Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vacation

   I climbed in the back seat and stretched out. It was sometime around midnight and luckily the Harrys respected that I had a full day at the SPEED studio ahead of me. They offered to let me sleep for the rest of the trek back to Charlotte. Sidenote: This type of consideration from the Harrys is very rare... it's their job to be assholes. 

   As I sat there attempting to sleep I was replaying the days events. I had scooted off to do a one-off race with a KN East team in Columbus, Ohio. Meanwhile my life and work were pedaling away without me in Charlotte. I felt anxious to get home and  protect my spot in the normal world. Amongst the anxiousness, I couldn't deny how good it felt to be exhausted from a heavy 24 hour workload at the race track. It had been over a year since I felt this way and I loved it. Somehow I wanted to be in two places at once.

My irresponsible life as a mechanic with no real plan for the future, had somehow miraculously blossomed into a solid career in the sport I love. I spend every day monitoring all types of racing. I get the luxury of losing myself in the world of motorsports without ever touching one single bolt. I never break a sweat, my hands aren't callused and I get to live a fairly normal life. It's the dream job for a retired road mechanic like myself.  So I sat and wondered.. why did I take my rare vacation time to pile into a van full of Harrys to go bust my ass on a race car? I don't have to do that any more. Life is so much easier now. So why did I go?

Here is what I came up with..

It was 2009, I believe, and we had just finished a long, terrible Nationwide series race at Richmond Speedway. A select "lucky" few of us had been chosen to hop on a small plane and head to Toledo Speedway for a one day ARCA show the next morning. Our team owner referred to us as the "skeleton crew".. I assume this fun title was based on how amazingly chipper and alive we all looked after the race in Richmond.. real nice.. any who. As I sat in what felt like a shopping cart with wings I began to do the math in my head.. I'm shitty at math but I concluded that "this little bird should get us to Toledo in enough time to shower and head to the track. Neat." I was exhausted, we all were. We arrived, pounded some energy drinks and were off and running. It is never up to us as crew members to debate the bogus agendas that we are sometimes handed. Our job is to put our head down and get to work. The trip proved to be worth-while when our driver ran possibly the best short-track race of his career. After a long weekend such as this one.. you are left with a sense of self worth, pride and brother-hood. It's quite rewarding. 

   For me there has never been any other occupation that has given me that same sense of accomplishment. I believe I am good at my current job and I believe I play a big part on my team at SPEED.  However, I don't feel irreplaceable. I don't fool myself into believing that no one else can do what I do. I am very protective of my opportunities at the network and every day I am searching for that one niche' that will maybe make me a key element to the television magic that is made inside this building.

I can say, without a doubt.. on race day, after no sleep, in 100 degree weather, with a car owner screaming in my headset.. I believe no one else is capable of doing what I can do. In that moment, in that situation, I own a small part of this sport. And I believe that is why I found myself in a van heading to Ohio on my weekend off. Every mechanic on pit road pours their heart and life into this business because at some point they sat quietly on pit wall, exhaled the weekend and proudly smirked, knowing that their dedication is the only thing that can not be replaced.

JEGS 150 at Columbus, Ohio. The no.4 finished a respectful 6th. Recap video:


Friday, December 16, 2011

Figure It Out

I felt the chassis rock from side to side with every rotation of the V8 crank shaft as I stared out of the rock guard of my brand new sprint car. The sound of the engine was no longer screaming at high revs with a high pitch sound, it was now a deep throated growl. It was opening day at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania and heat races were about to start. On this day I had roughly 550 more horse power under my right foot than I had ever had in any of my racing experience. A wiring issue had stolen my only opportunity for some hot laps before my first heat race in the damn thing. I looked over my left shoulder to see Dad running back from the line-up board. He sat down on the left rear tire and shouted over the loud engine “You’re starting on the pole”. I didn’t say anything I just looked at him. I am sure that he could see the fear in my eyes. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “you’ll figure it out.” Then as he was getting up to back me out of the pit stall he said something to the effect of “we can drop back if you want” but based on the delivery of such news, I was aware that, that wasn’t really an option. He may as well have said "If you're chicken shit..you can drop back like a little girl." I took a deep breath and they dropped the green by the time I entered turn three my brain was still back at the flag stand. With each lap I tried to mentally catch up, I was way in over my head but I survived and luckily, so did the car.

