We Americans might forget how sweet our freedom is, and how lucky we are to be protected by the men and women of our armed services. This Memorial Day weekend, I’m not forgetting. Thank you, all current and former members of the U.S. military.
Heroin and Champagne
I used to write NASCAR stories for a magazine called Track Record and found myself in Charlotte one Memorial Day weekend to cover the Coca-Cola 600. Photographer David Mudd and I made the trip for three days of interviewing, photo-shooting and story-writing, and the temperature each day was an unbearable 100 degrees with high humidity. I was a moving puddle whenever I stepped outdoors.
An early-afternoon Saturday assignment had David and me hiking about a half-mile from the track to an interview/shoot, and I started feeling woozy once we arrived. I immediately told David that I needed to leave, then embarked upon the sweaty, laborious walk back to the track with a goal of ultimately reaching the air-conditioned media center.
But that second half-mile hike in roasting conditions caused me heat stroke, and I was in trouble. Without hesitation, I weakly entered an infield care center where doctors quickly hoisted me onto a bed and placed a dozen ice packs on my neck, shoulders, chest, stomach and wrists.
But only 10 minutes into my incoherency, I suddenly heard a burly bear-of-a-guy on the next bed violently vomiting into a bucket. After his fifth gut-wrenching heave, I wearily hoisted my head and glanced at the guy, and he stared at me.
He was about 6 feet tall, 300 pounds, had a long ZZ Top beard, big beer belly, a multi-stained muscle T-shirt, filthy blue jean shorts and a pair of flip-flops that exposed toenails that hadn’t seen clippers in months. Then he retched into the bucket one more time.
“Too many Budweisers?” I asked, believing that I guessed his correct beer brand.
“No, man,” he answered nonchalantly. “Too much heroin and champagne.”
Heroin and champagne? What? At a NASCAR race?
We never spoke again. With every subsequent throw-up, he just got messier than an unmade bed, while I personally continued to sizzle like a T-bone steak.
The Big O
I honestly never watched a second of Oprah during her 25 TV years, but I do have a slight connection to her. My niece and nephew were both in her Chicago audience in September 2004 when Oprah gave away 276 cars.
The cars were sporty Pontiac G-Six models that stickered for around $28,000, but my niece and nephew had to sell both vehicles because they couldn’t afford the taxes. Oprah didn’t foot that part of the bill, and the tax on each car was around $6,000. Still, my niece and nephew came out of that experience with a nice chunk of change.
Oh, one more slight connection with Oprah and me. She actually started her TV career in my home city of Nashville. Way to go, O.