ONE SAVE IN THE CUCKOO’S NEST
Colt Commandos, Live Grenades, Crewcut ATF windbreakers, And Saving Grace From An Unplanned Source.
If you’re a serious race fan, you will know what I’m talking about. You meet people at the drags like this all the time. Casual grandstand conversation with some dude or dude-ette and you realize at some point in the mish-mosh of beer-buzzed malarkey that this person is alive in the sea of information – drag racing information. This person knows the sport and, for me, it’s always a pleasure – an opportunity to learn.
For years, closeted feelings of being an oddball because of… how can I say this… my rather extensive knowledge of the sport… made me think that I WAS a little weird. Not many race fans pore over race statistics and commit them to memory, certainly not in the 1960s and 1970s.
One of my great days of personal liberation was in the very early 1980s when I met Bret Kepner, who to my mind is one of the two or three best drag race announcers that I’ve heard. He had supplied written race coverage for Super Stock on AHRA events and I admired his research and intelligent commentary. To make a long story short, he applied for a job at NHRA and I got to meet him and was floored. Here was a guy who had the same disease as me and was excellent at it. Here’s someone that I can ask questions. Maybe, I’m not as strange as I think.
However, to the point of this exercise…
I met a guy within the last month who was a genuine stats-o-phile, one of those rare birds who obviously followed the sport at roughly the same level as me and Kepner, Todd Veney or Geoff Stunkard and similar types. People like that revitalize me and dare I say, my interest in the sport and that applied in spades in this particular case. Lately, my interest in pro drag racing has flagged considerably in recent times and this guy was, for whatever, reasons just what the doctor ordered.
And speaking of doctors, I ran into this guy in the nuthouse.
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Yep, someone got wise. From Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, I spent four days at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, Cal., and three days in the Mission Community Hospital psyche ward in nearby Van Nuys. People who struggle through the drivel in this spot know that the author has the potential on occasion to make some terrible social decisions and on the first date of the above the waiter showed at the table with a tab I couldn’t hit with a sky hook. I was sick and needed needle therapy.
The first four days? Same as usual. Lame television, bland food, more needles in my arm than Keith Richard and, in this particular case, some really bad news. Cognizant of his patient’s ways, my doctor spelled it plain and simpl … if you don’t quit drinking and all the other swell business, you won’t make it two years.
I was depressed. I live the life I love and I love the life I live. Been like this for 45 years. Every night New Year’s Eve or as close as I could approximate it. I now had cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C and as I awaited the hospital social worker for my interview and release I was crushed at the thought of any change. What the hell am I going to do? Life as a priest, square as a box, going to bed at a respectable hour whatever the hell that means. What’s the point of going any further?
The interview proved to be a disaster. You remember Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners TV show and you remember how his exasperated wife, Alice, would ask him after a particular blowup, how he got in this jam? He’d say and I quote, “Very simple, very easy to explain, I’ve got a BIG MOUTH!!!” That’s what I did.
The social worker asked how I felt and without thinking it through and with head jammed all the way up the anal aperture I responded that I felt like blowing my brains out. She pressed on.