Last Lap

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2009)

We power south down Broadway toward West 57th and into lap five, and Barry pushes the big block Chevy to its limits to make up for lost time. As we blast through the synch gate there’s that now-familiar floating feeling, like drifting in both time and space, waiting for a new Manhattan to resolve around us. Which is pretty much what happens.

Then we’re through, cloudy skies gone blue, buildings where buildings weren’t, changed signage. But it’s all barely a blur as the car gets our full attention. Barry drives, I navigate. Challenging in any race, but worse when crossing timelines.

Barry flinches as the steering wheel moves, pedals narrow, seating position changes and the rear end drifts a bit before he can compensate. It takes me a few seconds to recognize the design as vaguely BMW, then I notice the Messerschmitt logo on the wheel and can guess enough about this reality. The German billboards on Zeppelins floating above the race clarify.

Off 57th and up Park and we overtake a gorgeous Daimler that I wish was available in our reality. I glance and see it’s Jean-Paul and Etienne. They’re new to this circuit, and I think swastikas in the Upper East Side are throwing them off their race. I wave as we leave them behind and make our way through East Harlem and on to Marcus Garvey.

Each lap is roughly ten kilometers around the park, though the track is always just a little different. Political, social, and economic realities might change the landscape, but it’s still Manhattan. We’ve done races in other cities: Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Shanghai. Have seen junkyard-like wastelands and futuristic utopias. But New York is always New York.

Through the Upper West Side past bright searchlights, catching a screen of our car sporting Bosch ads, and we make a pulse-pounding run for the gate. Branding across multiple histories is difficult when you never know what car you’ll drive from lap to lap, reality to reality. Makes it hard to collect our cut of the ad revenue, so it’s best to let a cross-reality agency handle it and just view the vids later.

On other laps we navigate beneath soaring Chinese skyscrapers, past Confederate flags, next to the walls of Central Prison, through hanging gardens and greenery, under the watchful eyes of millions of cameras. We drive an electric Hummer, Japanese Corvette, four-by-four Microbus, even something that feels like a jet-powered Edsel.

We take the checkered flag in a Subaru WRX and wave to our fans. Good to be home, through twenty laps of general weirdness and alternate landscapes. We slow to see if we can spot our families and friends. From the bleachers where they should be, hundreds of Native Americans, face paint and head dresses brilliant in the afternoon sun, cheer and whoop their approval. Oops. The feather and buffalo logo on the wheel should have clued us in.

Maybe a victory lap is in order.