Hey, NASCAR: Put the Blame on Mame


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The Aarons 499 race last Sunday at Talladega has generated quite a squabble over exactly what happened there.

“You know, folks, we’ve just witnessed one of the best Talladega races I have ever seen – and possibly even one of the best races ever,” FOX announcer Darryl Waltrip exulted the other day in his Fox Sports column. Maybe he ought to know, having won 84 races as a driver and 3 championships in the premier league. Or maybe he was caught up in something else, partnering with the  needs of the enterprise (a fantasy which empties pockets faster than a whore in a red dress)  more than the rougher reality of the moment.

Waltrip singled out the peculiar and singular style of racing at Talladega on Sunday he called a form of dancing:

The Talladega Tango was one of the reasons Sunday’s race was fascinating to watch. Guys go all the way to the back of the field only to come all the way back to the front. I saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. do it a dozen times, and he wasn’t the only one capable of that.

I talked to Kevin Harvick, and he said his plan worked out perfectly. They took four tires when they needed to, they took fuel when they needed it and he put himself in position to win the race. He’d practiced going from the back to the front all day long to see how long it would take and see what he could do once he got there. A number of guys did that. Dale Jr. did it the most, and his dad used to do the same to set up for the end of the race.

Tango, yes, but with whom? Monte Dutton of NASCAR This Week took a contrarian view in his post, “Talladega best ever? Nahhhhhh.”

I think this particular race, won by Kevin Harvick in spectacular fashion, was great. I think it may go down as a classic. But the greatest race ever? Not a chance.

NASCAR needs this to be the greatest race ever … because it’s the most recent one. NASCAR often sets aside history when it serves its purposes, and it’s purposes at present involve ending a malaise. What better way to boost sagging attendance and flat television ratings than to declare that the most recent race was … the greatest stock car race ever run … or the greatest auto race ever run … or the greatest sporting event ever held … or the single greatest accomplishment in human history.

It’s easy to see Waltrip as a cheerleader for this effort. He has a vested interest. TV ratings for NASCAR races continue to fall in tandem with race attendance, like two cars drafting out of the entire sphere known as NASCAR.

If anything, what Waltrip exalted was perhaps the very thing that’s killing interest in anything but the end of races. Here’s Monte again from the same post:

The greatest aspect of the Aaron’s 499 was its ending, and nowadays that seems to be the greatest aspect of every single race. The up side is that NASCAR’s cockamamie rules makes such an ending almost unavoidable. The down side is that the best drivers in the country can’t seem to run a lap without crashing at the end.

It strikes me as the sort of end-game strategy which daily newspapers are employing, shrinking their papers while raising subscription rates: the corporate media bosses are betting that there’s a buck to be made on the dying fall of the industry.

NASCAR, perhaps unwittingly (though I doubt that) has set up an irresistable dance which will eventually rob itself of the last vestiges of what once made it great.

Pretty strange move. But then, these days are strange, and the logic which moves events is two-faced and dangerous.

Like a whore in a red dress who’s working not for money or sex but the satisfaction of taking desire down by its greed.

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Does this look like commuting to you? Consider that racing at ‘Dega is now safer than driving to work.

Whatever Waltrip saw from his announcer’s booth (lavishly endowed by NASCAR), Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 reminded me, for the most part, of commuting to work. Not that I drive 190 miles per hour amid a pack of cars festooned with ads for everything from Little Debbies to Miller Beer, but there was something, well, almost as everyday and quotidian about the ‘Dega race action on Sunday which I could identify with, which wasn’t what I was expecting—or wanting—at all.

Many of you will probably disagree the race was dull. What, 88 official lead changes (counted each time the pack crossed the start/finish line, whereas the number of actual lead changes was in the hundreds), a couple of Biggish Ones, a finish to beat the devil (with Harvick charging hard enough to win by a nose) and that was Dull? C’mon.

But I’m sorry, it was. For some reason I wasn’t anything as excited watching the Aaron’s 499 on TV as I was for the races at Bristol or Texas, nail-biters where it took a lot of racing to overcome a leader and a lot of strategy and balls to hold on to a lead. At ‘Dega on Sunday, the only lead change that counted among the 84 was the final one in the closing seconds of the race.

It’s possible that I’d overblown my expectations. Late the previous week I had –at ridiculous length—described Talladega as “NASCAR’s Temple of Doom” that the nothing could live up to the hyperbole. Its like how doing The Deed is nothing like imagining it, though nothing either satisfies except The Deed, as if thirst is endless but satiety is just one tall cold glass of water.

