Monday, June 23, 2008

How Racing Changed My Life

As you probably noticed in my last post, damn near everything reminds me of racing and what I lost this year. Even if it's just that there is no racing on certain weekends when there had been for the past 12 years.

I had a rough time this weekend, because I should have been in Cleveland with a whole bunch of my racing friends. We would have gone out to eat on Thursday as a group, catching up on everything since we last got together and discussing the racing and how the season was going. Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be been spent at Burke Lakefront Airport from gates opening until after 6:00. My sunscreen always got a workout at Cleveland, which is why I ignore those reports that say SPF 30 is as high as you need. I get burned when I use SPF 30, but not when I use SPF 55. That's all the proof I need.

Friday would have been excellent because it's less crowded and that was the day we'd head into the paddock and the pits, after first visiting our friend Rick in the merchandise trailer and trading hugs and hellos and howareyous. I would have stalked Oriol until I got his autograph on some new item, as well as my Catalan flag. If it were last year and Katherine were still around (she's in DTM this year – go Katherine), we would have found her and her cute little dog and petted the dog and chatted with her about how things were going. We'd run into various people we run into at every race, hug, exchange pleasantries and then chat about this, that and the other – all technical racing terms.

Then we'd take our annual trip through the pits and watch qualifying from the pits, even though you couldn't see shit in them and would spend half the session in front of a team's big screen TV which showed drivers' times and speeds.

Saturday would have been a bit busier and while we would have gone to visit Rick (and spend more money on Champ Car gear), we wouldn't have gone into the pits. Depending on everybody's moods and the temperature, we might go into the paddock.

Sundays, however, were never paddock days (except for Mom, Roadrunner and me, as we'd run through the paddock after morning warm-up to get to Mass). Sundays were usually too stupid busy in the paddock and the pits, so we'd stay in our grandstand and hang with our friends for one last day until the next race, whichever and wherever that may have been.

2001 at Cleveland was slightly different for me, though. Friday at the fan forum I answered the question "Who won last year's race and for which team did he race?" correctly. My hand wasn't the first in the air, but the person's who was didn't know the answer, he just figured it was probably Juan Pablo Montoya as it seemed he had won every race that year. As soon as I heard his answer, my hand shot into the air and Scott Pruett picked me. I answered correctly, "Roberto Moreno driving for Pat Patrick." I wanted to say "My Pupo!" but decided not to do that. ;-) Anyway, I won the chance to be a "CART Fanatic" which I already was, really, but this meant that I got to be teamed with a driver (in Detroit that year, the Fanatics actually got to ride in the parade car with their driver, but they cheated the Cleveland Fanatics). The people running the forum handed me a bag and a kid who answered the other question another bag. My bag contained stuff for Paul Tracy, his had Alex (Sandro) Zanardi. (Do yourself a favor and watch those two clips of Alex on the Letterman show, it shows what an absolutely great guy he is, and just one reason why I loved CART/Champ Car, because most of the drivers were that unbelievable.) Now, if you know me in my racing form you know that I hate Paul Tracy and that I've called him PFT since the 1992 season. The other kid, on the other hand, was a huge PFT fan, so we traded bags.

As a CART Fanatic I got a t-shirt that declared me as such (I still wear it to this day), a lanyard of some sort, and I don't remember what else, but the big thing was that before the race, during the drivers announcements that I got to do what I called the "geek walk," which was walk across the podium stage with my driver. I was disappointed there was no driver parade which would have kicked butt, but Sandro was lovely. As they announced his name, I waited for him to mount the steps to the podium, but he was too much a gentleman, and insisted I go first. I was thinking, there's no way those people want to see me, they want to see Sandro!!! So, when I got to the top of the steps, I waited for him and let him walk across first. My mom has pictures and I'm pretty sure I look extremely embarrassed. As we walked off the stage, he said to me, "Well, that's it, short and sweet." He was talking about the driver introduction portion. After that, I got to go out on to the grid and stand by his car while he got into it and the usual pre-race stuff was done. When the PA guy announced that all unauthorized personnel had to leave the grid that did NOT mean me! Woohoo! I got to stand next to the car while the call was made "Gentlemen, start your engines." I think I was a little too worried about getting off the grid in time to appreciate being there and feeling the rumbling of the engines go through my body as 20 turbo-charged engines started at the same time. I'm pretty sure there were tears. I was able to get Sandro's autograph on my friend Patty's hat. She's a HUGE fan of his and while I loved him, he was HER driver and I was more than happy to get it for her.

