As a kid I used to anticipate and enjoy the Indianapolis 500 every Memorial Weekend. After some decades of lapsing forgetfulness, I decided to rekindle this tradition and planned a whole day around a brickyard burst of left-turns and dashing with death.
Nothing quite speaks to the event like firing up the barbeque with new slants and old favorites alike. I released the emergency brake in my mind and revved up a plan to include the Texas smoker, a mesquite fired Webber and, of course, the massive four propane burner monolith that sits on the other side of the kitchen pass-through window.
I asked my wife, Annette, to check as to the exact time the race was to begin, but, in hindsight, forgot to specify the date. Heck, everybody knows on what day this lynchpin of Americana is wheeled out, fired up and speeds away in a cloud of smoking tires. I thought back to hearing the voice of Wilbur Shaw, who popularized the tradition of announcing the immortal phrase, Gentlemen, Start Your Engines in the early 1950s. I clearly recall that A.J. Foyt earned the first of his four Indianapolis 500 victories in 1961 as he took the lead from Eddie Sachs on lap 197, just three laps short of the finish line.
The true reason that I remember is that I was weeding in the front of the yard while listening to the race on the radio. It was enough of an event that I stopped weeding, sat in the shade and got the checkered flag along with A.J. Shortly thereafter he got a head full of champagne and I rounded the house to the barbeque, there to marvel as the coals kicked into gear and the burgers, dogs and chicken roared to a finish in a flash.
Technology has changed considerably through the years and I was determined to use it to maximize the impact of the event. Based on the provided starting time I programmed the computer to broadcast the race by Internet radio streams from all over the world (e.g. Mexico, England, France, Germany, Australia, Argentina and Italy), changing channels every 30 seconds. These were all sports channels, so I was sure that the race would be carried.
I did a little research and compiled old radio, classis movie reel and television clips that highlighted the event over the years. Every monitor of any sort in the house, outside, in the Airstream was wirelessly tuned and ready to shift into high gear the moment I gave the command.
Annette was busy showing property up until the event was to begin, so when the time arrived I asked her to wear a blindfold, as the festivities at the Old Brickyard, as the raceway was once called, were just moments away. The Texas smoker puffed away at the brisket that had been slowly cooking for six hours, evidenced by the white cloud seen through the living room windows. Salads were cooling in the refrigerator, beverages bobbing in the ice cooler, while I quickly changed to look like the famous auto racer of long ago, Barney Oldfield. I added an ascot for flair and started the videos, Internet radio and live T.V.
I pulled off Annettes blindfold in a theatrical gesture, but something was awry. The Internet radio was playing music and the real-time television displayed a golf tournament. Fully baffled, I turned to Annette and asked, What happened to the Indianapolis 500?
Oh, that. She replied. It ran yesterday while you were weeding the garden. Dario Franchitti won.
She then asked about all the barbeques and what were the plans for lunch.
In a throttled voice I sputtered: Apparently, they went up in smoke.
(Lance was last seen building an entry for the Soapbox Derby, wearing his old Cub Scouts cap. You may lap his house or give him the old checkered flag at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his new book, Essentially Ashland...The Missing Years...It's loaded with humor and history).