Thursday, May 27, 2010

Home

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Around where I live in Missouri, Memorial Day means time spent at the lake for most people. As a point of fact, that's just what I am doing as well. I'll be mixing drinks at a bar overlooking one of our many lakes and then, when Sunday arrives, I'll be on the deck of a Sea Ray taking in the sun and chilling by the water.

It's a good time actually. And since I dont have a beach anywhere in this lost and forsaken state I'm in, the lake will have to do. Still...

My heart belongs to Indy.

Over the years, I have been to something like 10 runnings of the Indianapolis 500, held annually on the Sunday of Memorial weekend. What began out of curiosity became a tradition of sorts for me. And I absolutely love it. If I die at that track...which is a possibility actually, it would be a good way to go.

If you have never been to a race...an event...like the Indianapolis 500 then there is no way that I can share to you what it is like. Imagine arriving in the heart of a big city at 5AM listening to Bob and Tom on the radio cracking jokes and talking about who's in the pits. The traffic is apocalyptic in scope as though an asteroid was on the way. You finally find a $10 or $20 dollar spot to park your car about a mile or so away from the track. It's usually someone's back yard. You make your way to the track drawing ever nearer to the sound that space shuttles must make as the track is dried out from the inevitable morning showers.

The Brickyard is 2 and a half miles around. It's large enough for a golf course and and F1 track. When I make it inside I usually walk across the track and marvel at how thin it really is. Then I make my way to the Hullman museum and snag a bite of pizza at the little restaurant nearby.

I have a lot of amazing memories at that track with some of my favorite people. The first time I went to Indy I was with my first real long term girlfriend. When the cars started flying by and ramming into things we began to realize together that this wasnt anything at all like tv. Indy is definitely NOT like 'watching cars go in a circle' or 'watching traffic' as the naysayers like to point out. It is something of a bloodsport where the fans listen in on their bearcat scanners hoping their driver gets a break when his or her adversary hits the wall. And they do that...a lot.

Over the years, the race begins with about 32 cars and usually ends with half that number. It's dangerous. It's crazy. It's loud as all hell. And it's a spectacular amount of fun.

I'll always love Indy, in part because of the loves I have shared Indy with. The most important girls in my life have all been to Indy with me. I have a lot of family up that way...so it's really just like going home for me.

I have sat just about everywhere you can at that track. I began in the snake pit and have spent time on the inside track and in the turns. I've sat pole position and in the upper terraces. It's all great.

I remember one year when an old man sitting next to me asked me if he could take my picture. When he was finished he explained that I was sitting in the seat of his wife who had passed away some years back. Apparently, they had gone to Indy for 16 years together always sitting in the same seats. He took my picture because he said that I must be something special to be sitting in the seat of the most special person he had ever known.

That kind of blew me away. But I'm a romantic. I get it. Maybe that's why I keep taking girls I love to Indy. I'm looking for that girl who belongs in that seat. I've been let down in that way but the race has never let me down.

Rain or shine...it doesnt matter. One year, the race was rained out for two days. We stayed and when we showed up on the third day the track was all but empty. It was surreal until they opened the gates to anyone just to fill the seats.

I'm not really much of a gearhead. While I can definitely appreciate a fast car, I'm more of a guitar playing urban cowboy poet...who marks time in peculiar ways. Indy is my marker. When the race comes around, I feel the weight of time, the want of love and the pain of loss.

And as long as I'm there...I also feel home. Indy is that spot in my world where all worlds collide. There's Gina and her big smile eating pizza and helplessly winking as she gleefully laughs at the cars going by. There's Dee sitting huddled by me in the freezing rain stoically braving the elements because she knows I love it, and I love her. There's Beck driving her car furiously back to the race from 30 miles away because we left when we thought it had been rained out after a couple of hours. And there's Absinthe wandering about in the infield with my cousin Rain stirring up trouble of all kinds.

And there I am. Every year that matters. Every year that was an amazing year.

Not this year.

This year I'm heading to the lake. I'll have some friends and some enemies in friends clothing to sport about with. I'm not complaining to be sure. I'll have the water and the sun and a cold beer or three in hand. Maybe I'll throw on a bandana or my straw hat. I'll leave my guitar at home to keep it out of trouble but I might risk a camera and some sunglasses.

Home of course is where the heart is. Sunday...mine will be in Indy.



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