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  June 12, 1999



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One wild ride with Owen ...
By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  My buddy, Marc, is a great guy. He's always there for me and has saved my sorry butt more times than I can count. Not fighting and stuff like that, being the scrawny little geek that he is, but when you're on the road, feeling lonely and lost, it's nice to have a friend you can always count on.

 He'd be the first to tell you that he's never been a jock. He'd be the guy in the thick glasses and the pocket protector running the school computer club.

 That's not to say that Marc's a nerd. What he lacks in size he makes up for with ingenuity and common sense. Fate has been hard on Marc and through tragic circumstances completely beyond his control he ended up losing his family and living from paycheque to paycheque.

 The only thing he's got that's really worth anything is his car. And to him it's priceless.

 Marc loves that car. It has got, I don't know, how many coats of wax, the chrome sparkles and if money makes it a choice between who gets a check-up, the doctor will wait.

 The car's name is Ramona, by the way. Say what you will about Marc's obsession but if you knew him you'd understand that Ramona was his escape from a painful life.

 On a dark and dreary rainy night, a few years ago, I phoned Marc and asked him to meet me at the airport. He doesn't live here and I'm not going to tell you where he lives because it's not one of the world's great scenic spots. In fact, I wouldn't want to be walking those streets alone after dark.

 I was world champion at the time and I was beyond tired from successful title defences, every single day, for weeks and weeks, sometimes double-shots -- wrestling twice in the same day in different towns.

 I was so tired that I'd really have to think about it to tell you where I'd been during the prior couple of weeks, but I knew where I was going tomorrow.

 HOME! Finally! All I had to do was get through one more night. A few hours is all.

 As it turned out, my brother Owen was on the plane with me.

 We were starving and as soon as we landed Owen, myself and Marc headed off to an all-night diner.

 After we ate, Marc was driving us over to the hotel on his way home. Then it happened. Ramona made the most awful sound. It was a grinding, scraping, whining shriek of metallic pain! The noise was bad but not anywhere near as the look on Marc's face.

 We stopped and the noise stopped. It was raining and we got soaked looking under the hood and under the car but nothing seemed to be wrong.

 We drove a little way down the road and Owen was saying how it didn't sound good at all and it looks like Marc is going to get stuck alone in the middle of the night in hell town. Marc said maybe he'd best count his money to see if he had enough to get a room at the hotel and deal with it in the morning.

 Owen informed us there were no rooms left at the hotel and that he hadn't even been able to get a room and was bunking with another wrestler.

 I was doing the same since we had less than five hours before the pre-dawn flight home. Taking a deep breath and with forced optimism, Marc said, "Well, the sound is gone so hopefully I can just drive home and then worry about it."

 And worry he would -- having no cash to fix whatever was wrong with his dream machine. SSSSSSSSScccccccccrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaaccccchhhhhhh! There it was again, even worse than before!

 We stop, it stops. There we were, out in the rain again, looking under the hood, under the car. Nothing wrong. Ramona seemed posessed by invisible demons.

 Owen came up with the idea that he and I should use the cell phone and call a taxi for us and a tow-truck for Marc.

 Marc agreed. Then Owen said we'd leave as soon as the taxi came since we'd be lucky to get in three or four hours of sleep and Marc could wait on this road in the middle of nowhere for the tow-truck. Owen added, this old hunk of junk has seen better days. It's time to send her to the junkyard and have her crushed.

 Marc glared at Owen like he'd just insulted his lover. Owen just went on and said, "you know, if you get a second job and cut back on groceries you can probably get a good old reliable used wreck."

 Marc was pale and sweaty. I knew Owen wouldn't be that cruel, so something was up.

 "Yeah, this old girl is a goner. She was great in her day but her day is long past. Time to get rid of her," I joined in as sincere a tone as I could muster and still keep a straight face.

 Owen added, "And don't be picking us up from the airport unless you have a suitable vehicle. We don't need this kind of trouble."

 We drove the last few minutes to the hotel in silence as Marc was so dejected he couldn't even speak, trying to figure how his buddies planned to leave him stranded in one of the world's most dangerous places and we didn't offer him a place to sleep or money.

 In front of the hotel, we hopped out as fast as we could. Marc crawled under the car, on the wet ground, in a desperate attempt to find the problem. I grabbed my bags from the trunk and Owen told Marc he'd left something in the back seat and the door was locked so could Marc please get it.

 Yeah, he got it -- finally. What Owen had left in back was the tree branch that he'd been dragging outside the back door of the car ... scraaaaapppping along the pavement. And then, every time we got out to investigate, he'd pulled the branch back in!

 I got a kick out of watching Owen jogging, backwards and laughing, into the hotel, while Marc was doing this peculiar combination of simultaneous yelling and laughing that is the trademark result of Owen's ribs.

 Marc took it as the fun it was intended to be ... after tossing back a couple of brews. Ramona keeps on keepin' on.

 When the monotonous loneliness of counting the hours until we could go home became almost unbearable, that's when Owen was most likely to strike.

 I'll always thank him for that.

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