Subject: Dick Bender

Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 5:13 PM

 

George's friend Dick Bender was truly mad.

 

His idea of meeting girls was to see one that he liked the looks of in a bar somewhere and go up and bite her on the ass.  He would do this even if she were accompanied by a boyfriend much larger then Dick.  Even so, he never seemed to learn, or lose the habit, as long as I knew him.  Surprisingly, excessive amounts of alcohol didn't seem to be required to bring on this arguably self-destructive behavior.

 

Dick was mean as a snake too.  One time he was riding his bike around in Albany with his little brother riding on the handlebars.  So they were riding along, eventually getting to a place where they were coasting down this big hill which dumped out into a T intersection with a major highway, and the river right on the other side behind a big concrete wall.  Flying down this big hill.  Dick's little brother was starting to get scared.  "Hey Dick, slow down."  "Come on Dick, SLOW DOWN !!".  He looks back over his shoulder from his seat perched on the handle bars and Dick is GONE.  At the top of the hill, he had just put his feet down and let the bike ride out from under him. 

 

The winter of '69 / '70 a million gallon heated tank of industrial molasses down by the port in Albany split wide open and spilled out it's contents covering the streets of several blocks of the port district with molasses, which promptly hardened in the sub-zero temperatures to a gooey resilient mass which resisted all attempts to remove it.  Firemen tried to wash it away with fire hoses, but the water just skidded off the frozen ooze and  froze itself, adding to the mess. Finally they just decided to leave it 'til spring and let the flies eat it or something. 

 

So one night Dick is pretty high and he decides to hop in his VW and cruise on down to check out the molasses.  He's cruising along, looking for the molasses, can't quite recall which street to turn down, and his car begins to loose power.  Shift down, still going slower, finally won't go at all.  "What the #$##'s going on here ?!?"  Dick gets out and discovers that he has for some time been driving in the molasses, which by now is inextricably wound all in and around the wheels and axles, firmly affixing the VW, perhaps permanently, to that very spot.

 

Dick called my friend George to help him out and George borrowed his father's Jeep Wagoneer with front mounted winch.  He drove down to the port and chained off to a fire hydrant and then ran out the winch cable to the VW and yanked it out of the molasses with a mighty sucking, slurping sound, stringing cords of molasses out behind, sort of like a giant taffy pull.  They dragged the poor VW, wheels locked and squealing in protest to the nearest 25 cent car wash where about $30 worth of scalding hot water dissolved away the worst of the molasses and returned the vehicle to some semblance of serviceability.

 

Later that winter, for some reason Dick needed to tow the VW to another town a few miles down the freeway, and again George's father's Jeep was pressed into service as a tow vehicle.  One of the things wrong with the VW was that it by this time had no windshield.  As I recall Dick was prone to loose his temper and punch them out in a fit of pique, usually involving some girl he had become acquainted with by biting her on the ass in a bar somewhere.  So anyway, George hooked up the tow chain, Dick got in the VW to steer, and they set off through the sub-zero NY winter to the next town down the freeway.  George just threw a Dead tape in the 8 track and started cruising: 65-75 down the freeway, never looking back.  Meanwhile Dick was in the VW with no windshield with the wind hitting him in the face at a wind chill factor somewhere down around 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey' (as folks of my father's generation were prone to say).  He couldn't cover, or even look away for long, being drug along at the end of a chain at 75 staring at the back bumper of a 4500 pound Jeep which was prone to come to a screeching halt at any moment.  By the time they got where they were going Dick's face was severely frostbitten.  His eyeballs were frostbitten. He spent the night in the hospital, but ultimately did make a complete recovery without loosing any pieces of himself.

 

Another one of George's friends had bought an army surplus 'deuce and a half', which is a humongous 6 wheel drive army dump truck, the preceding summer.  That same winter George, Dick, and their posse discovered a great sport.  When the snow got heavy, they would put chains on the 'deuce', securely attach about 30 feet of heavy log chain to the back, and go out 'trolling for suckers'.  This evil sport consisted of driving around until invariably they would pass someone who had just dug their car out of the snow far enough to entertain thoughts that just a little pull would free it the rest of the way.  They never made the first move, preferring to wait until one of these folks would flag them down, "Hey, how about pulling me out here ?"   "Sure thing, just hook up the chain !"  Then they would tear off at maximum acceleration in second gear, usually getting up to about 30 miles per hour before the chain snapped tight and the massive weight of the 'deuce' yanked part or all of the attached vehicle out of the snowbank and flung it crazily off the road and even deeper into the snow, usually in a twisted ruined mass.  They would also go around to the shopping centers where the snow had been pushed up into tall piles and crash straight through these piles scattering them in all directions.  But all of the fun came abruptly to a halt one day when they found one of these piles with a big Pontiac Bonneville station wagon inside it.   Perhaps the 'deuce' could have been reunited with it's front axle at cost perhaps approaching the original purchase price, but the owner's parents, having by that time gotten wind of some of the adventures, wisely decided to withhold emergency financial support and the 'deuce' was gathered up by the authorities and consigned to the scrap heap.

 

I was out cruising with George in the Jeep one summer day.  The Jeep belonged to his father who was chief of the 'fire police' there in Syracuse.  This was apparently a sort of civilian auxiliary to the regular fire department whose members would help out in time of emergency.  The Jeep was full of various arcane accoutrements to the firefighter's trade, including a giant 25 pound dry chemical fire extinguisher.  So we were cruising down the street when George spotted some folks who were standing around a car with it's hood up and a little fire burning on top of the engine.  The kind of fire that might happen from a backfire or a broken fuel line and which will usually go out in a few minutes once the engine is shut off and the source of fuel is stopped.  George quickly threw on the flashing lights, skidded to a halt, got out the Big Bertha fire extinguisher  and hosed down everything and everyone in sight in a huge choking, blinding cloud of baking soda.  Then before the dust had a chance to settle, he quickly threw the empty extinguisher in the back and squealed off into the sunset, burning rubber with all four wheels. 

"Who WAS that masked man ?!?!"