Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I am a music whore.
There... I've said it, and I meant it.
I will devour any and all music that piques my interest, regardless of genre or style or context or content. Lady Gaga crushes 'The Sound of Music' on the Oscars and I am in heaven. Kathi McDonald belts out 'To Love Somebody' from beyond the grave and I get teary-eyed at her amazing talent, gone too damned soon. Carlos Santana's guitar soars in 'Samba Pa Ti' and I am transported to my brother's memorial service, seeing him smiling down from the slideshow screen while we all mourned and missed him. Bing and David duet on 'The Little Drummer Boy' and I am left sitting there, dumbstruck at the beauty and pure emotion of a stupid holiday song.
Music has been, and always will be, one of the primary defining measures of my life's inspiration, and every so often, an artist comes along and pops out a musical joint that is simply too bold and expansive to be pigeon-holed, too prescient to be dismissed, too cutting to be ignored.
Joe Jackson's 1980 release 'Beat Crazy' is one of those rare and scary recordings that gets better with every listen. Oh sure, most prolly know him only via his 1978 hit 'Is She Really Going Out With Him?', but to overlook 'Beat Crazy' as a benchmark of modern music is to deny a peek into the future past, a future we are living now and will see more of as time passes and we age and wrinkle and gray and grow wiser and more jaded.
'Beat Crazy' was his third album, credited to The Joe Jackson Band... JJ (vocals, keyboards), Graham Maby (bass, vocals), Gary Sanford (guitars), and David Houghton (drums, vocals)... but it never cracked the Top 40 here or in the U.K due to a lack of touring support. I remember hearing several of the cuts on local 'new wave' radio when it was released and immediately went to The Wherehouse (I'm old) to buy the vinyl, playing it over and over and over. Little did I know this LP would stay with me, keeping up as I navigated life's cocktail of happiness and bullshit and love and confusion.
Now... this is NOT a happy happy touchy-feelie warm and fuzzy grip of tunes. Joe was only 26 years old when this LP was released, and the songs are all dripping with his internal stew of anger and contempt and disillusionment and sardonic humor and a jaundiced eye for the absurdities of life and love. You know, the typical emotional make-up of a befuddled twenty-something young man.
When this album came out in 1980, I was in the middle of a failed 4-year marriage to my first wife, feeling the crushing weight of a relationship quickly going sour. I was bouncing between Northern and Southern California, trying to figure out how to deal with my own personal upheaval and IMHO doing a pretty crappy job of it. Perhaps the timing of this record played right into my own life drama, helping me to question everything about myself and my place in the world. When I listen to these tracks, I am transported to a place of dangerous change, of worlds colliding, of unknown unknowns.
I wanna share this singular release with you to try and explain how it became a touchstone for me. While I won't go berserker and review every track, I want to highlight some of the songs that floor me with each listen. I hope you'll get an inkling of the genius and gravitas that Mr. Jackson's creative muse brought to my life oh-so-many years ago.
"Kids today, they're all the same... all call themselves some crazy name... YEAH, mods and rockers and Beatle freaks, punks and skunks and kooks and geeks... You're looking in the mirror but you can't see your face? Look in the mirror but you can't see your face!"
While this cut may be what some refer to as punk or new wave, that's an overly-simplified description. The lyrics echo a sentiment that every modern generation has opined about the one coming up fast behind them, all weird and noisy and impossible to understand or comprehend. The driving ska beat pushes a manic, almost insane narrative through your head, swimming with images of youth gone wild, uninhibited by the usual norms, ready to tear up everything around you. It's exactly the same fears held by those who were sure that Elvis Presley's gyrating hips would corrupt American youth, or that Led Zeppelin music was merely an excuse for kids to smoke weed and fuck in the converted garage with green shag carpeting and incense burning, always burning.
"Sniffing pot... smoking glue... whatever terrible things they do... smoking LSD and such, it must be the reason why they can't talk much... and it's such a crime how they waste their time, they can't get nowhere, they've all gone BEAT CRA-ZY!"
'ONE TO ONE'
"Tried to call you yesterday, but you were at the Monday Club, or a Communist demonstration, who cares? You're going somewhere everyday, Vegetarians Against the Klan, Every Woman Against Every Man, never one to one, what's wrong with one to one, just once, just me and you..."
