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June 15 marks my first month away from the friendly muggy, tornadic, hot, snowy, green tree/gray tree seasonal St. Louis area. It's a jolt to be sure. In Los Angeles, weather is an afterthought; it plays a very small role in the day-to-day. Right now, actually June 14, the weather could not be better. Sunny blue temps in the middle 70s lightly stirred by a mild Pacific breeze top the menu. On the other hand, right now, good old St. Looie waits uncovered for the 46-degree temperatures of Denver, Colorado to slam head on with the 89-degree Kansas City and 91-degree Chicago readings, and that explosive collision, according to the ditzy weather reader, should occur right on top of the Arch and hurl it into the Mississippi.

I watched the Weather Channel in St. Louis, and in just one week I had seen more weather there than an entire lifetime in L.A. You get a shuffle of the deck every day in the wild, wild, midwest.

And weather aside (which I don't miss all that much), I can say in just the last 30 days, that I miss the day-to-day camaraderie with Jeff and Kay, not to mention the denizens that float in the Living Room Lounge across the street from the corporate headquarters.

Which brings me to a rather eerie subject.

As some readers might know, I've gotten on the wagon. No weepy, breast-beating, it's-all-my-fault reasoning aided this, but more the rapid realization that my Type II Diabetes will get worse if I don't back her up a hair. You know all those shitty columns I wrote from August 1999 through May 2001? Wrote 'em all with a case of beer inside me, mixing with all my personal high tech chemical bacteria. I'm sure you can tell the incredible improvement even at this early juncture.

It's amazing what a dry out can do. I'd forgotten I used to work at NHRA and had to be reintroduced to Jeff and Kay and the staff again. OK, it wasn't that bad, but the vibes had changed overall during my being wrested away from the jaws of degeneracy.

What am I talking about? How about this? No sooner did I leave St. Louis than the Living Room Lounge, my office-within-an-office, announced that it was closing it's doors forever on June 30. Coincidence? Hmmm. Well, maybe not, but then if you pull out what I contributed to their monthly budget, of course, the whole house of cards will collapse.

Still, two days later, Bozo the Clown of Chicago taped his last show this week (9,500 shows, that's about a third the number of cans and bottles I imbibed during Bozo's run), so there might be something else going on here that I'm not aware of.

I won't wring the bar towel too hard, but, for me, the kick hasn't been that hard. The low-lead, non-alcohol stuff works as a decent placebo, and besides, if the doc tells me I'm okay in a few years, tell the Busch and Coors Family to stoke the pressure cookers. Sort of my Schwarzenegger way of saying, "I'll be back." (Was it Schwarzenegger who said that or was it another ACTOR who works out instead of memorizes lines?) Point? If you're contemplating such a radical shift in perspective, it's not that hard.

What's been a little harder is the proximity of racing that I enjoyed in St. Louis. Jeff and I hit St. Charles Speedway, Tri-City Speedway, Gateway International Raceway, Cordova Dragway, Mid-America Dragway, Topeka, and other race emporiums with some regularity. Here in L.A. -- zilcho opportunity.

Oh, I'm aware of L.A. County Dragway and I've been there a dozen times. However, if you live in drag racing hot beds like Orange County (90-100 miles), the San Fernando Valley (40-50 miles), the San Gabriel Valley (50-60 miles), and the downtown L.A. environs (60-70 miles), it's a painful belly crawl through the worst traffic in the world.

And what dya get when you get to LACR? Sandy, butt-slicing bleacher splinters, and altitude-bruised elapsed times and mile per hours. They book jets, alcohol Funny Cars, and on rare occasions, a nitro car or two, but for Mr. Senility here, it's too hard a pull for too little gratification.

I am, like many others, waiting for the 50th anniversary night-time event NHRA has planned for Pomona Raceway. Believe it or not, leaving aside World Finals shows that went over the deadline and into the dark, there hasn't been a race in the dark at Pomona since the late spring of 1965. I remember that Nick Marshall won Top Fuel in the Marshall & Vermilya dragster over Denny Milani in Ted Gotelli's beautiful candy-apple red dragster (I think) and that Tom McEwen pushed Lou Baney's Yeakel car to 211-mph for Top Speed.

The only thing else that sticks with me is that the place was very dark. When a fuel jockey scooted through the top end lights, the best illumination he had was the header fire. That and that staffer Tim Marshall had a great head-on shot of Jim Dunn in the Dunn & Yates fueler getting out of shape off the line and chasing him out of the photo area.

For those of us who were there, this new deal should mark quite an improvement. Well, that is for everyone who doesn't live in the bordering LaVerne barrio.

Finally, and looking back on the St. Louis re-move, I'm also learning an ugly reality. Don't believe anything governmental about employment. I left St. Louis, among other things, to find some base employment, you know money to augment what I kill the Burks for bi-weekly. In O'Fallon, short of bartending at the Living Room Lounge, there ain't no work. Sure, a hamburger-flipper could find some employment; slave-wage jobs do crop up like an occasional weed.

I thought that since 25 million people live in and around L.A. County that there might be a reasonable line of work that I'd fit in. More people, more jobs, that kind of twisted logic. A book store, a record store, wouldn't be all that much to ask. Forget it. I'm now faced with heading for the Weinerschnitzel and a career as a wienie roaster. Jesus Christ. People are not falling all over themselves to hire people in their mid-fifties.

"Well sir, if we did hire you, can you stay on your feet for eight hours? You know medical insurance is out of the question at your age. What if you got tired and fell in the fry vat?"

So what can I say? Let's try this. If you happen to be in a food line at the upcoming Pomona night drags, your vision won't be as good. You'll be squinting at the price board, looking around, etc. Use this as a word to the wise. Whatever you do don't get salty with the help.

photo of Chris Martin by Jeff Burk


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