Who’s Gonna Take Care of the Darlington Stripe I Left in My Shorts? Mother, of Course


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Saturday night’s race at Darlington comes on the eve of Mother’s Day. NASCAR’s traditional pairing of these two events gives a unique perspective on a hell of a good fellow’s total thrall (or horror) ((or both)) with Mother.

Darlington is deep in NASCAR’s South Carolina motherland, two hours from nowhere, famous for having nothing other than Darlington Raceway as its only attraction, keeping drivers holed up in their trailers with their wives and girlfriends for wont of anything else to do.  There used to be two races at Darlington – one in the spring and the other at Labor Day – but a failing local economy (textile mills closing down) made it a hard draw, so the fall race went to California and the spring one placed on Mother’s Day weekend, which for the past four years has guaranteed a sellout. Why such a pairing has made Darlington a financial success, go figure; but there must be something between racin’ and Motherhood which go together like, well, Elvis Presley and a peanut butter, banana slices and bacon sandwich, served up by his mama Gladys. But more on that later.

Good mama or bad? Racin’ on the eve of Mother’s Day suggest that both faces of the person who brought us into the world are included. Nestled among the verdant fields of tobacco farms, Darlington Raceway has a track of legendary woe, whose odd shape purportedly was due to a recalcitrant owner of a minnow pond at one end which forced track builder Harold Brasington to create a track which had a tighter, narrower and more steeply banked turn at one end (honoring his pledge not to disturb the minnow pond) and the other turn wide, sweeping and flat.

The configuration was made even tougher for drivers because of its egg-shaped design, with straightaways which were longer than most tracks of the time, allowing cars to drive at relatively high speeds before having to negotiate those wildly different turns.

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Darlington Raceway from up high.

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Odd empowerment and limitation, like a mama’s prophetic words. It may not be the reason, but in this sense it’s fitting that Darlington is called “The Lady in Black.”

I should know. About a mother’s prophecies, I mean. One day when I was 11 or 12 I headed out the door of our house in Evanston, Illinois, to walk to the El to catch a train into downtown Chicago to visit my father, who had moved out some months ago and was living on the 48th floor of one of the Marina Towers, I had, tucked under my arm, my telescope, saying that I should have a great vantage on the stars from such a height.

Actually, the height was excellent for snooping down on the Playboy Mansion on Drake Street, which wasn’t far from there.

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Which heavenly constellation did Mom see in my eyes? Ursula Minor—my Little Dipper–or Claudia Jennings, Playboy’s Miss November 1969?

My mom wouldn’t let me bring that telescope with me. “Son,” she said, “there’s more to life than a bed, a babe, and a bottle of booze.”

I honestly had clear idea how those three things were connected when she said that; but like a hammer nailing in something complete and final, her words made me vow that I’d find out.

Oh yes, I would.

Who set me on, who fated me to that curvy road of left-turns which eventually led me to this moment of Mother’s Day Weekend 2010?

Why–Mother, of course.

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Actually, Darlington is known as the “Lady in Black” because its white walls darken over the course of the race from tire rubs of cars going high in its turns; every rookie driver receives his Darlington initiation proper when his car gets a Darlington Stripe from contact with the wall. Darlington’s walls starts out clean and white as a baby’s blanket and then the racers have a go at her, leaving her by race’s end mauled, besmirched, blackened.

In James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, the river Liffey is personified as Anna Livia Plurabelle, who, in the dreaming mind of an anonymous, aging man, is a mother who picks up all of the Dublin’s wastes and carries them out the to the ocean. If you want to read the closest approximation of what goes through a dreaming person’s mind, try Finnegans Wake. But beware. It’s wild and incoherent and everything in between, written like a race track, with the first word of the book the one which follows the last. This “night-book” took Joyce his last 17 years to complete and is considered unreadable by a sane mind, the rants of voice lost in the deepest recesses of the Realm of the Mothers. I knocked if off reading a couple of pages on the can for a year and a half; I can’t recite a single passage from memory, but it’s pure ear music, a book dredged up from the bottom of the human well.

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A bronze statue by Eamon O’Doherty rendering Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabelle, a maternal personification of the River Liffey. Locals call it the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

Dunno if the folks in Nashville feel the same about the Cumberland River which cuts through town, swollen above flood levels from record rains over the weekend. The Cumberland also deluged some of the city’s most important revenue sources: the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, whose 1,500 guests were whisked to a shelter; the adjacent Opry Mills Mall; even the Grand Ole Opry House, considered by many to be the heart of country music.

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The Grand Ole Opry House was inundated by a flooded Cumberland River over the past weekend.

Did you know the Greeks called wine – their booze – “the fiery drink of the black mother”? I wonder if the Cumberland River’s flooding of the Opry has spawned a dozen whiskey songs, like so many tears, about cruel Mamas and how the twang will yet survive.

