Sunblock-Clocked

When Jeff was ready to continue, we set out slow walking. It was obvious to everyone who scooted around us, that there was a problem. It really got him down. We made it into the stands and stood for a while at the bottom looking up. The trudging climbers didn’t seem to bothered by the pace.

“C’mon,” I tugged his hand. “Let’s go…” He was dubious, but shuffled forward.

When the upward surging mass stalled, Jeff held on tightly to the rail. “My legs are shaking,” he told me. “That’s ok!” I replied. “You’ll be stompin’ in your seat shortly.” He gave me a little head shake smile, as the crowd crept along. We plodded on, keeping time with the slow bobbing waves of heads. “One foot in front of the other…” I sang off key. He chuckled.

When we’d made it, we both collapsed in our seats. “We made it!” I cheered. “I feel like Rocky…” Jeff huffed. “… after a few rounds.”

Not sure how we lucked out, but we had two seats on the end of the row, which meant Jeff could stand up and sit down easily. Eventually, we both caught our breath, and set about the business of setting up in the stands.

Jeff divvied up the headsets, which sadly were really only brought along for ear comfort. They’d previously hooked up to a radio, set to track channels. We’d listen to pit crews, his favorite drivers and even announcer chatter.

He handed me the binoculars and kept the camera, slung around his neck. Jeff surveyed the situation and sighed. “I hope I don’t gotta go….”

I was looking down re-stashing the sunblock we’d just slathered on the back of our necks, when a shadow came over us. I looked up and caught the tail end of a fighter jet just as it soared out of view.  Jeff’s hat came off, smacking me in the face. I reflexively reached up, opening my hand to catch the cap. The sunblock sailed forward and beaned the gentleman in front of me.

In those few seconds of mayhem, the clocked by sunblock fellow turned around. Jeff stepped closer to me, raising his eyebrows and hands in apology. I involuntarily shrieked in surprise as the sonic boom hit. I slapped both hands over my ears as they painfully popped. I’d just experienced my first fly over directly in the path of a fly over. Frozen in place, I stared at Jeff.

He surveyed me quizzically, quickly surmised my shock and threw out his own boom. Jeff’s contagious laugh caught on, as usual. Those around us grinned, chortled, chuckled, and very nicely returned our strewn belongings.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 09 There nothing quite like the camaraderie of like jakorte

Food: Hit and MIS

The stubborn, problem solver in me, decided it was time to take charge. Something had to be done. 

“Wait here,” I instructed Jeff. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I’ll be right back,” I answered, and took off.

My first wait was in the beverage line. I returned with two sugared soft drinks in two different, super-sized, commemorative collectible cups. I’d asked the kid behind the counter to be sure they were different, which seemed to stump him. I found it hard to believe no one else had made that request, but once he figured out what I was after, he happily grabbed a cup from the nearest server’s pile.

I wound my way back through the crowd to the little table, and wasn’t completely surprised to find Jeff talking and laughing with a couple a little older than us.  The woman  told me they’d stopped to check on Jeff because he was sitting by himself and didn’t look well.

Jeff, of course, insisted he was fine; just waiting for his wife to come back. I thanked them for stopping, and Jeff pulled out a Michigan Hot Sauce Club card. “You come by any time,” he told the fellow, “and I’ll give you a free bottle of hot sauce.” “Oh,” he continued, “and some of that crab salsa, too.” It turned out they weren’t from our area, but their son was, and they would tell him about the shop. Jeff always found a friendly way to promote our business. He always beamed with pride when talking about it. So he was a little more perky than when I’d left him.

After they’d gone, I showed Jeff the cups. He cheered up a little more at the thought of taking them home as souvenirs, along with a half-tire made into a picture frame featuring Dale Earnhardt Sr. Jeff loved it, but decided it would be too bulky to lug around. I offered to carry it, not realizing that half-tires could be so heavy. Yeah, it was a bit of a lug-around for me, but it was super cool, and looked great in our home office. 

I told Jeff to stay put, again, and moved back into the crowd. After another wait, I had our lunch. Two hot dogs. One, with every available condiment and jalapenos, the other with every available condiment, minus jalapenos. To make up for that, I included those stinky, raw chopped onions Jeff loved. I like a little bit of fresh raw onion now and then, but I fully stinkied up mine, too. In case, I couldn’t finish it; knowing, Jeff would be happy to help me out.

