It began as many a better Miami night has begun, with a late afternoon interview followed by fine food and drink. In this case, the face-to-face was with Plain White T’s singer-songwriter Tom Higgenson, who was gracious enough to spend some quality pre-show time with me out by the pool at The Mondrian. The fine food and drink came courtesy of none other Daniel Boulud, whose dbBistro is the anchor eatery in the sleek new JW Marriott Marquis, and who’d piled high table-upon-table of his utter delectables for the skyscraping inn’s official opening. Unfortunately, the night would be interrupted by an episode so fraught with drama even jaded ol’ me was somewhat taken aback.
As I’ve mentioned, I drive a ‘76 Buick Regal. It wasn’t in perfect shape when I bought it, but it was restorable, which was my intention from the get. Having an hour to kill between the Marquis and Plain White T’s Grand Central staging, I cruised uptown twenty blocks or so to see a man about some body work. Alas, the cat had left his shop before I arrived and wasn’t answering his phone, so I simply turned around and began slowly making my way back downtown for the show. After all, the event was called Buick Regal Remix, and me being a Buick man, not to mention a new fan of PWT’s, it promised to be a gathering much to my liking.
Then it hit me. Or I should say, he hit me. Hard, and from behind. At what must’ve been 60 miles per hour easy. So hard was I hit that my rear-view mirror was knocked from the windshield into the back seat and the rear-end of my ride literally folded in upon itself like so much cheap origami — no easy feat for a vehicle made of 100% unforgiving Detroit steel.
At first I was a tad shaken, as happens when five-thousand pounds of automobile plows into you. Then, when I saw that the idiot driver was fleeing the scene, I got pissed. So I gave chase. Fast.
And within moments I’d punched my ride back up to 50 and rode the rear of this increasingly frantic convoy.. Immediately I hear a siren, and in an instant I was overtaken by one of Miami’s Finest undercover cops. But 5-0 wasn’t after me; he’d apparently seen the whole smash-up. He passed me in a flash and closed the gap between himself and the bad guy with a quickness I’d thought possible only in action movies. Then the bad guy turned right; so did we. The three of us went screaming west toward I-95. But this stretch of city dead ends at the highway, and west was no way for this bad guy to be trying to escape.
Two terrifying turns later I lost ’em both. So I stopped to see what damage had been done to my ride. Then I hear more squealing of tires and screaming of siren, and when I turned to look they were coming right back at me.
By the time I jumped back in my ride they’d made another quick turn, so I pulled a U and got back in the game. East now, 50, 60, 70 mph, I’m gaining on them both. And the three of us take the turn by Joey’s like soldiers in some frenzied parade.
Then the sirens explode, and in my side-view mirror I see a phalanx of flashing lights behind me. There’s no way I want this army of good guys to think I’m the bad guy, so I pull to the shoulder and let the onslaught pass. But I wasn’t outta this chase; I was just opting for a more cautious and unequivocal role. And within moments I’d punched my ride back up to 50 and rode the rear of this increasingly frantic chase.
I didn’t hear the crash. But I did see the cops converge to a halt. When I pulled up the bad guy was cuffed facedown on the street and surrounded by enough police to take San Juan Hill. And his getaway car lay bent and twisted around a sickly ghetto tree.
“I’m the guy he hit! I’m the guy he hit!” I say, somewhat needlessly, as I jump from my ride. “Motherfucker could’ve killed me.”
A few of the late-coming cops look me over (thank Zeus for quasi-zootsuits and ties); then they scope my ride, and they see how it’s completely crumpled. And one of the uniforms quipped: “If you weren’t driving that fucking tank he might’ve succeeded.”
He was right. Those solid steel wheels probably saved my life. And I was torn between bemoaning the loss of my beloved Buick and thanking the damn thing for coming through when the action got beyond outta hand.
After leaving my name and number I spoke with a few of the Finest, two of whom — Lieutenant Mario Knapp and Sergeant James (Tony) Johns — run what’s called R.I.D. The acronym stands for Robbery Intervention Detail, and I’d come to find out later, from another officer, that these cats were known as “the badasses” of the Department. But after seeing them in action, I already knew that. And the bad guy? He apparently was an ex armed carjacker.
Eventually I made my way to Grand Central. I even got to catch a large part of The Plain White T’s splendid 90-minute set. Mostly though, after a couple quick and obligatory cocktails, I regaled the tale about me and my Regal, over and over, again and again, to whoever would listen. And once I was all talked out I made my way around the venue and got up close to the new Buick Regal GS, and I thought, would this car also save my life? Of course it would. It’s a fucking Buick.