Volume 12, Number 69, 2009

A Day In The Life Of A Superman
by Donald Lugers

I was a bit of a Johnny Carson fan, as a teen in the early seventies. My father would get home from the Canadian Legion around that time, half in the bag on some nights, but usually it was much later on in the show. He would see me glued to the RCA console television, intent on watching the monologue, before going into the kitchen for a quick bite to eat.

“Why do you watch that clown!??” he asked one night, almost in a chastising manner. “He can’t sing or dance, act, or play a musical instrument?!!” My father was a Steve Allen fan, and the Legion was a watering hole where men had rights back in those days.

“Every last word is planned out, and then rehearsed and probably rerehearsed,” he said, as if to shock me I guess. “Nothing is ad-libbed, right down to the last cough! It’s farcical at best.”

That particular night Jackie Stewart, my favourite Formula One driver, and the outstanding colour-commentator for Formula One racing on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports was on the show (maybe, hey, it was a long time ago eh). I was quite excited to see ‘dapper’ Jackie, and hear him speak about my favourite sport. Dad watched a bit of the show that night with me quietly, while my older sister, the third member of our small clan, was out exploring Essex county. Then my father headed upstairs to bed, disgusted with Carson’s shenanigans and calling out to me in his patented closer... “GOOD NIGHT!”

Later on in my life at age forty three, I would meet Sir Frank Williams (owner of Williams F1) at a gas station near London, Ontario, on my way from the F1 race in Montreal to the next one on the calendar at Indy in 2004. I got my photo taken with him with my old Minolta camera and wrote a short story about it, and then sent the photo and story to him on a whim during the off season. He really liked it and signed the photo of the two of us, and mailed it back to me. It was a miserable winter day that morning, two years and eight months after my father’s untimely demise at the hands of a drunk driver, when I opened my mailbox to find the large tan envelope addressed from Grove, Oxfordshire, England. Sir Frank had even included an invitation for a meetand- greet at the Indy F1 race the following year! I then got to meet my Formula One hero Jackie Stewart who was darting nimbly amongst many shinny, fervent, well-dressed admirers, in the paddock representing RBS (Royal Bank Of Scotland).

My dad was a real no-nonsense kind of guy, who made friends in every town and bar he had ever visited. He was famous for head-butting guys for a beer, they sometimes wound up knocked-out. He was also a topnotch athlete and track star in the early forties, and for many years he held the western Michigan high school polevaulting championship of ten feet. This was back before the poles bent, and the athlete would fall in sawdust or sand.

My father never missed a day of work in his entire life, and always had all his sick days saved up at the end of the year. Even on that one particular morning, before taking me to the medical centre, he called down to the derrick-boat “Michigan” and they waited for him. He worked as a crane operator out on the Great Lakes and the Detroit River, stationed out of Amherstburg, Ontario, dredging for the U.S. Engineers. They kept the channels free for Paul Martin, and the rest of the free world’s ships to pass freely during all those years of unbridled prosperity.

I was in a pretty bad head-on motorcycle accident the night before my doctors visit that morning, hit by drunk duck-hunting teens in their parents old car from Tilbury, Ontario, without their headlights on. I totaled my beloved BSA Lightning motorcycle, just a few months before my eighteenth birthday, and it sat straight-up, wedged into the chrome front bumper of the ‘50’s Plymouth, in what seemed to me, at the time, to be a very foggy night. Witnesses had remarked to me later that it was clear that night. I left a perfect spider-web cracked windshield where my Bell helmet had made impact, directly in front of the overly inebriated driver.

I was in awe of my fathers iron constitution, and outstanding work record. I once asked him, “Haven’t you ever hurt your back, sprained an ankle bad, broken a bone, stayed too late at a party, or gotten the flu before?”

He answered, “Why sure I have, so what?”

That was just the kind of ‘Superman’ he was. From time to time his memory keeps me going.