Mark Marvelous was that type of cat who would write out a recipe for napalm on the inside of a White Castle bag and sell it to a kid for five bucks laid out in quarters, knowing full well the only two things that would burn in that transaction were the greasy paper it was scribbled on and the money.
Known to haunt various filling stations from Taylor Boulevard to National Turnpike, the double-trouble on four wheels was legend incarnate long before he vanished into a fog of car exhaust and thunder leaf, leaving behind embellished tales of his fiery demise. All bullshit, of course, but Mark Marvelous inspired such talk. A living tall tale that has no place in contemporary society. The first time I met Mark Marvelous, at a filling station no less, he sauntered up behind me and in one swift move, grabbed me by the throat and screamed at the top of his lungs: “Twenty five pounds of pressure, boy, that’s all it takes for me to snap your neck!” He then quickly released me and delivered several hardy blows on my back, grinning like a gator, as he produced from his pocket a large handful of Hershey Kisses and began handing them out to me and my compadres — “Just boosted a hole bag of ‘em right underneath that dumb clerk’s nose!” In what felt like less than a nanosecond, I went from being terrified to intrigued by this robust maniac.
He had long been baptized in motor oil and had been through more fistfights than the infamous boxer Joe Grim. He was 26 and looked like a Roosevelt-era bodybuilder with the head of a manatee that had met the bad end of a boat propeller more times then he could recall. He’d been hit and been hitting since kindergarten roll call, day one. His duel ability to keep himself continuously wrapped in two tons of whatever American muscle he could resurrect into a barely street-legal racing machine of mayhem and to simply walk away unscathed from plowing said racing machine, head-on, into telephone poles made him known to every urchin who lived in South Central. And to know him was to know what it was like to have a box cutter pressed against your jugular at least twice.
He was “jacked up from the back up with a tiger in the tank” and lived in a garage that had been converted into a semi-habitable space behind his mother’s house. He treated his mamma with the utmost respect and care, always walking her to the passenger side of his war wagon with his big burly arms supporting her weight and then driving her to various appointments just under the speed limit, a sharp contrast to the “ride of megadeath” he would take us kids on that involved him rushing down the alley off of Tenny Avenue at 90 mph without stopping for four city blocks, “torquing the thrusters all to hell,” blowing past the intersections until the Camaro came spilling out onto Southern Boulevard, where he would slam on the brakes at the very last second and cut the wheel hard left, thus preventing us from smashing into the side of Rutherford Elementary and dying in a mega way. He supported himself by pitching boxes at the DAV and constantly being fired from various pizza joints for his “Thunder Road” delivery style.
He was a man of intuition, maximum hustle and fearless impulse, like the time the crew and I looked on as Mark Marvelous flew a kite during a violent storm, with two grenades attached to his belt, as he tried to harness lightning. And just a few nights later he would make the greatest exit from my life I have ever witnessed. Loitering outside the Super America shooting the shit, me and the cronies were, when Mark Marvelous pulled into the parking lot in his blue IROC-Z Camaro block-busting Skid Row’s “Big Guns.” He stopped right in front of us and yelled: “Watch this, you pukes,” and preceded to lay down the greatest burn-out ever committed to asphalt. For 15 tire-screeching, engine-bleeding, mind-melting minutes, he held it, with smoke rising so thick and profusely the manger at the McDonald’s across the street called the fire department for fear the place was about to explode, but they didn’t arrive until long after Mark Marvelous made his daring escape. From the toxic cloud he sprang, the IROC-Z, flying across traffic like a rocket fired from a bazooka. Down Third Street he roared, in all his fuel injected glory, heading for the turnpike, to never been seen again.