Clutching the hot dog tray, I stood in line one more time,  to secure an overflowing cone of greasy French-fries and a chocolate chip cookie as big as my two hands. Not the most appropriate fare for a struggling diabetic. Admittedly, Jeff and I shared a diet-dangerous, double-trouble, fix-it-with-food mentality.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 02 We tend to base our love on jakorte

 

Quote for the Week:

Rough Track

We went to the race track in 2006. It had been a few years since Jeff had been to a race. When he expressed the desire to go, I said, “Yes.” I worried about how we’d get around. Jeff refused to take his wheelchair. “Nah. You’ll see,” he said. “It’ll be fine.” We brought his cane along, but he was sure he wouldn’t need it, so he left it in the car.

Jeff’s standard outfit was fashion-backward, hot as hell (in a sweltering, not sexy way), but necessary. Cargo shorts, because pockets. A well-soft, well-worn Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt for comfort, and loyalty. Suspenders to counter-act his heavy pockets.  One of many, many ball-caps to keep the heat off and absorb forehead sweat. Suspenders; because without them, Jeff would tell you, “I’d lose my shorts!”  

He used to laugh at the kids with the saggy pants below their butts, saying, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to keep my pants up!” None of them ever back-talked to Jeff. The tone of his voice made it obvious he was having fun, and they’d just joke along with him.

From the bottom up, like an oddly layered beige clothing trifle: Light brown man-sandals (think Birks), flesh-colored no-show compression socks, which obviously, were showing. From the ankle up, two ace-bandages (four in all) covered each of his tree-trunk legs to his knees, holding gauze against his ulcers. They somewhat helped keep swelling reduced, but not as well as the lederhosen-like compression hose he constantly wore at home. 

One of the wraps came undone as we walked through the merchandise trailer corridors. As soon as we found a seat, we replaced the gauze and rewound the fabric. It wasn’t easy for either of us. It’s hard to ignore the side-mouth talkers, the stares and the looks of disgust. It wasn’t pleasant to watch Jeff remove the goopy bandages and patches. It wasn’t pleasant for me to replace them, either. In those moments, Jeff hated being at the track in his condition, and sadly commented, “I guess I’m pretty gross, huh?”

The experience was hard for him. It simultaneously brought back great memories and evoked longing – of other times that were shared with family and friends, of other times when everything (especially walking) was easier, of other times it was effortlessly more fun. For Jeff, this pilgrimage came with a hefty dose of reality. It was the marker that made him see himself in a way he hadn’t before. Staring defeatedly at the ground, he mumbled, “I guess we should just go home.” Jeff’s heart was breaking, and that shattered mine.

Quote for the Week:

2018 09 25 life is made of so many layers jakorte

 

MIS: Souvenier

Some things are super clear. Other things… yeah, no.

I do know I wobbled a third of the way across the infield to the bathroom at least twice on my own.  I sipped on water and MT Dew, ate some peanut butter crackers and dozed off a lot.

On my ventures out, I would notice people sitting nearby, but never thought much of it. I’d get a wave and be asked how I was doing. I was doing great, because I wasn’t in pain. I’d come back exhausted and crawl back into the van.

I later learned that Jeff’s friends next to us and some a few rows away had taken shifts to make sure I didn’t need help. One of the women had even followed me to the bathroom. I had no clue.

I remember sitting in the front seat. I don’t remember Jeff packing up the van, or leaving. We stayed put until most of the crowd had rolled out to conserve gas. I remember lying down on the not very grassy spot next to the van because sitting up was just too hard. I don’t know how long it took us to get home. I don’t remember how we got the van back to his Mom’s house, or how I ended up in bed at ours.

I do remember waking up around 9 PM and wondering what had happened. I was very, very sore all over. Monday, I made an appointment with my doctor for Tuesday. By Tuesday, I thought the whole thing was silly and that whatever it was had worked itself out. Jeff convinced me to keep the appointment. I’d run out of pain pills by this time. I felt ok, but had a fever and what felt like a bladder infection.

Sent home with antibiotics and more Vicodin, I was told to take a few days off. On Wednesday, Jeff had gone to work and I was on the phone with my Dad. I was telling him this story, when I realized I actually felt like I might want to full-fledged pee, instead of the pitiful dribble I’d experienced. So, I toddled off to the small half bath under the stairs in our townhouse and kept talking.

When I was finished, I check the collection “hat” I’d been provided with to “catch the grains of sand” that they hopefully believed I would pass, at some point. I was dumbfounded to see an orangey, odd-shaped rock. “Dad,” I said. “I don’t understand. I haven’t been outside today and Jeff isn’t home and I’m not wearing sneakers, but somehow a rock got into the bathroom thingy.”

He asked me to describe it. It was ‘L’ shaped. Each branch was about 1/4 inch and covered with spiky bumps. It didn’t look like any of the stones we had in our gravel drive or flower bed.  I briefly wondered if Jeff had decided to play  joke on me.

