LOUD & FAST
Stu Adcock when I knew him was enamored with power and speed, gadgets that would hiss and ‘haul ass’.
I frequently cruised the streets of St. Pete with Stu, and also to places like Orlando and Miami, in his “four on the floor” circa 1964-65 Buick Cutlass. Dark blue, I believe, almost black, with a supersized engine so hyper that even at idle the gearshift trembled, ready to pounce. Although he liked to punch it up to speed from a standing start occasionally, Stu actually kept that monster under control. I have no recollection of him ever driving recklessly.
The first skateboard I ever saw belonged to Stu, who would whiz round and round the upstairs four-sided hallway in Darwin at breakneck speeds, screaming ‘hallelujah’ and carooming off dorm walls like a hockey player off arena glass. I recall a deep discolored groove in the linoleum floor all the way around. Needless to say, it was best to peek first before stepping outside your dorm room.
Stu (I like to think) invented the ‘Chevy Chase flop’ before there was a Chevy Chase. You could hardly walk through a room with Stu without him accidentally ‘tripping’ over a sofa or ‘running into’ a chair. He would crash to the floor with a delightful shriek.
I got to know Stu because he was on the tennis team. My senior year (Stu was a year younger) he took me to his home in Miami Shores for a weekend. It was an upscale place on a canal with a boat out back. A big, loud, fast, powerful inboard. He loved to run it full speed at docks or shorelines and play ‘chicken,’ veering off at the last possible second. Again, that adrenaline laugh of his and the exuberance it communicated was contagious.
“Can you ski?” he asked me.
“Of course. I grew up in Florida.”
I should have said ‘no’ because Stu’s idea of water skiing is even to this day mind-boggling. He put me behind the boat on a flat round disk, tossed me a rope threaded at the end with a wooden handle, and said ‘hang on.’
Like a rodeo bull intent on tossing the irritant strapped to his back, Stu made it his mission to separate me from the rope and send me somersaulting off into space. A task he undertook gleefully, I might add. Okay, I thought to myself: his boat, his rules. Up and down the canals we zoomed, which often were only 75-100 yards wide, zigzagging right and left. I quickly figured out that I needed to stay inside the wake; if he coaxed me outside the safety of that narrow trough on a skimboard without a rudder, I was a goner. After a few minutes of this kind of side-to-side “play” to wear me down, Stu would suddenly whip the boat into a sharp U-turn and send me hurtling like a bottle rocket into the mangroves. And always that maniacal laugh, which I could see but not hear over the roar of the engine.
I vaguely knew over the years that Stu had taken up flying. I even heard rumors that he had become a commercial airlines pilot. I confess to rolling my eyes more than once at the thought of passengers thousands of feet off the ground with Stu at the controls.
I say that, but I would have gone up into the wild blue with Stu in an instant. He could act the klutz and craved the attention that ‘clumsiness’ afforded, but he was supremely coordinated and gifted with physical prowess. I always had the feeling that his thrills never came at the expense of common sense. Well, almost always. 🙂
Nevertheless, reading his obituary, something didn’t seem quite right about a plane ride with no flight plan and a crash with no obvious weather or mechanical difficulties. The final NTSB report two years later does, however, hint at the possibility of pilot error.
In the absence of certainty perhaps I should simply recall that Stu lived on the edge and thus there was a measure of congruency between his life and death.
That’s what it’s all about, to my way of thinking.
😦 😦 😦
I recently received a group portrait of our Florida Presbyterian College tennis team, circa 1964, which I post here as an addendum. I am upper left and Stu is in the lower right corner.