Maybe it was all those lead changes that made the proceedings as ho-hum as my drive to and from work, a flux too formless and malleable to resemble the hard-fought dominance we usually see at a race. Probably more so than any other race I’ve seen, I could identify with the track proceedings. Been there done that – on my commute. Sometimes I’m ahead of that guy in the black Beemer who looks like he could use a severe makeover with that hair – looks like a FOX news helmethead –other times I drive up to a light and there he is ahead of me. Or that semi I passed long ago edges up next to me. Physics, not horsepower (OK, there are a few witless idiots who speed through traffic like the rest of us were going 25 mph) determines such ebbs and flows of traffic.

At the Aaron’s 499 I saw no real defining edge to the racing. The FOX announcers (especially Waltrip) had to work hard at coming up with angles and strategies to stifle the yawn over the race down to the final ten laps or so. For some reason, more than any race this year, it was at Talladega – Talladega! – that there was little reason to watch the first nine tenths of the race. I see that sort of action every day driving to work.

Observers of the evolution of human animation in movies say there’s a theshhold, a proximity to looking like the real thing where 95 percent likeness seems real but 98 percent is horribly false.  Maybe there’s a threshold to TV coverage where it looks so close to racing that it doesn’t look like racing at all. (I’m thinking here of FOX’s “pump up the volume” sequence after a restart, where the set trembles at the roar of passing cars so much that it for some reason pushes us away; when it gets that close it seems wholly alien.)

Or maybe it’s because you know there is no real danger in the racing, that no matter how catastrophic the wreck, the driver will get out and sheepishly wave to the crowd and walk unlimpingly to the infield care ambulance. My commute is far more dangerous than ‘Dega now.

Everyone says that ‘Dega is always decided coming out of the last turn of the 2.66 mile tri-oval, and last Sunday, perhaps was typical for The Monster. It wasn’t until the third green-white finish and then it got down to the four or so guys running on fumes who ended up near the front on the final restart that my attention perked up at last. And even then, Harvick’s late move that got him around McMurray to give the win by a nose seemed as predictable as things get at Talladega, the two restrictor plate masters duking it out for the final quarter lap.

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Ho hum. Jimmie Johnson wrecked at the end but he kept atop the points standings, blunting any feeling that this race made any difference at all, that any of the season’s races before the chase do anything but maintain points position. The fall ‘Dega race, as part of the Chase series, will matter, but for four years running the 48 team’s mastery of their car and the track seems unapproachable.

None of the extras thrown by NASCAR into the mix to make this fan-fun seemed to make any difference. The bump-drafting seemed ordinary, the wrecks were predictable enough occasional lapses in the tight weave, the long green flag runs: It looked like the same drive to work I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.

It wasn’t sexy or exciting in any of the guilty-pleasure ways I had so imagined of Talladega.

Just another day at the office at the track where nothing is predictable, most so the droll predictability of the day’s premier race.

Weird.

As soon as Harvick won I gave my wife the remote (she was ironing clothes) and told her to watch whatever she wanted.

I was done with racing. Perhaps forever.

Till next weekend, at least.

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Florida Hospital in Orlando; Salem Hospital, Salem, OR.

Of course, I didn’t know when I wrote that last passage (early Monday) that something was amiss in the big oval inside my own ribcage. Something going wrong inside made outside things, perhaps, seem minor, quotidian. I couldn’t get my heart engaged in the race because it was occupied with other, more disturbing things.

Later on Monday I checked myself into the emergency room of Florida Hospital with chest pains, a racing pulse, pressure in my head and ringing ears. I felt bad, bad. They took me immediately in back, took blood and  chest x rays, gave me a couple of nitro pills and a shot morphine to quell the knot in my chest.

It was weird, following my younger brother’s footsteps, who died of a heart attack when he 44 two years ago almost to the day. I went through all the rooms he did except for the angioplasty lab where they failed to resurrect his anterior descending artery and he died.

Timm never emerged from Salem Hospital. Not alive, anyway.

I drove out of Florida Hospital parking garage on Tuesday afternoon, April 27. The day was clear and unbelievably beautiful. The sky almost a cobalt blue, the trees in sunlight as if they were on fire.

My brother died of a heart attack. Apparently I suffered something between a reaction to steroids I was taking for a bad back or one of those mably-pambly anxiety attacks whose symptoms wear the mask of the Big One.

For a while, though, I thought I was going to leave the race on my 52d lap. I still might – I’ve got a few more months until I hit 53 – but it didn’t happen the other night.

But there were other folks on the ward who said Good Night, Gracie. An old guy in the room next to mine cried out several times in the night. He was hustled out and didn’t return to his room.

I went through the motions. Nurses came in and out of my room taking blood and EKGs, but I didn’t see any electroshock paddles. (My brother had them applied 14 times to no avail.)  I didn’t see any bright white light, unless you count the aura of my migraine, which was piercing yet deep in the flood of my blood washing, in unaffected, perfect rhythm, in and out of my heart.

My wife drove down from Leesburg from her job. By the time she’d gotten there, the docs had figured I was OK but wanted to keep me overnight for observation. She had a terrible headache. I told her to go home, I’d be fine. She waited to talk with a nurse and get certain confirmations. Satisfied, she allowed herself to be shooed off by me. “Go home and feed that cats, take two PM Tylenols, go to bed,” I said. “I’ll call you in the morning.”

When she kissed me goodbye I saw such a face of concern and weariness and love: The face of a marriage which has endured much, with this as just one of the passing terrors. She left and I was alone, the way I wanted to be. Nothing she could do and there wasn’t anything dire enough for her to stay. I felt back she came down at all.

I felt like a fraud. A heart-attack impostor. I guess I’m glad I went in, that heart trouble was ruled out from the mix. Something else is going on, but it isn’t Big One stuff.

My brother was on Lap 44. Pretty early in the race.

Tim Russert didn’t emerge from his hospital—dead on his life’s 58th lap. David Poole, one of NASCAR’s greatest reporters, didn’t get a pass through the cardiac unit last year, his life’s race ending on its 50th lap.

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Tim Russert and David Poole.

I got the lucky dog. And I felt guilty. Those who survive the dead always do.

I guess it wasn’t my given Sunday.

If I was a racer, it would have been Wynona, NASCAR’s goddess of luck, who gave me the pass.

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But I’m not sure who let me through. Not yet. That’s why I’m writing this.

Nor will I know for how much longer I’ll get the pass.

Not ever.

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Racing in an oval is a form of circulation: Cars launch from the start line and head for an extremity on the other side of the track – anywhere from a half mile to a mile and a half away – and then round back toward a line which on the return is the finish line, or what in 500 miles will be the finish line.  Then off again they go, ever turning left, ever rounding back to home.

Every racecar’s a platelet carrying a form of oxygen to those extremities, helping the dark parts breathe, if you will, assisted by lungs which haul in air from the outside – that would be us, the fans in the stands and all the eyeballs glued on the TV set as the cars go round and round.

It happens fast. The fastest a NASCAR racecar ever went on a lap on Talladega’s 2.33-mile course is 45 seconds – that’s 212 mph. (Bill Elliott, 1987.)

But the average human heart is faster, beating about 60 to 80 times a minute on average in a resting state and upwards to 165 to 180 beats a minute when going flat-out.

Kevin Harvick averaged about 150 mph in winning the Aaron’s 499. He was going a hell of a lot faster than that when he passed Jamie McMurray for the win, a bunch of prior wrecks and three green-white cautions at the end, there was a lot of slowing down. Still, an average 150 mph is pretty fast.

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If you average out a heartbeat between on-the-couch-watching-the-race and balls-to-the-walls-at-the-gym fast, 120 beats per minute might be an equivalent. That’s about 63,000 beats a year.

Or 3.271 billion beats in a 52-year lifetime.

Who can hear you scream in such a universe of heartbeats?

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Ten laps from the finish, this pileup ended the day for Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth.

If all goes well, all the cars go out and round and back for a certain distance – in Sprint Cup competition, around 500 miles—with one of those cars arriving at the starting point/finish line before the rest. That would be the winner, upon whom all the glory and confetti and foaming sprays of champagne or Mountain Dew are lavished, while team members howl with glee and the team owner listens to cash registers fly open and one of this year’s three Miss Sprint Cup appointees stands there suited toes to nose in black and yellow – Sprint Cup colors – and smiles and smiles and smiles in a way that always makes me think of a porn queen receiving a basting of the money shot on her face.  It’s of no matter who wins; usually he’s there because of someone else’s bad luck. Wynona has no moral compunctions about changing her partners from week to week.

