Friday, July 10, 2009

Mr. Ken's Wild Ride

Ken Moore, a well-known Nashville SF fan and art expert, passed away last week. He was one of those people who is a real "character" without knowing it. When a thought hit him, he acted on it and (sometimes) thought about it later.

Here's a remembrance of Ken, just one of hundreds of tales that those who knew him can tell.
A family vacation in 1980 took us through Nashville, and we stopped over to visit Ken Moore, a science fiction fan friend who lived there. He wanted to take us to lunch at a restaurant in town owned by a friend of his, so we drove there from his house in my 1977 Chevrolet Nova. Once we were seated in a spacious booth, the owner made a point of coming out to greet Ken and meet the rest of us. The only other diners in the place were a couple over in a far corner.

As we were finishing the meal, Ken ordered a screwdriver (at least, a drink that looked like a screwdriver). The girl waiting on our table brought it out, then returned to the kitchen. The couple left at some point, and several minutes later my son, who was 5 at the time, tried to call our attention to two men running across the parking lot. “Look at those guys,” he urged. “They look like they’re on a wild goose chase!”

We adults were busy discussing important science fiction stuff, and just said, “Oh, yeah. They’re running, aren't they?”

About that time the restaurant owner and waitress burst out of the back room. “We’ve been robbed!” the owner said, voice trembling. “They had a pistol, a .38! Made us lay down on the floor. I thought they were going to shoot us ... but they just took the money ... came out here!”

“God damn!” Ken yelled. He jumped to his feet. “Gimmie your keys, Mike.” Caught up in the moment, I just handed them over, like a fool. Ken darted out door.

It took a couple of seconds for me to realize what I’d done—and what Ken was thinking of doing. I trotted out to the parking lot just as he was starting up the Nova’s engine.

“This is my car,” I thought, “with an over-excited Ken Moore at the wheel!” Like most guys, I was kinda partial to my car, and figured I ought to go along so I could at least witness its fate.

I yanked open the passenger door and hopped in as he put it into gear.

“They went that way,” Ken said, pointing with the half-full glass in his right hand. With his left, he steered us out of the lot and into the middle of the street. Then he took a drink and waved the glass in my direction. “Here—hold this!”

I took the drink. There followed what I’ll always remember as “Ken’s Nashville Thrill Ride.” Scarier than the fiercest roller coasters at Opryland!

In memory, it’s cinematic blur of squealing tires and hard leans to the left and right. Ken took as around corners and through U-turns without slowing. He stopped every half-minute or so to ask someone on the street whether they’d seen two black guys running in this or that direction. There was a lot of bumping over railroad tracks at high speed, and swaying in and out lanes to pass or narrowly miss hitting other cars.

Caught up in Ken’s determination to do whatever he thought he was going to do if he caught these guys (run over them, I guess), I literally clung to the dashboard and hoped he didn’t catch them. After all, we were chasing two guys with a gun—and all we had was a 6-cylinder Nova!

Ken gave up after ten minutes, and we limped back to his friend’s restaurant. To this day I don’t know whether they caught the crooks. But I left Nashville with a bona-fide souvenir of Ken’s wild ride: a broken shock. And I didn't spill a drop of Ken's drink.

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