I can’t help thinking here of Mom trudging through all of our rooms when we were kids, picking up our dirty laundry and lugging it all downstairs to the basement where she ran (it seemed) endless loads of laundry. It was Mom who laundered out the skidmarks in my BVDs, Mom who washed my semen-stained sheets when I hit a furiously masturbatory stretch of puberty. And she never said a word about any of it, not that I recall.

I also think of Darlington Raceway, receiving all those skidmarks on her clean white walls from all of the boys, silently taking it all in, becoming a Lady in Black while cars fight it out on an oval which has no real beginning or end.

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Of course, for every swipe at the Darlington track, there’s an equal scrape to appear on the side of a race car.

The “Darlington Stripe” is both an initiation and a badge of honor, signifying that a driver has driven hard the way Darlington demands – fast and high.

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Darlington Stripes.

“It’s just part of the race there,” Jimmie Johnson says, who has won twice at Darlington. “The track is so narrow and there’s so much slipping and sliding that sometimes you just run out of room and go up and kiss the wall and lean against it to get you pointed in the right direction and keep going on.”

Sometimes a Stripe is a graze, and sometimes an accumulation of these dings in one race will doom a car to worse and worse handling. And, of course, many cars wreck hitting that wall too hard.

Drivers may think that Talladega is the scariest track on the circuit, but Darlington is one known as “The Track to Tough to Tame.” Here are some quotes from drivers prior to the 2009 race, collected by Monte Dutton:

“Darlington is just a special place. It’s like no other. It’s the toughest place we go. I don’t care who you talk to. It is absolutely mentally and physically one of the toughest race tracks, and it’s unforgiving. as well, and I guess that’s what makes it part of being tough. There’s no margin for error at Darlington, and I love it.” – Greg Biffle.

“I remember watching the Darlington races as a kid on television. Wide World of Sports would sandwich my brother Darrell, and Bobby and Donnie Allison, between ping pong and sumo wrestling.” – Michael Waltrip.

“The cars have changed, the speeds have changed and the asphalt has changed, but I don’t believe the driver’s thinking has changed one bit.” – Jeff Gordon.

“Darlington’s tough, but I like it. It’s a very narrow, fast race track that has a lot of history and is a very prestigious race to win. It’s one of those places where I’d like to win a Sprint Cup race.” – Kevin Harvick.

“I’d love to win because the track has a lot of history. A lot of great names have been in victory lane there. It’s so tough to win. It’s such a tough race track. And when you’ve won there, you’re considered one of the tougher guys in the sport because you can conquer this race and conquer what this track throws at you.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Just don’t hit the wall. I think every car on the track is going to hit it; it’s just how hard everyone is going to hit it.” – Kasey Kahne.

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Unlike Talladega races, where Wynona often squirts her fortunate milk over just about any racer coming off the final turn, few journeymen drivers ever win at Darlington. Even masters of most other tracks have failed to crack the Darlington egg.

Rusty Wallace, who won 55 races over 25 years, never won at Darlington. Not in 43 starts.

“I just had this unbelievable not good luck there,” he says. “Now there’s some guys that take to that place like water. … But that was the one that just drove me personally completely crazy.

“I just never had the comfort to fly down that back straightaway into what is now Turn 3, which used to be Turn 1, and just drive that baby 190 mph right up against the wall because every time I’d do that I’d get 20 laps right and the 21st I’d screw up and hit the wall.”

Among active drivers, Tony Stewart hasn’t won at Darlington in 17 starts; Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are both 0-13.

Hard to please this demanding mama. Yet others have proved her favorite sons. Of the 43 men who have won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race there through 2008, more than half – 24 to be exact – have won at least twice.

Among active drivers, Jeff Gordon leads with seven wins.  Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Gregg Biffle have all won twice at Darlington.

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won nine times. “You never forget your first love,” Earnhardt said once about Darlington. “Whether it’s a high school sweetheart, a faithful old hunting dog, or a fickle race track in South Carolina with a contrary disposition. And, if you happen to be a race car driver there’s no victory so sweet, so memorable, as whipping Darlington Raceway.”

Heroic drivers may think they beat The Lady in Black, but that just keeps them in thrall of Her, which is, of course, every bad mom’s stratagem. (More on that later.) The most successful driver of all time at Darlington is David Pearson with ten wins. A favorite son; what could he do wrong there? Many believe Pearson to be the greatest stock car ever; his mettle at Darlington may be the proof.

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Monte Dutton once recorded a conversation between Tony Stewart and David Pearson about how to race Darlington, bringing the two of them together before a race in Phoenix a few years back.

At the time, Pearson was 70 years old, Stewart 33. Pearson’s last championship occurred in 1969, when what is now Nextel Cup was referred to as Grand National and there were no races in Las Vegas.

Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, though, Stewart is a throwback to the days when dinosaurs named Pearson, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison ruled the earth. Earth, at the time, mainly consisted of the South.

