the desert.