Three short months later we almost lost Alex Zanardi in a horrific accident where he lost his legs. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend clicking on that link. I don't use "horrific" lightly. I would recommend clicking on this one however, where he finishes the 13 laps from the year when he lost his legs. I cry every time I see that video. The first two minutes are a little cheesy, musically, but it's worth watching because there is just something special about watching everybody in pit lane run to the pit wall when he drove past the first time...and then the picture of the crowd cheering for him. The cheesy music pops up again at 4:20 or so, but again the video is worth it - just hit the mute, unlike you enjoy Sheena Easton.

As summer continues and weekends that would normally see me leaving the state come around I'll probably be thinking more about this...and telling you what I'm missing. So be prepared. ;-)

Thanks for listening this time.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red Wings Parade & Niece's Graduation

Greetings and salutations, all! I have had so much going on and so much to write about, but no time to write and now I have no clue what to tell you. If I include everything done over the past two weeks, this entry would be a novel. And a not very interesting one.

I think in my last post the Red Wings were on the brink of winning their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years. LL was rooting for the Pens (bastard), while I was obviously rooting for the Wings. The Wings came through in Game 6 (whew!) and I took that Friday off from work to attend the parade in downtown Detroit. I had missed the Cup parades in '97 and '98 because I was living in SF. I remember calling my friend Debbie in '97 who had my old job at the U and asking her if she was planning on attending the parade. She wasn't sure. I told her she should go, because if I were still living there, I would be going to the parade and she wouldn't be able to – as we worked in the same office and one of us would have had to be there and since I was the boss, I would have pulled rank.

I wanted to go in 2002 but couldn't find anybody with whom to go. This year, however, it worked out perfectly. The Game 5 triple overtime loss was actually advantageous for the YS and LB, as the YS doesn't work Fridays and the LB was flying in from SJ late Thursday night (early Friday morning). I went into work on Thursday, June 5 and told my boss I was taking the next day off. "Going to the parade?" "Yup."

Friday morning, the YS and LB show up at my place and we transfer their crap into my car (it was hard getting ready for the parade because I was doing all the things I normally do to prepare for a hot day at the race track). Parade day was forecasted to be HOT and HUMID – 90F with an insane stupid humidity of 70% or something ridiculous like that. It was bloody hot. Actually, the YS and LB showed up with an extra person which meant I had to move my crap out of the back seat of my cute little Focus and into the trunk – coolers, spray bottle with battery run fan filled with ice and water, knitting bag (hey, we were heading down early and I had a tank top to finish for the niece's graduation present – no need to waste precious time), sunscreen. YS had the water, I had the soft-sided portable coolers.

I always have to drive downtown because the YS got her truck broken into once (parked on the street – I always pay to park in downtown Detroit). I told her that I'm going to get a new car just so I don't have to drive all the time. She just laughed.

We decided to go to Hart Plaza and stake out a spot for the rally which would take place there after the parade. It turned out that that was probably not the best decision, but only because the rally was not as long as the one in 2002. I swear EVERYBODY on the team got a chance to speak to the crowd in 2002 (I taped it), but this year only a few players spoke (Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios & Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper & Chris Osgood, Darren McCarty, Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Hudler). It was a little disappointing. In hindsight, I think I would have snagged a good place on the curb along Woodward and had a chance to see everybody as they want by. We were far enough back (yeah, there are pictures, but you know how good I am at downloading them) from the rally stage, that there was no way anybody would have heard me if I had yelled.

I developed a habit at the races that during the driver parade I would yell for every single driver as he (or she – love and miss you, Katherine) would go by. I hated that drivers like Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti (back in the day when he wasn't a complete loser-traitor) would get massive cheers and hollering, while other drivers were barely acknowledged. I always hollered for the drivers, but when it became de rigueur was after Toronto 1996. I'm not normally very loud, but that's the first race where I remember the drivers actually hearing me, because after I would yell their name, they would look up into the stands, and I always sit as high up as possible (well, except Toronto, because the top 3 rows in my grandstand were blocked by one of the Exhibition Place buildings, so as high as I would go there was Row 4 – road courses are counted from the top down).