Pearson, who won 105 races, was leisurely strolling around with another notable resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina, former car owner and ace mechanic Walter “Bud” Moore. As luck would have it, they happened to be in front of the stall where Stewart’s No. 20 Chevrolet rested, shortly after the end of a practice session and as Stewart was climbing out of his orange car.

“Do you know Tony Stewart?” I asked Pearson.

“I’ve met him,” he said. “I don’t know him. I know he can sure enough drive a race car.”

“I think you’d like him,” I said. “Hang on a minute.”

I then walked over in front of the car, where Stewart was discussing various matters of technical significance with his crew chief, Greg Zipadelli.

“David Pearson’s out there,” I said to Stewart. “Want to say hello?”

“Give me a minute,” said Stewart.

I walked back out and started talking with Moore, about whose teams I used to write, and Pearson, the hero of my youth. The topic was familiar: how much times have changed, how not all the changes have been for the best, how much all the cars are just alike, etc. It was the kind of conversation oldtimers have regardless of whether they’re athletes or shoe salesmen.

Pearson looks as if he could climb right back into a stock car and run five hundred miles. He seems far more robust than a man who underwent open-heart surgery a few years back. He has the same barrel chest and broad shoulders he boasted when he was winning 11 races in 18 tries in 1973.

After a few minutes of chitchat, though, the proud ex-champion was getting a little restless. With a small sense of urgency, I excused myself and returned to the garage stall, where Stewart had been intercepted by someone else.

“Hey, Tony,” I said, “the best stock-car racer who ever lived is out there, and I don’t think I’d make him wait much longer.”

Stewart looked up. “Don’t let him get away,” he said. “I’ll be right there.”

Thirty seconds may have passed before Stewart strode out into the desert sunshine.

“Hey,” he said, shaking Pearson’s hand, “I need you to drive my car for me at Darlington. I ain’t worth a damn at that track.”

Pearson didn’t flinch. “All you got to do is drive that thing as high on the track as you can get it,” he said.

“That’s what I’m doing,” Stewart said, smiling.

“You ought to have driven it when it was hard,” replied Pearson, who won there a record ten times. “It’s easy now.”

— from Haul Ass and Turn Left: The Wit and Wisdom of NASCAR (Monte Dutton, 2005)

Darlington winners are proud sons.

They wear their Stripes like servicemen.

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Darlington losers bear their Stripes with something akin to throwing skidmarked BVDs in the hamper.

They’re a condemnation only a mother could understand. Boys will be boys, and drivers will collect their Stripes at Darlington.

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Jeff Gordon and his mother Carol.

So what’s Mom got to do with racing? On the surface, very little. Most racers moved into an exclusively male world quite young, taking up go-karting with Dad, spending their childhoods in the garage and the track, staying pumped on octane and testosterone.

And yet, many inventions cherished by men – the ones they call “toys” – place them psychologically in the realm of the Mother. Many of these toys are named after women. Take boats, which are always referred to in the feminine gender – “she’s a leaky, untrustworthy, fickle sow of a tug.” Many boats are also named after women: Angel of the Sea, April Rose, Blondie, Blue Eyes, Caribbean Queen, Dixie Girl, Dulcinea, Fanny my Girl, Fatima, Gipsy Girl, Mary of the Sea, Mistress of the Ocean, My Princess, Neptune’s Daughter, Ocean Dancer, Rachel the Sublime, Rebecca, Salome, Sofia’s Dream, Swimming Girl, Tequesta, Unconscious Lady, Veronica, Widow’s Love. … A boat, it seems, is both substitute and improvement on the whole notion of woman, protective mom on the waters, a sexy weekend thing with privileges.

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The lusty 1849 HMS Sea Witch and her modern equivalent.

Like ships, guitars are always referred to in the feminine gender and also are frequently named after women. Famously there’s Lucille, the name of every Gibson guitar owned of blues guitarist BB King. (Like a succession of wives, there is only one sustaining love, no matter what guitar a person picks up to play.) George Harrison named his ’57 Les Paul “Lucy” after red-haired comedian hottie/mom Lucille Ball. Stevie Ray Vaughan named his ’65 Fender Strat “Lennie” after his wife. (Oh, boy, do I remember a Lennie from my past …) Billy Gibbons named his starburst ’59 Les Paul “Miss Pearly Gates,” as if her very frets were a stairway to heaven or, perhaps more loosely, the ballsy leads he could throw from that guitar could famously lift polka-dotted skirts faster than a Texas sidewinder.

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BB.King with Lucille; Stevie Ray Vaughan with Lenny; Billy Gibbons with Miss Pearly Gates.

Some drivers have christened their cars with women’s names. Dale Earnhardt Jr. named one of his cars “Wild-Eyed Crazy Mary.”  Kyle Busch named his No. 5 Chevrolet “Twisted Sister” when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports.  Clint Bowyer named one of his race cars in ’07 “Betsy”.

