The Legend of The JATO-Powered Rocket Car

Jimmy and I drifted apart while I was in the Navy, but we got back in touch once I got my discharge and started college. I know 26 is a pretty ripe old age to be a freshman, but I’d taken a bunch of courses and equivalency tests during my hitch in the Navy, so it only took two years to finish off my degree. One thing about living on a ship, you have plenty of time to study. I’ve stayed in touch with Jimmy over the years, he’s met my family and I’ve met his, but beyond the occasional phone call and Christmas card, we haven’t been very close. Part of it is that we live pretty far apart, and part of it the pressures of family, careers, etc. But Jimmy never forgot about the Rocket Car, and over the years he’s taken great joy in tweaking my balls about it from time to time. Every now and then I’d get something in the mail to remind me of the whole thing, something Jimmy thought I’d think was funny. At first it was just the odd newspaper clipping or magazine article, but once VCR’s became popular, he started sending videotapes. And even though there was never a note or explanation with a tape he sent, I always knew what to look for when I watched the movie. One was “The Right Stuff”, and I laughed out loud when scenes of the rocket-sled tests came on the screen. Another was more recent, a Charlie Sheen flick called “Terminal Velocity”. I kept my eyes peeled for whatever it was Jimmy wanted me to see, and sure enough, there was a scene where Charlie and some blonde bimbo escape from the bad guys in a homemade rocket sled.

I got a chuckle out of that one, too.

The one movie he sent that I didn’t find very amusing came a few years ago, at a point where I hadn’t heard anything from Jimmy in a long time. A box came in the mail, and when I opened it up, it was a videotape, just like the others. But instead of being a stand-alone movie, this was the third part of a three-movie series. And although I’d seen the first one a couple of times (it was old enough to be shown on network TV by then), I’d never seen the second part. So I had to rent Part II at the video store down the street, which I watched with my family one Friday night. The next day my wife took the kids to visit her parents, and I stayed home and put Jimmy’s movie in the VCR. And I must admit, I DID enjoy it, but the similarities between the movie and our little adventure in 1978 were too close for comfort at some points. The part at the beginning of the movie, where Doc Brown and Marty McFly find the DeLorean in the abandoned mine shaft was bad enough. But toward the end, when they mounted railroad wheels on the time-machine and pushed it down the tracks with the locomotive…

Like I said, too close for comfort. And I’m really glad I watched that movie alone. I don’t know what sort of expression was on my face while I watched, but it must’ve been a scary one. As a matter of fact, when the movie was over, I got up close to the TV and read each and every name in the credits. I didn’t think I’d actually find a name I’d recognize, but we never did find out what happened to Sal after he was left on his own in California.

I guess we never will. Not for sure, anyway.

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