“Congratulations,” my father announced. “You’ve passed a kidney stone!”

“I peed that?” I sqwalked, incredulously. “Really?” After a beat, I enthusiastically added, “Vicodin, maaaannnnn. That’s some good shit!”

I’d been told to drop off whatever tiny grains and sediment was captured by the sieve at the lab. So, I dutifully put the pebble in the provided bottle, and waited for Jeff to get home. Jeff was astounded and enamored. “OOOhh,” he peered into the open container. “Let’s keep it…” He suggested, “as a souvenier…” 

I informed him I was supposed to bring it in for analysis. “Well,” he pondered, “Can we wait a few days? Maybe you can pass another one… and then, we could keep this one!”

Quote for the Week:  2018 09 04 beware of underestimation and biologically narrow jakorte

MIS: Second to Last (MIS-adventure)

While they were vampiring me for a suitable hydration vein, Jeff was happily wandering around looking at stuff.

By now, race start was only two hours away. I told Jeff he didn’t have to stay with me. “You should go watch the race,” I said sincerely. “Just come back and get me later.”

“You won’t be here that long,” the needle wiggler commented. “You’ll be outta here way before the race starts.”

I was starting to feel a little fuzzy, and wondering how that was gonna work, when Jeff found another staffer and pulled him aside.

These are the things I heard him say, before the vicodin fully kicked in.

“This is so cool!” he exclaimed to the other one.

“NONE of my friends have ever been in here. I’m the only one!” He sounded pretty pleased about my predicament.

“Hey! Is that blood?” referring to a spot on the floor. “Which driver is that from?”

It wasn’t from a driver. It wasn’t even blood; just a permanently stained splatter spot of some other sort.

Jeff was actually disappointed. “Awww,” he said. After a beat, and with some thought, he added, “Guess it’s kinda a good thing you don’t see too many drivers…”

“I was hoping you had a good story to tell me…” he continued. “Got any good stories?”

 “What else is here? Do you have an operating room? Can I take a tour, see everything else?”

Before I slipped into lala-land, I barked at Jeff. “Hey! Over here! I got a problem and you’re taking a tour!? Get over here and hold my hand!”

“Ok,” he agreed, “but, this really is cool!”

They sent me back to the infield (in a cart, I’m told) with a paper RX for Vicodin for when we got out and wishes for good luck.

I said I’d be fine, as Jeff headed off into the stands, ticket in hand. I mostly slept in the van with the cargo door splayed. I remember being happy about blankets, but, honestly, I’m not sure why. Not only are MIS race weekends usually hot, most times muggy, being in the middle of all that tire/tarmac and exhaust generated heat made it even hotter.

Some things are super clear. Other things… yeah, no.

I do know I wobbled a third of the way across the infield to the bathrooms twice on my own.  

Occasionally, I would notice people sitting nearby, but never thought much of it.

I later learned that Jeff’s friends next to us and some a few rows away had taken shifts to make sure I didn’t need help. One of the women had even followed me to the bathroom. I had no clue.

I don’t remember packing up the van, or leaving. I don’t remember how we got the van back to his Mom’s house, or how I ended up in bed at ours.

I do remember waking up around 9 PM and wondering what had happened.

Quote for the Week:

2018 08 28 it doesn_t take much for some people bad situation jakorte

 

MIS: Second to Last (part 2)

We were met at the door by a scrub-wearing fellow, who ushered us in.

The very first question asked was “How much have you had to drink today?”

That was an easy answer. “Half a bottled coffee and about two sips of Bloody Mary.”

“And how much did you have to drink yesterday?” was the second question.

“A bottle of coffee, a bottle of water, and two cans of Mt Dew.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s it.” As an after-thought, I amended: “I might have had two bottles of water, actually…”

“No alcohol?”

“No.”

“Use any drugs? Smoke anything?’

“No.”

“Are you sure?” He pressed, with more than a bit of incredulity in the tone.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” There may have been a bit of annoyance in my reply.

In retrospect, I’m sure it seemed highly unbelievable that anyone would drink no alcohol or engage in any type of illegal activity for a whole day at MIS. My annoyance increased when he turned to Jeff and asked, “Does that sound right to you?”

“Yeah,” Jeff affirmed. “She doesn’t like beer … or water…”

A wave of pain and nausea hit, accompanied by little black spots that seemed to be getting larger. Suddenly I was on my back on a gurney, being asked to describe what happened from the beginning.

It started in the middle of my back and then moved left. I traced the path of pain on my back, adding that the pain was even a little lower. By this time, it had turned into a constant zinging.

“It’s likely you’re dehydrated,” he commented. Then asked, “Ever had a kidney stone?”

“No.” I replied.

“Well,” he lead-in, “seems like you’ve got one now.”

I very much doubted that.

“There’s not much we can do for you here,” he told us. “We’ll give you some fluids and some pain meds to hold you over.”

“Oh.” I thought about the situation, and reluctantly realized what that really meant. “I’m so sorry, we have to leave, Jeff.”

His shoulders went down a little, as his voice went up a notch. “Before the race?”

“Yeah.” I frowned at that, feeling badly. “… and I don’t think I can help you load the van.”

As I was finishing thinking aloud, the medic turned, and announced, “You can’t leave.”

“Yeah, that’s right!” Jeff’s enthusiasm returned. 

“What?!” I was astounded. “Why can’t I leave?”

“You can’t get a vehicle out of the infield while a race is going on.” “Jeff explained snapping his fingers smartly. “Can’t drive the van off in between race cars …,” he laughed. “The only way to get out, is to walk out, and you’re not walkin’ very good. Then, we’d have no way of getting home unless we called someone.”

“Well, how do injured drivers get out?” I countered. Two dumb-founded men stared back at me.  It was Jeff that took up the draft on this one, by somberly stating, “The race usually stops for that.” 

Jeff reasoned it all out. “By the time we get out to the road, the race will likely be over. It’ll take hours for someone to drive in to get us. It’ll be faster to drive out… after the race.”

My response was a grumbled grunt. 

Quote for the Week: 2018 08 21 assumptions will be made based on company kept jakorte

Bus-ted 3: Like This!

Jeff had Race Friends. People he’d met previous years. He’d keep in touch with email or through ICQ. There are several that stand out in my memory, but the first one I met really left an impression on me.

From my slightly terrifying seat on the top deck, I heard a commotion down below. Jeff had his binoculars stuck to his eyes, and didn’t seem to notice anything. I thought I heard someone shout for Jeff, so I scooted over to the rail.

Scanning faces, I passed by a fellow with a red shirt and a raised beer bottle. He must have been very hot, because he kept raising his shirt almost over his head. Repeatedly. He was with two other men and they were both shouting something I couldn’t make out.

A head popped up near the roof-mounting ladder and caught Jeff’s attention. “Hey,” he called, “So and so is here!” (No, I don’t remember his name. I do remember he was going to come to our wedding. But, that was before 9/11 happened.)

Jeff lumbered over to my side of the deck, took in the scene and delightedly began waving. As Jeff smiled down, the fella once again began picking up his shirt hem, practically smashing his fists into his own head.

“I can’t figure out what he wants,” I informed Jeff.

Suddenly, there was a wide-eyed, frantic man standing next to me using that universal chop-to-the-neck sign that commonly conveys “Stop!” “Cut it out!” I glanced down and then up again. By then, Jeff had switch to a two-handed chop, and still the main guy carried on.

“Do you know that weirdo?” I asked. “Yeah,” he sighed, “I’ll be right back.”

It almost immediately got quieter down there. Shortly, without fully climbing up, Jeff peered at me from between the rungs. He asked me to please come down and meet his friends from Canada. To my relief, red-shirt had stopped spazzing by the time I got to the ground. His friends seemed to be missing, too.

Jeff introduced him to me and me to him, and then I was embraced in a big, sweaty, beer-soaked hug. He was very f-ing glad to meet me, he crowed. He enthusiastically shouted to Jeff (who was standing right next to him) how f-ing happy he was that he had a girlfriend. He told us he had to go catch up with his f-ing friends, because they were only f-ing stopping by on the way to their f-ing awesome seats in the stand.

I figured he was pretty drunk, and Jeff smilingly agreed he’d probably had a few and would likely fall asleep in the stands.

“Sounded like he was saying something about a shower,” I commented. “Is there a shower in this bus?” “No,” Jeff replied.

“Well, did he tell you what he wanted?” I pressed. “Yeeaaahhh,” Jeff drawled.

“Now, don’t take this the wrong way,” he started. “He didn’t know you were my girlfriend or he’d never have asked ya….”

“Well,” he said, scratching his bearded chin. “I guess I’d better tell ya how it is. It’s kind of a tradition at races…. he didn’t mean anything by it….”

“He was just yellin’ ‘Show us Yer T-ts!” he continued.

“Seriously?” I squeaked.

“Ya know,” Jeff noddingly explained as he grabbed his shirt hem and pulled it over his head, “Like this!”

Quote for the Week:

2018 08 07 Even if you speak the same language jakorte

Bonus Photos:

Jeff may have invented the selfie before there were cell phones with cameras… on the bus roof, always with binoculars, radio and headset, and a camera around his neck.

Bonus Bus Photos