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Clint Bowyer with winning Betsy; or was it the winsome, sinuous Athena Barber, Bowyer’s girlfriend at the time, who was more responsible for Bowyer’s 2008 Nationwide Championship, which he nabbed with only one win? Bowyer eventually dumped Barber, and it’s been a long time since that he’s had much luck on the track.

Some are borderline names, suggesting a somewhat uneasy relationship with the opposite sex. There’s the noir “Midnight,” the handle which Rusty Wallace gave the #2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac which won his 12 races in 1993. And for a crasser, more misogynistic bite, there’s the 1986 Ford which rookie of the year Alan Kulwicki affectionately named Sirloin.

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Rusty Wallace’s Midnight wins the 1993 New Hampshire race, but it couldn’t do diddly against the Lady in Black.

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Alan Kulwicki in the No. 35 “Old Sirloin”; Claudia Jennings, aged sirloin now perhaps now but in ’69 the wasn’t a better, more prime cut in the land.

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Men have all sorts of names for their offending members, but to my knowledge they are exclusively masculine. Little General, Johnson, Love Hammer, Meat Whistle, Donut Holder, Salty Dog, Pickle, Woodie: Pure penile braggadocio.

If any man has given his penis a woman’s name – especially his mother’s – then surely he’s a serial killer (think Norman Bates here in “Psycho”, or wearing a wristband and walking around in a ward where the doors have no handles on the inside. Or taken up with lipstick lesbians who get turned on when a dude whispers, “my Gloria just loves French kissing …”

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As Norman Bates found out, when you call your gigglestick “Mommy,” it will start to look – and act – like this.

No: Calling your dingdong Sue is loading the dice against your fate. Nor, I suspect, could an overdose Cialis rouse a pecker named Mommy from its zonked lair. Besides, devotion of Mother is paired with lust for her Other, the naughty girl who will do anything you want her to and more, the one you would never bring home to Mother and can’t do without.

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Claudia Jennings: In 1968 I discovered that Woman did not have to look – or act – like Mother. Claudia Jennings, 1968 Playboy Playmate.

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Maybe we think these pesky perky alternate brains of ours really do belong to us. A lot of civilization got built that way, re-centering the spiritual and actual domains of human existence around the phallus. (Phallocentrism is the notion feminists seek to cut off. Or so it seems when some uppity woman gets behind the wheel of a race car.)

Male gods ruled Olympus, but they usually did so through rape or marriage (or both). When Apollo slew the dragon of Delphi – at high solar noon – don’t think that he was appropriating Her prophetic lair.

I don’t hear my mother’s oracles much any more; they’ve been taken over by wise aphorisms, like that of St. Thomas who said, in the Gnostic gospel rejected by the Church Fathers:

If you bring out what is inside you, what is inside you will save you; if you fail to bring out what is inside you, what you fail to bring out will destroy you.

Women are born with the equipage to become a mother, but boys have to become men, which is always a willed act requiring initiation.

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Once, in our older, developmental history, religion was matriarchal: the Great Goddess ruled over all, from the turnout of the hunt to the fertile growing of grain. The light of consciousness was feeble and easily subsumed back by the great dragon of the unconscious.

Mom was pretty big back then. The original Mother’s Day may root back to a festival of Cybele, one of the Greek great mother goddesses, held around the vernal Equinox. Her ancient title was Potnia Theron and alludes to her Neolithic roots as “Mistress of the Animals” (thus Goddess of the hunt). In her story her son, the hero Attis, is about to marry a woman when Cybele reveals herself in her full goddess aspect, driving Attis mad. He goes mad and castrates himself (cutting off the member which so offends Mother) and dies. Cybele takes pity on her son and resurrects him in the form of the pine tree which, as the story evolves, is the tree we cut down at Christmas to celebrate the son of the Queen of Heaven.

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Great Mother Cybele gets up close and personal with son/future sacrifice Attis.

Human civilization kept on keepin’ on, building cities and innovating weapons of mass and massier destructions. The flint axe became the sling became the crossbow became the blunderbuss became the cannon, each weapon more potent than the last for ejaculating death and destruction on The Enemy. Horses were worshiped as earthly votives of the horse-goddess Epona; men whispered sweet somethings in their ears as they hitched up and began racin’.

During the Middle Ages, a specific Sunday was set aside for Mothering Day in the liturgical calendar of several Christian denominations (in the Catholic calendar, the day is marked as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary and the “mother church”. Children who served in houses were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place them on the church or to give them to their mothers.

Women were kept in their place by the authority of Pope and King, but no one doubts they continued their rule from hearth and bed. In 1870, a Mother’s Day Proclamation was written by Julia Ward Howe. Oddly, its purpose was political, a form of protest against the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco Prussian War. Howe believed that women had a responsibility to shape their society at the political level. She couldn’t vote, but don’t believe that Mom didn’t have a lot of clout.

