June 23, 2011 in City

Clark: Barely legal LaBoata helps ring in LaSeason

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Doug Clark photo

Tim Lorentz, the creator and skipper of LaBoata, tested the asphalt again Tuesday, the first day of summer.
(Full-size photo)

It’s the first day of summer.

Our recluse of a sun has finally deigned to grace us with His Presence.

Plus there’s this wild rumor floating around that the thermometer may have cracked 80.

I can think of only one way to commemorate a Tuesday so totally rad. And that’s to take a “see cruise” through Spokane in the one and only LaBoata!

Let me lay out a few facts for any landlubbers not up to speed.

LaBoata is a white 1994 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. The car, however, has become famous for wearing a cream-colored 1976 Apollo tri-hull boat like a tailored overcoat.

The disguise is so diabolically perfect that even the car’s wheels are hidden.

When LaBoata’s out and about, all you see is this crazy speedboat gliding down the pavement.

The illusion has turned LaBoata into a beloved and much photographed Spokane icon.

People wave. People honk. People cheer.

People quick-draw their cellphones to shoot snapshots and videos.

Most of all, however, people smile.

Big w-i-d-e smiles.

Riding in LaBoata is even more joyous. That’s why I called Tim Lorentz, the South Hill resident and mad scientist who created this maritime masterpiece a couple of years ago.

“Let’s celebrate summer with a LaBoata ride,” I told him.

Lorentz said sure and volunteered to pick me up at my house.

This guy’s so nuts we must be related. But what a team we make.

As skipper, Lorentz’s job is to man the wheel. His second duty is to provide an appropriate soundtrack to our motorboat madness.

As a DJ, however, Lorentz has the attention span of a hamster on crack. He never spends more than 5 seconds on any of the bazillion summery rock tunes he has stored in a flash drive.

He’ll flit from, say, “YMCA” to “Sea Cruise” to “Love Boat” to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme to “Fun, Fun, Fun” to “B-B-Bad to the Bone” to …

At least Lorentz has no second thoughts about volume. He keeps the music blaring at a level somewhere between a jackhammer and an ascending jetliner.

I’m not along just for the ride. I have a job, too.

My role as Little Buddy is to lean out of LaBoata and scream like a mental patient on a field trip to the county fair.

“Happy SUMMMMERRR!!!”

I still can’t believe I get paid to do stuff like this.

Speaking of which, breaking the LaBoata saga to the world at large was one of my proudest journalistic accomplishments.

That’s right. You saw it here first.

Then all the rip-and-read TV copycats started parroting the story as if they had built the thing.

Lorentz picked me up a little after 1 p.m. We cruised the city for several hours, spreading mayhem and merriment to the masses.

The first question everybody asks when they see LaBoata is:

“Can you take it into the water?”

To which Lorentz usually replies: “Sure you can – once!”

At a stoplight a guy leaned out his window to ask us if LaBoata was legal.

There was a time when the Washington Department of Licensing had refused to renew Lorentz’s tabs, claiming his half-car/ half-watercraft was too irregular for the road.

But Lorentz has tabs now, so everything’s shipshape.

Uh, sort of.

See, Lorentz wisely had the boat shell off when he bought the tabs.

Aw, why should it make any difference?

I like to think of the nautical part as just a harmless cosmetic add-on.

You know, like tinted windows or a “Honk if You Love Hillyard” bumper sticker.

A little pirate element only elevates the fun for me.

Besides, we passed four or five cop cars during our Tuesday goodwill tour. Officers in at least three of them waved back.

You know our SPD. If cops had it in for LaBoata they would have harpooned us faster than you can say, “Call me Ishmael.”

I told Lorentz about my plan to legitimize LaBoata.

The scheme is to get Mayor Mary Verner to proclaim LaBoata as Spokane’s official boat car.

Why not? The city is always proclaiming City Council Low Achievement Day or some other goofy cause.

“To City Hall!” I hollered.

As luck would have it, we found a place to moor LaBoata right next to the Bloomsday runners sculpture, across the street from City Hall.

Unfortunately, that was the extent of our good fortune.

The mayor, alas, was out yakking at some convention.

Even worse, City Councilman Steve Corker blew off our offer to take him for a spin.

He claimed he had to write some dorky speech.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

This is an election year. Corker is running for City Council president. And he passes up a chance to be seen in LaBoata on the first day of summer?

This should tell voters all they need to know about Mr. Corker’s judgment.

But the day was not lost, I’m happy to report.

At the courthouse, Spokane County Commissioner Al French was only too happy to ditch his responsibilities and take a LaBoata ride through the downtown.

What a good sport.

Plus getting a county commissioner out of the office for even 15 minutes probably saved the taxpayers a gob of money.

“Try and do that in a boat,” Lorentz said as he peeled out of an intersection with tires screeching. “I just love cruising.”

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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