It was always on the corner of Los Angeles Ave and First St, right by Lenny Dykstra’s Car Wash. At least that is how I remember the starting line. We’d crawl up from the back seat and watch the red light, just past my Dad’s mustache, flicker across the intersection from our over-sized van. I want to think that he pushed the accelerator just a little bit, to get the anticipation where it should be, right before he counted.
Where it Started
“One,” he would say with a short pause. I’d lick my lips and think, there is no way. I’d look at my brother, and his wrinkled brow would say, “I know dude, no way.”
“Two,” he would say and draw out the ooh, like oooh you are in trouble. I’d check out the car next to us to see if they were counting, too. They weren’t, but only because they didn’t know magic. All they saw was red.
“Three,” he would finish the count and draw out the eee like weeee this is fun. My brother’s brow would straighten while the van would start to rock from side to side.
And it was in that moment, the ultimate pause, that I thought, my goodness maybe he can predict the light change. Just maybe this guy can actually do that because if anyone could determine the exact moment red went to green, it was the guy behind the wheel. Dad knew magic.
His mustache would blow from his exhale and he’d scream, “Go!” Accelerator to the floorboard of the van and we would be in the middle of the intersection before the other cars on the line knew what hit them. If only they knew how to predict the lights.
I want to believe that even as a little kid I knew there was a method to the illusion. And when I finally did see yellow lights to my right, and left, I wished I hadn’t because sometimes believing that your father can see the future is just a lot cooler. But even now, knowing the trick, I still think that there was something magical there: a father and his sons sitting in pole position.