. . . . . . . The Daily Blarf

Sunday, August 28, 2005

it sucks to lose a friend.

Vinnie and i grew up together about a mile apart. he had a whole bunch of brothers and sisters, but i ended up being the closest to him. we hung out during school and after, either during lunch or on the farm or wherever. he was the first, and last, person i ever punched in the face. that was in 3rd grade when i was racing another kid to the locker room and we bounced off the door like we hit a brick wall--because vinnie was on the other side holding the door shut. the other kid pushed him into the corner and i hit him in the face. afterwards, he told me it was a pretty good punch--and luckily for me, he didn't give one back. he was that kind of guy--if you were his friend, he'd never cross you. he'd move a mountain for you, and he knew he could do it--cuz he was Vinnie, that's why.

he could do it all. got 5 gallons of ice cream? he could eat it. (he puked afterwards.) need someone's ass kicked or life threatened? he would do it for you, no fear whatsoever. got two big macs that need to be eaten to impress a chick? no problem for Vinnie. need some haywagons unloaded, engine block moved, stalled car pushed? Vinnie could do it, bad back be damned.

i remember when we were on the soccer team in 10th grade--one of the opposing team's superstar players was on the field creating quite a mess of our team. when Vinnie was subbed in, he ran full speed into the guy while going for the ball. we all expected him to go down hard, but out of a blur of green and red jerseys came Vinnie, full speed ahead, with the ball in front of him and the other guy on the ground behind. we no doubt got beat in the end, but at least Vinnie won that battle.

at the school dances, we were wing men for each other--not that we did much. it's hard to hit on the girls when you've got too much cologne and not enough balls. but at least you could have fun with the guys.

Vinnie was the one who got me the gig of co-editor of the yearbook. what a gravy gig that was--take pictures, screw off, get someone else to do whatever needed to be done. and who was the editor? Vinnie.

on the basketball team, Vinnie was always my partner for warm-ups and practice. more often than not, we were on the bench together. at mcdonalds after the game, we'd be breaking the salt shakers together (you know--when you stand a penny on it's side and slam the shaker down on top, and when the next person picks it up, it dumps salt all over the place.) good times, good times.

on the farm, we played street hockey and basketball. rode four wheelers, go carts, and tractors. all kinds of stuff. we'd go fishing on the St. Lawrence together. before i had my boat, we used his little aluminum fishing boat (actually, it didn't qualify as a boat, but rather a piece of metal shit.) that thing was about 8 feet long, 1 foot deep, and had geysers of water shooting up through the hull. i can't believe we survived that fishing trip on the st. lawrence with that widowmaker boat of his.

he was my right-hand man for building props for our school plays. we'd burn the midnight oil, painting & hammering & setting up walls & props. not only that, but we both played roles--ironically enough, side-by-side in both the junior and senior play. for the senior play, we needed a painting of Vinnie's character (a mortician) on the stage as a prop, so i painted a portrait of him, with my rendering of what he'd look like in his 50's. i always wondered how close it would be when he actually got to that age, so i kept it. it's still hanging on the wall in my bedroom.

Vinnie was "The Man" when he worked the door at the bars in Alex Bay. he'd always let my friend Mark and me in, underage and for free. that was back in the days when true "Power Hours" were still legal and you could drink and drink and drink and hang out with your friend at the door and watch him throw assholes through plate glass windows (which he did once.) and he was even so kind as to give me a neon beer sign from one of the bars that, technically, didn't belong to him. what a guy.

it was around that time when he also protected Mark and me from total oblivion--one night in alex bay, Mark made an alcohol-induced payphone call to a girl that i liked and told her to ditch her loser boyfriend for me. the next time we were in town, that same loser boyfriend and his posse found us and threatened to end us, which they could have done handily. Awww, SNAP! Vinnie to the rescue! he told the kid, if he got near us, he'd beat the crap out of them. Vinnie told us afterwards that the kid was shaking on his bicycle. again, what a guy.

when vinnie moved to texas, i was pretty bummed. one of the few guys i still knew in town was moving away! but it didn't much matter, cuz i went off to college anyway. for the longest time, i heard nothing about him, other than he was a contractor down in texas and doing well. Mark and i always talked about finding him again, but he came back on his own. this past spring, i came back to our hometown after being gone for about 5 years and so did Vinnie. we finally talked on the phone and met up at a pub for dinner & drinks. he hadn't changed at all, other than having a goatee, which was ironic because i'd just shaved mine for The Job. he was the same as ever--generous enough to buy a stack of lotto tickets for us to scratch off. of course, we spent what we won on more tickets and in the end, he was out probably 20 or 30 bucks, and i was out none, since i was broke to begin with. that was Vinnie--always generous and would do anything for you. he tried to strike it rich for me with his own money.

