By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jeanne RiceThe publicist from NASCAR was on my phone. "We thought you might like to do a story on how NASCAR is now becoming more diverse," she was chirping as I was vomiting into the nearest receptacle.
"Um, we don't cover Fontana," I excused, which is true as long as it's not Chris Gaffney singing about Fontana, in which case we cover it every time, but what I didn't want to say flat-out was that we don't do stories publicists hand us. Just ask Nikki Finke and her friends at Vanity Fair!
"Well, what do you write about?" the nice flack wanted to know, and it's always a difficult question to answer.
"Well, you know, like, what I did that week? And places I went? And some stuff about the President?" It never sounds very impressive when I put it that way.
Oh, but this one, she was sly. She had an answer for everything. "Well, would you like to come be in someone's pit crew for the day? Would that work?"
Honey, why didn't you say so in the first place?
And that's the not-terribly scintillating tale of how I became a part of Scott Riggs' pit crew at NASCAR's Nextel Cup on Saturday. My job? To not get anyone killed. Duck and cover, everybody!
The night before, I'd done shots at The Fling, and the night before that, I'd crashed a toga party for Kappa Tau, so my weekend was catching up to me when I hit the 909. After an hour-and-38-minute attempt to drive the final two-tenths of a mile to the freeway offramp, I was really, really late. Then I got lost four times trying to find the correct gate and the tunnel to the infield. The constant calls to my media handler and the embarrassing inability to get there from here (one of Commie Mom's favorite lacerating sayings? "Aw, you just can't get there from here." It's deadly!) were not auguring well for my stint on Pit Road. Hell, by the time I got there (from here), I was so sweaty and my jeans were so stuck to me I couldn't even swing my legs over the two-foot-high wall separating Pit Road from the stalls when I was sitting on it. It took a good two minutes of huffing and puffing and pitying looks. This, like Darrell Issa's gubernatorial candidacy, was all going to end in tears.
Luckily, I had a new flack in Tara, a North Carolina gal who's been traveling with NASCAR for three years, knows everybody, is plain-spoken and warm, explained all the NASCAR mysteries down to the last flipdiddle (that's the scientific term for them), and let me follow her around for seven hours like a retarded puppy.
Wait, Tara! Wait for me!
Also, I got a headset. Yay!
Very little actually happens during a 250-lap, 500-mile race, and once the merciless sun goes down and that sweet Fontana breeze starts to blow (I smell Chino!), it's actually very Zen. Even with the cast of Herbie Goes Bananas Yet Again and One More Timein the pit stall next to ours, things weren't, you know, exciting.
Now, with Herbie going nuts and all, I was waiting to see Matt Dillonbecause when I used to live in New York City, I used to see him all the freaking time, and I would get this mortifying instant Tourette's. "Fuck you, Matt Dillon!" I would spit as we walked toward each other on the street. "Think you're so fucking cool, Matt Dillon! Fuck you! SUCK COCK!" It was really weird.
So this time, I wanted to tell Matt Dillon, tenderly, to fuck off for old time's sake or maybe challenge him to a duel, but sadly it was not to be. Instead I just hung out with my Valvoline posse, and time and again as Herbie's "pit crew" hopped (hopped!) up and down and clasped their hands together like girls who'd just gotten a bunny and gently patted one another's backs in celebration, we would watch with joyously jaded derision. "Wow, they've won, like, four times now," one girl said. "They must be really good."
Ho ho ho! What a bitch!
I wish I'd said it.
Fucking Matt Dillon thinks he's so cool.
Ah, the good old days. On this day, appropriately, I was even wearing my I Love New York baby-tee, which didn't get Matt Dillon's attention because he's way too fucking cool for that but led lots of tall and tanned and swaggery men to tell me, "Ah loh-ove New York," as though, well, I don't know how to describe it for a SoCal audience that will so often come on to a woman by asking her classily to sit on its collective face. Let's just say it's all about subtext and mystery and restraint, and there was more blatant sexing in those words than in Tropic of Cancer or Lynne Cheney's Sisters. "Ah loh-ove New York"? Baby, I love me some freakin' NASCAR!
So we smoked a lot of cigarettes and waited for cars to wreck and every half hour or so put some new tires on the car real, real fast and tried to keep hydrated and sat on a wall. I can't imagine how lame it must be in the stands, but backstage? Honey, you're special. You get a headset.