For the most part, I’m a problem solver. Somehow I just kinda figure shit out. I’d like to say that this is a talent of mine but its not its simply a result of being thrown into some really ridiculous situations and in an effort to not die, get embarrassed or get arrested I always had to get creative and figure it out. The same sort of scenarios, have played out throughout my life. Jumping out of a plane by myself. Crew-Chiefing an ARCA car for Chad McCumbee. Jumping over pit wall to change tires for the first time. Somewhere along the line there was a memo, jotted down on a napkin, that got sent out to reassure all of these assholes that I was capable of anything. At the time, I hated Dad, my old boss, our crew chief… anyone who put me in a state of panic. Somehow I survived all of those things. 90% of the time I failed miserably but I made it through. What I never knew was that I was slowly learning how to be a playmaker or a problem solver. When you are forced to figure things out you suddenly have a road map to every situation that life can throw at you.

Recently I have been facing some brick walls and without question, Dad’s response was “get creative. You’ll figure it out”. Although I find this as a cop-out.. it is the best answer he can ever give me. Dad has never tried to solve any problem for me, he has simply given me the tools to figure them out on my own.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Life Points

As I sat and tried to empty my brain and bask in this nice, over priced buzz that I had going from the Key West airport. I gazed out the tiny window and stared at the airtran.com vinyl lettering on the wing. "That's great advertisement" I thought as I sat and pondered what font it was and what grade vinyl the decal was made out of. You see, I grew up working under my Dads wing in our family owned sign shop. Typically, when I have been drinking I draw on this ridiculously useless knowledge to entertain myself. Before I knew it my mind was running wide open and thinking about signs. Which is a really shitty subject to be mentally wrapped up in.
Anywho, as the plane took off and I looked down at the Key islands get smaller and smaller I pondered how different my life may have been had I never left home. What if I was still painting signs with Dad? What if I didn't walk away from my sprint car team? Would I still be racing? What if I hadn't walked away from a great relationship? Would I be married? Yada Yada "What-if What-if" it was exhausting and unsettling. All of those questions bounced around in my head. When I decided to move to North Carolina it was a hasty and fast decision. In twenty-four hours I walked away from an amazing race team, a boy who worshiped the ground I walked on and my best friends who just so happen to be my Mom and Dad. I never once asked myself those questions on the forefront of this expedition. "Why didn't I ever ask myself 'what if' before I left?"
  The conclusion I came up with was, because I had everything ahead of me. These days I seem to be trapped in my mind, swimming in the memories of the past. Wondering if this is it. If this is the end of the amazing journey I have been on. Quite honestly, I don't feel like it is the end but I have definitely pulled out of the passing lane to do some coasting for a while.
   That day on a north bound plane, in a semi-sober :that's being generous: state I answered a lot of questions for myself. Lets just say that I stayed in Maryland, I believe I would probably be married, still working with my favorite person everyday, Dad, and I would likely still be racing sprint cars. And on this day, as I sit in my back yard next to a fire and write this blog those few things seem to be all that I need to make my life complete :I feel certain the whole marriage thing is a phase, Ill snap out of it just as soon as all of my friends finish their wedding marathon: Annnnywho, had I stayed I would however, have missed out on all of the Life Points I have gathered over the past 8 years. I have had the opportunity to see and do some pretty amazing things. I won't spill on and on about them because frankly I feel like my life has been nothing short of silly and to rehash them all would be bragging and I really hate when people brag,Dont get me wrong.. I LOOOOOVE to brag but I hate when people do it to me so, yea, theres that.
   Tonight I walked into my office in Cornelius, North Carolina. I sat down at my desk and looked around at all of my memorabilia that I have obtained over the past 8 years. I like to consider these to be remnants of Life Points. Life Points to me are moments that mark exact dates in ones life. Monumental moments, events and experiences. Kind of like "The Game of Life" that we played as kids except we aren't cruising around in a little orange plastic car with little blue and pink pegs as family. :try to follow me here:
   Jumping out if a plane. Life Points. Getting paid to wreck a car. Life Points. Testing a car at Daytona. Life Points. Sneaking in a little self bragging in your blog. Life Points. If I had stayed in Maryland I may have the three key essentials that I love the most: Family, Love and Contentment but I would have missed out on so many amazing memories..
   There is an invisible hour glass of sand floating about everyone's head. How much sand is left, no one really knows but I want to continue on not worrying about the 'what ifs' of life but gather up as many life points as possible cause when we go, that is really all we leave behind. Moments and memories.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Current State of Waldo

