Sunday, May 28, 2017

The 500 and Me

Memorial Weekend Sunday

I live an hour from Indianapolis. That means since as long as I can remember, I’ve listened to the Indy 500 on the radio. When I was young, it was WIBC AM radio. Now it’s a Bluetooth speaker that looks something like a lime green grenade via my cell phone and WIBC online.
We’re currently under caution that followed an extensive red due to a crash featuring Scott Dixon among others.
I’ve just enjoyed some grilled brats, hotdogs, some quac and a delightful Spanish-influenced salad. And I’ve just cracked my third lo-cal longneck.
I’m on the front porch, a cool breeze lingering; Sandra is catering and Alyssa & Slater are inside finally delving into The Godfather. That leaves me alone. With my thoughts. And the 500.
No one gets excited like the radio crew at the Indy 500. They’re yelling. It’s exciting. And also, as anyone knows who’s seen the Greatest Spectacle live, it’s flippin’ loud!
Rossi still in the lead, now to turn four!!
I’m at the 500 but I’m also in the world of 500’s past. I can’t help but think of my parents cranking it up on our hi-fi in the living room on Washington St circa 1972. Even then it was the television era, but not on Memorial Day Sunday. We all dialed it in and listened to the radio much like (I can only imagine) people did before the 1950s ushered in the TV.
And so my mind is in the past now. I don’t remember my parents grilling, seemingly like every Hoosier feels obliged to do during the race. But the soundtrack in our house on that day in the ‘70s was never anything but the race.
Then later, just out of high school, I was never too far away from my friend, Eric Foust and if you were close to Eric, that meant you were close to his incredible parent, Jack & Carmen. Both of them are now passed, but their memories remain.
The race is back under green and those AM radio-sounding DJs are yelling at us through every corner. And if I close my eyes, I’m in Jack & Carmen’s backyard.
Carmen always cooked up a storm (she was the kind of grandma everyone would long for) and Jack would man the grill. Oh, and there was always ample amounts of ice cold cans of domestic beer either in an icy cooler or the garage fridge.
Carmen would be keeping score: Who’s out, who’s leading, what’s happening. And even though I’d never call Carmen a race fan any other weekend of the year, she seemed so sincerely concerned.
Even though they lived in the middle of the city, “THEY GO THREE WIDE INTO THE TURN!!
Even though they lived in the middle of the city, their garage was in essence, a barn. The huge door facing the house, slid open. Some years we stood inside the garage watching the drizzle enjoy food and brew. Other years, we were in hiding from the sun. But the food was always inside under cute little bug screen food covers. And Carmen always delivered.
The best thing about the race at Jack & Carmen’s was that you felt loved just for being there. Carmen & Jack had a way of making you feel so welcomed. They did everything short of thanking you for eating their food and drinking their beer.
I wonder how many 20-somethings would want to have had their own hang-out; they’d want to create their own thing, apart from their parents. But Jack & Carmen’s was always the best picture of two generations doing life together. They loved us and we knew it. We felt it. And we liked it.
What a great word for me know, as I creep up in age. If more than anything, my kids and their friends knew that I loved them. More than my so-called wisdom or experience, these younger people crave my love. Love trumps everything and love paves the way for anything else I could ever hope to pass along.
Simon Pagenaud comes into pit road!
I love the Indy 500 and I suspect I always will, for the backdrop of one’s youth is always sacred. And people like Jack & Carmen and the crew I ran with then, Eric, George & Lisa and so many others, are part of a golden time.
Now back to the race.