The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Beltane                                                                                        Cancer Moon

Start of the first Indy in 1911

Today is the Indy 500. The 103rd. A long time. I’ve written here before about this race. Growing up in Indiana there are two sporting events that create a life-long spot in the heart, the Indy 500 and basketball, especially high school basketball. At the beginning of May the Indianapolis Star would start running articles about the racers, the crews, their preparations. The build up would peak pre-race on qualification day.

On race day those who didn’t get tickets would gather around their radios to listen. If you chose to go to the race, you already knew about the horrific traffic jams ahead of your trip to Speedway.

Speedway is a western suburb of Indianapolis which, according to Mapquest: “The town of Speedway was developed as a city of the future. Meant to be a testing ground much like the famed race track which is its namesake, Speedway was designed to be a city that was hospitable to the car. In a time when Indianapolis streets were often narrow orange brick thoroughfares… the town had homes with garages for cars.”

Borg-Warner Trophy

On the F1 circuit, the winner stands on a podium with the second and third place drivers, opens a bottle of champagne and sprays his fellow drivers and the crowd gathered around. It’s a media event. At the end of the 500 the winning driver is alone in pit row, like a thoroughbred at the end of the Kentucky Derby, which runs not far away in Louisville, Kentucky. Also like the Derby the 500 winner gets a floral sash.

This Indiana dairy farmer will present today’s winner with an ice-cold bottle of milk

The 500 is a race with agricultural roots, a car race held about as far south from Detroit as it is north of the Derby. A blend. Nothing shows that more than the winner posing with the huge Borg-Warner Trophy and chugging down, not champagne, but a quart of milk. From a glass bottle.

In 1965, the same month I graduated from high school only sixty miles from the speedway, Jim Clark and his Lotus changed the look and feel of the race forever. Jack Brabham brought the rear-engine European designs from F1 to Indy in 1961. 5 years later Jim Clark won in his Lotus-Ford. After that rear engine cars dominated the race. And still do.



Over the weekend

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, Lucas

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, haroset, Lucas

 

Coors Field

Coors Field

 

Birthday boy and family

Birthday boy and family

 

Swing, batter

Swing, batter

 

My Age

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

20190421_130639Earth day. Gabe turns 11. At the baseball game I asked Gabe what would change when he turned 11. “My age,” he replied. He’s that kinda kid.

Four signs of spring in three days. Pesach. Easter. A baseball game. Earth day. April is grandchild birthday month for us. Ruth, a sophisticated 13, loves Domo, the Japanese restaurant. Gabe, 11, said, yes, I’d like that, to my baseball game idea. Gabe, Ruth, Jon, and I saw the Rockies, cellar dwellers, beat the division leading Phillies 4 to 1.

It was a day game, started at 1:10. Had to leave here, in the snow, at 11:45. It was 41 on Shadow Mountain, when I got into Denver it was 67 and rainy. Even with the weather delay the game didn’t run too long with the Rockies stopping the Phillies in the top of the ninth. It got cooler and windier as the game progressed. Gabe, true to his Norwegian DNA, wore shorts and a t-shirt. I had on a fleece, a flannel overshirt, a scarf, and a hat. Even though I could see the goose bumps on his arms and legs, he only asked for a coat a couple of times. Late in the game he even got ice cream in a small blue baseball hat. Geez.

The Aurora Olsons

The Aurora Olsons

When Joe was six, I started taking him to see the Minnesota Twins in the now deflated and unmissed Metrodome. We got partial season tickets, probably saw 20 games. It was, however, 1987 and those same Twins went on that season to win the World Series. Joe’s been a baseball fan ever since. Me, not so much. Fishing and baseball I did as a father with a son.

The game yesterday was fun, in spite of the chilly weather. The Rockies had lots of offense, twice leaving the bases loaded when an inning ended. Two three-hundred million dollar players, Arenado for the Rockies and Bryce Harper for the Phillies, were on the field. Arenado looked good, Harper not so much, but it’s a long season.

 

 

The Ides of April

Spring                                                                           Rushing Waters Moon

Whoa. Tiger Woods won the Open. After 11 years of shame, rehab, shambling along. A victory for aging. For never letting go of the dream. For living into the present and the future, not being bridled by the past. I’m glad, for all of us.

tax_dayTax day. Still puzzled by the acrimony taxes create. Taxes express our solidarity as citizens of this nation. They do the work of road building, of feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, of war fighting, of space exploration, of consumer and environmental protection. Or, at least they do under reasonable, non-tyranny leaning Presidents. I’m happy to pay them, federal and state and property. Always have been.

