“How often have I watched, and longed to imitate when I should be free to live as I chose, a rower who had shipped his oars and lay flat on his back in the bottom of the boat, letting it drift with the current, seeing nothing but the sky gliding slowly by above him, his face aglow with a foretaste of happiness and peace!”
― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
Bachman Lake at dawn, Dallas, Texas
Out of bed at five AM out of the house at five-thirty. My son Lee was running a 5K – four laps around Bachman Lake at dawn. I enjoyed sitting by the lake, watching the sky brighten and the sun rise, the early morning planes lifting off from Love Field, the ducks coming to check if I’d give them something to eat, and the early morning crews rowing on the smooth lake. There was no wind – the only disturbance was from the ducks and the boats.
Lee wanted to run a fast time on the flat and open course. He did succeed in a personal best, beating a time he ran years ago, in high school.
Reluctantly crouched at the starting line,
Engines pumping and thumping in time.
The green light flashes, the flags go up.
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup.
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank,
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank.
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns.
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern.
As they speed through the finish, the flags go down.
The fans get up and they get out of town.
The arena is empty except for one man,
Still driving and striving as fast as he can.
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
And long ago somebody left with the cup.
But he’s driving and striving and hugging the turns.
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns.
—-Cake, The Distance
Bicycle Drag Race, Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (Large Marge), Dallas, Texas
Oblique Strategy:It is quite possible (after all)
I was sitting at a bar, I had a few minutes to kill before my meeting, drinking a cup of coffee. This was in the cold, dark, heart of urban hipsterdom. There were two millennial women sitting near me, talking with the bartender/barista loud enough and close enough I could hear clearly.
They were discussing “old people.” I could have interrupted and said something, but I did not – they were enjoying themselves too much.
What I could have said was, “You know that old man you see every day shuffling down the sidewalk, using a cane to keep from falling into the street, head bowed, moving with incredible difficulty as if he was walking through a sea of invisible molasses. You see him and wonder where he is going, why he is using such energy for so little purpose; you wonder why he even bothers to get out of bed – that is if you think of him at all.
Now you see that sixteen year old boy shooting hoops, jumping high, not a care in the world.
Remember, they are the same people. Those are simply two points on one line. In his head, the old man is still the sixteen year old boy. It’s hard to understand, hard to believe, impossible for you to comprehend, but undoubtedly true.”
Cause he’s going the distance.
He’s going for speed.
She’s all alone
In her time of need.
—-Cake, The Distance
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle
“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
― J.G. Ballard
“I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable–if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”
― David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
Bicycle Drag Race, Continental Bridge Park, Dallas, Texas
This is Nick and Lee after the race ten years ago, in 2003, Dallas City Hall in the background – not a very good photograph, sorry.
Photos of Lee running in 2008:
Lee in front of the same tree five years later, at the Turkey Trot, Downtown Dallas, 2008
I always wait for the kids at this tough uphill spot, right before the finish.
I wrote blog entries, with lots of photos, on the run in 2011 and 2012.
Near the end of the eight mile race, there is a steep hill to torture the runners. I always wait there to see my kids run by. Here is Lee a hundred yards from the finish.
Lee near the finish of the eight mile course. Mardi Gras shirt and Tulane Boxers – worn on the outside.
This year, Lee flew in from New Orleans (he’s finished up his last semester at Tulane now) for Thanksgiving and ran the Turkey Trot again (Nick was in New York with friends).
He said with finals, work, and graduation job hunting he didn’t have time to train, so he was going to take his time this year and not try and run too fast. For some reason he ran in a Pikachu costume. He said that slowed him down even more, because people (especially kids) wanted him to stop and get their photo with him.
Lee said that he really enjoyed himself, not trying for such a fast time. It wasn’t all that slow, anyway.
One of the quirks that I have is that I do not wear shirts with writing on them. This guy did nothing to change my opinion on that.
No wonder those birds are angry.
There were a lot of cameras in the crowd.
It was a long day – get some rest when you can.