Of course, not every car usually finishes. Engines, like hearts, fail. There are wrecks, just like there are wrecks on the daily commute or on the drunk roads late at night. It’s somebody’s fault, moving high or low; but the cars are going so fast its not really anyone’s fault, just a fateful warp in the weave which deigns this car to go there into that car and then kaboom and screech and aw shit. The survivors wipe their brows and go whew. It is always best to be out in front, not only because winners are always in front, but also front-runners are usually out of the way of the mayhem.

But on any given Sunday (or rain-rescheduled Monday), anyone can get caught up in a wreck, or have a tire or a gasket blow and find themselves coming to a stop as all the other cars roar happily by.

The end comes way too early for someone on any given Sunday. Since no one really gets hurt anymore in Sprint Cup car crashes, the unwitting victim looks pretty normal when he’s being interviewed a short time after the wreck. Some combination of sheepish and pissed and glum. The wreck-ee usually mentions how someone else got into them and then quickly move on to saying how good the car was, what a great team worked to put out such a great car, mention the sponsor support and then say something about how it’s a sad shame that it had to end early for their car. And then they walk off, back into the garage, off camera, into irrelevance for that day at least.

But when that oval course inside us gives out, we don’t look so good. Dead is not very handsome. My brother looked normal enough at the viewing—a sheet was over his chest, since organs had already been harvested—but his skin was cold and his blue eyes were fused shut. And he could offer no explanation to us about what had happened. I had to glean all of that from the EMT and hospital reports.

Knowing all that made my lap through Florida Hospital last Monday night very, very strange. I knew the narrative already.

I was doing the same tango.

Or watching it.

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I was exhausted on Sunday, having worked like a fool in the garden on Saturday afternoon, putting in some 30 pentas and blue daze and climbing roses. My wife’s idea, really. I was planning to lay on the couch and watch the Aaron’s 312. But it was rained out and I knew she wasn’t going to be able to get those damn plants in, so, despite being on steroids and surely in need of rest, I went out into the upper-80s’ heat and did the hero thang. I got all those fucking plants into the ground despite having to hack through a pesky root system of something – trees in the parkway, I guess – and then pouring out some 15 bags of cypress mulch.

A doctor explained to me around 1 a.m. on Tuesday – the bad cop doctor, the one who tells the morons what fucking idiots they are – that steroids mask pain, so no doubt I way way overdid it, invoking the start of the symptoms when I went back to work on Monday. A normal, stressful day in the failing newspaper industry – and by midmorning, my heartrate was taking off, my chest was tightening up like a wad of paper, I was getting a bit nauseated, my ears were ringing, I was getting a headache.

Maybe I was succumbing to terror of the usual daily spin down the toilet – me at an irrelevant age with my industry tanking and no other lucrative options out there. Enough days of working under such condition, who wouldn’t start to freak? Maybe I thought of my brother’s fatal heart attack a couple of years before and started to panic. Could be. Or, as another doctor suggested, maybe something else is starting. It wasn’t my heart, but something is wrong, and it’s stayed so since. A high-wire sort of anxiety, as if one false move and it’s into the wall for me.

I didn’t know shit on Monday, though, just that I felt bad. Real bad. I waited it out a couple of hours to see if the symptoms would subside. When they didn’t, I finally  called my primary care doctor’s nurse and after explaining how I felt she said, stop whatever you’re doing and go NOW to the ER.

Blame her, fer Crissakes.

But the doctor was blaming me, pure and simple, for blatant stupidity.

A stupid move.

But then, my life’s as crowded with responsibilities as the Talladega pack, so it doesn’t take much of a wrong move to set things in wrong motion.

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There isn’t anything to do in a cardiac observation unit. You just lay there and wait for someone to draw blood or take an EKG, for another doctor to come in and ask all the same questions. You eat food that tastes like soft cardboard. I waited hours and hours for migraine medication to arrive, so I lay there with an anvil in my head and a question mark over my chest.

Maybe that question mark was more than the diagnosis the docs were all angling toward. Maybe it was the ghost of my old birthmark. See, I was born with a red heart-shaped birthmark over my heart. And the heart was transfixed by an arrow. No shit. Only the thing was upside down, and it disappeared when I was three years old or so.

The birthmark isn’t that uncommon, though its placement over my heart is. Kings of the Merovingian dynasty – you know, the guys who were entrusted with hiding the Holy Grail and whose blood flowed, supposedly, from Mary Magdalene, who, if you believe Dan Brown’s tale, was secreted away from Palestine into Europe after the crucifixion of Christ.

In every heart there’s a grail, a cup of wonder, the most magical thing in the world. It was hidden there by the gods because they figured no one would think to look there for it.

I’m not sure who fired that arrow, yet. The answer may die on my lips.

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The only thing you can do in a COV (cardiac observation unit) is lay there. You sleep a while, worry, listen to the sounds of other, more precarious dramas going on in the room next to you, drift off to sleep some more, and watch TV. Lots of TV. I watched “The Office” on TBS, “Dancing with the Stars,” (wild tangos between a pro and lead-footed luminary), some awful sitcom I can’t recall and a terrible drama I can’t recall. (Why is so much TV, so many channels of it, all so bad?)

Then I slept, my sleep disturbed by that fucking migraine headache and by numerous times by nurses checking on me and doctors lecturing me and people dying in the night.

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My brother died at 2:50 a.m. on the morning of April 18, 2008.

At 2:50 a.m. on the morning of April 27, 2010, I lay in a cardiac observation unit bed and started in my sleep, waking with the grip of a migraine tight at my temples and my heart quiet. I farted and went back to sleep, thinking of my wife alone in bed up in our house in our small town, praying she was sleeping well.

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The next morning around 8 a.m. I was told I would be released that day – my heart, in Their accumulated wisdom, was fine. I should have felt relieved, but actually it just made me feel foolish.

It took almost all of day to get discharged. Meanwhile I made calls on my cell, reassuring my wife, making some arrangements at work, calling a few friends to give them the news. I didn’t tell either of my parents where I was. They’d already lost one son to an ER ward like this, and as it turned out I didn’t have his problem. They’re both in their 80s, fer crissakes; why give them a coronary with news of my false one?

During that long wait I watched Gilda on Turner Classics. It’s basically a vehicle for Rita Hayworth to shake out her hair and show off her smile and her gams and wear outfits that glittered like a constellation of eerily-burning stars. Every WWII vet knows Rita like the inside of his own locker, like the fuselage of the B-52 he went down with. She was a good-luck fuck, a promise to make it home.

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In Gilda, though, that promise wasn’t so sure. Hayworth plays a falling angel all too well. One of her big song-and-dance numbers – where she begins a striptease that leaves jaws agape some sixty-five years later – is a song called “Put the Blame on Me, Mame”:

When they had the earthquake
-in San Francisco-back in 1906
They said that old mother nature-
was up to her old tricks.
That’s the story that went around,
but here’s the real lowdown-
Put the blame on Mame boys,
put the blame on Mame

One night she started to – shim and shake-
that brought on the `Frisco quake
So you can, Put the blame on Mame boys,
put the blame on Mame.

They once had a shootin’ –
up in the Klondike when they got Dan McGrew
Folks were puttin’ the blame on –
the lady known as Lew
that’s the story that went around,
but here’s the real lowdown-

Put the blame on Mame boys,
put the blame on Mame
Mame did a dance called the Hichy-koo,
that’s the thing that slew McGrew
So you can, Put the blame on Mame boys …

So it wasn’t an earthquake that brought down ‘Frisco – nor an angry Mother Nature – but someone worse, a hotcha dancer named Mame. Gilda glommed onto that song like random sperm onto a flung brassiere with heavy white cups.

By extension, it wasn’t Krauts or Japs that got so many Americans killed. It was Rita Hayworth.

Though I love my wife and our cats and our house and garden and minor, middle-aged existence, watching Hayworth sing that song I wanted to kiss her, too, and make the exit from my life with a bang (or rather, banging her). Who wouldn’t? Why does Death have such a strangely attractive face, the older you get?

I invited Gilda to come lay in bed with me there while I waited to be released from the hospital with my fraudulent heart condition. But she just waved goodbye and let the final credits roll. I was going home—to my real home, the one on this side of the life.

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I also watched CNN a while, hearing a number of Goldman Sachs executives testify before a very testy Senate panel. Not that I really like Congress all that much, but there are worse monsters in the world, and Goldman Sachs is one of them. (Hospitals are like Congress, in my opinion, filled with well-meaning people who can’t do much of a damn thing for you, even though it costs the world.)

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit charging the bank with fraud for creating and selling mortgage-backed securities that were intended to fail.