Oh man, this one slays me with the heartache of a relationship that has moved away from its loving core. It can happen so easily, almost imperceptibly, when two people who share a caring and supportive bond slide away from one another, not even realizing it before TOO LATE LOVE GONE! It happens to everyone at some point in their lives, and the challenge is to fight hard to get back to that deep red center, that place that makes you feel whole. It only gets more difficult and complicated as we get older and more difficult and complicated. Think of dealing with your parents, then place that mantle on your better half. Scary, huh? The secret: keep talking, keep grasping for each other, don't let go, don't give up.
"I agree with what you say, but I don't wanna wear a badge, I don't wanna wave a banner like you... though I don't mind it if you do... you're beautiful when you get mad, or is that a sexist observation?"
'BATTLEGROUND' (Warning: lyrics)
"Black nigger, white nigger, standing in the dark, listen to the rhythm of the bass... BOOM. Black nigger takes a hit, sending up a spark, in the dark heat, swaying a little to the bass beat. White nigger takes a hit, takes money out... says 'This is what it's all about, rots your brain, who cares?' Black nigger stares, white nigger sighs, 'I like your music, I like your style, I crack a joke so why don't you smile?"
Before I'd heard this cut, I'd never heard of a white nigger, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the lyrics. Although 'nigger' is typically a verboten word, Joe uses it to totally nail the situation, the two people involved and their tenuous relationship as blokes of different color but similar status. The combination of the staccato guitar chords, punching bass and ska-heavy beat make the biting lyrics about race relations and the struggle for equality percolate in a steamy, sweaty cocktail of modern, timeless angst. As relevant today as it was 35 years ago.
"Now you don't have to be black to be a nigger no more..."
"She said, 'So... this is what you think of me? Going with some whore somewhere out in Germany?' I said 'Baby, baby can't you see, it's nothing to do with you and me? Nothing to do with my heart, nothing to do with my head, nothing to do with our home, nothing to do with our bed... It's just B-I-O-L-O-G-Y... Can't you see? It's just Biology... Biology, coming in between you and me."
Another brilliant, scathingly honest song about a relationship that suffers because of physical and emotional infidelity. What I especially appreciate about this cut is the realness of it... the insolent 'Hey, it's not my fault' attitude he displays, and the 'Alrighty, then' response she gives him right back, much to his dismay. This is the stuff of the world we all live in, not some made-up bullshit. Anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of infidelity will identify with every word of these lyrics, perhaps painfully so. That's not a bad thing, touching the raw nerve... it's a great way to remember or hopefully to avoid a painful chapter in the novel we all write about our lives.
"She said, 'Thanks, I'm so relieved... what you're saying I can well believe. Now I know, I feel no shame about Dave and Tony and Phil and James.' I said 'Baby, baby... this can't be true!' She said 'Well, what's right for you has to be right for me, in any case I'm sure you'll see... It's nothing to do with our hearts, nothing to do with our heads, nothing to do with our home, nothing to do with our bed... it's just B-I-O-L-O-G-Y..."
"Don't laugh, but there are people in this world... born as boys, and fighting to be girls... people standing in their way, some are straight and some are gay... calling them the drag queens, say 'You can't be one of us, you only have yourself to blame... you don't fit."
Honestly, this is just getting to be so OLD, the whole idea that gays and non-christians and non-whites are somehow less than, somehow a cut below, somehow not as good as white heteros. This tune is the main reason I wrote this entire record review, because these lyrics are searingly painful and real and so completely relevant, 35 years gone from 1980. When are people finally going to get over themselves and just admit that it don't matter what color your skin is, what country you're from, what orifice gives you sexual pleasure, what religious icon you wear around your neck, what piece of cloth you wear on your head. IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER. Hatred is a learned emotion, and a person filled with hate for another human being absolutely learned it from someone else. For me, 'Fit' is the klaxon call for universal equality, and we need it now, perhaps more than ever.
"But don't cry if the people in your street, lead a life that's more or less complete... little problems every day, little problems go away... kid yourself you're fighting for life, kid yourself you fight for love, but maybe in some other lifetime, you won't fit... and if you don't fit, you're fit for nothing at all."
