Moving Melodies

I made the mistake of heading out of town without checking to see if I had a full complement of CDs in the car. When I was about 10 miles out of town, I reached in the back seat, and to my horror, found only empty upholstery – instantly, my mind flashed back to the hurried rush to get out the door and on the road, and a quick passing glance, in which my eyes briefly rested upon my nightstand – and the bulging CD wallet still on it. I groaned inside. Faced with the sheer horror of having to listen to make-your-ears-bleed-we-only-play-the-top-15-pop-songs-in-hour-long-rotations Clear Channel Radio crap, I was about to pull a U-turn at 65 mph and go back and get my CDs when something shiny in the corner of the floor of the passengers seat caught a stray ray of sunlight and gleamed, catching my eye. I reached down and picked it up, flipping it over to find an old copy of ATB’s “Movin’ Melodies”, purchased at a used CD store for aproximately $6.99 if the scraped up red sticker in the lower right hand corner was any indication.
Many people give ATB a lot of crap, techno-trance purists incessantly insisting he panders to the masses with crowd-friendly hooks and dime-a-dozen fluff vocals (“derivative euro-synth-cheese trance” someone once called it). But let me just come straight out and say – I LIKE ATB. Songs like “9 P.M. (’till I come)”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Underwater World” – stand as some of the most popular and reliabl club songs out there. And ATB’s “Clubbers Guide to Trance” for the Ministry of Sound Series is the definitive mix that got me hooked on trancey-techno-y type beats – he may not be the purist’s ideal of a trance DJ, but his immediately accessible style and generally tight beats makes for a great introduction to the sometimes foreboding world of techno (and we were all newbies at one time or another!!!) – and I have to admit to a certain nostalgia whenever I hear his stuff.
So what’s the point of this whole defensive rant about the finer virtues of Andre Tanneberger’s works? Because that lonely solitary disc saved my entire weekend. I guess this CD must have gotten shoved away into some dark corner somewhere immediately after I bought it, because I realized I had never listened to anything on it but track 5 (9PM – till I come), which apparently is the only reason why I bought the thing in the first place. But as soon as the first beats of “Underwater World” started pulsing from the speakers into my veins, my head pivoting in time with the oscillating rythem, I knew that this battered, much-maligned little CD would not let me down. And it did not – hard to imagine, but I listened to this one disc over and over again for three days worth of driving. And it still has not grown old. So to you, ATB, I salute you, and your groovy little disc “Movin’ Melodies”, which, in recognition of how it kept me company through the long drive down to, and around chicago and back, has now received a place of honor on my shelf, its contents ripped and placed into a respectably high position in my winamp playlist. And those of you who have never heard this album, ignore the haters and give it a whirl. I think it rocks.
Of course, I also like Chicane, an admission which will earn you tremendous ridicule and a beat down in some places. So take it with a grain of salt.
At any rate, the past weekend was a total blast. My friend Samantha (former compatriot in crime from the infamous pre-graduation drinking festival) invited me down to watch some drag racing. However, before any of you get visions of “The Fast and the Furious” in your head and think I be pimping this street-racer-style, hold on just a moment – this was not super cool heavily modded Nitrous Oxide powered honda civic urban smackdowns I went to go watch, but rather NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) big long aerodynamic corporate sponsered, local government-sanction drag strip racing. Does this make it any less cool? Well, there were not hot race queens in uber tight spandex, and notable absence of Vid Diesel’s and Ja’ Rule’s and the only asian dude in the entire place was me, and I’m a filthy americanized half-breed at that ;) . But it was still cool nonetheless. (Despite the presence of the largest f-ing belt buckles I have ever seen in my life).
The lovely Samantha, pimping the Oakley sunglasses
And her lovely sister Kara
Now I, like most northerners, generally consider NHRA, NASCAR and their associate racing ilk a more, ah, how shall we say, “southern” pursuit. I mean, here, north of the mason-dixon line, we tend to take a more gentiel approach to life, preferring to wile away our free moments rooting for our footballers or partaking in such pansy J-crew-man type sports such as badminton or polo (oh wait, that’s just the east coast). So I have to admit to a certain degree of trepidation as I was driving down to the race track (which was buried in the back woods amongst an increasingly unsettling amount of dilapidated army bases and former oil refineries in what I can only charitably describe as Deliverance country). I mean, would I stick out like a sore thumb with my clumsy ways? Would my lack of cowboy boots, huge belt buckle and southern twang instantly mark me as an outsider, an invader into this cloistered pantheon of engine-revving, country-music listening, grease monkey diefying racing fanaticism? Would I know what the hell was going on, or would I reveal my ineptitude by stammering through conversations with people who would rol their eyes with an exasperated sigh and walk away shaking their heads at my idiocy? (happens far more often that I would like to admit LOL!)
