It’s raining all over the world of NASCAR


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Hoverin’ by my suitcase, tryin’ to find a warm place to spend the night
Heavy rain fallin’, seems I hear your voice callin’ “It’s all right.”
A rainy night in Georgia, a rainy night in Georgia
It seems like it’s rainin’ all over the world
I feel like it’s rainin’ all over the world …

— “Rainy Night in Georgia,” written by Tony Joe White in 1962 and covered by the likes of Brook Benton, Ray Charles, Hank Williams Jr., and Tennessee Ernie Ford

When the jets did their traditional flyover on Sunday during the National Anthem at Martinsville, they were seen but not heard. The skies were too foggy and overcast. And then a light rain began to fall, moody and grey and cold. Trucks with dryers slowly circled the track. Cars were covered with wraps. Drivers hung out in garages. A sprinkling of fans remained devout in the stands, wrapped in ponchos, with more down under the stands, waiting things out.

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But more rain—big rain—was on the radar.

By 2:30, officials called for the postponement of the race to Monday.

As above, so below: quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius. The Martinsville rainout similarly obscured the telling of NASCAR’s fate from the day’s crowd turnout.  As Monte reported today, the actually sales will never be known. The probability of rain was so high that it’s likely that many stayed away, but then, as in Bristol last week, there may have been far fewer coming out in the first place.

And how many of the fans who actually bought tickets will make the effort to show up today is anyone’s guess.  Monte Dutton reports today that when he covered the last race at Martinsville to be rescheduled due to rain, back in 2001, he was impressed that more than 90 percent of the fans returned to watch it. See his post “The crowd we’ll never know” over at NASCAR This Week.

But expectations this year in NASCAR are like the stock market crash of ’08: falling fast and hard. How many fans bought tickets for Sunday and how many will return today is a question for the dark NASCAR oracle. The ghostliness of the reply—its is silent, hidden in shrouds of rain–adds to the terror which is creeping through NASCAR.

It is the fear not of diminishing returns but of something far worse.

It is the fear of oblivion.

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I find me a place in a box car, so I take my guitar to pass some time
Late at night when it’s hard to rest I hold your picture to my chest and I feel fine
But it’s a rainy night in Georgia, baby, it’s a rainy night in Georgia
I feel it’s rainin’ all over the world, kinda lonely now
And it’s rainin’ all over the world …

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Ashley Force Hood roars into the Funny Car finals at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at the zMax raceway in Charlotte on Sunday.

Without a race to watch, I caught some the 4-wide zMax NHRA races in Charlotte. Funny cars are funny beasts, don’t you think? Flame sprouting from two sides of their engines like flames from a dragon’s nostrils. Getting up to faster than 300 mph in four seconds, thundering so loudly that after their burners cut off and the parachutes loose, the roars continues to echo through the stadium. Strange beasts. And the drivers are all over the place, male and female, old and young. You get the feeling that the true enthusiasts for howling speed are over there, where there is less money but more excitement, a purism, if you will, that will never be quite the money draw as NASCAR but will always deliver the goods for its fans.

Interesting. But heavy rains moved into the Charlotte arena before the finals and they were rescheduled for later this morning. A good thing: Violent storms moved through Charlotte later on with hundreds of lightning strikes, hail and 70-mph winds. North of the city, violent storms damaged about two dozen houses and knocked down countless trees. Two tornadoes were reported to have touched down in Monte Dutton’s town of Gastonia, striking mobile homes in Wylie Overlook.

“It really did sound like a train. It was pure noise,” said William Schlaeppi who lives on a farm in High Point, North Carolina, where the National Weather Service reported damage to at least 20 homes. “I literally watched my fields disappear in front of me under a wall of water — circular, spinning water.”

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As above, so below: what happened at Martinsville and Charlotte yesterday repeated down south here in Florida. A huge front blew across the state yesterday, blowing up the dickens and dumping nearly five inches of rain over our house. Tornadoes struck near Tampa Bay, destroying some apartments in Haines City; over in Melbourne, a suspected funnel cloud ripped into a mobile home park.

Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius: That’s the complete Latin saying, and it comes from the Tabula Smaragdina or “The Table of Emerald,“ said to be found in a cave by Apollonius in Egypt (near Alexandria) in the first century AD. The line was among a number inscribed on a plate of emerald and held by the corpse of the magus Hermes Trismegistus.