I reached down and grabbed another sip of my McCafe black coffee. I had been driving for over an hour without even realizing that the radio was off. A music lover like myself, rarely does anything without theme music. In fact my constant bumping of profanity laced hip hop at my cubicle had recently caused a problem at my place of work.. anywho.. I was deep in thought. I was rehashing the events that had transpired in my life for the past eighteen months. It’s been quite a downward spiral from my perspective. This is the part of one’s life that movies are built around. This is what screen play writers call the body of the story, the train wreck, the troubles, the dilemmas. They make for good tv but are a real shit show if you are actually living them.


Lets recap (and for time sake we will just touch the surface here).. Another year wasted on a failed relationship, a near fatal car accident, a completely stagnant career, getting robbed, and the most painfully recent event; the sudden loss of my best friend, a two year old pup named Watson.


I often dabble through the circumstances and trials of my life and find some silly metaphor that makes even the worst case scenario seem hopelessly inspirational and some-what tolerable. On this day I was struggling on all counts. I was not only feeling extreme sorrow for myself I also felt estranged from the person I used to be.


As I looked down at my cell phone it lit up with what may have been the toughest blow yet. "Do yourself a favor and leave this town before it kills you." As I read those words my eyes filled up with tears. I pulled over into an empty parking lot across from Appalachian State. I was in this moment as fragile as I believe myself to have ever been. I felt as though the very last piece of silly inspiration and determination had been swiftly kicked out from under me. My will and determination that I transform into an iron clad bridge of steal for the world to perceive was suddenly exposed for what it truly was a shaky, rotten balance beam of high hopes. I cried and gasped for air quite historically. I was putting on quite a show inside my little black Corolla. I laid my head on the steering wheel and considered all of my options, quit, leave, cuss the person who just crushed me, call Dad, or just wipe my face and carry on to Bristol. I looked at my face in the rear view mirror and shook my head at the babbling mess I had quickly become.


Per the usual AP, I wiped my face and carried on to Bristol. I had no real answer to anything other than for the first time in my life I felt like Waldo minus the awesome scarf. Just plain lost. Lost.. not geographically, I knew how to get to Bristol, but metaphorically, I felt lost. I’ve always known where I was going with my career, my love life, my sanity.. knowing or at least pretending to know all those things gave me confidence. In the recent months I find myself going to bed with a great big question mark on my mind and in my heart. No real answer to anything. Even I don’t know where I am or what I am doing with myself most days. I’m over here, bumblefucking around on the daily, just going through the motions of life. I even credit my recent insomnia to this bumblefucking. One of my mentors is aware of my current state of Waldo and he has encouraged me to continue to blog. So, here it is.. a blog with no real ending to it. Other than the creation of a very new, fun, word: “bumblefucking.*”


But rest easy, I am trying to feel inspired and dig myself out of this horrible funk of misfortune, that I have found myself in. Contrary to some nay-sayers, this town is not killing me. Its teaching me a big life lesson and once I know what that is, blogging and not sucking at life will be much easier.