These guys walked their rather sparkly car past where I was standing. I didn’t see what had happened up the hill, closer to the start and didn’t know why it wasn’t rolling… but… Youtube to the rescue.
One of the cool things is that you could go down into a pit area and look at what was left of the vehicles after they ran their race. If there was enough left in one piece you could even sit in the driver’s seat and get your picture taken. Or you could talk to the drivers. For some reason this driver, from a cheese-wedge shaped car that made it down quickly in one piece, seemed very popular in the pits.
I had nothing going on this weekend, so I consulted the Internet to find something on Saturday – something with a lot of people, where I could practice taking photos of real persons. I came up with a Soapbox Derby Race, sponsored by Red Bull.
The other week, when I drove out to the far Northwest stretches of the Dallas side of the Metroplex, I stopped off to take some photographs of a horse sculpture that I had found online. When I drove by the horses looking for a place to park, I considered going up the street a bit, parking, and riding my bicycle back down. Looking closely, I decided that the street ran up a hill… and that hill was too high and too steep for me… at least at that time.
So, I guess that it isn’t surprising when I realized the Soapbox Race was going down that very hill.
I wanted to get a good spot, so after buying some vintage ink at an estate sale I drove out there – only to become horribly lost and trapped in the various byways of Plano. Tens of thousands of people were on their way to the race and every housing development had a private guard out in front with a clipboard to make sure nobody drove by or parked on the sacred streets. That funneled all the cars into a single road which was hopelessly backed up. Everything in Plano is fenced and guarded – it’s the most unfriendly and unwelcoming town there is.
This put me in a foul mood and I almost gave up, but I finally looped way to the west and came in from The Colony side, which was fine. I only had to navigate a rough cowshit-filled field, a tangle of barbed wire, and a mile-long walk… which was much more pleasant that a single drive down a carefully manicured housing access boulevard.
I found a place along the race route and held on, standing there for over an hour, when, once the race began, a loud boiling crowd of kids and aggressive self-righteous parents wedged in and forced me into a tiny bit of space. I stayed for a dozen or so races until I gave up and made my walk back out.
It was a fun event – but way, way too crowded. I took a few photos – enough for a handful of entries here. It wore me out… I’ll have to think hard about this sort of thing. I might stick to smaller groups next time.
Big crowd at the Red Bull Soapbox Derby.
The home built gravity-powered vehicles rolled downhill on a narrow course lined with hay bales and sprinkled with obstacles. The crowd quickly grew to a point where it was actually tough to get a good look. Here’s a particularly artistic (though not very fast) entry rushing towards the finish line.
The crowd lining the race course.
The spectators lined the entire course (maybe a kilometer long) four or five deep on both side, with thousands more on up the hills.
The competition wasn’t on speed alone. There was a panel of celebrity judges up on an elevated platform. Here are three of them (left to right): Josh Henderson (from Dallas, star of Dallas), Lolo Jones (Olympic hurdler), and Louie Vito (X-Games Snowboarder).
The first official entry.
The first official car was a two-person buffalo thing. It wasn’t too fast, but it did make it all the way to the bottom. Not all of them did.
Three men in a tub, post-wreck.
All entries crossed the finish line, even if they had to carry the thing. These guys had a spectacular crash (too far up the hill for me to see live) and some nasty road rash.
I visited the pit area. This is the broken steering joint that doomed the Three Men in a Tub entry.
One of the first entries was “Three Men in a Tub” – and they picked up some serious speed until a weld gave way and they had a spectacular crash. The crowd was so tight I could only see the bit of race right in front of me – but there were big video screens set up and they replaced the tumbling high speed wreck over and over. Post-disaster the racers walked by me lugging their wrecked vehicle (helped by track employees) and one guy had a terrible road rash and he seemed in pain from knocking his helmeted head into the pavement.
The OOmpa Loompas from the SMU team. They barely made it ten feet.
Some of the racers were well-made and carefully thought out. Most weren’t. The SMU team had a cart that was terribly top-heavy and barely went ten feet before tumbling over and tearing itself apart.