Hub Caps For Ransom
This all went down many years ago, but to protect the guilty I don’t think I’ll use any real names here other than my own. I was in Paso. I was young, impressionable, and surrounded by people I’d only read about in magazines. Through social passing, I ended up with a Southern California lowrider club notable for their wild paint jobs on early 60’s sedans.
Their cars mirrored their owners. Most were in their mid-30’s, had a thirst for hard drink, and seemed to live a little closer to the edge than I was accustomed to. As a teen, I was quite literally swept off my feet by the possibilities of hanging out with this motley crew and quickly jumped at the chance.
I can remember slipping into the backseat of one member’s ’65 Riviera and feeling as if I was getting ready to blast off to some unknown and mysterious planet. Jose hit his switches and the car abruptly and suddenly jumped to ride height.
“Let’s go to the bar,” He said. “I wanna see what happens when you contribute to the delinquency of a minor.”
And so we did. The convoy included between five and seven early style lowriders. We creeped through town rarely hitting over 30mph. I didn’t know if they were “profiling” or if they just had a natural respect for traffic laws. Either way, I found the laid back pace oddly comforting.
No one entered the bar until the entire group had assembled in the parking lot. Jose told me that they liked to take bars by storm and as a group to avoid any confusion from rival gangs. He smiled when he said it, but I wasn’t entirely sure if he was kidding or not.
Jose seemed nice enough though. He was soft spoken and genuinely interested in my quest to have a good time, but the rest of the crew didn’t seem as comfortable with themselves or with me – some random kid that one of their boys had picked up. So when we did enter the somewhat harsh looking bar, I made sure to find a seat next to Jose. In fact, I stuck to him like a lost puppy.
Most of the conversation happened over tequila tumblers and revolved around my age and innocence. Many jokes were told and there was lots of laughing – the kind that last a little too long and involved a little too much eye contact. At some point around midnight, I decided to head for the door and walk back to the hotel. I made it as far as the parking lot before I was intercepted by Jose and his almost insanely optimistic smile.
“Not yet brother… We are only getting started.”
Before I knew it, I was back in the Riviera and the entire crew was back on the road. We hopped from bar to drive-in for the rest of the night and into the early morning. At each stop we lost another car and another driver. By 3am or so we were down to fours hoods and myself with only the Riviera as our transportation.
The jokes and laughter only got heartier as I assumed my position as “bitch” on the back console of the Rivi. I was literally asses to elbows with gentlemen that scared the shit out of me in every conceivable way at this point. I began to wonder how this was all going to end.
Finally, as the sun was starting to rise, Jose pulled into the host hotel parking lot. He circled the lot over and over as he and his crew discussed something in Spanish. After about the third time around, he parked in the far corner of the lot just under a light.
“You ready to go to bed?” He asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. “See that purple car over there?” He pointed across the lot to a well known and wildly popular custom. “I need those hub caps. Get me two of them and we will take you back to your hotel.”
They all laughed and I was relieved to think it was just a joke. But when Jose handed me a cheap flat head screw driver, I knew that it wasn’t. He cut the motor and looked at me expectantly.
So I did the only thing I knew to do – I stole a pair of hub caps from one of the most famous customs built in the 1990s. I felt dirty doing it. And I still feel a little shame, but not without a smile.
Last week I got a package in the mail with a single hub cap and a note.
Ryan, was cleaning out my shop and found this cap. It unrightfully belongs to you. The other to me.