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American ur-Mom Julia Ward Howe demands some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The Presidential declaration of Mother’s Day in the  U.S. was first made by Franklin D. Roosevelt in May 1934 and then repeated by presidents Kennedy (1963), Johnson (’64), Ford (’76), H.W. Bush (’90), Clinton (’93) and G.W. Bush (’08). As if we needed the reminder that Mom was expecting her due from husband and brood.

There came to be a Father’s Day, too – duh – but that holiday pales in comparison to the sort of dough sons and daughters fork out in honor of Mom. About 150 million Mother’s Day cards get mailed. Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants, beating out even Valentine’s Day. Florists make a quarter of their annual sales volume on Mother’s Day (yes, whipping the panties off Valentine’s Day).

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Traditional Mother’s Day card.

Of course, Mom isn’t just Mom – it’s every mother. If your wife has kids, she qualifies as a Mom. (In our house, my wife cares for cats – that means she gets Mother’s Day cards from both me and the cats).

Father’s don’t get any equivalent of that sort of guilt, respect and attention. Why? Most people, I suspect, feel that it was Mom who put the real sweat equity in child-rearing from womb to tomb. The home is Mom’s turf, her nest; Dad showed up after work and barked out orders, but the real emotional heavy hauling was usually done by Mom, for better or much, much worse. We remember our Dads, but Mom is so essential to our identity – for better and worse – that our eventual lives are ruled by Queen Marys and Ladies in Black, our race through life warded over (and wardened by) Her smile and clucks of disapproval.

For we all know that without Mom we wouldn’t be. She made us, for better and ill. She tests us at the doorstep of every conscious move, whispering or cackling on our shoulder like a dove or a crow. Whether we like it or not, we do it for Mom, long after her mortal representative has faced from our life.

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We know not to fool with Mother Nature, whether that involves drilling into the Gulf or building a house on a barrier island in Florida or simply going against our own nature. Offense against the order of things – what the alchemists called opus contra naturuum – upsets the balance and makes strange things happen. Magic requires a certain skill, a means of walking high tensile wires between bliss and doom. It means going balls to the walls on the Darlington straightaways and going high—oh so precipitously high—on the turns. A Darlington Stripe says The Lady in Black is watching. Mother is waiting to collect all her sons.

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In an Associated Press auto poll, most American drivers have a close connection to their cars and think of them as gender-specific. The most common names were “Betsy,” “Nelly,” “Blue” and “Baby.” Sixty-two percent of drivers polled admitted to talking to their cars.

Guys love their cars sometimes more than anything else. I’ll bet there are racecar drivers who only feel like themselves when they’re safe behind the wheel going close to 200 miles per hour.

Stephen King played this out into a baroque horror tale with Christine, about a malevolent, murderously-spooked ’58 red and white Plymouth Fury which one day catches the eye of a dorky teenager named Arnie. In the 1983 movie adaptation by John Carpenter, Arnie becomes obsessed with restoring the beat-to-Gehenna car, changing into a leaner, tougher, crueler sort of guy as the car is restored to its pristine glory.

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Arnie behind the wheel of Christine.

Then the weird stuff happens. Taking the most popular girl in school out on the date, the dame almost chokes to death on a hamburger; Arnie is convinced Christine is jealous and will have no other women sitting in her. Thugs who have it in for Arnie vandalize the car almost to pieces, but Christine restores herself–thanks to a lot of reverse-motion photography–and death comes to Libertyville as Christine murders the gang one by one.

I can’t help feeling that Arnie’s dad had a car like Christine once and was forced to give it up when he met Arnie’s mom. Christine is an old love’s revenge against mom by a son turned bad. Some loves, its turns out, are eternal. In the book, the father is found dead in Christine, apparently of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Arnie and his mother are killed in a car wreck. (Witnesses say there were three people in the car though only two bodies are found.)

Bad to the eternally damned bone, that’s Christine—and unstoppable, even in death. After the movie, Christine kept showing up – in Stephen King’s 1986 novel It and The Stand. In an episode of the TV series Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett is seen driving Christine along with his friend, a young Stephen King.

Young men don’t forget their first cars, the cars they souped up like muscle cars, the cars they banged their girlfriends in. The woman who runs the antique shop where my wife works a few days a week lives with a guy she knew from high school; they got back together with after her divorce. John still has the restored ‘34 Ford he took this woman out on their first date, in 1950, when they were both in high school.

Some boys never let go of their toys.

Or their dream girls.

And the toys don’t let go, either.

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I have another wild conjecture. What is it about cars and women with big breasts? A muscle-car seems to demand a voluptuous catch to go with it, as it all that enginned testosterone necessarily melts the brassieres off big-hootered mamacitas. Is Mom watching her son through those bulging eyes?

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When it comes to boys and cars, size matters. Perhaps too much.

And this: racers who have big-hootered wives or girlfriends don’t win many races.  Kurt Busch won the Sprint Cup championship in 2004. Busch married Eva in 2006, and he hasn’t done better than 4th place in the points standings since.

Jimmie Johnson married slim model Chandra Lynn in December 2004. He won his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2006.

