Victoria, British Columbia, 1967. Gren was 20 years old and he'd been in the pub and he was driving home, speeding as usual, when a police car swung in behind him and on went the siren.
Well now, Gren was proud of his driving as young men are, and a slave to excitement as young men are, and he knew the back roads in those parts so he took off.
He led the cops through a maze of streets and up hill and down hill but he could not shake them. So he risked it all on a gambit. He suddenly braked, stopped, leapt out of his car and flung himself on the bonnet of the police car. "Thank god it's the police," he cried.
His story was that he had got into an argument with a motorbike gang over a game of pool. They'd threatened him, he'd run to his car and two of them had leapt onto their bikes to give chase. He'd gunned it in terror. When he saw two headlights in his mirror he'd presumed it was the bikers. The moment he'd realised his mistake he pulled over.
Police are trained to be suspicious but Gren had won his high school debating cup two years running. The cops not only swallowed his story, they gave him an escort home.
No one has ever made me laugh more than Gren did. We often went out for huge bibulous dinners where I did nothing but listen and laugh. And then pay, because Gren somehow never had any money, but I didn't mind.
Gren maintained that driving fast was safer than driving slow, because accidents, by definition, were random happenings in random places, so the less time you spent in any random place the less chance you had of meeting the accident lurking there. And yes he's still alive. Though how fast he drives as a 73-year-old, I cannot tell you.
Last week I went to dinner with a doctor. Doctors have a fund of stories to tell over dinner because all stories are predicated on something going wrong, and something going wrong is a doctor's trade. Nevertheless the best story from the dinner wasn't a doctoring story but a driving story, which is why Gren came to mind.
Doc had been driving home along a rural road, thinking of this and that as you do and half listening to something on the radio and driving in the limbo state we all achieve when we are barely conscious of driving at all.
It is a strange nonchalance. A healthy adult is more likely to die of a car crash than of anything else. You are surrounded by metal and travelling at a speed that generates an impact the body cannot survive. Moreover you are separated from strangers doing the same thing in the opposite direction only by a splash of paint.
By rights every warning system in the body should be on blinking high alert. But we merely hum along to the Bee Gees and wonder what's for dinner and steer with an absent-minded fingertip. It astonishes me that the road toll is so low.
Anyway, there was the doctor humming and musing when he sensed some sort of additional noise, then heard a mighty crash. He looked in the mirror and found it green. He stopped. A tree had fallen across the road, a big one, missing the back of his car by inches and now blocking the road.
Doc rang the police. Other cars arrived and stopped on either side of the tree. The doctor saw no need to stay and drove on, now with something more substantial to muse over than dinner.
Had he known Gren he might have reflected on the truth of Gren's dictum. For had he been going even a fraction slower the tree would have fallen on him and it was more than big enough to have made very short work of a Mitsubishi Outlander and the doctor within it. But he hadn't known Gren.
As a doctor he was familiar with the effects of shock, and he checked himself for symptoms - clammy skin, shallow breathing, loss of interest in the All Blacks. He found nothing. He'd been inches from death and yet his instincts told him nothing significant had happened.
And the conclusion he reached was that the road is a physical expression of the space-time continuum. What matters is only what's ahead. Because the tree fell behind him, effectively it fell in the past, and the past cannot hurt us. So the body saw no cause for concern. It all goes to show, said the doc, that in essence we are pragmatic and optimistic fools.
I think Gren would have agreed.