It is Wednesday night. I have just finished lifting weights for the first time in about a month. (Trying to give the torn bicep/ strained tendon a chance to heal.) I am now at the Frat House for the Wednesday night drag show. The crowd is moderate with a number of the regulars there. (Is this what they now say about me?) The 11pm drag show starts promptly at 11:55pm. Other than a good performance by Sable utilizing a gold lame (accent over the e) sheet placed on the floor, the show is just average. I'm asleep by 2am.
On Thursday I hit the pull-type body parts while lifting weights. This being the real test of the strained tendon and I pass the test because there is no pain. To celebrate the lack of tendon pain and to numb the effects of a difficult two day work week, I drink. A number of wine coolers later I am packing for the Friday/Saturday trip to Bakersfield for the race.
Friday morning, early, I'm on my way to Bakersfield. We work a 14 hour day testing the car, trying different setups, performing sensitivity studies, and doing mechanical setup and maintenance tasks. After a 14 hour day in the Bakersfield sun, there is only one thing to do: Go out and look for a party!
Between 10:15pm and 1:30am I find three bars/clubs to step into and check out. The people are friendly though I don't really get into any significant discussions. I end up the evening in downtown Bakersfield at a piano bar in the Padre Hotel. The Padre Hotel is probably what the King Edward Hotel at 5th and Los Angeles street was like about thirty years ago. Namely a hotel that has just been pushed over the edge and is starting it's rapid descent and decay. The clientele is a mix of ages and races. The older ones, the ones who have been around so long that they probably worked on the first railroad passing through Bakersfield, all have raspy voices from too many cigarettes, too much alcohol, and a significant amount of bad luck.
I'm leaning against a pole in the middle of the bar. I'm watching the television, listening to the music, and trying to get comfortable. Every upper body muscle in my body is sore from the Wednesday and Thursday workouts. I'm also trying to avoid looking down at the floor for fear of what I might see - either stationary or mobile.
One guy, smelling deeply of cigarettes and alcohol, tries to start a conversation with me with "A penny for your thoughts".
I consider whether to head this off decisively with something like "I was just wondering how the CPT Theorem in physics insures a nondiscrimination amongst elementary particles and if it guarantees the invariance of antiproton mass." But I decline the ramifications and head the conversation off with "I have no thoughts".
He gets the idea, but adds in "Well, I don't have a penny anyway."
I leave the bar in the Padre Hotel and have a little bit of a problem. It is 1:30am Friday night (actually Saturday morning for those who are counting), I'm in downtown Bakersfield near the Greyhound bus terminal, and I can't find my truck. I have had a number of 7-Ups throughout the evening but not a single drop of alcohol and I can't find my truck. "Wait, I know that it is one more block over and to the left." After repeating this statement internally and externally a number of times, wondering if I'm doing something silly wandering the streets of downtown Bakersfield at such a late hour, I start to think how the newspaper would report my death at the hands of a homeless, ex-convict, junkie who jumped out of one of the dark alleys between buildings. And I decide that I don't care! Neither about how the newspaper would report the death nor about if it's going to happen. I finally find my truck. And proceed back to the hotel for a night of sleep. We're not due at the track until 2pm on Saturday.
Wandering the streets of downtown Bakersfield brings back a memory of my first long trip away from home. I'm in high school in Michigan, and the chess team has driven to downtown Chicago to compete in the national high school chess championship. After the first two games, a number of us wander off in downtown Chicago - the Loop - looking for trouble and looking for a liquor store that will sell 15 year olds some peppermint schnappes. We lose - we don't find a liquor store that will accommodate us and our faculty advisor catches us "out on the town". We assume that we will be in trouble with the advisor and our parents when we get home, but our advisor decides that since we didn't find any trouble then it would be our little secret. "No harm, no foul."
The Saturday races are on odd blend of stock cars, Formula Mazda (open wheel cars), and time trial motorcycles. I inhale as deeply as possible when the motorcycles are racing - needing to get the fumes of burning castor oil deep into my lungs and memory. We end up a competitive 7th place - running laps as fast as the leaders in the last third of the race. (We needed to start from a higher qualification position.) The July 4th fireworks continue in Bakersfield when the polesitter comes past the pits with his muffler cherry red - only to explode half a lap later. Sparks and flames shooting 20 feet up into the night sky.
The race is over, we've waited for the other classes to finish, and now we're all headed home. I leave Bakersfield at 11:15pm on Saturday night. Loaded up with caffeine, ephedrine, and sugar, I make it home and my head hits the pillow at 2am.
I have another "recollection dream". I don't recall how old I am, but probably 7 or 8 or 9. For a school project, we have to bring in photos of our friends. One student brings in a picture of her penpal from Bolivia in native dress. One student brings in a picture of a neighbor friend taken at a baseball stadium getting an autograph from one of the players. It is my turn. I produce a picture of a tree in the middle of a field. "This is a picture of my friend Ashley standing next to the tree. You can't see Ashley. Nobody can see Ashley except me. But Ashley is my friend and he comes with me wherever I go. We talk a lot about school and sports and books." There is silence in the classroom. The teacher finally lets me sit back down and proceeds to the next student. The teacher continually keeps an eye on me for the next few weeks.
Sunday finds a quiet day with an ice hockey game at 3pm. After the game, being consistent with my horoscope which says "Spend Sunday evening preparing for the workweek", I drink. And watch the British Grand Prix for motorcycles. The race starts in the rain and the track dries out. There is banging of fairings, motorcycles sliding, drifting, and good action. The last few laps are exciting as the rain tires, by now worn to shreds on the drying track, have given up grip and the 500cc, 130 kg, 190 horsepower motorcycles buck and slip and strain for grip.
I finally realize what the newspaper will say: Dr. Raymund Manning, longtime TRW aerospace engineer and Long Beach resident, was found dead in downtown Bakersfield on Saturday morning. Dr. Manning was in Bakersfield in support of a car race at a neighboring track when he was found in an abandonded building in the older part of the city. The author of 3 patents and 28 technical papers, Dr. Manning had a voracious appetite for mental and physical stimulation. He was constantly playing with genetic algorithms and neural networks, as well as cycling and playing ice hockey. The complete estate of Ray has been left to his dog Nopey. A number of coworkers, colleagues, partners, ChiChis, and one drag queen have stepped forward to adopt the dog and gain control of Dr. Manning's estate. It was also reported that the dog has stepped forward with the $58 million winning lottery ticket that Dr. Manning had purchased the previous Wednesday. At the time of his death, Dr. Manning had 4 stab wounds, a gunshot wound, strangulation marks on his neck, signs of electrocution, and indications that he had been run over by all eighteen wheels of an eighteen wheel Mack truck. Bakersfield police have closed the case saying that Dr. Manning died of natural causes.