Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Riverhead Roll-over Competition

The little honda readied itself. The last artifacts of the Modified race were being cleared from the track. Behind the honda, four other equally unintimidating vehicles sputtered to life, waiting for their turn. A flag was swung and with it, the honda jerked forward. The driver mashed the accelerator. Driving a lonely circumference of the track, it hooked around the western perimeter, gathering speed as it took the straightaway. The other cars didn't move. The honda turned inward on the track, pushing its bulk the 50 or so mph it could muster. The crowd hushed. The honda aimed itself for a ramp set up within the dirt heart of the asphalt racetrack. Leaping and curling off the ramp's corner, it upended on the dirt, flipping over onto its top. The crowd waited to see if its momentum would result in another rotation. It rocked once and came to rest. The large race afficianado sitting one level beneath us in the bleachers leaned back to tell us the score: One point. They flipped him over with a towchain - the driver still inside - and seeing the infrastructure of the car still intact, they let the honda fly, two more tries left for a better score. Once more, our large racing yogi leaned back and said: You get 5 for a full roll.

The 6 events of Saturday night's racing exhibition were as follows:
1) Stock-car racing full track
2) Modified memorial to a fallen driver (segueing into a full track race)
3) Modified car racing figure 8 track
4) Roll-over competition
5) Train Race
6) Schoolbus Demolition Derby (full-size and mini)

It was the fastest, dirtiest 6 hours I've experienced since (fill in suggestive event here). Elliot suggested we attend the races after he saw a documentary on Speedo - a legendary schoolbus demolition derby driver - on PBS. I waffled at the suggestion until it became clear I'd be in Long Island anyway. It was cosmic. It was meant to be. And you really haven't lived until you've witnessed an unspoken agreement between two full-size schoolbuses to sandwich a mini-schoolbus at the same time. I wiped a tear from my eye when the mini-driver scrambled out his windshield, his engine just beginning to catch on fire.

The first two races were thrilling just for the speed. I felt nervously akin to Nascar fans - a sport I normally file under dull with golf or horse-racing. Spectacle without individuality doesn't generally flood my sportsloving neurons. But gosh, when you can taste the burnt rubber on the straw through which you're sipping your warm beer, it's hard not to hoot and holler. I actually questioned the straw and cap they give you when you buy beer - until the fireworks. The sizzling colors exploding not too far over our heads after the roll-over competition and the ash raining down into the crowd gave me a zenlike appreciation for my straw. Good ole boys throughout the crowd sipped with great aplomb.

The third race was the first figure 8 competition where instead of racing the circumference of the track, the modified cars - going about 90mph - had to race in an intersecting figure 8. The extra challenge here for the leaders looping back into the intersection is not smashing right into the stragglers just crossing the center of the 8. I'd say the 35 lap race would halt every 2 laps for a new wreck to be cleared into the pit. Can you go into shock witnessing someone else's car accident? Not if you become numb to the proceedings after the fourth or fifth collision. Wheeeeee!

The roll-over competition, I've already described. Slim Jim - a jovial, leather-jacketed racer - was the winner with a one and a half flip. He wanted to go the allotted two more times around - for a mammoth score - but was over-ruled by the roof and hood of his car being caved in completely. His 7 points still deemed him bruised champion.

I just naturally assumed the demolition derby event would be the real awe-inspirer on a taunting-death level. But you really haven't contemplated suicide until you've driven in a train race. A 'train' is actually three cars chained together. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, the first car has a driver and no brakes. This is the accelerator car. The second car has no driver and nothing working except its wheels. The third car in the procession has a driver but no gas pedal. This is the brake car. For a 'train' race, you get 8 of these frankensteins on the track, line 'em up and watch them hit speeds of 60mph. What really makes you squeeze your beer straw is the fact that they're racing on the figure 8 track. The stragglers and the leaders - 3 cars long each - become that much more of a target for errant racing. The metaphor is either one of supreme cooperation or that big, unwieldy corporations can not chug along at full speed presuming the Bush administration will halt their head-on collisions with the current, unstable economy.

