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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004
I can’t believe I haven’t related this story yet, which happened during the dark days last spring when I had no internet and this place was on hold for awhile.

It was in May, the weather was hot here in swampland and hot May weather always culls the traditionalist in me to sign up for one more round of NASCAR. Specifically in Richmond, at the little ¾ mile track they race on twice a year. I’ve been running up there with Stu and his wife for several years.

It should be noted, as has been noted before, that I could care less about the race itself. Oh it’s fun and all, entirely different than the sterilized version they show on TV, but after the first dozen laps of watching 40 cars making frequent left turns you start to wish for a recliner and a refrigerator and a remote. I don’t go for the race, I go for the tailgating. From the looks of the crowd out in the grassy parking area I’d say all of us went for the tailgating.

This spring was different from those in the past because Ally couldn’t go due to working on that particular Saturday. Although, truth be told, I kinda got the feeling that work was a good excuse for not having to go through the ordeal of an all day food and beverage orgy in hot sunny weather. Sheesh, some people.

So I had to come up with a substitute, and quick. A date if you will. Somebody who got a kick out of racing, and an even bigger kick out of eating and swilling beer all day.

Somebody just like Chief Mo.

It didn’t hurt that he had never seen a race live and in person (and the mere fact that there was something that Mo hadn’t done in his life was astounding to me). He didn’t have to think about it very long when I asked, either. “Let’s see if I got this straight,” he said over a beer at the Hole. “We gotta get up early, get in a truck and drive for awhile, pull out some chairs and start cooking oysters and steaks and drinking beer and looking at hot chicks and stuff. We do that for 10 hours then we watch a race. Then we go back and start cooking all over again. Gee, I dunno. That sounds a helluva lot like what I’d be doing anyway.” Then he grinned. “I’d love to. Let’s do ‘er.”

It was pretty much that simple, although the fact that both Stu and I had to drive considerably large SUV’s ought to give you the visual clue about just how much stuff is involved in this field operation. Because essentially, we both share the opinion that camping out or tailgating doesn’t necessarily mean roughing it. Hell, for a couple of years we took the whole box truck up there and had the convenience of a camp toilet set up inside, complete with shower curtain and piped in Muzak.

Somewhere around mid-afternoon, under a flawless sunny sky I cracked the third case open, stirred the scallops around the stand-up wok (told you we don’t rough it) and tossed Mo another jello shooter. I called Ally on the cell phone to check in with her and report on the state of debauchery.

“So how was work? Nice eh? Oh, not much, just tryin’ to keep Mo from molesting any more 20 year-old blondes, running out of ice. Usual stuff. Yeah, see you later babe.” She sounded tired, mentioned something about taking a nap.

Somewhere around 6 we ferried coolers and scanners and radios into the track and watched the race, which was about like usual for length and interest level, although the crowd disappointed me since I’d promised Mo that at least one of the thousands of blondes would be flashing at some point and not a one of them came through with the boobage this time.

We got back to the tailgatin’ just before midnight and stoked the fire, broke out the Delmonicos and the steak knives and the brandy. Mo was just firing up a big cigar when my phone rang.

“Daddy it’s Beth,” and my Eldest sounded out of sorts. “Mom’s in the hospital.”

“Beth what happened?”

Now I didn’t say it in a stern way, in fact I was relatively calm, but her voice got that wavering quality I knew, which meant she was coming close to tears. “I don’t know Daddy she called me and said to come help her and I did and she kinda fell while I was helping her to the bathroom . . .”

“Beth, slow down and . . .”

“ . . . and then she started screaming and I guess I sorta freaked and I called 911 and they took forever to send an ambulance and now we’re . . .”

“Honey I need to know where . . .”

“ . . . at the hospital and Daddy you need to come she’s all doped up on something and the doctor isn’t telling me anything.” And at that point she stopped for air and I managed to find out just what hospital she was taken to. I heard something about stomach pains and a lot more about screaming.

I hung up and stared into the fire and considered. I was at least an hour from being able to get out of that parking lot (the traffic back-ups after a race are ugly and severe) and another two hours from the hospital. Plus an hour to pack all that tailgatin’ gear away. Even with the four of us helping.

Add to that the fact that I was the least sober of four piss-drunk race revelers, and things really weren’t looking very good.

I mean, you can’t drink thirty-’leven beers and not feel something. Even if you are eating enough to feed three normal people.