Do I always agree with the use to which my tax dollars are put? Of course not. I understand the nature of politics. It’s about compromise, about negotiating the differences we have. Politics define how we live together as a people, at least in the public sphere.

No taxation without representation. That was the Boston Tea Party demand of King George. Its corollary is that when you have representation the taxes are legitimate, whether you agree with their aims or not. If not, change your representation.

There’s an article in this morning’s NYT titled, “Is America Becoming an Oligarchy?” I wrote a comment, “Whaddya mean, becoming?” That is, of course, the trouble with our government and with the notion of representation. I know that. It doesn’t make no taxation without representation inapplicable, rather it defines the struggle ahead.

Further down the page was an article titled “Want to Escape Global Warming?” It features Duluth as a climate-change proof city. Which, I imagine, makes Canada look pretty good, too. With decent forest management Conifer could be such a place, as well. Duluth’s a great town, situated between the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota, sitting on the largest body of fresh water in the world save Lake Baikal in Siberia. Kate and I considered moving there when she left Metro Peds.

A menu from a 1999 visit

Menu from a 1999 visit

60 today here in Conifer. Snow later in the week. Colorado.

And, my appointment with Anna Willis. I have some anxiety though my rational side says it’ll be fine. At least I’ll get a professional opinion about my rising PSA. What’s life in the third phase without a little medical frisson every once in a while?

Friend Tom Crane and Roxann have returned to Minnesota after several days on Maui. To snow and cold. Of course. They stayed at the condo near Duke’s restaurant on Kaanapli beach while the grandkids and their parents were with them and moved to Mama’s Fish House Inn after.

Mama’s has been a favorite spot of Kate and mine’s since our first trips to Hawai’i. Celebrated several birthdays there. Mine, since Kate’s CME’s often fell in February, a great time to be someplace else other than Minnesota.

 

 

Snow. Soup. Go.

Imbolc                                                                            Recovery Moon

20190314_050257

Steps up to the loft this morning

Wow. Bombogenesis! As the weather guys said, “We achieved bombogenesis.” I think they may be a bit too close to this whole thing. Anyhow this storm socked us in. 18 inches or so. Wet snow. Heavy. In fact the power lines sag under its weight and as a result the snowplows can’t work the mountain roads. Black Mountain Drive, usually cleared many times during a big storm saw no plows, no scraping along the asphalt. Nothing. Just snow and the very occasional pickup truck. Even our plow guy had trouble moving around so he could clear driveways. I told him it was ok if he came this morning. We weren’t going anywhere yesterday.

It puzzles me how snow discombobulates Coloradans. Sagging powerlines that might electrocute a driver or take out power to a whole neighborhood are one thing, but our pulmonologist’s office called last night late and said the practice was closing today due to inclement weather. They are in Littleton which got, as near as I can tell right now, about 8″.

Snow totals aren’t the whole story. The winds created blizzard conditions. We couldn’t see Eduardo and Holly’s house just across Black Mountain Drive. Drifts. Snow slides. Avalanches. These last not so much around here, but further into the Rockies. We’ve had over 2,000 avalanches this year, several deaths.

In terms of degrees below zero and general misery Colorado winters are wimpy compared to Minnesota, especially this Minnesota winter. Throw in the mountains however and the difficulties multiply quickly.

Two favorite tools

Two favorite tools

It was a perfect day to make soup. My entry for the CBE CNS competition is in the frig, flavors blending. The competition is on St. Patrick’s Day. I have to be there at 3:30 with my soup and my instant pot. Plus a ladle. Wish me luck.

We need Sgt. Preston of they Yukon. Remember him? He delivered medicine to the Eskimos by dog sled. Well, Kate’s on her last bag of tpn nutrition. The delivery was due yesterday. Didn’t make it. They have until 4 pm today or Kate’s gonna have to start eating her meals rather than having them pumped in.