Two weeks earlier I had met Jeff Krosnoff in the paddock at the Cleveland race. I was nervous and didn't know what to say after asking for his autograph on my racing shirt, but he asked me how I was doing and if I were having fun, etc. He was so nice that I rooted for him that race (even though in the POS Toyota he didn't have a chance in hell of doing anything but finishing) and so as he went by my Toronto grandstand I yelled extra loudly for him and he turned and looked up and waved. Two hours later Jeff was dead in an absolutely hideous accident I will never ever forget. That night at dinner my friend Ottawa tried to comfort me by saying how I had probably made Jeff's day knowing he had a fan in the stands (he was new to the series as he had come up the ranks in Japan, and had therefore only run 11 races (including Toronto). Back then we had a fair number of drivers, which meant it could take some longer to make their way into our hearts (unlike the past few years), so Jeff didn't have a lot of people cheering for him in Toronto. Ever since then I made it my duty to cheer for and welcome every single driver in my own loud and annoying (to the people sitting in front of me) way. And I didn't give a damn if the people in front of me didn't like it, because I simply thought of Jeff and realised it was more important to show my support for every driver, even the 'king Hiro - who, for all his faults, was exceptional at getting out of the way – for the most part. While Hiro might not have been a great driver, he was rarely a "moving chicane" (Hi Dennis Vitolo).

Anyway, all that was to tell you that the next time the Wings win the Stanley Cup I'm going to watch the parade and yell for every single player and then force my way into Hart Plaza like all the parade-watchers did that Friday.

That Friday was exhausting and very busy. After the rally, we went and got food at Cheli's Chili Bar and then we all raced home because we had to be at the Niece's graduation commencement exercise at 6:00. And we all had to shower away the nastiness of 90F, humidity, and sunscreen. And you'dt hink that after a high school graduation of nearly 500 kids, the day would have been over, but you'd be wrong. Since the LB was in town, HRH drove down from Toronto and the plan was to meet her over in Windsor that night. It was probably close to 11:00 p.m. when we (Mom, YS, LB and I) got across the border and found our way to the Windsor Casino, which means it was around 2:30/3:00 a.m. when I got home and to bed.

I would have slept in except that HRH was coming across the river that day for the party the LB's friends were having for him, and was going to crash at my place. This means I had to clean (hide yarn in the closet, vacuum, etc.). I was also getting my hair cut (Whew, it was LONG) at 12:30, so that took time out of the day which could have been used on the apt., but in the end, it was all good.

HRH showed up, we watched F1 qualifying from Montreal, the Euro Cup game between Portugal and Turkey and then headed to the far western suburbs to meet Mom and YS for sushi. YUM! I ate WAY too much. The original plan was for HRH to spend the night and then attend the Niece's graduation party on Sunday, so that she could meet Grandma. We've been friends for 13 years and while she's met a few members of my family, she hadn't met Grandma. As has been the case for the past few trips we've taken, however, someone died (her high school best friend's father) and she hadn't to fly back (not actually, but the way she drives…) to TO then next day to get to the funeral home. This means that instead of heading straight to the party, we had to make a side trip to my Uncle's house, as that's where Grandma was (she rarely turns down dinner invitations, especially when my Uncle's cooking).

So, while HRH got to meet Grandma, various cousins, and an extra aunt, we almost missed my older brother, SIL and the Terror Children who were leaving the party as we arrived.

We take a break from the regularly scheduled program with the following public service announcement.

WOOHOO!!!! My Igor will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!

Okay, I'm bored telling you about stuff that happened two weekends ago. I can't imagine how bored you are reading about it, so I'm not going to tell you all about the graduation party and how bloody hot and humid it was and how I needed a shower after helping my sister set up in my party dress. It was pretty, oh so, pretty. Nothing quite like sweat dripping off your nose.

Why can I think all of sorts of stuff to blog about until I sit at the computer and then it all disappears? I need to learn to write stuff down. I always think I'm going to remember it, but never ever do.

I want this car.

