I should have known when we started passing more and more Nascar-stickered pick-ups. Actually, I should have known by the look on Stick’s face when he asked if I was ready to leave for the race. It was similar to the look on mine when asking “Stick, do you want to come to Jersey to pick up my car?” (Oh yeah, my Nascar adventure is a lot funnier if you remember how much I hate cars and driving. Bear in mine that I only got my license a year ago, and my car a week ago. I’d rather walk, bus or fly than drive, and I don’t know a tire from a transmissorator)
When Stick parked the car and we got out, swarms of people surrounded us, some of which were hot guys without their shirts! And some of which were tatooed grandfathers without shirts. Ick. Some groups were loosely connected family units, I felt like a tribal anthropologist, eavesdropping to see who was called “Mom.” And some father/daughter bonding that I realized later were mostly May-December couples.
These people wore American flag shirts, not Abie Hoffmann-style American flag turned into a shirt. I mean t-shirts silk-screened with the stars and stripes and an ubiquitous tie-dyed flag shirt, everywhere I looked I saw our nation’s icon pulling across dozens of sweaty beerbellies. They carried coolers, cushions and sweatshirts with the names of drivers and drivers’ sponsors. And I actually saw someone eating berk jerky!
I was missing a Crusaders game for this, and Stick had just gotten City of Heroes. Crusaders is an Aberrent tabletop game I play with about a dozen friends, we meet up to roll dice and pretend to save the world. CoH is the new MMORPG, so the point is basically the same. Periodically, we would look at each other and say “We could have been playing superheroes right now.” In my head, I was already writing an Abberrent one-shot, Rescue Thetis From The Rednecks. Poor Thetis, my superhero alter-ego, is stuck in a crowd of shirtless, sweaty rednecks, and she has to stay dormed or the rednecks will lynch her…
I was dormed, you know. I’d decided against my beaded sandals and batik skirt, but even in my innocuous-seeming tanktop and jeans, I looked wrong. Too much jewelry, not enough makeup. I felt even more wrong, where do these people come from? I leaned over to Stick, and whispered “I feel like Margeret Mead in Samoa”
“You don’t have to whisper,” he told me “No one here knows who that is,”
Once the cars start moving, whispering is out of the question. So we shouted back and forth with his family, discussing such topics as American Idol, the medical history of most of Agawam, and (my favorite) when Stick and I are going to have kids. I suppose I’m in no position to complain, dinner-table talk in the Stivison house often involves either a Biblical archeology debate or a litany of the stupid things I did as a kid.
Every surface is covered in ads for Budweiser and KFC, Trimspa and Stacker 2. Really good cyberpunk gives me a frightening vision of the future, but as I watch cars slam into the Nextel ads amid cheers and applause, I wonder if it’s entirely fiction.
Did I mention that car races aren’t like horse races? It’s 200 times around the track, not 4 or 5. I kind of like that, no way you can get lost on a circular track. Sometimes the cars get a flat or need gas or, in my extremely technical vocabulary, start making the CHchCHchCHchCHchCHch noise. Then they have to pull over and get fixed.
If a driver does something wrong, I’m a little hazy on exactly what you need to do wrong, maybe it’s passing on the right or something, they get a stop-and-go penalty. That means they have to parallel park. I love this park, to punish professional drivers, the judges make them parallel park.
And each direction I look, I see more and more people in the tie-dyed flag shirt.
“I bet that shirt’s not even made in America.” my union-ist boyfriend Stick hisses. We find where it’s being sold, and check the label. Sure enough, our American-flar t-shirts and made in El Salvador.
“Well, that’s over,” I announced to my household that night, dropping my bag and throwing myself headfirst on the couch.
“The Nascar thingy, or you and Stick?” Eric asked, looking up from his game of Civ3.
“Good question. I think just the race. He’s not going to make me do this again, is he?”
My housemate Grant came in later, asking how I liked the race. He started using secret code words like “stock car” and “closed track” and “America’s fastest growing sport”, so I left. I got in my beater station wagon and drove back to Stick’s.
“Hi, hon. Can we play pretend superheroes now?” So we watched Unbreakable and made Thetis for City of Heroes.