While making the soup, I watched several episodes of Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It was a recap of the 2018 season, timed appropriately since the 2019 season begins, as Formula 1 always does, in Australia. This weekend is the first race of 21. I’ve been a fan, off and on, since I was young. Getting back into it over the last couple of years.

This a sport that requires millions, for the big teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Each team has hundreds, in the larger cases, thousands, of employees. Yet the total number of seats, literally seats in F1 cars, is only 20. Each team has two drivers. Ten teams. That means the competition is intense at all levels and the stakes in each of the 21 races high.

F1I suppose it was growing up in Indiana. We supplied many things to Detroit, lights, batteries, and alternators in the instance of Guide Lamp and Delco near Alexandria. These two factories alone employed 25,000 when I was growing up and most of my friend’s fathers worked at one or the other. Then every May, the greatest spectacle in racing: The Indianapolis 500. Cars and racing were prominent.

My subscriptions to Road and Track and Sports Car Magazine have long lapsed, but during middle school and high school I followed motor sports closely. Yes, as you can tell, my interests lay somewhat askew of the Indy 500, leaning more toward European cars and races. F1 is my interest now.

Looking forward to the Australian Grand Prix.

 

 

Meteors, Around the World Solo, 430,000 mph!

Lughnasa                                                                   Monsoon Moon

While the Golden Globe sailors round Africa, (see below), the night sky for the next three nights will give each sailor a spectacular show, the Perseid meteor showers. The moonless sky will be optimal for viewing this annual event.

perseid-meteors-2018-radiant--e1533672930772
Meteors in the annual Perseid shower radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. Chart via Guy Ottewell.

So grab a lawn chair with a view of the NNE sky, maybe some hot cocoa and watch.

Golden Globe Race. 1968 was the first sailing of this world solo navigation competition. It featured nine competitors, only one of whom finished the punishing task. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols recounts the race and participants who ranged from a man who decided to learn to sail during the race and a man who’d already logged 20,000 solo miles in a yacht. It was not run again. Until this year, its fiftieth anniversary.

golden globe2

Golden Globe 2018. This Golden Globe has already clocked 41 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes. Of the eighteen entrants, twice the 1968 number, three have already quit. Jean-Luc Van Heede’s pace, he’s the current leader, has an estimated finish date of January 30th, 2019. The sailor in last pace, Abhilash Tomy, will finish on May 29th at his current pace. The lead boats are nearing the horn of Africa.

parker solar probeFriend Bill Schmidt alerted me to the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, scrubbed yesterday, now scheduled for tomorrow. “Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.” At its top speed this probe will reach 430,000 miles per hour!

 

Engines and Basketballs. Indiana.

Beltane                                                                                  Sumi-e Moon

novicutawayThe 102nd running of the Indy 500 is over. Will Power won; Danica crashed. Big traffic jams and lots of beer. Noise. Green flags, yellow flags, and one checkered flag. I went once, long ago, maybe 1958. The mighty Novi V-8 was in the race and from our seat near the fourth turn we got to hear its roar every lap as it accelerated for the long front straightaway. Watching the 500 was a sensual experience. It wrapped us in sound, flashed colors and tires and driver’s heads before our eyes, briefly, and put us among the 250 to 300,000 people in attendance. “Gentlemen, start your engines!” (no. no women drivers back then.)

hoosiersLebron James carried the Cavaliers to the NBA finals, his 8th straight. I’m beginning to see that he might be Michael Jordan’s equal, or better. Certainly his will and drive match Michael’s. Basketball and the Indy 500. Hoosier themes not removed from my life though I watched neither the race nor the NBA playoffs. They still crank up my interest.

My Sunday was much less exciting. Garage cleaning. Getting back to a task I had almost completed when Jon moved in following the start of his divorce from Jen. Nap. Money meeting. Another Midsomer Murder, number one of the twentieth season. Dreams.

 

Mountain Sounds

Beltane                                                                            Sumi-e Moon

20151022_101834You might expect the cough of a mountain lion, the cries of magpies, mule deer and elk rustling through undergrowth, bugling in the fall, the sounds of the pines soughing as winds sweep down from Mt. Evans, perhaps even the violent poundings of the thunder storm the other night. And those sounds do exist up here.

But the one I here most often, aside from light traffic noise on Black Mountain Drive and dogs barking, is a chainsaw. Lots of fire mitigation work. Lots of tree felling for wood heat. Lots of people, I think, who just like their chainsaws. Me, included.