“To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.”


― Bill Watterson





*this term is now liscenced by Ashley Parlett and may only be used with written permission

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Curse Of Entitlement

The door swung open to my little pick-up truck, quickly I snatched my ‘Whatchamacallit”  candy bar from the cup holder and my change of clothes from the passenger seat. I was running late. I’d hustle to the door of a small shed out back of a little white cottage style home. Then I could hear it :whaaaaaaaammmmmaaaaahhhhhhhhhh waaaaahhhhhhmmmaaahhhhhh: an engine would be screaming from the dyno in the back , the sweet sharp smell of methanol would fill my nose, I loved it.  Penelope, would greet me with her smelly coat, matted ears and glazed eyes. I tapped on the not so sound-proof glass.. “You’re late” he mouthed to me. I nodded my head and quickly scooted off to change out of my school clothes.
This was the nightly sight of my apprenticeship at Wes Hastings Racing Engines. Dad and I had come to see Wes months ago at this point and had asked him to build me an engine for my micro sprint. Wes, not a fan of female race car drivers, mumbled on and on about his work load and barked at Dad “Why did you ever tell her she could drive race cars? She should be cheerleading or bowling.” I always liked comments like that. I knew better than anyone how ludicrous it was that someone was letting me drive race cars. I always felt like I was getting something over on someone. I understood. I got it. I was stoked.
We were well into the racing season and Wes’ engines at this time were the best around. Dad was reluctant to buy an engine from anywhere else so we were making weekly visits to WHR in an effort to convince him to squeeze just one more stroker engine into his already busy schedule. At the age of sixteen I was very confident especially when I had Dad standing next to me. Most of the time, Dad was cleaning up the mess I would make from my “lack of a filter” communication skills. :its okay. I got it from him: As Dad and I sat and waited for Wes to pay us just an ounce of time I blurted out, ”if you are so busy, why don’t I build it? You just tell me what to do.” Wes turned his back to us and grumbled something as he walked away. I took that as an ok. To this day, I am certain it was definitely not an ok. The next day I drove straight to his shop right after school. I bounced in the door and said “ok I’m ready.”
That summer I learned to run a lathe, check bore clearances, change floats in carburetors..everything and anything that I could learn about a 2 stroke engine, I learned that summer. Wes was tough as nails and angry at the world. I had a huge respect for him and his knowledge. All I wanted to do was learn. He eventually warmed up to me and was easily the best mentor I have ever had. Finally at the end of the summer he let me build my own WHR (and AP) engine to take racing the following summer. I won my first race with that engine.
Recently, I feel like I am surrounded by the Wes Hastings of the world all over again. Silently waving my arms in the air and screaming “I belong here. I am good at what I do. Let me do it.” And perhaps…perhaps that is what is wrong. Instead of going in and putting my head down and respecting my place in the sport. I keep waiting for the credit that I somehow now, twelve years later, feel that I have earned. I have developed this sense of entitlement. I have forgotten how lucky I was to be given a shot, given an opportunity, given the chance to “fly below the radar” and do something outstanding. Perhaps, all of this starting going wrong when I stopped feeling lucky and started feeling entitled.

"Never forget your beginner's spirit"
-Lance Armstrong

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Visual Inspirations..via tumblr

Much like my Twitter account... you can find all things I enjoy on this Tumblr account. I will continue to write my blog at this location on Blogger tho :)

http://greaseormascara.tumblr.com/

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Loving Memory Of My Dear Watson

Look not where I was
For I am not there
My spirit is free
I am everywhere
In the air that you breathe
In the sounds that you hear
Don't cry for me Mom
My spirit is near


I'll watch for you
From the other side
I'll be the one running
New friends by my side

Smile at my memory
Remember in your heart
This isn't the end
It's a brand new start

Watson 9/24/09 - 7/19/2011