Remembering Adam Petty

NASCAR Driver Adam Petty in 2000, shortly before his death.
Adam Petty (1980-2000)

Sixteen years ago today, NASCAR lost a bright and shining star. Adam Petty was nineteen years old, poised to move to stock car racing’s highest devision before he was old enough to buy a beer — not that his family condoned such things. He died on the cusp of what would have been a legendary career, NASCAR’s first and only fourth-generation driver. A nice guy, he didn’t throw tantrums when things didn’t go his way and in his short career, he showed the kind of on-track potential that reminded many fans of his grandfather Richard. Would he have broken records like his grandfather? We’ll never know. What we do know is Adam Petty had gentle spirit and an infectious laugh and a kindness about him that’s sorely lacking in the sport today. Even without the trophies, he conducted himself as a true champion should.

After the crash that claimed Petty’s life, NASCAR gave his car a once over and declared that all the safety systems worked just as they were supposed to — nothing to see, move along. Nine months and three more fatalities later, NASCAR finally deiced to take driver safety seriously.

R.I.P. driver #45. You’ve been missed this past decade and a half.

Remembering Adam Petty was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

NASCAR 2016 All-Star Race Format Announced

Today, NASCAR announced the format for the 2016 All-Star Race.

I remember a time when the last segment gimmick was a draw to invert the running order. Now they’re going to draw to see how many drivers will be forced to put for tires BEFORE the final segment starts?

Uh, everybody will pit. And I’ll be shocked if the guys who are able to take two tires — if anyone elects to at all — don’t get gobbled up by the frontrunners on fresh rubber.

Maybe they’re hoping someone will be desperate and cause a big crash.

NASCAR 2016 All-Star Race Format Announced was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

Shoutout to Ultrafino Hats.

Here’s a nice write-up on the history of Ultrafino Hats. I love my Ultrafino Havana Sorento — here’s a shot of me wearing it for a Clothesline Promotional Products photo shoot.

If you’re looking for a Panama hat to wear this summer, I highly recommend Ultrafino.

William G. Jones in his Ultrafino Havana Sorento hat.

Shoutout to Ultrafino Hats. was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

Heart Hurt

“If Jesus lives in my heart, why does my heart hurt so bad?” Elizabeth asked, pursing her lips as she waited quietly for an answer.

“I dunno.” The nurse didn’t make eye contact. She shrugged and finished swapping out the IV bag. “You want me to put in a request with the chaplain?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

The nurse glided from the room and shut the door, leaving the room dark and — for the most part — quiet. Sure, there were the beeps and loud voice and heavy rolling wheels that bled through the walls, but at least the door being shut muffled that roar and offered some small reminder of what quiet is.

Quiet, like home.

Will I ever be home again? 

She reached for the television remote and pressed her thumb to the power button, watching the black rectangle on the wall glow and chatter with detached voices. An infomercial, selling no-stick cookware.

She thumbed the channel button.

The next channel was news. A girl barely out of college, talking about the president like she’d spent the past fifty years studying politics. Reading off a card, no doubt.

Elizabeth thumbed the channel button again.

This time the TV landed on a preacher, one of those overweight slobs who sweats too much and can’t speak English to save his life. She held her thumb over the channel button but couldn’t bring herself to press. She just kept hearing, not really listening, to the screaming preacher.

“Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…” And on it went.

She eased her eyes shut and fumbled with the remote until the TV went dark.

“Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…”

There was a time long ago when she’d stand between wooden church pews and sing that name over and over because she couldn’t read the song lyrics out of the hymnal. Even though everyone else was singing the song right, she just said the name over and over. “Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…” People thought it was cute when she had the body of a child, but when she had a woman’s body, they called her retarded.

Her daddy always said she’d burn in hell if she didn’t go to Sunday school. Go and get made fun of, or go and get fussed at for not singing. Pretend to be nice to people who called you names behind your back. Hear the same fat man scream the same old story week after week.

She couldn’t read the Bible and she couldn’t read the songbook, but her mamma always told her that Jesus lived in her heart as long as she loved Him.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” she said, and a smile flicked across her lips.

The door opened and a doctor came in. “I understand you were complaining of chest pains,” he said as he pushed a stethoscope onto his ears and held the other end on her chest. “Can you breathe deep?”

She did.

“Everything sounds normal. What hurts?”

“What hurts is, I don’t know how I got so old,” she said.

Heart Hurt was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

The Party

The party wasn’t great, wasn’t bad. It just had a been-there / done-that vibe.

Maybe it was age. There’s only so many parties one can attend before they all feel the same, after all. Maybe it was something more, something deeper.

Maybe he was growing up.

As he stuck his hands in the pockets of an old wool peacoat that should’ve gone to Goodwill three seasons ago, he looked up at the gray sky and imaged the stars behind all that smog. Were they throbbing with light? Pulsing with cosmic energy? Or were they still and calm, steady beacons? He knew that by the time a star’s light reached earth, that star was already dead. Ever since he was a child, he wondered if he could ever see one die. It was a morbid fascination, sure. But he also knew one day the sun would die. With it, Earth.

He blew out a breath and watched the fog roll in front of his face. It reminded him of cigar smoke, of the cigars he shared with his brother when he was in college. Middle of the night, they laid in soft green grass in a park by a lake, blowing smoke at the sky. They talked about anything. Everything. How many cigars did he smoke that night? Three? Five? And how much did he puke when he tried to get up?

His breath cleared and he could see the sky again, those clouds hanging over him like cigar smoke.

He breathed deep. He could taste pollution, car exhaust and cigarette fumes.

He turned, looked back at the building, traced his eyes up midway where dim light flickered against window shades. There were still people there, a few stragglers, still drinking and dancing and having a good time.

Why hadn’t he had a good time? What was missing?

“Hey,” a breathless voice said from behind. “You got a light?” The girl had a cigarette dangling form her mouth and wore a velvet track suit.

“Huh?” he asked.

“Matches, cigarette lighter — anything?”

“No, I don’t smoke.”

“Thanks, anyway.” She jogged away, her ponytail swinging.

He stuck his hands back in his pocket, his fingers resting against a BIC.

“I’m sorry,” he called, jogging after her. “I do have a light.”

“But you don’t smoke.”

His lips curled. “But I have a light.”

Her eyes flicked. She scanned him up and down. “No, thanks.” She jogged away.

He watched her go, grinding his teeth. Then he looked up at the sky again, the gray veil between earth and heaven. “None of us have a light,” he muttered. He glanced across the street at an all-night drug store. Couldn’t stop staring for the longest time. His feet shuffled and he found himself inside, bathed by fluorescent bulbs, a pack of cigarettes on the counter.

As he stepped outside to light his smoke, he looked back up at the light flickering against that window and realized he was missing the party.

The Party was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

2016: The Election of Outrage

Those who know me personally know that my politics are often infuriating. My conservative friends think I’m a liberal and my liberal friends think I’m a conservative. I’m not quite a libertarian, but I am pretty much in favor of as little government intervention and regulation into the daily lives of the American people as possible. Read from that what you will.

A few months ago I blogged about the potential for Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016. At the time, I didn’t believe he was taking the campaign seriously. I felt that Trump’s only path to nomination would be to change the tone and tenor of his public speaking.

I was wrong.

It didn’t take long to realize I was wrong and I deleted the post within days.

I don’t think, as I wrote that post, that I ever seriously considered that Trump would be the Republican nominee, only that he could be. Now he is.

Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination because voters are tired of the political establishment. This is my belief, this is my read on the situation. I know — it’s not a broad leap, it’s what most political commentators have been saying for a while now. Yet, even as the pundits spoke about voter outrage, I don’t think anyone inside big media actually had a full understanding of just how outraged voters are.

Now, finally, their voice has been heard. Long lines at primaries were common. Just today, Val sent me a text telling me that the wait was an hour and a half at her polling place in Southern Indiana.

It’s not just Republican voters. Democrat voters have given overwhelming support to Bernie Sanders, a long-shot from the get-go, an outsider in the corporate game. Mathematically, Sanders has a slim chance at winning enough delegates to become the Democratic nominee, yet in state after state, he’s won the popular vote against the more-established, better-funded Clinton campaign.

The media says that the American people will decide between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for president in November. A year ago, the same media was preparing the nation for Bush vs. Clinton. I think the idea of Bush vs. Clinton was a snapping point for a lit of people.

I won’t attempt to explain Donald Trump’s political rise. I won’t defend him, I won’t attack him. Trump is who he is.

More interesting than Trump, though, is the outrage of the American people. Voices were heard throughout this election cycle that have been silenced for so long. Now it’s up to history to decide how those voices will reverberate.

2016: The Election of Outrage was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat