I’ve told this story before, but only on that show no one listened to.
It’s the fall of 1998. I was nearly 17 years old, and have recently achieved freedom — I’d had my driver’s license for about two weeks. I was out hanging at a friend’s house into the early evening.
My parents’ house had a very steep driveway leading up to a flat section where the house was. At the bottom of the drive was something that… didn’t belong. It was a Ferrari. Even at night, I could tell it was Ferrari red, of course.
I drove up the drive, and it immediately occurred to me why there was a quarter million dollar car at the bottom of the driveway. The Galantes must be here.
I grew up all over the US, but my family spent 20 years in New Fairfield, Connecticut. A very small town around an hour from Manhattan on a good day, it was a nice place to grow up. I moved there when I was in eighth grade. My youngest brother, eight years my junior, spent his entire childhood there. Just a year ago my parents retired, left New Fairfield, and settled outside Charlottesville, Virginia.
My parents had a group of friends of various backgrounds. Many of whom they met through my mom’s participation in the Community Service Club. One of those was Mrs. Galante. Her husband, Jimmy, was somewhat of a local celebrity. Though there were many wealthy families in New Fairfield, the Galantes were unequivocally one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest.
Mr. Galante owned several local garbage companies, including the local company Automated Waste Disposal. Everyone raised an eyebrow at a man with a clearly Italian-sounding surname owning a garbage company so near to New York, but no one ever said anything.
Furthermore, Mr. Galante donated oodles of money to the community, including single-handedly bankrolling a complete rebuild of my high school’s football field, track, and a nearby playground.
To me, he was just a family friend, who tended to get along well with the kids. He was Mr. Galante.
I pulled up our driveway, and got out of my 1994 Saturn SL2. (I loved that car, up until the time a wheel fell off while I was driving it.) Getting out, and walking in the house, I knew I had to go poke my head in where my parents and their friends were.
Walking in, after saying hi to everyone, I immediately looked at Mr. Galante.
“Thanks! Want to go for a ride?”
“😳 … Um, sure!”
My parents lived a couple of streets away from a road that was around 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long and nearly straight as an arrow. We took off down the road, with Mr. Galante driving reasonably conservatively. At the end of that road, we hit a T. We could make a long loop back to Mom and Dad’s, but we didn’t.
Briefly heartbroken to know that my ride was ending after only a couple more minutes, I bit my tongue and just reminded myself I was riding in a Ferrari. These sorts of things don’t exactly happen every day.
Mr. Galante completed his U-turn, but then he stopped dead. The road had barely any shoulder, so we were blocking travel in one direction. Luckily, New Fairfield is a small town, and we were only stopped for a moment. Not knowing what was going on, I was very confused. This confusion escalated when Mr. Galante got out of the car, calling something over his shoulder as he did so.
I had to mentally rewind what he said two or three times before I put it together.
The next thing I knew, I was buckled in, behind the wheel of a Ferrari. I place my feet on the pedals, and immediately realize all three of them were on top of each other.
I immediately gave thanks for not only learning to drive on that Saturn — itself a 5-speed — but for taking my driving test on it. If I can handle that, I can handle this, right? This… Ferrari?
Despite the pedals that were seemingly on top of each other, I was able to take off, and to do so without stalling. So far so good. I didn’t beat on the car any, since it wasn’t mine, I barely knew how to drive in the first place, and it was worth as much as a house.
After a minute or so, which felt like one glorious hour, Mr. Galante very calmly looked over at me and asked me,
“How fast do you think we’re going?”
The road had a 45 MPH (70 KPH) speed limit. I felt like I was crawling; I really didn’t want to mess up this Ferrari. I looked down to the speedomoeter, so I could answer Mr. Galante’s question. I stumbled for a second, because there, in the center of the speedometer, was a prancing horse. Awesome.
Finally getting control of myself again, I concentrated on finding the answer to his question. I figured I was going around 35 or 40. Though not an experienced driver, it doesn’t take long to get a rough feel for how fast you’re going. As it turns out, I was doing about 80. Oops.
I adjusted my speed, and continued the drive home. We got to the bottom of the driveway, I turned off the car, and I thanked Mr. Galante for letting me drive his Ferrari.
Looking at it objectively, it was probably the most boring drive I’d ever made in my short time as a licensed driver. Reflecting on it, it was one of the most exciting.
To this day, I can’t recollect what Ferrari it was, and I’m ashamed for it. I think it was a F355. I’m still not sure. It doesn’t matter. I know it was a Ferrari.
Fast forward a few years, and Mr. Galante ended up making national news. He had gotten it in his head to create a minor league hockey team in Danbury, the “big” city next door to New Fairfield. This team, the Danbury Trashers, seemed unremarkable at first. They made national news, however, because of their President and General Manager: Mr. Galante’s son, a high school senior.
Fast forward a few more years, and Mr. Galante had a couple run-ins with the law. He was eventually sent to jail for it, after an investigation that involved the FBI. He went to jail for the same reasons that we all raised eyebrows to many years before.
But to me, he’ll always be the family friend who let a 16 year old drive his Ferrari.
I bring all this up because I recently stumbled upon this video (some not safe for work language) from Sports Illustrated, chronicling the Trashers. It’s only 15 minutes, and I’m biased, but I found it to be absolutely fascinating. The Trashers formed once I was away at school, so I didn’t see any of this first hand. But I certainly did live it through my parents and younger brothers.
It’s truly wild to me that the same man, a family friend, who let me drive his Ferrari, is the same man a Sports Illustrated video is about. Small world.