FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Surviving the Indy 500 and Vortex I

This past weekend a driver named Will Power (a fitting name) won the Indy 500, and Danica Patrick called it quits for her career after crashing out early in the race.

Sorry about that DP, you’re still my favorite racer.

It was an American spectacle in a nation of spectacles.

So, I have a remembrance, a memory on Memorial Day of something that died inside of me.

I don’t know how in the hell it happened, but I was a big fan of the Indianapolis 500 when I was a kid. Maybe every kid was in those days, but in hindsight you tend to wonder why.

I must have listened to the race on the radio in the days before it was televised, and I know Sports Illustratedalways gave it full-coverage, so perhaps those were the key elements to my fascination early on.

I did love the look of the cars, and likely fantasized about driving very fast around and around an oval track. I wasn’t a gearhead by any stretch, so I know the technical stuff involving these specially-built cars wasn’t part of it.

It must have been purely the flash of speed and color, the essence of which was drawn out in those incredible SI photos that accompanied the Indy racing stories.  I also had a fondness for Formula 1 racing. That one I appreciated more because the race courses ran through certain European and South American cities. That was very appealing from a visual standpoint, which must have been part of it.  The speed and interesting architecture in combination was notable.

In 1970, after attending college in Ashland, Oregon for a year, I moved to Albany, an armpit of a town famous for its stinky industry and not much else sitting squarely in the I-5 corridor.  A new community college had just sprung up there, fashioned out of modular trailers before the campus had even broken ground. Since my mother had moved there after I finished high school in close-by Sweet Home, I commandeered her screen-enclosed front porch and moved in, transferring my shaky academic records from Ashland.

Then, as now, the community college was an outlet for the poor in funds and academics.  I was on academic probation in Ashland, having not bothered to do anything except play football and drink while following my friends to the occasional antiwar symposium or rally.

I slept on my mother’s porch and froze my butt off during the cold and rainy winter months, but when spring came around I had two more fairly solid terms of college under my belt and looked forward to transferring to the University of Oregon the next fall. I also played basketball and baseball for the first-year school, which kept me occupied as I worried about the draft that was still in effect at the time. I had a student deferment and definitely wasn’t interested in going to Vietnam, so I studied and got my grades up.

I’d bought an old beater from my brother-in-law for fifty dollars so I could transport myself out to the community college at the edge of town.  The beater’s driveline would fall out eventually, stranding the car on a short access street between two of Albany’s busier arterials near the railroad tracks, an occurrence that cost me a night in jail (another story). Until then the car served its purpose, however.

I drove it to Portland once, a risky adventure because the car wasn’t freeway-worthy, like a moped isn’t road-worthy. It spewed a little oil. It rattled and shook violently until it exceeded 60 mph, and it certainly was unsafe at any speed.  But, you see, I just had to see the closed-circuit broadcast of the 1971 Indy 500 that I’d heard would be simulcast at Memorial Coliseum, a twelve thousand-seat basketball and hockey arena.  It’s where the Trail Blazers played before the Rose Garden, now the Moda Center, was built in the 1990s.

I remember being excited about the trip, despite its risks. I was determined to see the race for the first time start to finish, but I soon found myself disappointed—for a number of reasons.

The crowd was extremely sparse, just a few morons hanging out. Somehow I’d pictured a full house of diehard racing fans.  The grainy picture on a thirty-foot wide screen viewed from the back end of the seating area was in black and white.  From where I sat, the screen seemed tiny. Hell, I could barely see it. I must have projected in my mind that it would be expansive, like a modern football replay screen in today’s stadiums.  I envisioned it covering an end wall inside the arena, I guess. The thought that it would be in black and white didn’t occur to me, either.  Colored TV hadn’t been in existence very long at the time, but it was ubiquitous and improving annually.  I expected color, dammit!

It was the beginning of the end of my interest in the Indy 500.

I watched half the race and got out of there. On the way home, I drove that beater way too fast.

I’d taken the beater on a previous risky trip, to the 1970 Vortex I gathering, where I camped for a night and recall being blown away by a rock band from Vegas called High Voltage. I rode with a bag of bad pot, but once at the festival I found the good stuff.

If you’re not familiar with the famous circumstances of the Vortex Festival read about them here.

When the driveline fell out of that car, I went to jail.

I’ll spare you the details of that for now, but I’ll tell you this much. I’m glad the driveline didn’t fall out when I was speeding up and down I-5 as a dumbass kid seeking some of life’s greatest pleasures.

I guess I was lucky in that regard.  I lived.

More articles by:

Terry Simons is the founder of Round Bend Press Books in Portland, Oregon.  This story is excerpted from his memoir of growing up in Oregon, A Marvelous Paranoia.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail