NASCAR and Quilts

"Boss Hoss"
"Boss Hoss" Hot Wheels

While I was growing up I thought race cars were neat. I must have had about 100 Hot Wheels, along with all the track and other goodies Mattel marketed to accompany the little cars. One that I remember in acute detail was the "Boss Hoss" Mustang. We special ordered it, my mom and I, and it came delivered in a protective foam sleeve. Removing it from the safety of that foam was almost religious. It was so shiny and just, so ineffably cool. I slept with it next to my bed for many nights.

When young friends or family would come for a visit, we would always play "fort", which meant essentially a cross between NASCAR pit row, and opposing bases for top secret, governmental black ops. Race cars were of course the preferred mode of transportation to cover the vast, desolate distances between our forts, on opposite sides of the living room.  

Soon enough, real cars started entering the picture. Trying to keep a 1973 Toyota Corolla filled with gas and on the road, even in 1980, was a challenging proposition. Hours spent dreaming and pretending were replaced by hours spent sweating, grease-covered and dust-blown underneath the Toyota, changing clutch plates, throw-out bearings, and brake pads. It all seemed worth it at the time.

Fast forward twenty-plus years to the early 2000's. My new wife's dad raced cars when he was younger. Most of her childhood weekends were spent at dirt tracks around the upper Midwest, where the sport became a vital part of who she is. She still loves racing, and follows NASCAR religiously. Growing up, in addition to time spent at the track, she played basketball, softball, tennis, and flag football. She coached t-ball during the summers. Put simply, she loves sports.

On the other hand, I am a sports failure. I was hopeless when it came to playing football or basketball, and those were the two sports we were made to engage in during recess and lunch breaks in Catholic elementary school. From 4th grade through 8th grade, 1971 through 1975, an eternity for a child, I was the last to be picked for teams, and the first to do something dumb like stand aside and let someone else, from the other team, catch the ball when it was thrown to me. (They wouldn't throw it to me, would they?)

Mojave Desert, California

It wasn't pleasant at school, but I lived a different "real life" than the other kids. They lived in the "urban" area of the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, (Actually a heat-blasted, wind-blown, tattered and hardscrabble community, fueled by transitory military stations and short-lived aerospace jobs.) As I've described previously, I lived on a ranch, rode my pony, and hunted squirrels and birds for the bounty my dad paid. So, I was different, and lost all interest in sports at an early age. Today, the hype surrounding events like the Superbowl, March Madness, and all the other various events falls with not even the softest of thuds on my disinterested ears. "Watching the game tonight?" "What game?"

Soon after my wife and I were married, my daughter came for a visit. One of the highlights of the visit was a quilting class held in the small town of Moab, Utah. My daughter was still young, about 11 or 12 at the time. My wife had visions of bonding with her in the quilting class. That didn't happen. What did happen was that I stayed and listened to the introduction to the class and watched a few of the demonstrations before I went wandering in the desert for the rest of the day. My take away from the demos was, "Hell, I can do that."

And so I did.

After the trip to Moab, my wife and I began haunting the aisles at Joanne Fabrics and little mom and pop quilt shops. I slowly amassed the material necessary to create my own quilt. I diligently cut the fabric into the required shapes using the equivalent of a razor-sharp pizza cutter and a straight edge tool. I sandwiched batting between the shapes and sewed them together. I learned what a bobbin was, how to thread it, and various other things that men don't get their hands on too often. I had fun just bob-bob-bobbin' along.

My (very manly) quilt

Eventually, my quilt neared completion. It was early on a Sunday afternoon, and I was busy sewing the completed squares together into the final product. I glanced over at my wife.

There she sat on the couch, cross legged in a t-shirt and underwear, holding a beer on her knee, totally engrossed in a NASCAR race, leaning in and yelling at the TV, "Oh for GAWD's SAKE NOOOO! Don't let Kyle Busch win!" 

In that moment of utmost clarity, I contemplated the singular fact of myself, sitting at a sewing machine, quietly quilting on a Sunday afternoon. And the equally singular fact of my wife, engrossed in sports and yelling at the TV with a beer.

I arose from my chair, ambled to the refrigerator with a masculine-as-HELL swagger that would have caused John Wayne to step back a few paces out of respect, and removed a beer. I opened it, and carelessly, wantonly, tossed the bottle cap on the kitchen floor.

I walked back and looked at my wife with her beer and her NASCAR, yelling at Kyle Busch.

I considered my beer.

I sat back down and finished my quilt. And I finished my beer. 

Today, my wife still watches NASCAR, I still have no interest in sports, and my quilt is currently on the couch, underneath a tired dog's head.

If anyone's interested, my wife's hearty encouragement against Kyle Busch served her well that day. Greg Biffle finished first, while Kyle finished far back in the pack at 21st, April 17, 2005, Texas Motor Speedway, the Samsung/Radioshack 500:

Race standings, April 17, 2005