Neighbor Holly displaying t-shirt sold on the Han Motogear website

Neighbor Holly displaying t-shirt sold on the Han Motogear website

Then there are the motorcycles. Our neighbors, Eduardo and Holly, run a business selling steampunk gear to women riders. They have two Harleys. Motorcyclists come up here more often than bicyclists, riding in packs or alone, enjoying the mountain scenery and the fresh air. There are other motorheads up here including Jude our welder neighbor and the family two doors down that never got over the whole Volkswagen thing from the 60’s.

These folks, I think, and many of our other neighbors live up here as a base camp for canoeing, riding, climbing, 4×4 adventures off road, skiing. If you’re already in the mountains, it’s easier to explore them.

20180115_153644In the winter there is the scrape and drag of Jefferson County snowplows and the intermittent pushing and engine revving of private snowplowers, the whine of snowblowers.

Oddly, much of the time our home in Andover was quieter than it is here. And I value quiet. This noise does not, however, upset me. As an older adult, I’m happy to have neighbors close by and having neighbors means living with their habits and passions. Even the noises I’ve described are intermittent and when a heavy snow falls, or mid-day, like right now, or late at night, the silence here is profound.

 

So the Eagles won

Imbolc                                                                                      Imbolc Moon

fans2So the Eagles won. My disassociation from the NFL is almost complete though the Vikes sudden run through the playoffs had me reading the sports pages. No, I’ve not gone off football because of player’s kneeling. Hardly. It would be a reason to watch for me. At least the moments before the kickoff. No, I’ve not gone off football because it’s violent with one caveat which I’ll mention in a moment.

No, though it would be understandable, I’ve not gone off football due to 40 years of frustration with the Minnesota Vikings. I remember the guy who died with the long beard. He said he wouldn’t cut his beard until the Vikings won a Superbowl. It would still be growing.

The real reason I got off football was the expense of cable T.V. We cut the cord in 2012 and along with it broadcast television stations. That meant it was no longer possible to turn on the TV, flop down on the couch with a bowl of chips, and give away two to three hours of my life to silly commercials and over analyzed plays.

ConcussionsMoving to Colorado two years later reinforced the effect. Bronco’s territory. The Bronco’s fan is similar in nature to the Packer fan. Lots of Broncos on rear windshields. Bronco flags. Bronco billboards. Just too damned serious for me. Not to mention that the Broncos were not the Vikings. No 40 years of memories. Yes, frustrating memories, but still.

I’ve had flirtations with returning. Kate and I went to the Brook Forest Inn a couple of years ago to watch the Vikes and the Broncos play. My inner purple and gold cheerleader still got me out of my seat from time to time. Yes, the fan lives inside me.

But. Back to that caveat about violence. Like a lot of guys and not a few women I enjoyed seeing muscular titans crashing into each other, moving each other around, a primal dance reminding us of our origins as a species often at war with itself. Yes, in a mild way, gladitorial. However. When the first news about chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE came out, I winced. Yes, big chess pieces throwing themselves around in organized, balletic ways entertained me. But at the cost of player’s cognitive capacity?

concussions2

The average football player lasts only 3.3 to 6 years in the NFL. Of course, that’s after a long period of apprenticeship in Pop Warner leagues, high school and college, an apprenticeship where the collisions keep on coming. And even for those whose career lasts 10-12 years, those whose skills allow them to start regularly for five seasons will tend to play this long, by the late 30s everybody’s career is over. Yes, Favre and Brady, but exceptions at the most protected position.

So cutting the cord made watching football more difficult. Moving to Colorado reduced the place-based loyalty I had. CTE made me think about my eagerness to watch, to cheer, to sit through the commercials and replays because that eagerness meant lending my eyeballs to the statistics that made advertising such a lucrative source of income for the NFL. That lucrative income meant football salaries could be high, high enough to make the decision to play on in spite of possible CTE inevitable for many. This is collusion with a complex web of reinforcing factors: competition, regional loyalty, incredible athletic performances, television, advertising revenues, fan based engagement like fantasy football and memorabilia purchases.

It’s CTE that made me finally say no. In spite of my many years as a fan, in spite of my still existing loyalty to the Vikings, in spite of my Y chromosome, I’m not going back.