Soooo... perhaps these tunes affected you in some way, either positively or negatively. Maybe you replayed one to get the gist of Joe's controlled anger and emotional upheaval because it resonated. Maybe you didn't have a reaction at all... whatever, that's the way music can be.
Sometimes, the only way to peek at our real selves is through music, because make no mistake about it: that's what the artist (ANY artist) is trying to scrape at, clawing deeper into their own psyche to free the seething emotional animal that forces them to constantly seek their own ultimate personal truth and creative perfection. It's why so many creative people lose all hope and decide to leave this mortal coil, because they didn't achieve that perfection, which really doesn't exist and never has. Ask any artist you know about it... they'll tell you if it isn't already too painful for them to do so.
I have and I know, because I'm married to one.
Let these tunes wrap around your head a bit and you'll find the bright nuggets swirling around in the muck and crap. Pluck them out of the slime, rinse them off and marvel at how they gleam with honesty and sharp truth. I love it.
'IN EVERY DREAM HOME (A NIGHTMARE)'
'BEAT CRAZY' Complete Track List
One To One
In Every Deam Home (A Nightmare)
The Evil Eye
Mad At You
Crime Don't Pay
Someone Up There
Lead image, gracias de google.com; musical details, gracias de wikipedia.com; all videos, muchismas gracias de youtube.com.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
OK, so here's the thing: Although I didn't vote for George W. Bush (twice!), and I felt he was an extremely poor choice to lead our nation, I never... not even once... actively hoped he would fail or supported efforts to stymie or derail his presidency. He was who he was, and I accepted the election results, regardless of how certain I was that he would be a disastrous POTUS. It's how we voters pick our leaders, and sometimes we don't get what we want, but at least we don't go around shooting each other over the results. Not yet, anyway.
As John Stewart once said, "Losing an election is SUPPOSED to taste like a shit sandwich."
I eventually came to despise W for a lot of reasons, all of which turned out to be 100% justified... that's the facts, Jack. He left a steaming pile of fail inside the White House, and no amount of historical whitewash will ever negate the terrible mess that greeted Barack and Michelle when they dropped their bags in the foyer and surveyed the excrement-covered landscape. Some had accused me of suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome... so be it. At least it was easy enough to support my reasoning, because everything about W was simply awful, a snickering dolt born with every advantage life could offer, yet he still fucked over the whole nation and then skipped off to paint bad outsider art.
Fast-forward to MY2014 and there's no doubt about it... halfway through his historic second term in office, Barack HUSSEIN Obama has been the most successful, most articulate, most intelligent, most progressive POTUS in my lifetime. He's nowhere near perfect, but who actually expected him to be? Certainly not me. Funny thing is, there is a certain segment of our citizenry who have slightly differing opinions, such as:
"Barack Hussein Obama is the anti-Christ!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is not an American citizen!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a Socialist!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a tyrant!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a Christian-hating Muslim!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is coming to take away my guns!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a Communist!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a weak-kneed pansy!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a Fascist!"
"Barack Hussein Obama wants to destroy America!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a Marxist!"
"Barack Hussein Obama wants to shove homosexuality down my throat!"
"Barack Hussein Obama is a racist and hates white people!"
"Barack Hussein Obama has destroyed the American economy!"
"Barack Hussein Obama supports murdering the unborn!"
"Barack Hussein Obama... (place your favorite anti-Obama epithet here)!"
I get it... I really do. There are many people in this country who hate, and I mean H-A-T-E our country's first Black President. They are convinced he is not an American citizen, was not legally elected (twice), and that he is hell-bent on reducing our country to a sniveling shadow of our former glorious selves, a populace of sheeples who are addicted to gummint healthcare and free everything.
IMHO, anyone who agrees with any of the incredibly misinformed-yet-popular anti-BHO comments listed above can be described by one word: MORON (Noun). Also see:
Let's take stock of the real world shall we?
Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a man, a human being, a mammal, a terrestrial inhabitant. He is mortal and will eventually die as all mortals do, including you and me. He is not inherently evil, unless you count moderate centrist DemocRats as the mewling spawn of Satan. He was borne of two people from different racial groups who fucked and produced a bi-racial offspring, again not an unusual occurrence. He is made of blood and bone and sinew and skin and all the other hallmarks that make humanoids the (apparent) top predator on this spinning Blue Marble.