I'm *this* close to having my niece's tank top finished, but now I'm thinking that I need to rip it back to where the shaping for armholes start and make it longer. I don't know this for a fact or anything, because I haven't measured it, but that's what I think. You would, of course, think that I would have gotten it out of its bag and measured it last night, but I just didn't feel like "frogging" it last night, so I ignored its existence. (I have absolutely no idea why ripping out your knitting is called "frogging," but it is…normally, I refuse to use that term as I think it's stupid, but as I already had used "rip" I was trying not to use it again. Oh wait, I think it's called "frogging" because when you say "rip it," it supposedly sounds like "ribit." I knew there was a reason I refused to use it.)

Work is quite stressful these days as for the fourth year in a row (and sometimes multiple times in a year), we're having workforce cuts/layoffs. At some point, you have to figure your luck is running out and this time it might just be you that's cut. I'm ready to throw up thinking about it. Oy vey. Please keep your fingers crossed, pray, light candles, etc. that I make it through once again. Moving home with my mother is so not an option if I want to remain sane, and not kill her.

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My Igor and the HHoF

WOOHOO!!!! My Igor will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

May's Books & Movies

First things, first: Let's go, Red Wings! Let's go, Red Wings! Let's go, Red Wings! Let's go, Red Wings!!

I will not even comment on how much Sid the Kid is disgusting me with his whiny-ass attitude and poor loserness to say nothing of his incredibly lame-ass play-off beard. If you can't grow one, SHAVE!!! You look stupid.

Now, on to our previously scheduled programming:

It's the beginning of a new month and we all know what that means. I bore you with my reading and movie watching lists for the previous month.

I did a LOT better in May than I had in April (which was beyond pathetic).


Paper Lion by George Plimpton – 374 pages – this was the 40th anniversary edition with photographs never before seen. I couldn't care less or know less about football, but this book was quite enjoyable. When he would describe plays that he had to learn, my eyes would glaze over, but thankfully, they were rare, indeed. I'm sure I appreciate this book more because it was about the Detroit Lions, as opposed to any other team, but I think it's a book worthy of being read. I wanted to watch the movie, but it's not out on DVD yet. DAMMIT!!!

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs – 368 pages – I was absolutely loving this book and already predicting its nomination as Book of the Month, but then (HUGE SPOILER ALERT) the main character died and it pissed me off so badly, it wasn't even funny. A woman in my own knitting club also read it and at our monthly get together two weeks ago she mentioned it and how much she hated it (it was particularly bad for her because her mother had just died). Honestly, it could have been writing by Danielle Steele, the ending sucked so much.

You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation by Deborah Tannen – 248 pages – Darn near every woman who stopped by my desk while I was reading this book picked it up and read the jacket and expressed interest in reading it. Obviously, it struck a chord with them. I don't know how helpful it was for me, because darn near all the examples in the book didn't apply to me or my mother. Figures that I have to be different even in that regard. My mother never says "You're wearing that?" Although she hates my haircut, she's learned not to say anything. And she's never ever ever ever said anything like "When are you going to get married?" So, while my mother might drive me crazy in some respects, she knows where NOT to go.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – 336 pages – I had read this before, but with the movie out on DVD and a copy from Netflix being in my house, I wanted to read it again, so I can be appropriately ticked off when they change the story to suit some BS reason. I still liked it even after a second read. You'll notice that the movie didn't get watched, but it wasn't from lack of trying. The DVD that I got from Netflix was unplayable, but I have to say I saw enough to know that I'm going to be highly annoyed when I do finally watched it.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – 203 pages – That link takes you to the original Outside magazine article on which Krakauer based the book. Even though I have read other books by Jon Krakauer, I had never read his first. I picked it up sometime last year and finally got around to it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I think I might be adding it to my queue soon. I felt sorry for Chris/Alex, the young man about whom the article and book are written. At the same time, I was very much impressed at all he did in the short time he tramped around the continent. I know that do not have the wherewithal to survive in the circumstances he created for himself. And I don't just mean his final trip to Alaska, but all of it. I feel very sorry for his family who had to suffer with not knowing where he was for those 2-3 years of his tramping, but also not knowing why he was so angry with them that he would take off and not tell them where he was. A very sad book.