The burnout before the storm
Samantha’s father owns Schumacher Racing, which turns out to be, as I was later informed, one of the more well-to-do and winningest (actually a word, look it up!) race teams in the NHRA. And of course, having the connections, I got hooked up with the VIP shizzle (ah, and someone said “~izzle” slang was dead!), which basically meant free food, random goodies and a chance to get up close and personal with the car as they were revving for take off down the quarter mile.
I should like to say, before we go any further – all my initial apprehensions at going to a racing event immediately evaporated the very first second I heard, or rather felt a dragster explode down the strip, the sheer force of combustion rocketing an 8000 HP engine and its associated driver down a quarter mile of asphalt at 325 milews and hour in less than 3.5 seconds. (0 to 325 mph in 3 seconds. Don’t see a lot of Ferraris that can do that…)
An appropriately named “Funny Car”
I got to stand behind the cars just as they were taking off, down by the pit area, and the concussive force of the tremendous torque slamming through the clutch, wheels spinning, throwing up gravel and molten asphalt at your face as flames erupt from the exhaust ports literally shakes you to the core, the heavy sound waves slamming through your sternum, resonating through your body as the ground shakes, trembles and rumbles beneath your feet and your foam earplugs struggle to resist the compacting sonic densities slamming into them in successive intervals, and all you can do is open your mouth and scream “This is incredible…!!!!” as Samantha smiles her knowing smile, as racing is in her blood, her father watching off to the side with a critical, experienced eye as her brother rockets far far away into the horizon in less than 2 seconds flat.
It took about 10 minutes to completely dissasemble this engine
The most amazing thing is that between each race, they completely and utterly dismantle the entire car right down to the engine and rebuild it, all in less than an hour, and with a team of 12 men hardly saying a word to each other as they move in a sync-o-pah ballet of swirling motion, wrenches ratcheting and air hoses blowing, wheels spinning and fan belts turning, and through it all the acrid, eye-watering, stinging haze of nitromethane fuel, and you’re standing right next to them, seperated only by a thin rope as this massive 8000 horsepower land-based rocket beast is devolved into a set of shiny chrome plated parts neatly arrayed with unyielding rigidity on a stainless steel table before your very eyes.
You are looking at part of an 8000 HP engine.
The food was good as well, the sweet VIP treatment of lamb tenderloin and rice pilaf, piled high with all manner of sumptuous fixins’, and a crowd pleasing speech by Sam’s brother (who placed a personal best during qualifiers, 327 + MPH in some ridiculously low amount of seconds) and some other funny car racer (also owned by Sam’s father) who apparently broke the funny car quarter-mile record that day. Good times had by all.
I should mention, however, that one of Sam’s father’s cars is sponsored by the United States Army (her brother’s in fact). One of the concessions you have to make if the US army extends you a multi-million dollar line of credit is that they get to set up an Army recruiting stand near your trailer mini-city encampment, obstensibly with the aim of sucking in, venus-fly-trap-style, any inquisitive young lads who might wander by for a closer look at the shiney engines and cars.
The US Army car driven by “The Sarge”
And in fact, as I elected to wander around as Sam was busy with something else, I happened to pass by the “Go Army” recruiting booth. Before I knew it, my steps were being shadowed by a man who cast a very very large shadow. I turned around to find myself confronted with a giant f a man, with a chiseled jaw, immaculately buzz-cut flat top hair do and sporting a perfectly cocked army-issue beret in full combat fatigues. He extended his hand to me.
“How do you do son? My name is Cpl. Tom Jackson, Yoo-nited Staytes Ah-Meee” (must be pronounced with Lousiana bayou drawl).
I, in my time honored tradition, blink rapidly like an idiot. I grasp his outstretched hand and shake.
“Uhhh, hi. I’m Michael.” My hand feels like every single bone has just been pulverized by the net newtons of force his hand is exerting on every side. I wince visibly.
“So how do you do son? ”
“Fine, thank you. And yourself Cpl. Jackson?”