The brouhaha is over what are called synthetic collateralized debt obligations, complex financial instruments which many say played a big role in making the financial crisis worse by providing more securities to bet against. Basically, the financiers at Goldman Sachs created a way for them to sell off bad mortgages and then make money when the market collapsed. They bet against their own customers and laughed all the way to the bank. (In the first quarter of 2010, the company’s net profit soared 91 percent — $3.46 billion dollars.

In the first quarter of 2010, there were 930 thousand foreclosures, up 16 percent from the same quarter of last year.

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In testimony before a Senate subcommittee on April 27, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said it was not a conflict of interest for his firm to sell mortgage-backed securities without telling investors that his firm was betting against those securities. The government isn’t buying it, and now the Justice Department is reviewing the SEC’s allegations of fraud against the investment firm.

Betting against the house and raking in the dough of death: it’s like the newspaper industry.

If you follow the odd, odd logic of this post, it isn’t Goldman Sachs that sank our economy, but a gauzy strange broad by the name of SEDO (for synthetic collaterailed debt obligation) who seduced us into the latest distortion of the American Dream and then ditched us while we hold the fuse in our hands.

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Also in the news was the bad news leaking out of the Gulf of Mexico, or rather, from an oil drilling rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast that had exploded and burned out of control on April 20, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead. The rig sank two days later and all what originally was thought to be 1,000 barrels of oil a day began leaking. A few days later, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production for British Petrolium, who had leased the oil rig, stated that a two new leaks had been found in the riser and that the spill was more like 5,000 barrels a day.

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Though many measures have been taken to soak up the spill, very little of it has been contained.

The slick is predicted to make landfall on Louisiana coast tonight.

Looking at footage of the slick reminded me of a busted heart pouring out its last. I thought of Gilda’s sleazy black dress and gloves when she was singing “Put the Blame on Me, Mame.”

Easy to blame British Petroleum. They’re one of the worst companies to help America to energy independence. A 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas refinery that killed 15 people and resulted in a record $21 million dollar fine from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for safety violations that were allegedly the result of company budget cuts. And in 2006, a BP pipeline leak went undetected for five days, pumping 267,000 gallons of oil into Prudhoe Bay of Alaska, reportedly caused by “failing equipment” that environmental advocates earlier had warned was in need of repair.

In a press release on the BP corporate website, Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward said, “We are doing absolutely everything in our power to eliminate the source of the leak and contain the environmental impact of the spill. We are determined to fight this spill on all fronts, in the deep waters of the Gulf, in the shallow waters and, should it be necessary, on the shore.”

Hayward made BP’s effort sound like the cardiac care ward at Florida Hospital, both concerns going to every length to put a stop to something which originated, much earlier, with a dance—in the former case, our country’s dance with cheap energy, and in the latter, my dance with a life’s sweltering curves, edible potable smokeable and fuckable turns which compose the speeding oval of my life.

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And for all that British Petroleum and Florida Hospital can do to staunch the bleeding, Mame keeps dancing because we want her to, we need her dance of death because its just so damn cute and inviting and magnifying what would otherwise be like dancing alone drunk on the floor after everyone’s gone home.

And—to tie this thing back to where I started –it isn’t NASCAR but Wynona, corporate racing’s gilded goddess of Luck, who’s overseeing the demise of the sport that green-white-checker dress, augmenting the end while killing the race. Bigger finishes necessarily diminish the ends of getting there. Now there really isn’t any reason to tune in until the end.

And in the end, Gilda kissed her man and I got a free pass. I got to drive up to my small town north of Orlando and park my car next to my house and come inside to my  beautiful wife and cats and sigh and say, I’m home.

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Which brings me back to the nagging question: Who let me go? Who is my Mame, my Gilda, my Wynona?

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Not Gilda, nor Wynona, for me. But who? Or what?

Was it the moon, so full and heavy and silvered that night over Florida Hospital?

Was it my own heart, whose purposes and desires are so foreign to my brain, my knowledge? My head tells me life sucks; but my heart is still in love with all of this.

This time, my heart eased off on the gas. I finished the lap without incident, while Kevin Harvick claimed Talladega and Goldman Sachs executives faced their firing squad and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico kept emptying blood from the world’s deep heart.

I got off this time.  I made it back home, eventually, from my Monday commute.

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But Mame is still dancing. And there are some great races coming up the next three weekends.

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