In other words, he is EXACTLY like each and every single damned one of us air-breathing skin bags, skittering along the surface of Terra, mating and crapping and breathing and trying to find a really good hamburger. The level of melanin in his skin and the specific content of his brain are perhaps the only differences that he (like the rest of us) has from every other mammalian bipedal homo sapiens that inhabits our microscopic speck of astral dust in a vast universe that doesn't give two shits about us, way out here on the edge of a tiny and unspectacular galaxy.
"HE'S A COMMIE!"
The economy has been stabilized and turned around, generating positive job growth, mostly decent and dropping unemployment numbers, and a solid chart of overall health. The stock markets are seeing record highs, the wealthy are getting even wealthier, and corporations are raking in huge profits. The federal deficit has been cut in half... IN HALF (you DO know the difference between the deficit and the debt, right? RIGHT?!), federal spending has been dramatically reduced, and the Affordable Care Act is on track to reduce the deficit even more as healthcare costs start to drop. But no, he's a commie.
"HE WANTS TO DESTROY AMERICA!!"
The two illegal Bush wars of aggression have seen US armed forces deployment (mostly) ended, the Libyan conflict resolved via political gamesmanship, and Bush's totally ignored Public Enemy #1 has been dispatched to party with Allah. Barry's calm and strategic responses to worldwide conflicts has resulted in NO NEW WARS, and so far there have been no acts of foreign terrorism on our shores (homegrown domestic terrorism is another matter entirely). With only a few exceptions, our allies around the world have established closer ties with us than we've seen in decades, and our international leadership role has once again been established as the benchmark for most first-world nations. Although the dueling crisis' in Ukraine and the Middle East are running on their own searing levels of ethnic and religious hostility (I'm looking at YOU, Jews and Palestinians!), BHO is demonstrating the steady gaze of a leader who knows that solutions take time and intelligence to resolve. But no, he hates America and wants to destroy us.
"HE WANTS TO TAKE AWAY MY GUNS!!!"
In spite of repeated and all-too-familiar shooting tragedies, not to mention the fact that over 80% of the American public wants far stronger controls on gun ownership, this so-called tyrant/Marxist/Socialist/Fascist has not used his unilateral power to limit ammo or gun purchases, establish draconian registration guidelines, seek out and confiscate caches of weapons, or even try to mitigate the truly insane 'open-carry' phenomenon that has dimwits (informal) and idiots (slang) packing heat while shopping at Target. Much as I wish he would, BHO has decided that without the support of the GObstrucionistP members of Congress, he simply cannot compel the gun fondlers and ammosexuals to put down their penis substitutes and think about the rest of us unarmed targets. But no, he's a tyrant who is coming for you guns.
"HE'S DESTROYED THE AMERICAN ECONOMY!!!!"
Unemployment numbers are now below 7% nationwide. Job growth has been increasing for almost fifty straight months. The Dow is consistently over 16,000 and rising. Corporate profits are at record highs. Consumer spending, which accounts for a major portion of domestic GDP, is growing and growing. Small businesses are making strong gains in every market sector. Personal credit card debt is down. Durable goods purchases are up... WAY UP. The automotive industry and housing markets are booming, with sellers making big profits on homes that were underwater only 5 years ago. But no, he's destroyed our economy.
I often wonder how it is that we have such a large number of people in this here US of A that are so willfully misinformed, so narrow-minded, so recalcitrant that they would negate or overlook or simply ignore the facts in this post-W America. Has their venal mindset totally fried their collective cortex?
Hatred is what it is, pure and simple. Unvarnished, acidic, mind-numbing hatred.
Hatred of people they can't or won't be troubled to understand or accept. Hatred for those with a grander vision than themselves. Hatred of those whose life decisions are made on the basis of intelligence and consideration and love, rather than religious voodoo or spite or bigotry or stupidity or rage. Hatred of those who don't get all gooey and moon-eyed over holding a loaded weapon in one hand, a bible in the other, all while wrapped in an American flag bought at Wal-Mart.
