Sunday, May 23, 2010
With Memorial day weekend coming up...I am fixated on the greatest spectacle in racing: The annual running of the Indy 500. As a sportsman, I am intrigued by the physical and mental stamina exhibited by the drivers. They drive 200 Laps at speeds in excess of 210 m.p.h. in serious traffic..they have to engage in strategy regarding pit stops, fuel,tires and lap position...and perhaps more than anything...they have to deal with the fact that their chosen sport could easily take their lives...a nasty death in a twisted flaming spiral of racing gas and sheared metal.
In 1989 I went to my first Indy 500 with 10 of my Lehigh buddies. 2 guys flew out on Thursday before race day and rented a huge R.V. and 2 minivans. They secured a spot in a field along the outside of the track which would be our campsite and headquarters for a tremendous guy's weekend of beer swilling buffoonery and serious racing.
The advance team also purchased a Weber Grill, a ping pong table ( for marathon beer pong games..the real kind..not this candy-assed Beruit ball tossing nonense)and chairs, tarps, charcoal, Wiffle Ball gear,about 40 cases of beer, ice, coolers,four 1/2 gallons of bourbon and enough burgers, buns, PB&J and related items to feed a bunch of beer soaked knuckleheads from Friday night thru race day.
The rest of the crew arrived Friday night and with shuttle trips in the minivans to get everyone from the AIRPORT..we were ready for action. Generally, Friday involved a trip to the Speedway, Indiana ballet for some cultural activity involving one dollar bills and morally casual brass pole artistes.One year a few of the Lehigh guys that were kicking ass on Wall Street brought several huge,fresh, bank wrapped stacks of 1000 singles and slapped them down on the bar...it created a feeding frenzy amongst the G-Stringed performance artists in residence and pissed off the local mullet and cut off T-shirt crowd as they received ZERO attention for the balance of the evening.
Saturday featured beer and burgers for breakfast..perhaps the odd funnel cake or turky leg from the Midway vendors. Then we played beer pong and wiffle ball until mid afternoon when we would go to the Indy Museum at the track and after the tour go to the Georgetown Rd. intersection that served as a Commodity market for race day tickets. Once we had secured our tickets it was back to the R.V. for more beer swilling,Bourbon Shots, poker, beer-pong and a bonfire. The party atmosphere in this giant field of race fans was captivating and hilarious. As the poker and beer pong wore down, we would get set for a group stroll down the midway along Georgetown road. Here were the locals cruising, liquored up wenches raising their shirts at the request of nearly every Skoal chomping, Old Milwaukee slurping Corn-Belt half wit on the sidewalk , hucksters selling everything from Indy car coolers to Indy Undies for the ladies in a nifty spark plug shaped carton,the ubiquitous corn dogs and lemonade stands. Beer was toted along in a 40 gallon trash can with ice bungee corded to a Radio Flyer wagon...procured for that purpose by the advance team.
Then Sunday...Race Day!!...a huge progression of nearly 400,000 fans stream into the track for an exciting day of motor sports and more Herculean beer consumption. With the Jet Fly-overs and the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana and the flags and anthems and tributes to our Armed Services...it is and was a truly stirring American event.
After we had enjoyed the race..we returned to the RV, packed up and headed to Indianapolis proper to drop off the rented vehicle and seek showers and civilized comforts in a down-town Hotel. We would all meet up for a bit of fine dining and then watch the race on T.V. when the recorded broadcast was shown that evening. Incidentally, every year we would auction off ,burn, or give away the grill and Ping Pong table and lawn chairs. Somewhere in 2 bedroom ranchers in Speedway, Indiana backyards near the track there are Families cooking on our old Weber and sitting on our chairs telling stories about the crazy drunken College boys who gave them this stuff after the Race.
Monday..off to the Airport to fly home in time for back yard cook-outs and the like.
We did this same routine until 1996 when the CART/IRL split screwed up the race and when the boys started to get married and have kids. The stories are legion and legend and too numerous and tawdry for this post or my typing stamina. There are highlights like when Teddy G. drove a race-team golf cart right off of gasoline alley..out of the track and back to our camp. There was even a cold six pack on board. Or the time Wighty left the boarding line at the Airport and went to the E.R. for treatment of the colossal and debiltating hangover caused by 3 days of drinking...legend has it they hung 4 bags of saline on him before declaring that he was no longer dehydrated. Our lexicon now includes gradations of hangovers such as "a 4 bagger"
Or the time Jimmy H. went missing for a while Saturday night... until he was spotted on the Bed of a 2 story high Monster truck with his shorts at 1/2 mast, a beer in each hand... and loudly inquiring of any girl in the crowd of thousands...whether they would apply certain oral ministrations...the excrement in Derek's hat or Kipper with the under- seat inflatable Mae West style Flotation device from the plane around his neck all weekend...I could go on and on...but these guys now have respectable jobs and kids who may read this....
So...this coming Sunday..Start your engines.