This time of year is a magical one. A time when all the corn-fed republicans crawl out of the backwoods of Connecticut, their stunning mullets glistening in the moonlight, their pudgy waistlines festooned with fanny packs. Ah yes, my children, the scent of chew fills the air and the time draws nigh for their delightfully inbred mating season, when blood pressures soar and their lusty howls echo across the night landscape: It’s monster truck season.
I fancy myself rather like Diane Fossey from “Gorillas in the Mist.” I infiltrated their society, learned their language, and for a few short hours, lived among them not as an outsider but as an accepted member of their tribe. How did I accomplish this? It takes hard work, a love of learning, and the oh-so-stellar reputation of the Oldest College Daily.
You see, the real reporters (basically everyone whose articles do not contain a liberal sprinkling of expletives) get to go to American Idol tryouts, or classy New York restaurants like Town, or Alain Ducasse. The rest of us, however, are made to elbow our way into public events, making out with several doormen for a free seat, or even just extra cheese on our nachos (with God as my witness I shall never be that hungry again). While some other reporters would have hopped a private jet and blasted off to Cannes, martini in hand, I stumbled into my friend’s Toyota, hauling ass up to Hartford, several beers in stomach.
With the way my friend drives, though, it was almost like being in the Concord, except I wasn’t drunk enough and Lenny Kravitz didn’t threaten to beat me up (long story, please please ask). We didn’t break the sound barrier, but we definitely broke the speed limit.
Once I (and three of my friends) had arrived at the Hartford Civic Center, we were confronted by a throng of young people in racing tees and rat tails. Was it a time warp? Yes, yes it was, my friends, but this was not the past. This was the future. The glorious, toothless, Lucky-Strike-smoking future.
“Breathe in deeply my friends, for this is life!”
“Mama, come listen to him! He talks all funny!”
Needless to say, I wasn’t immediately accepted by the locals. I blame it on my scent. I should have found a “Big Johnson” or “Miller Lite” sweatshirt to rub all over my body, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. Tonight was an extremely special night. Tonight was the triumphant return of Grave Digger!
For those of you who aren’t well-versed in sister-marrying lore, Grave Digger is a kind of Pope John Paul II, or even a Gandhi, of the wonderful religion that is monster truck racing. Just imagine the biggest rap star’s car on MTV cribs. Now, envision that same car, after several generations of selective breeding. It’s bigger. It’s faster. Above all, though, it’s louder.
After each tympanic-membrane rumbling heat of racing (it lasted about 1.5 seconds at a time — stamina is not terribly important in these mating rituals), I grabbed my head and gritted my teeth until finally, the sweet sounds of Whitesnake and Twisted Sister became once again clear over the sounds of revving motors and screaming children. It was at this very moment that one of them extended his fist and produced a pair of earplugs.
I was in.
I was one of them. This meant a great deal to me, but I wasn’t about to put those things in my ears. The prospect of picking pieces of cotton candy out of my inner ear for three days still seems like fun, though, and I regret my ignorant instinct.
As the event wore on, I grew more and more weary of seeing competitor after competitor fly above the cars with ease. Where was all the mangling? Where were the fireballs? Where were the red hot car axles being catapulted into the children’s section? Were the rumors untrue?
Was this, as the commercial said, really “clean family fun?” Oh sure, there were attempts to satiate my insane bloodlust, but they were few and quite poor. Shirtless BMX riders performed “mad crazy stunts” on their bikes, but no one lost a limb! No one even left this place with as much as a bruise (unless you count those hickeys — hey, we all wanted snow cones, so I stepped up to the plate).
I grew especially disheartened when they resorted to showing a reel of all the most recent crashes on the JumboTron whilst the local radio-controlled car enthusiast club overtook the ramp. There was just no thrill in it for me. It was obvious that there weren’t people in those tiny cars. There probably weren’t even hamsters or mice.
Of course, the high point of the evening was the final emergence of Grave Digger. His upper torso popped out of his window and he waved to his subjects, all screaming and clamoring to get a glimpse of him. He was like Paul McCartney, but better: He worked solo and his outfit matched his car. One day, I’ll be just like him, I thought silently to myself. I was caught up in the fervor of the people, the roar of the crowd. I lifted my shirt Mardi Gras-style and tears began to well up in my eyes.
My mission was clear: I was going to have to get his autograph — on my friend’s chest.
After the last truck drove out of the ring, and all the noxious dust finally settled, I approached the nearest employee — a woman by the name of Tanika — to see if I could continue my wild ride, courtesy of 125 years of classy journalism (like what you’re currently reading).
“Hi! Bradley Bailey, columnist, Yale Daily News! I was just wondering — Tanika — if I could maybe go into the back, just see the drivers, maybe throw back a couple, get in their trucks. I have a press pass. I do. I really do.”
“Mmmm hmmmm. No.”
Tanika then proceeded to give me the hand.
I thought all was lost as we exited. I even made some obscene tongue gestures at the people controlling the autograph lines, but all my tongue gymnastics proved to be in vain. There are just some places that a press pass and no gag reflex can’t take you, even if you earned them both at Yale. My chances to meet the one and only Grave Digger grew slimmer with each step we took away from this AquaNet paradise.
One interesting, and previously unknown, side effect of the monster truck rally was that it inspired every single slack-jawed hooligan in his Pontiac to spin his tires, and try to drive like a madman in the parking garage. The air was thick with tire particles and the smell of Stetson Man cologne. My head was hanging low between my shoulders. My dream of meeting that man of intrigue and mystery in his green and black fireproof jumpsuit was completely crushed. I needed a beer.
We opened our Rolling Rocks and waited for the NRA enthusiasts and budding 4-H members to filter out of the garage. Defeated, we climbed into the car and slowly drove toward the exit. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a bright green swatch of fabric through the fog.
“Grave Digger!!!!” my friend Austin yelled.
The compact car screeched to a halt and I flew out the door.
“Grave Digger! Grave Digger, Sir! Bradley Bailey, columnist, Yale Daily News. I was wondering if maybe you could give us an autograph and pose for a couple of photos! We’d really appreciate it!”
“Oldest College Daily! Please!?”
“Well — I guess so. What do you want me to sign?”
“My friend’s gigantic Asian breasts!!!”
I shoved my friend forward and pulled down her tank top until her pasty tan line could be seen. Grave Digger leaned in close and did more than sign her “bombs;” he practically wrote a novella. Whether it was the moment of artistic inspiration or merely the medium, I’ll never know.
I grew lightheaded from the beer, scent of tires and the overwhelming joy that I had accomplished something. I shook his greasy hand and slipped back into the seat of the car. In a matter of seconds, the night had gone from a partial success to a complete and utter victory! We rode home, proud of not only witnessing such a beautiful cultural spectacle, but for living out our dreams.
I met Grave Digger, and he felt up my friend, all in the name of journalism.
For God, for County and for the Yale Daily News. n