As a new transplant from Indianapolis, several people have asked me if I ever went to the Indy 500. Answer: Yes! Many times! Although I never became a hard-core fan with somebody's race-car number tatooed on my behind, I did enjoy the event, and found it to be a fascinating spectacle, a whooping, sweating sea of 300,000 people gathered together for one purpose: to drink beer. Oh, and watch a race. Two purposes.
A couple observations:
1. It is very loud. Very, very loud. I still can't hear you.
2. It is usually very hot. The bleachers are made of specially designed aluminum, built to soak up as much heat as possible and transfer it to your body.
3. Most people should use sunscreen. Do you like to see sunburned people? This is your place!
4. Most people would look better wearing shirts. Including the women.
5. Security at the race is provided by the "Yellow Shirts," an army of 80-year-old men who are angry about everything. Want to get yelled at? Ask a Yellow Shirt where the men's room is.
6. Jim Nabors and Florence Henderson are HUGE stars in Indy, and the best part of the 500 is when they sing before the race. Jim sings "Back Home Again In Indiana," and all Hoosiers get a little misty-eyed. Or maybe that's just looking up at the sun for the jet-flyover.
And finally, my favorite Indy 500 moment, which happened 10 years ago this year: I was wallking past the pit lane, when there was a big explosion in one of the fuel tanks. It sounded like a cannon had gone off near me, and in a way it had. I looked up and saw the cap of the fuel tank arcing through the air. It was about the size and shape of a manhole cover, and it was coming right toward me! For a moment, just one stupid moment I thought this: "Hey, I can catch it!" Then I thought "No, wait! It probably weighs 100 pounds and is about 1500 degrees!" I stepped back just as the giant, smoking plate clanged to the concrete a couple feet in front of me! I coulda caught it, I tell you! I bet I'd have been on the news!