“Can’t complain, can’t complain.” And as we are walking, Cpl. Jackson takes the occassion to immediately segue into a set of very well presented pleasantries, making small talk like a pro, periodically pointing out some small details of a car we are passing, or trotting out some little known facts about the Route 66 racetrack we are at. Eventually, however, he comes around to the point:
“So son, what are you planning on doing now with your life?”
“Well” I reply, “now that I’ve graduated, I guess I’m gonna go to Japan for a while and teach english, you know, trying and ‘find myself’ and all that mess”.
Cpl. Jackson’s eyes light up. “So,” he drawls, trying to keep his excitement from leaking into his voice, “you’re interested in Japan, eh? You know, The Yoo-nited Staytes Ah-Meee has quite a few job opportunities in Japan…!”
I bite my tongue to keep from telling him that the thought of being crammed in the ass end of a very-resentful Okinawa with 30,000 marines isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I envisioned going to Japan. He continues, oblivious of my remarkable display of restraint (okay, okay, it wasn’t so remarkable. I wasn’t going to cock off to a guy who could snap my neck with just his left thumb and forefinger).
“You know” he begins once again, leaning into me as if to confide some deeply confidential secret, “many people have this vision of the Yoo-nited Staytes Ah-Meee as only being interested in high school drop outs and dimwitted jar-heads. But-” he continues, “I’m gonnah’ let you in on a little secret – we’re looking for people just like you! Highly motivated, intelligent college graduates with their heads screwed on right, with bright futures ahead of them, and the whole world at their feet, just looking for some sense of direction in life…!”
“uhhhh…” is the only reply I can muster.
“Now” he carries on, “I’m not looking for an answer right now. But I just want you to think about all the Yoo-nited Staytes Ah-meee, can do for you! Free housing, health, dental, an exciting chance to travel to far flung reaches of the globe, invaluable highly technical skills that will serve you well in private industry, the chance to make a difference in the world, (“a chance to get a cap busted in my dome” I add silently to myself), and so forth. Son, just think of the world that awaits you in the Yoo-nited Staytes Ah-mee! You (and here is where he leans into me in earnest, eyes filled with the sublime passion of the true believers) … you” he mouthes in a near whisper, “you could be an Army of One.”
I blink rapidly once again. He detects my hesitation. I have to say something fast.
“Well, uh, do you have any, uhhmmm brochures or something I can look at while I’m thinking about it?”
At this he leaps up excitedly nearly snatching me off my feet as he whisks me back to the Army Recruiting booth where we seem to have come full circle back to.
“We surely do son!” He replies, stuffing my hands full of shiney “Go Army” brochures. “And you can even have a complimentary “Go Army” keychain to keep no matter what!” he says, dropping the silvery dog-tag-like keychain in my hand.
“Well, uh, thank you Cpl. Jackson. I’ll let you know what I decide, okay?”
“Okay then son! And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me! My number is on that card that I gave you” (I look down and notice his business card, which sureenough, lists his name, rank, and contact number on it). “We’ll be seeing yah, okay?” And with that I walked away, eager to find Sam before I got kidnapped and involunarily conscripted by one of the roving voracious band of Army recruiters milling about the place.
So there you have it folks. Uncle Sam wants me to be an Army of One. It’ll be sad day when the fate of this country’s future rests in the decidedly slothful hands of people like me. Much love to all those brave men and women who volunteer to serve in our nation’s armed forces. Because without them, it’s just people like me versus Al-quaida, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out which one of us is going to win (hhhmmm, fanatical islamic radicals or lazy twinkie-chowing pandas…..)
The rest of the weekend was not quite as exciting. Went to visit some other friends in Chicago, waited for 2 damn hours for the fscking Kenneth Cole store to open (dammit people, some of us want to shop on Sunday mornings…!, finally gave up and left (it still was closed when I left). I did see the following outside the Lego store in some random shopping complex on Michigan Avenue:
Yes, that is the white house. Yes it is completely made out of legos. My god that kics so much ass I can’t describe it. There were other models like the Parthenon or the empire state building as well. Can you imagine how many lego sets you would have to buy to build something like that? My parents would probably have committed suicide from stepping on the tiny lego pieces buried deep in the shag carpeting long before I ever managed to build such a thing as a child. Go figure.
Now listening to: “ATB – Movin’ Melodies” (To whom I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for saving me from an entire weekend of having to listen to generic top-40 radio crap)
12:36 pm

One Reaction

  1. Wyo Daniel

    This is hilarious. Your straightforward, ironic description of a stereotypical Army recruiter had me on the floor laughing. =)