"For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a true story: In my neck of the woods, here behind The Orange Curtain of Southern California, we have a special breed of ignorance and hatred codified by six-figure incomes, gated communities and politely subtle racism. Our daily newspaper, The Orange County Register, is rife with condemnations of BHO and his policies, from the front page to the editorials. Naturally, the Op-Ed Letters section is chock-full of spittle-flecked hostility towards Barry, but over the past six years I've been able to get counterpoint letters published that gently remind folks of an alternate world, a different viewpoint, one without hatred.
Last year, after the OCR ran another letter that was filled with hyperbolic misinformation against BHO, I responded and was graced with being published yet again. This time, however, was different. A few days after my letter was run, I was at work and got a call from The Artist:
Her: "Ummm... you got a weird letter in the mail today."
Me: "What do you mean by weird?"
Her: "There's no return sender info, our address is hand-written, the envelope is really thick, and something is sliding around inside."
Me: "Don't open it, put it down, wash your hands really good and I'll have a look at it tonite when I get home."
That evening, holding the weird envelope with gloved hands, I was disturbed by the appearance, the thickness, the sliding contents, the general creepiness of this unsolicited mystery envelope. I called the local PD, explained my concern and was told to bring the envelope down to the station for further scrutiny because one never knows what one may find in one's weird mail. John Law arrived, agreed about the suspicious appearance and, wearing gloves and using his HUGE knife, gently sliced open the envelope on the hood of his cruiser.
Inside was a sheaf of papers, folded several times to fit inside the standard-size envelope, with a long and rambling type-written single-spaced message about the evil anti-Christ Commie Obama, his roster of impeachable offenses, how he had bamboozled America so that he could destroy our way of life, and that my published op/ed letter proved that I was nothing more than a liberal scum dumbass (slang) patsy to his machinations. Mr. Law and I read the thing together, amused at the mental images we had of the writer. However, it was the last sentence of the miscreant's letter that caught us both out:
"By the way, based on the Google image of your house, it looks like you should water the lawn a bit more often. You never know who might be looking at your yard."
John Law looked at me, I looked at him, and we both knew what the other was thinking: this person is a wingnut wacko and had issued a veiled threat against me.
Me: "That's pretty disturbing, the idea that someone unknown to me has my address and knows where I live and sends me an anonymous threatening letter. What kind if nutjob does that?"
John Law: "Yeah... well... it happens to me all the time, especially from people I've arrested. Your name and city were on the op-ed piece, so it was easy for him to find you online. I wouldn't worry too much about it, people like this are harmless."
That was it. He advised me to always call the Po-Po when weird mail arrives, and maybe not to write any more Letters to the Editor of our local right-wing rag. I was dumbstruck at the notion that someone I didn't know would take the effort to threaten me personally simply because I used a newspaper open forum letter to state an honest and informed opinion. WHO FUCKING DOES THAT?!?!
Trick question, I already know the answer: someone who is filled with hate and rage and anger and hostility and misplaced angst does something like that. Someone who uses anonymity to threaten someone else without fear of being found. A typical dickhead (slang).
"Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you." -- Wayne Dyer, author, psychotherapist
The Tea Party-controlled US House of Representatives recently voted to file a lawsuit again BHO for overstepping his authority as President. His heinous crime: using his enumerated Executive powers to delay the implementation of certain employer mandate elements of the Affordable Care Act. Yep... the same august body that voted over 50 times to defund, dismantle and/or destroy the ACA is suing our Black Panther President for not putting it in motion according to a hard timetable. The same group of regressives that have worked tirelessly to stymie, obstruct or completely ignore any type of honest lawmaking, their one true responsibility.
This has never happened before in the history of our nation. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives are suing a sitting President for doing his job because they refuse to do theirs. Why? BLACK LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.
No jobs bills... no support for the unemployed... no infrastructure spending... no immigration reform... no healthcare support... no sensible gun control... no informed climate legislation... nada. Nothing out of their stupid pie-holes except more tax breaks for the already-wealthy, an inquisition against women's health and contraception choices, a thick and gooey shmear of religious insanity and the never-ending hatred of the Muslim-loving, America-destroying, Marxist/Fascist/Communist tyrant Barack HUSSEIN (black man) Obama(nation).
Whatever. Schmucks (U.S. slang).