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The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.

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Sir Isaac Newton translated the line in 1680 as “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.” As below, so above; as above so below: a zip-tight parallelism delivered to us from ancient days which may still have some mojo left for the present.

As below, so above: Maybe it’s raining all over the world. That can’t be good news in heaven—I don’t mean up there behind the Pearly Gates, but rather in the corporate offices of NASCAR.  The crick is rising fast and no one there seems to know how to sandbag fast enough. The failure of Bristol to sell out for the 54th consecutive time – by 35,000 seats – surely was a harbinger of something bad in the land because of how earthly affairs have been handled by NASCAR. Every empty seat to come this season adds to the sum of how greatly the tide of fortune will ebb.

As above, so below: Surely angels were strumming empyrean harps up at the 40- and 50-thousand-feet tops of the cumulus which hammered the earth yesterday with storms; angels too were holding a sweet hand over their milky breasts as they stood next to their drivers during the singing of the National Anthem, the song which is supposed to hold this country together. Maybe there was a little bit of heavenly machinations in the dues  ex machina which contrived to rain out Martinsville, keeping the skirts of fortune down at a chaste enough level so we weren’t allowed a proper peek at what’s to come.

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Neon signs a-flashin’, taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night
A distant moanin’ of a train seems to play a sad refrain to the night
A rainy night in Georgia, such a rainy night in Georgia
Lord, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world
I feel like it’s rainin’ all over the world ….

Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius. Quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius: It rained all night here last night, force of the storm front spent, moved on to trouble Florida subdivisions to the east, blustered offshore to disturb the shipping lanes. What remained was a long, slow spiculation of rain which boated my dreams (I was trying to sell funny cars as a proper replacement for the newspaper in a deserted old building which may have been the city newspaper I once worked in) and was dripping away when I woke. The rains will continue til mid-morning and then the sun is supposed to peek its golden nipple in a wardrobe malfunction in the grey dress of Heaven. By later afternoon it will be mostly sunny with temps in the upper 60s – far from the low-80s heaven we saw here on Saturday but sufficient. All of this rain is surely erecting and unfurling the orange and jasmine blossoms now horning forth their erotic scents across Florida.

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Sping Breakers have a go at Daytona Beach.

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I’ll have the TV on at work today to watch the race. We have that kind of a workplace—as long as we show up and  do our job, management doesn’t care if we have TVs on. (Don’t start slobbering, nobody’s gotten a raise in two years.) I don’t like the distraction normally–I prefer old jazz on my iTunes–but a TV is handy for big news (like when downtown Orlando shut down a few months ago after a guy walked into his old engineering firm and  opened fire, killing one and wounding six).

The forecast in Martinsville isn’t good – more light rain is to fall —  so we may have to wait yet another day to get a guess at  where things stand in the Delince of the NASCSAR Empire at that track.

And we won’t get better confirmation until Talladega on April 25, followed by Richmond on May 1 and Darlington on May 8, to see how quickly things are falling apart in NASCAR’s heartland. By then we’ll know whether Bristol suffered a colossal marketing fuck-up or is was the first big tremor of a cataclysmic season on scale with, say, what’s been happening in the newspaper industry which used to cover NASCAR with such fervor, or in the Great Recession which is starting to show its fangs. (Unemployment here in Florida is now at 12.2 percent.)

Meanwhile, it’s just raining – not bad for the garden in spring, but steady rains like ths always colors Mondays with a special sort of loneliness and vacancy. An on-the-road-no-destination-home sort of feeling. Here, the rains are supposed to clear later in the day, and the sun may poke her golden bubbie through the clouds in a heavenly sort of wardrobe malfunction.

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Fate can smile now and then. Maybe tonite, live on “Dancing With The Stars”?

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We’ll take what we can get here, and watch what happens in Martinsville today.

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Oh, have you ever been lonely, people?
And you feel that it was rainin’ all over this man’s world
You’re talking ’bout rainin’, rainin’, rainin’, rainin’, rainin’, rainin’, rainin’,
rainin’, rainin’ rainin’, rainin’, rainin’

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