No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts with new postscript from the author – 356 pages – A good dozen years ago I got into reading mountain climbing books, including Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. In that book, Krakauer talked a bit about Ed Viesturs and all he had done (along with his team) to help the survivors of the '96 Everest tragedy. In all the other books I've read, nobody has ever had anything bad to say about Ed Viesturs, so when I saw he had finally written his own book about being the first American to climb all fourteen 8000 meter mountains without supplemental oxygen (and only the sixth person in the world to do it), I had to get it. Ed Viesturs is a man whose hand I would like to shake. He seems like one of the truly good people in this world. His mantra is "Getting to the top is optional (or great or something like that), getting down is mandatory." He talks about the friends he has lost in the mountains over the years, including the two guides on Everest in '96, which made me tear up all over again. So sad. (if you're going to say something negative about how they do it to themselves and how it's not necessary to climb mountains, or some such BS, I don't want to hear it – just for the record – do it at your own blog.)


5/5 – Ocean's Thirteen (K) – What can I say? I like the Ocean's movies – all three of them. I think they're fun and smart.

5/11 - The Sandlot - 1993 – We watched this at my sister's house on Mother's Day (in an effort to get my brother-in-law's nephew to shut up about his video game – if I could remember the name of the game, I could tell you all about to beat it, because this kid talked for HOURS about it). The YS and I were the only ones in the house (except for Mom and Grandma, who don't really count because they never see movies) who had never seen this movie. Everybody would walk into the room and say, "Oh you're watching The Sandlot." It was pretty darn funny. I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. I could see at one point where the plot was going to go and I dreaded it, but in the end I quite enjoyed the movie.

5/18 - Waitress (N) – 2007 – I rented this because of my Nathan Fillion obsession. The YS watched it a month or so before me and didn't know who Nathan Fillion was (sad, so sad) and asked me "Is the bad husband?" so I was all worried that he played someone icky and that would have made me sad. Thankfully, he didn't play the icky husband. Whew! I have to say that I loved this movie. I even watched it a second time right away with the commentary. It's a sad movie, not in plot, but in knowing that the director who also wrote it and acted in it was murdered shortly after it was finished and before it appeared at Sundance, and that the little girl at the end with Keri Russell was the director's actual daughter. It makes me sad thinking about it.

5/26 - Because of Winn-Dixie - 2005 – My boss lent me this book a good 3 years or so ago, and I quite enjoyed it, so when I saw the movie was showing on TV, I DVRd it. I should learn from this, because I didn't re-read the book and I quite liked the movie, even though I'm pretty sure there were things in the movie that weren't in the book. I thought Jeff Daniels was perfect as the preacher father and the little girl who played Opal was amazing. I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to people who have children.

5/26 & 27 - Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman (Sundance) – 2007 – My DVR only captured Chapters 1-3 & 6 of this mini-series and it bummed me out a little bit. I'm not quite sure what I think of this show. It's not really a movie, per se, but a female director basically films herself talking to her girlfriends, about her relationships, etc. I found it quite interesting, as the director is a single woman about my own age, but, perhaps, it's the difference of living in Detroit vs. New York, or maybe it's just the differences between the two of us, but her life is vastly different from mine, and I don't mean in general terms, but more in how we view relationships with the opposite sex, etc. I had a little trouble relating to her, but that could be my Catholic upbringing… ;-)

5/28 - Garbage Warrior (Sundance) – 2007 – The Garbage Warrior is an architect who has used garbage to build houses in the deserts of Santa Fe, NM. The houses are self-sustaining – no electrical or water hook-up – and made from bottles (plastic and glass) or tires, etc. It was utterly fascinating, especially watching him fight the New Mexico legislature trying to get laws passed that encourages people to be creative and try new things (after losing his architect's license). The film showed him in the Andaman islands after the 2004 tsunami where he was asked to build houses that can withstand another earthquake/tsunami. The whole villages turns out to help and are thrilled with what he shows them (the children of the village collected plastic bottles to be used as construction material and were paid a few rupees per bottle). After the Andaman islands, he's next shown in Mexico after Hurrican Rita where he discusses how countries ravaged by natural disasters are more willing to learn new ways to do things. After these events, the NM legislature finally sees the benefits of his bill and gives the green light for his experimental area. I would definitely recommend this movie, especially for those people who like the whole idea of living "off the grid" or new ways to put garbage to a good use.

Book of the Month has to be No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts. It was a toss-up between this book and Paper Lion, but while Paper Lion didn't make me want to read more books about football, No Shortcuts has me going through my bookshelves picking out the mountain climbing/adventure books I haven't read yet.

Movie of the Month is Waitress - and not just because it had Nathan Fillion in it. ;-)

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