And finally, the schoolbus demolition derby. It was awesome. More strategy than one would imagine. Engines catching fire. Really brutal smooshing. Positioning one's schoolbus for a back-first crushing of a lonely mini. I thought the minis might have some kind of secret advantage but they seemed to be out there just to fire up the full-size drivers - the derby's equivalent of shark chum. Round about midnight, the same Slim Jim who had won the roll-over competition - pulverized the final schoolbus and stood atop his chassy in victory.

Next Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway? TAXICAB demolition derby AND Monstertrucks. Be-be-be-be there-there-there!

Monday, August 30, 2004

God's Country is all about Eggs

"I left God's country," said Leon Mosley of Waterloo, Iowa, co-chairman of his state party. "They could use a bunch of people from Iowa to come here to show New Yorkers what life is all about, what being patriotic is all about, and what country is all about. I'm as confident about Bush being re-elected as I am that eggs are going to be in New York tomorrow morning.''

In unrelated news, a constitutional amendment was passed this morning, banning the use of eggs in New York state.

The above quote - found in today's New York Times - really speaks for itself. Sure, I'd like to make a few more egg jokes, examine what it is that makes Iowa God's country (Does Wyoming know? They're gonna be pissed.) and generally tickle Mr. Mosley while he tries to tell me 'what life is all about... what country is all about.' But I'll refrain.

Instead, I just wanted to say that I felt sweaty and guilty when I showed up late to the protest yesterday evening. These people standing around, sitting on the grass, dressed as pea pods, shared my feelings about Mr. Bush. So why weren't we commiserating more? Why didn't I demand to be out there? Was I scared? I wandered Union Square with Jessica and tried to get some outraged part of me to bubble to the surface. Instead, I was the ultimate judgmental hypocrite. I questioned people's intent (those selling t-shirts in particular) and tried to avoid getting involved in a chant or crowd throbbing in all directions. We stayed for about twenty minutes and then went to see a movie. Why wasn't I more invested in the gathering? Even if I'd been in New York all day, would I have forced myself into midtown for the greater protest. Do you protest if you mostly just feel numb? I'm not sure. I was buying the hype of protests actually playing into the Republicans' hands. I let that logic guide me. I came to believe creating chaos in New York would only alienate the rest of the country (especially the news-watching caretakers of God's Country).

Today, though, I was looking at the cover of the Post with the bird's eye view of the beyond expectations mass of protestors and got teary-eyed. Their article focuses a little heavily on the celebrity arrests (Rosario Dawson fyi) but also notes the involvement of parents and siblings of soldiers killed in Iraq. Who am I to look for a visceral reason for protest? If I intellectually empathize with these mourning relatives who are out there trying to change things, than no matter how awkward or immediately unmoved I feel about protesting, I should still count myself part of their crowd. Looking at the peaceful but meaningfully overwhelming mob illustrated the importance of just being a number - an unexceptional component of a righteously guided mass.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Schoolbus Demolition Derby

Enjoy Long Beach, Seth. I'm glad you're studing the coastal evacuation routes. I, myself am returned from Sag Harbor where I observed the rich and annoyed from close quarters, went to a schoolbus demolition derby and pondered what it means to be protesting this week. Should I take part? Should I just film the protestors? Should I douse myself in gasoline and ask a police officer to help me with the child safety catch on my lighter? I feel conflicted. So I'll start considering by catching the end of the protest today and commenting further on contrasting philosophies later - along with an accouting of the ballet of the schoolbus leviathans.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Make Room

In order to house seventeen Republican delegates in our apartment (as well as Alan Keyes if that futon in Williamsburg falls through), I will be making my way to Long Beach Island for four days. Yes, Long Beach Island, the land of bored, menacing teenagers, horsefly-filled beaches, and spiked chowder.

Mr. Keyes, feel free to play the Gamecube, but please don't touch my Xbox.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Coincidences Abound

Susan and I were terribly lost in Brooklyn tonight, trying to get to a house party. Driving around, I started to recognize some landmarks from my childhood in Carroll Gardens. Susan asked if a particular building was my old elementary school, and while I laughed it off at first, it indeed turned out to be P.S. 29. I remembered there being a candy store across the street which I used to frequent, but now it seemed to be nothing but brownstones across from the school. At some point I must have slipped between two dimensions, differentiated only by the existence (or non-existence) of a candy store across from P.S. 29. I know candy stores close, but I don't think they turn into brownstones.