Kevin Harvick, currently first in the points standings, is married to Delana, another slim woman.

Jeff Gordon, who has placed second in 8 races since his last win in spring 2009, is married to slim ultramodel Ingrid Vanderbosch.

Kyle Busch, who couldn’t stop winning races in 2008, finally married his sweetheart Samantha Sarcinella this year. Formerly a slim aerobics instructor, somewhere along the line Samantha got breast augmentation surgery – and Kyle began slipping down the points standings in Sprint Cup competition, with a dismal showing in 2009 and struggling again this year.

What once seemed so easy for Kyle seems a distant possibility. Is that because tracks are hostile to another mother in Kyle’s life?

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Hot: Slim Chandra with champ Jimmie; Ingrid and Jeff; Delana and Happy Harvick. Not: Busty Eva with Busch; embusted Samantha with Shrub.

Are big breasts – the very sign of potency in the owner and driver of every monster car – bad, bad mojo for those who would hold high stock car racing’s highest trophy?

Is there more Mom in a track than we ever suspected?

And the less off-track rack She has to compete with, the more She cracks a smile on her favored sons?

Enquiring minds gotta  know …

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In this Theme, there’s always a tale to top all others. The most extreme example of car-love I know of (but surely there are wilder extremities) is the story of a man in Washington State named Edward Smith who considers his current car, a Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla, his current girlfriend. And admits to having sex with it. (Do NOT try to imagine what this sort of fuel additive does for a car’s performance. Let’s not start any trends). In fact, the man admits to having sex with some 1,000 cars.

“I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love,” Smith says.

“Maybe I’m a little bit off the wall but when I see movies like Herbie and Knight Rider, where cars become loveable, huggable characters it’s just wonderful.

“I’m a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what’s in my heart and I have no desire to change.”

I’m going to venture that Smith was conceived and delivered in the back seat of a car, will die in one and be buried in one, just like the fat-cat Texan who was buried in his Cadillac. Monstrosity and perversity come, I think, when a person can’t distinguish between the divine Mother and Her personifications. Rapists, molesters, pedophiles, collectors of child porn, serial killers and lone-wolf one-night-standers: all of them are lost in abyss of Mom’s uteral compulsions, obsessively re-enacting a birth gone terribly wrong, as if each act of violation somehow appeased Her. Go figure.

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Edward Smith with sweetheart Vanilla.

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The Divine Smith is empowered–thus enslaved– by his appropriations from The Mother.

The feminine connection between men and the tools they devise for mastering Mother Nature goes back into archetypal territory—way, way, way back. A tool is an invention, a creation which comes not from the womb of a woman but the forge; it is a theft from the Mother, an appropriation of Her creative energy.

For his monstrous strength, the blacksmith god Hephaestus of the Greeks was rejected by his mother Rhea (he was tossed out of heaven and was lamed. In lieu of that primary connection he created the forge, that monstrous womb which made iron malleable. Upon his anvil Hephaestus then hammered out swords and shields and other cunning implements for heroes as they did battle with, well, representatives of the Mother — dragons and Medusae and the like.

Hercules or Herakles was “The Glory of Hera,” yet he was hounded all his life by his cruel mother (the wife of Zeus). Driven insane by his mother, Hercules kills his wife and children; as part of his sentence, he is forced to perform twelve impossible Labors to regain favor with Mom, such as relieving the Nemean Lion of his pelt, killing the Lernean Hydra, rassling the Minotaur to a fall, plucking the belt of the Amazon queen Hippolyte, beating a hundred-headed lion so he could steal the golden apples of the Hesperides (which belonged to Hera), and harrowing Hell by rassling Cerberus, the Hound of Hell.  In the end Hercules accomplished every Labor – earning him eternal fame as the hero who beat all the old monsters of the matriarchy. But in the end, the hero’s mother complex did him in. The woman he eventually marries suspects ole Herc is doing the nasty with another woman, and contrives to get him to wear a shirt poisoned with the blood of a centaur Hercules had killed.

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Club-sticked, lil’-willie-wicked Hercules defeats the Lernean Hydra.

Tah tah tah, Hercules – what you defeat is what always gets you in the end. Archetypally and psychologically, heroes battle more with their mothers than their enemies, who may indeed simply be either sent by their avenging mothers (or seem to be) or be just so damn similar to them.

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Hercules and Omphale; Elvis Pelvis giving it to universe of adoring female fans,

How different is that ole Greek hero Hercules from, say, Elvis Presley? The King of Rock had an obsessive relationship with his mother, Gladys Love Smith Presley, whom he described as “the most wonderful mother anyone could have.” (OK, nothing to unusual about that, not at this time of year.)

With his first large royalty check, Elvis bought his mother a pink Cadillac. He also bought the family a home, Gracelands, and lived there with Gladys and his maternal grandmother Minnie.

When Gladys died, witnesses heard a heart-wrenching howl from Elvis. He threw himself on her coffin at the funeral and had to be restrained. For days he carried his mother’s nightgown and slept with it.

