Tear gas wasn’t as serious at Watkins Glen, with a side of white privilege to start

The Winnebago we had at Watkins Glen wasn’t as grand as brother’s current 57-footer, but getting a place inside was a good thing

Well, it was the Fall of 1979, which kind of makes it ancient history, but having paid $15 and change for two wall panels I’d written some important Kansas lyrics on (that’s right, graffiti!), I had my college degree, and it would only be another two months before I got a job to use it on.

Our carload of properly stoked-up college buds were heading across New York to pick up a seventh passenger near Rochester before getting a Winnebago for the weekend of Formula 1 races at Watkins Glen, when the flashing lights behind us got everybody a LOT more serious than discussions about Mario Andretti’s chances or the powerful Ferrari team.

It was dark-thirty or so, we probably weren’t doing 55, and the trooper said he stopped us because there were a lot of heads in the car. There might have been a little haziness in the vehicle, but knowing we were definitely going the wrong direction with a transporter plate on that big ol’ Caprice was a reality.

Every time I hear that “white privilege” phrase I think of this event, and hearing the officer say, “Well, if you’re transporting this to Massachusetts, you’re going the wrong way,” was just as chilling as the possibility he wouldn’t ignore the smell of that haze. I’ve never doubted that a black driver or any ‘brothers’ (besides our two Italian guys) would have entailed a much more significant interruption of our race plans.

About fun with tear gas

Seven guys with nine cases of beer worked out fine, as did setting up camp the first site we tried, because once the wheels went off the pebbled road into soggy earth, we were there. That two guys crapped out and I got a place inside the ‘bago, that was great. We never went anywhere without beers in every pocket, I still have the Ferrari hat purchased with poker winnings. But about the tear gas…

Watkins Glen fell out of the F-1 scene because it lacked the financial backing to improve the track adequately, but part of the historic ‘charm’ of it was a place called The Bog, where rowdiness was available every night. This was the time of a second OPEC gas crunch, and I haven’t forgotten the guy standing next to a gas guzzler, hoping somebody would take it to that wild area and sacrifice it, which is how torching cars was regarded. Allll part of the party, although the yahoo trying to aim a Bic lighter into the gas tank of an upended Datsun was about as smart as not wearing a face mask during a pandemic.

It was actually the second night there when “Joey G.” and I roamed that direction, picking up the pace as people went past the other way, talking about getting gassed. Neither of us had that life experience yet, and after standing aside so a phalanx of riot-geared cops could go past, we headed to The Bog. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived and no tear gas – something I’m SURE the people who’ve gotten that, plenty of pepper spray, and some of that “non-lethal munitions” nastiness won’t feel the same about.

Sorry I can’t tell you how it felt, but ask the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, for a recap – I’m sure his memory is fresh about it.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, center in black with goggles looking away, stands at a fence guarding a federal courthouse as tear gas drifts by early July 23, 2020, in Portland Oregon, during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.Jonathan Maus/BikePortland via AP

Young men still do adventures, bonding counts

While I’m going nowhere next week while bro Mike does D.C. and Carlisle, PA trip, youngest nephew and recent UNC grad buddies flew west while several of their job starts were delayed, nailing an 18-day odessey in something more like Mike’s vehicle above than that long ago Winnie. Fishing because they’re all good at it, catching some SNOW in July, and rolling wherever. Any other time this would be the shit that cements friendships as a damn-straight American rite of passage, but this particular time, scarily dangerous beyond all norms.

Don’t we have the same data-driven fact, that LOTS of America is on COVID fire? Yet he and his buhds, and David, the NY part of us four brothers – who I couldn’t bust in person about hitting SIXTY yesterday – wife, and daughter, went NY-KY-Dakotas-Washington State driving, hiked a few of the major parks that just reopened. Ryan & Crew got trail passes easily after parks reopened from COVID.

That’s just people I know, but keeping to themselves over 3,000 miles, being very traceable if anything happened out in the wild – and David, 60 yesterday, Donna and Maria have self-quarantened in Ballston Spa, NY for two weeks afterwards – but so far, all ultimately safe.

As the French say, “C’est la vie.” Reopening anything safely should be as carefully planned as those successful trips.

Tuesday I’m hoping that the only driving I’ll be doing is nine holes at a local club, while Mike starts his road trip Wednesday. I still think cutting my time “out there” with COVID is legit. I’m still primarily a remote worker, and my options improved by two this week – I’m in 2nd phase of process, with video interview portion scheduled and skills evaluation.

I’ll be getting out for first time, and seeing how the muscle memory is on my irons would be getting back to normal a little, maybe playing two balls. Could be more people available to play Tuesdays with almost 50 million unemployed, I don’t know. I’m ready to invest around $20, Hitting off the tees is a decent option, they have chipping and putting too. More 90s in weather forecasts? Psshhh, it’s July in Charlotte, man.

On the topic of memory, its been good to see America recognize the passing of a passionate American, Rep. John Lewis, an iconic figure from the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., the March to Selma where he nearly died, a gentleman who epitomized the looking forward ‘Merica we want to fight for, getting into Good Trouble.

That a practical memorial would be renaming a certain bridge for Mr. Lewis, for what its worth, I concur. Keep it together ‘Merica, we’ll get the EPA back on that “sea to shining sea” thing again. Black Lives Still Matter.

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Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 

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