On the verge of giving up on the party, we decided to drive by my old place, 363 Degraw St. We double parked, and I soaked up the memories, then took notice of a couple dealing with the trash across the street. Look, I thought, there are hipsters on Degraw Street now. Then I realized it was Kevin Maher, comedian extraordinaire and fellow college and comedy troupe alum. He lived across from my boyhood home. Marvelous! He was also being forced out of the apartment by the landlord, who wanted to move in himself. Not so marvelous.

Kevin gave us driving directions. The moral of this story is, when lost, head home. It doesn't matter which one.

Don't Accept Open Beverages From The Homeless

Funny you should ask, Casimir. Walking home from the video game store last night, a man offered me a drink from a dirty bottle, and told me it was the Schlitz of sparkling wines. It was delicious, save for the crushed glass. I will always think of that man, whenever I have blood in my urine.

I think we've initiated this blog well.

For those who don't know, I managed a video game store for a year and a half on St. Marks Place in Manhattan. As the highest paid employee (which wasn't much), I was let go when things got rough. Three months removed, the owner asked me if I could cover the store for a week while he went on vacation. I agreed, needing the cash. The interesting thing about returning was that I never once caught someone stealing over the year and a half I worked there, but Tuesday I did. The culprit, a semi-regular who I always thought was rather shady, basically stuck a Dreamcast game in his bag while I watched, and I think he intended to try and sell it back to me. He may be mildly retarded. I went into his bag and found the game, which he then swore was his, until I screamed and cursed long enough and he finally fessed up. As I ushered him out of the store with a torrent of threats, he asked me in a shaky voice to please stop cursing at him. I felt bad. Still, I assured him that if he ever stepped into the store again, we would have him arrested.

It's very weird to go off on someone like that. I don't live my life in such a way where the opportunity ever really comes up. I felt sort of euphoric afterwards, something akin to how people say they feel after electroshock therapy. Still, I wondered if I couldn't have handled things better. What if the kid was put up to it by his parents, needing cash? Then he was getting it on both ends, from me and from his hypothetical evil parents once they discovered his failure. If I could have called the cops and kept the kid in the store, the kid could have reported his evil parents, the cops would have arrested them, and the young man would have a second chance at life with a new family. These are the things I think about.

The funny thing about that theory is that it's most likely utterly untrue. The kid was sixteen or seventeen, I think he's tried to sell me goods stolen from the store before, and I think his seeming retardation can be attributed mostly to nerves, as he was always trying to steal but just wasn't that good at it. And yet I now know that the game he tried to sell me back in the day was most likely stolen, so he foiled me that one time at least. Maybe it was another manager. Yes, that must be it.

In any case, I realized that my prescribed reaction was simply to handle it like the owner would, in his absence. In other words, like a maniac. The owner of said store is a colorful individual who somehow manages to threaten at least two customers per month with an aluminum baseball bat. Many more years ago I worked for him in a web office, and he took said baseball bat and destroyed an enormous color printer that wasn't working properly. The color printer was right next to my desk, and he gave me no warning.

He once gave me $20 for successfully jump-roping one-hundred times without error.

A woman once bought a dance pad and dance game for her PC from the store. Two hours later, she returned it asking for a refund, as it didn't work properly. The owner does not give refunds. She got huffy. He relented, but not without doling out a helping of verbal abuse. His choice quote, as she walked out the door... "Have fun sucking pussy." Priceless.



How drunk did you get last night?
Nicely. Nicely drunk.
I'm not trying to set a poor precedent for chatter themes but feel the need to speak on a new drink I had yesterday evening. It's called the Lambrusco. A red summer wine, served chilled and bubbly, it is served in an oversized glass and made me feel like a parched explorer stumbling upon a very chique oasis. I asked for further elaboration on the drink's origin.
The jittery bartender told me in Italy, the Italians consider it the Bud Light of wines.
Nodding, the ambiguity of that comment left me a little concerned.

- The Bud Light of Bloggers