that was a couple months ago. we talked on the phone on occasion about meeting up again--to go golfing, to go to canada, to go to a bar, whatever. i had to decline every time because of work or money, always assuming there would be a next time when we could hang out. the last time i saw him was in mid-July--we met in passing on our street and promised each other that we'd try to meet up that weekend...

...but we didn't.

that week, while coming home from his construction job, his car went off the road, hit a pole, and rolled over. he and a co-worker were killed instantly. that was on July 29th, 2 days before his 29th birthday.

when i found out, i was stunned. i couldn't believe it.

how could a man, so strong and so tough, die?

he was the guy who could stop a moving train all by himself--how could he be dead?

he was the one i was supposed to call to go out with that weekend--how could he be gone?

he was the one i painted a picture of in high school--how would i ever know if i got the painting right?

now i'll never know.

the morning after the crash, i went to the scene to see for myself how this could have possibly happened. it's a surreal experience to see a friend's belongings spread all over the ditch; to see pieces of his car, to see mud puddles stained red. i found his Tarheels hat amongst the leftover bits and pieces and took it home to his mother. i didn't know what else to do.

the calling hours and funeral were difficult. the burial was the worst--watching parents bury a son sucks. they handed out yellow roses; i laid one on his casket. i gave hugs and handshakes, dried my eyes & blew my nose. i went home and stared at the wall. that was pretty much all i could do until i had to drag myself to work. i still can't believe he's gone.

rest in peace, Vinnie. you were The Man.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"you're here bright and early," the gate attendant said.

yup, i guess i was. it was 6:15 am on saturday morning at WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY! NASCAR Nextel Cup at the Glen!! who hoo!!!!

talk about a quiet place though. all the boozing the night before had apparently zonked out all the campers in the infield. i've never been amongst so many people who were so damn quiet. there were tens of thousands of people, all hungover and asleep in their campers, tents, RVs, and converted school buses. i hadn't seen anything like it, because every other year we've been here i've been asleep at this time, too. this year, i drove all night with a pit stop in, and a tour of, ithaca. more on that later.

we've been going to Watkins Glen for 15 years, consecutively. except for last year--the only blemish in our record. so this was better than usual--it's been 730 days since i was here before. and the first thing i did when i got there was i went to bed in the back of my explorer--my sleep schedule is all screwed up now because of The Job. it was dead silent in the whole raceway until the first asshole fired up his generator to make a pot of coffee or some damn thing like that. people need to rough it more; leave the generator at home or get one of the quiet ones. but it really doesn't matter after the jet dryers come out on the track. if you've ever been to a NASCAR race before, you know what it's like--like being underneath a 747 on takeoff. and then race practice starts, so every minute race cars are roaring past so when you're trying to sleep in the back of your car like i was, you sleep like crap. but who cares, IT'S RACE WEEKEND!

i re-upped with cingular, btw

it was a good race and a good weekend. the new grandstands are twice as high and the weather was just right on race day. the only problem was, we had 4 tickets and only 3 people. i'd be damned if i could find anyone to take that 4th ticket. as a result, it was a bit quieter than certain other years, like back in the heyday of our trips to The Glen when we had 8 tickets and all my brothers would come. this time around it was just me, dad, and my uncle, and of course they were on the low-key side, so by default, so was i. the saturday night excitement consisted of drunken jackasses riding their beer coolers and radio flyers down a hill in the infield, and then there was also the school bus party. a lot of campers have old school buses as party wagons, and this one in particular had a regular bar scene going on with music, lights, booze, a racing theme, and too many sausages and not enough weiner buns, if you know what i mean. that's kinda the way it is at the races. lots of dudes and not enough chicks, except for the honky trashy chicks (blah) and the hot chicks that are only there because their boyfriends are. and R.I.P Gumbyland! if you've been to Watkins Glen, you know Gumbyland. it was a homemade scaffolding set up by the campers outside of turn 10, so called Gumbyland because of the giant stuffed Gumby toys (and, of course, the big sign that said GUMBYLAND.) the general idea of the place was it was an impromptu strip joint where any female brave enough or drunk enough could get up and show off her stuff to all the drunks. so of course, there'd be craploads of guys standing around waiting for it to happen, and when it did, you could hear the cheers from anywhere at the racetrack. but, sadly, the police (!) created a presence in the area in the last few years, so Gumbyland withered away to nothing. not to make it sound like it was a bad time, though--Gumbyland or no, Watkins Glen is always a good trip.