No matter how great his fame spread around him, and no matter how many women came into his bed—including major Hollywood dames like Cybill Shepherd, Juliet Prowse, Ann-Margaret, Connie Stevens and Natalie Woods – no woman could be better in his eyes than Gladys.

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Ann-Margaret with Elvis in “Viva Las Vegas!”

The man who could have any woman on earth was denied the only one he wanted.

That’s some powerful mom-mojo wouldn’t you say?

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Can you spot the difference between the 2 photos? Elvis is serious in only one of them.

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Kyle Busch won his first Sprint Cup race of the 2010 season last Saturday night at Richmond. It’s been a dry year for the younger Busch, compared to the torrid pace he set in 2008, when he racked up an incredible 21 wins between NASCAR’s three premier series, including 8 Sprint Cup wins.

Kyle beat The Lady in Black – or rather, was given Her blessing – in 2008. He was on a tear no one thought beatable.  At Darlington he led a race-high 169 of 367 laps and racked up a record race speed of 140.350 mph.

At 23 years old, Kyle Busch was the youngest driver to win at Darlington.

Still, it wasn’t easy. Fans booed him (he’d spun out Dale Earnhardt the previous week at Richmond) and he thought his car handled pathetically.

By his own count, the No. 18 Toyota went into the Darlington wall “probably five or six times.”  At one point Jeff Dickerson radioed Busch, “I know you are digging, dude, but you’ve got to take care of that thing there. You’re scaring the fans. There’s not enough security up the Turn 2 wall. Just nice and easy.”

“I can’t tell you how many times he tried to give the race away by slamming into the wall, his right side was destroyed,” said Jeff Gordon, who finished third.

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Kyle Busch crosses the finish of the 2008 Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington. Would you look at the Stripes on that car …

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That year, the No. 18 Gibbs Racing Toyota had an M&M’s paint scheme to promote the latest release of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford reprised the lead role after a 20-year haitus.

In the movie, it’s 1957 – and a much-older Jones is trying to prevent Soviet agents from their hands on a psychic alien crystal skull. Computer generated stunt doubles gave Jones/Harrison some of his old mojo back. It wasn’t a success really with fans, but the film went on to gross $786 million worldwide, the second-highest-grossing film of the year.

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Kyle Busch’s car, after winning the 2008 race at Darlington and doing a bodacious burnout.

Indiana Jones, as a treasure-findin’, Russkie-fightin’ hero—more in the mold of smart Theseus or Odysseus than brawny Hercules–always finds the favor of the old magic. He hates Nazis of every stripe, just like Mother Fate. She’s always there for Her favored son. Help arrives this time from an interdimensional being whose mysterium extends from under earth to the furthest stars.

Indiana Jones respects Mother and gives Her back her holy relics, casting them back into the abyss.

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In this movie, he goes home and marries the girl.

Ford was 64 years old during the filming of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It was a homecoming of sorts for the series which made him a blockbuster star.

He says he wouldn’t mind appearing in another of the series, “if it didn’t take another 20 years to digest.”

Like Darlington, Hollywood has her favorites sons. And Harrison Ford is one of them.

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In 2008, Kyle Busch looked like he was destined to become one of NASCAR’s favorite boys. That year, he racked up an incredible 21 wins racing in the three NASCAR series. Amazingly, it wasn’t enough to beat Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup crown. Busch’s flame spluttered in the Chase and he ended up 10th in the points.

Last year Kyle had 20 wins between the three series (winning the Nationwide championship with an incredible 9 wins, 25 top-5s and 30 top 10’s, but his Sprint Cup aspirations again proved elusive and he finished 13th in the points. (This year Kyle is 5th in the points standings in Sprint Cup competition and second third in the Nationwide Series.

This isn’t Kyle’s year—yet—but maturity may have taught him to save the pyrotechnics for the Chase. Many see Kyle Busch as the lone competitor to challenge the supremacy of Jimmie Johnson, but this year Kevin Harvick seems to be to more that man. Harvick took the lead from Johnson after finishing third at Richmond (Johnson finished 10th). Harvick is hot to win the way Kyle Bush was hot to win in 2008; but fire alone does not a champion make, not these days, anyway.

Besides, Kyle’s married now. He’s an owner now of a truck team.

The Rowdy days are passing on to other wild sons like Brad Keselowski.

Or it may simply be that his wife is too big-breasted for the approval of the tracks he races on.