So I said to my fellow tailgaters, who by now were staring at me with wide eyes, “Ally’s at the hospital, sounds like an appendix to me. She’s doped up and Beth’s there and we’re all drunk. So put the steaks on and let’s eat and wait out this crowd like we always do. No sense in any of us driving anywhere right now.”

Mo chugged the balance of a can and tossed it in the direction of the garbage bag, wobbled over to the cooler, yanked out a bottle of water and handed it to me gravely. “Start drinking this shit. Right now.” He stood over me with hands on hips, glowering at me.

“I will Chief, I will.” I sat the bottle in the grass beside me and rubbed my neck. I was a little casual, reclining and yawning and wishing for nothing more than a long nap. Too casual, for Mo.

He bent down with his hands on knees and stuck his face about two inches from mine. “Did ye hear me?”, he roared. “Uncap that canteen and start sucking water! And when you finish with that one, start on another!”

I don’t know why he wasted 30 some years in the Navy. He’d have made a swell drill sergeant in the Marines. But he wasn’t through hollering yet.

“Stu, let’s start picking up this crap. Toss them steaks in the cooler and douse that fire. Let’s go people let’s get it together! Hoy!”

If he hadn’t been so damned serious it would have made terrific slapstick. I’ve never seen inebriation go into high gear before, but when Stu got his legs under him and started tossing many coolers in the back of the Suburban and his wife nearly got closelined by one, and Mo stomped on fire coals and kicked chairs over I knew there was trouble coming. Twice I started to get up only to be shoved back in the chair by Mo with a fresh bottled water dripping into my hands.

We, or I should say they packed in 15 minutes. I drank a water. Mo and I got in my truck. I drank another water. He’d strategically spotted a cooler full of the stuff behind his seat and was steadily feeding them to me, hollering all the while. “Used to do this in the Navy when we had to go back to ship after a night out gettin' clobbered. Come on, faster! Get moving, drink!”

I must have downed 5 bottles by the time we inched out of the gates and onto the road, and I was getting more clear headed by the minute. I said as much to Mo, who grunted evilly and said “Oh ho no. None of that shit. You’re just gettin’ started . . .” and thrust another full one in my hands.

I didn’t protest much because it would have been pointless. Mo is irresistible and relentless, he is profane and loud. He is also a professional warrior and I wasn’t thinking my chances of resisting water would lead to anything short of him pinching my nose with two sausage like fingers and cheerfully pouring it down my throat.

By the time one am rolled around I was motoring east with my right foot buried to the firewall and a pile of empty water bottles clanging all over the floor behind me. Mo peered at me through the light of the dashboard. “How ya feelin’ now, sport?”

I’ve had to admit, drinking 4 gallons of water in an hour had sloshed me back to a state of stone sober that I wouldn’t have believed possible. Mo nodded, leaned back and rummaged in the cooler. “Good. Wake me up when we get there. Here, have one for the road. Keep this crate moving.”

We moved all right. The only time we stopped was to jump off on an exit to allow me to drain my bladder, all the way from my eyeballs, while Mo snored hugely and happily and dreamed of blondes and ships at sea.

It was a week before I caught up to him again, which was unusual for two guys who normally see each other daily, but it was at the Hole. He was already solidly into a lengthy and intense conversation about the “UnChristly attitude of these young punks joinin’ my Navy” with Stu when I strolled in and took a stool next to him.

“Hey, look who’s here! Take a seat there, shipmate.” He beckoned to the barkeep and slapped down some bills. “First one’s on me. Give him whatever he wants, sweetheart.”

She giggled, and looked at me expectantly.

“Hell, just gimmee a . . . “ and I hesitated. Mo was looking at me with a frown on his face, a fearful and hateful frown. There was a long pregnant pause. “Coors Lite?”, I asked.

“Right you are lad”, he roared. “And keep ‘em coming! Say, darlin‘, did I tell you the story about how I got Outfoxed sober last week?” and he was off to, as they say, the races.

Incidentally, Ally did indeed have her appendix taken out. By the time I’d gotten to the hospital after that wild early morning ride they were just about to wheel her into the operating room and all went fine and I wondered again just what all the high speed maneuvering had been about, as I contributed little more than hand holding for ten minutes to a Percoset laden wife, but whatever. Glad I was, that she did as well as she did.

But I don’t think I’ve had a drop of bottled water to drink since, and I’m not looking to start any time soon.

That stuff’s nasty.

Sooner or later I’ll get off my ass and get my images restored so that the Guestbook will be back in its’ logical link spot to the left. Maybe Andrew would take a case of water in trade, eh?

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