Just today, I got a call from a Very Nice Lady at The OCR about an essay I'd written and sent them before the mystery letter episode, a humorous essay about how we are now all at the mercy of the cretins (slang) who surround us every day, carrying loaded weapons in their cars and blind fury in their heads, ready to pull out their pieces and pop off a few shots at whatever target they can hit with their eyes closed, just like Tombstone, Arizona in 1889. The VNL said she wanted to run my essay as a column in the paper and needed to confirm a few things about me. Natch, I was pleased to know that once again, a voice for semi-reason would be featured in the paper and gave her the info she needed. Then I made a huge mistake.
I told The Artist about it.
As you can guess, she was totally against it, and made it abundantly clear how she felt. I demurred, called the VNL back and offered my sincerest apology, but could she please NOT run my essay? She understood and agreed to delete it from her files.
Of course, The Artist is right... why tempt fate again? Why give some delusional mental defective (taboo slang) any chance to feel justified in threatening me (or worse) into silence for my thoughts and opinions, simply because it was PUBLISHED IN THE NEWSPAPER? I mean... who the hell do I think I am, anyways?
I am a man, a human being, a mammal, a terrestrial inhabitant of Mexican heritage. I am mortal and will eventually die as all mortals do. I am made of blood and bone and sinew and skin and all the other hallmarks that make humanoids the (apparent) top predator on this spinning Blue Marble... an air-breathing skin bag, skittering along, mating and crapping and breathing and trying to find a really good hamburger.
I am not The President of The United States, but I am just as determined, just as passionate, just as dedicated to equality and compassion for every single person living in this amazing, crazy, beautiful, screwed-up country, no matter who or what they are or where they came from. Armed or not.
"You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your... concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help." -- Barack HUSSEIN Obama, 44th U.S. President
Lead image, muchismas gracias de hdwallsized.com; 1 Giant Leap 'Braided Hair' video, gracias de youtube.com; we are all just Bozos on this bus.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
And that’s just oval track racing. Road racing is another animal entirely. Some personal context:
I’ve been a motor racing fanatic as long as I can remember. I attended my first drag race at Irwindale Raceway as a Cub Scout in 1965. Dad took my brother and I to Riverside Raceway during the heyday of the Can-Am Series, and we watched the green hankie fly to start the first California 500 at the now-long-gone Ontario Motor Speedway. As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to attend and/or work races at Long Beach, Perris, Charlotte, Laguna Seca, Sears Point, Talladega, Fontana, Phoenix, Denver, Cleveland, Homestead, Indianapolis, Houston, Buttonwillow, Road Atlanta, Road America, Pomona, Daytona, Las Vegas, Willow Springs, Fort Worth… and those are just the ones where the cars had four tires and wheels. Add in jet skis, snowmobiles, drag boats, motorcycles… well, you get the idea.
While I am in no way equating my on-track escapades with the likes of Ms. Patrick or Herr Schumacher, I can tell you with certainty that being an athlete (while extremely important) is only a part of what it takes to drive a race car with any level of skill or competitiveness. I can tell you about how my arm muscles burned and my hips were sore and my legs ached and my knees were bashed and my breathing was labored and my heart pounded out of my chest and my fire suit was drenched with sweat after running a dozen laps around the track at Sears Point in an open-wheel Formula Mitsubishi… and that was only a race driving SCHOOL.
And no matter how difficult or physically demanding any of my driving escapades were, I WAS NOT RACING. I was just driving, learning, doing, and still got the crap beat outta me, still climbed from the cars with legs of rubber, barely able to catch my breath. I may be in pretty good shape, but a full day of autocrossing on smooth asphalt would result in my resembling a large bowl of ugly jelly by day’s end.
The ability to run flat-out, regardless of the size and/or shape of the track or the speed of the vehicle, gives my brain and body a rush of endorphins that is second only to having sex. It gives me insight as to why professional racing drivers have the itch, the need, the competitive drive it takes to risk life and limb on track, at speed, helmet on, eyes wide open.
Most folks will head to this place to thrash around the course with their friends, bumping each other and sliding around and whooping and all that, not really doing serious laps, just goofing. Not me. I head there right after work when the place is still empty and the track is clear of what I like to call ‘rolling chicanes’, i.e. typical drivers. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be the only kart on track, and that’s when I can really have at it. I can achieve maximum speed on the relatively short course, finding the fastest line and ripping off one fast lap after another, clipping apexes and sliding along the outside turn siding and hauling ass. Without other karts to contend with, I get into a zone of lap lap lap lap, hopefully each one faster than the last, until the short minutes have expired and I’m drawn back into the staging lanes.
When I drag my butt out of the kart, I am sweaty and breathing hard and my arms are shaky… and I’m totally ready for another session. Wait for the next session, chug a bottle of cold water and then jump back into the kart for another round of lap lap lap lap faster faster faster, apex accelerate straight hard turn apex turn apex accelerate lap lap lap. It becomes a blur, my head is totally clear except for the vision of the upcoming turn and where I need to have the kart on track to hit that next apex just right lap lap lap lap lap lap IN.
I reckon the point I'm trying to make is this: those who denigrate motor racing as not being a real sport with real athletes should STFU and try it sometime before making ignorant noises with their pie holes. As I've written before, the science involved in motorsports takes the idea of competition to a whole other level, bridging the gap between the physical and mechanical worlds and offering a unique perspective on how the human mind operates at-speed.
This past October, The Artist and I attended the IndyCar race at Fontana's California Speedway (I refuse to call it Auto Club Speedway) to watch the season-ending event for the series, and it was a barn-burner. We were there for every race between 1997 and 2004, then went back when the series returned to the track last year after a 7-year hiatus. We watched in horror as Greg Moore crashed heavily on the back straight during the 1999 race, watched his crew strip the pit once the race resumed (that NEVER happens), watched the Medivac helicopter liftoff to the local hospital, watched as the flags were all lowered to half-staff while the cars still screamed around the oval. When the race finally ended, the PA announcer told us Greg had died of his injuries, and the grandstands grew quiet while we all silently mourned a fallen champion, a racer, a kindred spirit.
But we were back at Long Beach and Fontana the following year, supporting a sport that we love and cherish, supporting the amazing athletes who choose to compete in such a dangerous thing, plugging in to the highly-electric and eclectic activity that punches our buttons and gives us a visceral joy that nothing else can... except for the aforementioned sexing.
For me, no other professional sport can measure up to motor racing, because unlike football or baseball or basketball or hockey or any of the rest, the race driver commits life and limb to pursue his or her need for speed. They know the risks, and we fans do too. They know every race holds the chance for the ultimate success or the ultimate loss, and yet... they keep on driving, and we keep on supporting their efforts.
That's why ripping off hot laps at K1 Speed is so intoxicating for me now. I get a whiff of the red mist that racing at 10/10ths pours into the driver's mind and heart and soul... but a whiff is all it takes to make me fight even harder to stitch a good lap together... and then do it again.
Lead image, gracias de worldnewsnetwork7.com; Deep Purple 'Highway Star' video, muchismas gracias de youtube.com.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
It was between morning classes, the Quad was filled with the hoi polloi of LPHS, and there we were on the fringes, standing around, waiting… waiting… waiting… when we heard the first screams of laughter and knew it had begun. Here he came, running towards us, wearing a long-sleeved sweater, ski mask, hiking boots… and nothing else, junk flying to howls of laughter at the First Official LPHS Streaker. He ran with grace and strength, legs pumping easily, obviously an athlete, but his sweater was pretty ugly.
Cultural Anthropology with Alan Eggleston
He must have been watching us, because seconds after we were all seated in our ad hoc configuration, in bounds Alan Eggleston, with his Buddy Holly glasses and shock of wavy black hair and thick black beard and gigantic toothy grin. He proceeds to cheerily inform us that we are all pre-programmed drones based upon our decision to accept well-worn roles as students and take our places in the educational hierarchy, our self-imposed desk layout an example of how brainwashed we were. As a fresh Frosh, this was mind-boggling experiential teaching, and I loved it.
Carlos Magallanes, Sociology Monster
A teacher among teachers, a spiritual mentor to those of us who chose to listen and learn from his bearded bad self. The fact that so many years later he is now my Facebook friend gives me much, much pleasure. He still RULES.
Blue Swede 'Hooked On A Feeling' video (Billboard Top 100, 1974), muchismas gracias de youtube.com; lead image of the author in his first Boy Scout indian dance costume, circa 1970, muchismas gracias Papa!