i was also a bit pre-occupied over the weekend with the woman situation, which has finally played itself out with certainty. for all of you who are curious and who keep asking, this is the verdict on the Svenska Flicka: it's been laid to rest. we are officially...friends. yeah, we really dig each other, but it's a logistical nitemare, with our careers taking us in different directions and being that we're from different countries and all. so it will stay a friendship, and that's that. seeing her for the first time in 10 months at jo's wedding was bittersweet. Jag är ledsen, min svenska är inte så bra. Ha det så bra, jag tycker väldigt bra om Er, jag älskar dig.

the AZ crowd at Jo's wedding

the wedding was a great time, though. got to see old AZ friends and act silly again. i took lots of pictures, too, as a last hurrah for my digital camera before i sent it back to Canon for warranty work. for about a month, the LCD screen has been farkled, so i couldn't read the functions & stuff, nor could i see the pics i had just taken. it was like using a 35mm camera, for christ's sake!! heaven forbid! take all the pictures you want, but you can't look at them til you get back to your computer! eek!! what did we do before digital cameras? no bother, my camera came back on monday and it's good as new. my only regret is i didn't have it for watkins glen weekend, so i had to use the sub-par camera on my new cell phone.

speaking of new cell phones, holy crap!!!! i finally got a new phone. goodbye to my old blue reliable, hello new Nokia 6230. yep, another nokia--much to The Swede's chagrin. she can't stand those damn Finnish phones. she's Sony Ericsson all the way, of course--swedish pride and all. to heck with it, i've always had good luck with nokias. it's all i've ever had. actually, this time, i got 2 phones--one for me, one with a new phone line for the detailing business. it's only a little more expensive than my old plan, cuz i was getting screwed on that ancient calling plan from 2002. that was the whole reason for new phones--i needed the 2nd phone line and they scoffed at my old phone (which has no sim card) when i wanted a new calling plan. no time like the present, i guess. hurrah for me, more money in the hole.

anyway, at least i got lots of pictures of my little brother Chris* singing 'Baby Got Back' with all the chicks out on the dance floor. you can see those pics on my www.flickr.com page.
* little brother from the frat, not the fam, for you confused non-AZ folks.

the elusive Right Wing Nut escaped being photographed

and the other thing weighing heavily on me this weekend was my trip through ithaca and syracuse on the way to watkins glen. it's been almost 7 months since i officially moved out of syracuse and nearly 4 years since i left ithaca. i miss them both, especially ithaca. i'm amazed at all the new construction down there. as usual, ithaca tears itself up as soon as it's done building something, so there's always something new to see. and of course, both cities offer so much more to do and see than anything in jefferson county. but, the fam is here, and there are so many good things about being up here. *sigh* the struggle within continues.

and in other struggles:

what's up with cologne displays in stores nowadays? or at least, in walmart? they don't have testers anymore!! how the hell are you going to pick a scent if you can't smell the frigger first? they've gone as far as to seal the boxes shut in impenetrable plastic blister packs. good luck smelling it! i wouldn't need to smell it if they still carried my stink of choice, "Contradiction" by Calvin Kline. the same bottle lasted thru 5 years and 2 1/2 girlfriends before i finally used it up in the last couple weeks. of course, there was that stanky interlude with the cinnamon-smelling "Fahrenheit" which i wore to please Kimmyshea. i didn't care for it, but if it made her happy, fine. sometimes, pretty much all the time, you gotta do what a woman wants you to do.

so anyway, when you're at walmart, you can't smell the colognes. if they leave testers, people probably take them, so you're totally on your own unless you want to use the "Stetson" tester, which nobody would bother stealing. but every guy that grew up in the 80's already knows what Stetson smells like cuz we all borrowed it from our dads in, like, 1985.

guess i'll have to go somewhere else to find my Contradiction. i know they still make it cuz i checked.

i just did a marathon blogging session--more posts waiting in the wings! check back soon!