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In a NASCAR Moms article published at ask.com a few years ago, Ramona Vickers, mother of Brian, was asked to give a story from her son’s childhood that was prophetic about his eventual career as a NASCAR drivier:

(Brian) always loved to go fast and race you at everything he did, whether it was racing down the stairs, up the driveway and back, taking the trash out, getting the mail or just bike riding with his family. He saved his allowance and volunteered to do extra chores to make money so he could buy a go-kart. He absolutely loved it — he tore up the yard racing around the house. When we took him to a go-kart race where a friend of ours was racing, that was all it took – he was hooked …

… When he was about 10-years-old, (Brian) and his father were in the basement working on his go-kart getting ready for the next race. He was actually sitting in the go-kart while being weighed and just couldn’t sit still. He started sticking his fingers in the holes on the steering wheel and one of his fingers got stuck. We worked for hours trying to get his finger out, but that only made his finger swell. He wouldn’t let us cut the steering wheel off because it was his favorite one, so we had to take the wheel off the go-kart and he slept with it. He thought his finger would slide out just like it slid in – but that didn’t work. We went to the emergency room the next morning to see if they could get his finger unstuck, but they couldn’t either. And after all that they finally took him down to the maintenance department and had to cut the steering wheel off anyway.

… He raced go-karts for several years and then moved on to Alison Legacy Series to Late Models to Hooters ProCup Series and then on to the Busch Series and now Cup.

Asked what she hoped to get from her son for the coming Mother’s Day, Ramona answered, “Time at home with the family and I.“ Vickers will have to catch a flight south after Darlington on Saturday night if he’s going to make it to Palm Beach, FL, where Mom lives (he also has a home there). Mom Ramona serve as office and administrative manager of Scio Verum (“To Know Truth”), the company which handles all of Brian Vickers’ business matters.

In seven attempts, Vickers has failed to finish in the top ten, though he has led for one lap. Right now he’s 24th in the points standings.

Brian Vickers’ chances at Darlington don’t seem good. But Mom would approve, anyway. “It is really exciting, but sometimes it does get a little nerve-wracking. But he has always been able to keep me on the edge of my seat, even to this day. He loves what he does and is very happy – so that makes me happy!”

Vickers is supposedly dating Amy Chiott, a blonde in the brassiere league of Eva Bush. What do you think the Lady in Black thinks of her?

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Mom Ramona Vickers with son Brian; Brian with girlfriend Amy.

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The Sibyl gets down to business at the Oracle of Delphi.

When Apollo killed the dragon at Delphi, he appropriated the vatic cave and made it an oracle in his honor. A mystic priestess called the Sibyl still sat on a tripod located over the cavern’s vents; driven mad by sulphuric fumes rising from the depths of The Mother, she would rant and fume and shriek. Apollo’s priest would then interpret those ravings and present back to supplicants the answer to their (paid) query.

Over the lintel of the entrance to Delphi was an inscription: “Know Thyself.”

Actually, it said, “Know thyself, and know that you are not God.”

Or Goddess. To know her truth, you have to go dark, away from the lights of the metropolis and into the wilderness of the old primal soak.

If you would know yourself, you must know you can never leave Mother, though every act that cuts the umbilical cord makes you more conscious, more independent, more innovative, more fated to round back to her in some way, as racers always finish exactly where they started.

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Me, I plan to have lunch with my mother along with my sister today. I’ll give her my card, which features a photo of a flower shot by my brother Timm who died of a heart attack two years ago at aged 45. Mother’s Day has been difficult for my mother since my brother’s death, following both his death-date and birth-date by just a few years. (Her own father died of a heart attack on the same day Timm was born, just years before, at aged 52.) My first wife’s second husband – I was no. 3 – died of a motorcycle accident on Mother’s Day, after saying his last goodbye to her.

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I’m using the picture taken by my brother Timm of Swan Island dahlias in Oregon–a year before he died–in the card I’m giving my mother today for Mom’s Day.

For my second (current and, I hope, final) wife, she gets flowers and cards both from me and the cats. She never had kids, so our cats are our kin. I sign the card for all the cats, wondering if I should include all the cats we’ve loved and lost over the years – Buster, Red, Zooey – but I don’t. Still, I’m giving her a bouquet of white lilies, which is the flower just now going into bloom in the back yard which we planted after Buster died. The plant is on the other end of the garage from the place where Red and Zooey are buried.

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Buster, Red, and ole Zoe: My wife will never forget them. (She says she wants to buried with Buster’s ashes, which are in an urn on a shelf in our bedroom.)

Freight like that accompanies Mother’s Day, but Mom is able to bear these things, having such a full and complicated heart. The Lady of the Beasts in the old mythology loved her babies, though death was so intimately woven into that love, as is shitty nappies and skidmarked BVDs.

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As in the past four years, pre-race festivities at Darlington always include a kowtow to Mom, with many of the drivers’ mothers in attendance.

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Belle and son Elliott Sadler before the 2007 race at Darlington; Amanda Sadler and husband Elliott. Amanda gave birth to the couple’s first child, Wyatt, in February.

Those moms – and their surrogate wives and girlfriends as well — will settle in the seats and watch their sons go up against the Lady in Black for one of the most nerve-wracking races on the circuit.

One driver will win the Black Lady’s favor, with the rest finding consolation from Mom or her younger representative.

By their Stripes we will know them, and through their mother/lovers these drivers will return.

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