Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

After responding to Wendy's shout out, it appears that I might be included in a blurb in Cookies Magazine. Honestly, I'd never heard of it. It's a parenting magazine. They recently asked for suggestions on how to get your child to talk more, about what's going on in his life.

Having raised all of one entire child, I sent in my tip. Brian and I concocted a game "Tell Me Something I Don't Know." It was a volley-ing game, sometimes rapid-fire until one of had to profess "that's it, I got nothing, you know everything." Some days I'd learn his history teacher's first name. And other days I'd hear something big, a conflict or frustration. And of course, he heard the same from me.

Let's play.

I'll go first.

There are actually one or two of you that know this about me, but most of you have no idea. And in light of the subject being brought up several times at my recent 25th High School class reunion, I've decided to go ahead and tell it.

I grew up a member of the pit crew of a drag racing team. My father's car, my father's "team." A 1937 Fiat with a 427 big block Chevy engine. I was just a rug-rat underfoot at the track every Saturday, trying to keep myself occupied. When I was about 10 years old, I began asking if I could help.

Sure, Dad said. I could be in charge of tire pressure. Filling the tires with air, and more importantly, letting the air OUT of the tires...just so. A drag tire needs a bit of room, it heats up and expands during the pre-race burn-out. And you don't want it hard as a rock; it has to be nice and soft so it can grip the track.

My sister joined in, and Mom took over the truck, and by the time we were 14 & 15 years old, we had ousted all of the men from the crew. I can still recite the firing order of an 8-cylinder chevy engine, with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.

When I turned 16, my father promptly borrowed a helmet and firejacket, and strapped me in. 5 seatbelts—one over each shoulder, one up each hip, and one between the legs—harnessed in to a circular contraption in the middle of my stomach. It had a quick-release; you just punched it and all the belts fell free. Good for scrambling out of a fire. Aww, I never scrambled out of a fire. And though I warmed the car up on the weekends, I never raced it.

As you may be able to tell, this racing stuff played a major part of defining who I am now:

I don't work on my own car, but I have a clear idea of what all the parts are, what they do, how they go together, and how they should sound.

I have an easy, mechanical understanding of most other things also, and I never, EVER have to recite "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" before tackling a lightbulb, bolt, or faucet.

Scrutinizing and observing and double-checking water valves and lug nuts and gas lines did, I believe, roll over into making me a somewhat observant person, noticing details in both material objects and people. I take note, easily, and rarely lack things to think about, draw, or write about.

I'm a hardworking, responsible chick, always have been, always will be. When Dad agreed to let us take over, it was with stipulations: We had to be reliable. Girlz don't go out on Friday night if the car isn't ready to hit the track on Saturday morning. No car, no dates! !!!

There were a few crazy Glory Moments, and I'll share one that always made Dad proud to recall.

We once had a string of problems with the transmission, and had to just roll the car back on the trailer for the day. Two weekends in a row, we assisted with the removal of the transmission, only to find, on a third Saturday, something was still wrong.

We pulled back into the pits, and Dad ordered, "Drop it." The announcer got word, and encouraged the spectators to join our area, watch the fun. My sister and I pulled pins, dropped the floor out of the car, lifted the body up and over, and put the chassis up on jacks. We were familiar, by then, with the location of every bolt and the size of the wrenches we needed, and as crowd gathered, Dad sat back and watched us drop the transmission, in a matter of minutes. Not bad for a couple girly girls with ratchets, eh?

Yeah, we knew what we were doing, and received a trophy or two for it. Some semblance of this shot ended up in a magazine somewhere, a pitcrew award at a national meet in Indianapolis.

And when the season was over, we began immediately to tear the car to bits, readying for show-season. A show-car cleaning can take months. Besides removing dirt, and polishing chrome to a mirror shine, every bolt is removed, soaked in solvent, and cleaned out with toothpicks and Q-tips. I am not making that up. The garage was heated, but a concrete floor can chill you to your tailbone when you're sitting or lying on it, polishing the underside of the chassis.

One year we had little time to get the job done right on our own, so I put a shout out to the boys in my high school shop class: Come over. Every night this week. We need help. (Yes. I did get the top score in my shop class.)

The garage was full every night, and with their help, the car was ready to be suspended over a floor of mirrors in 4 days time. Here's a scan from a ratty old pic. Note Teri (my sister), Mom and Dad sitting in the background, probably dying from boredom.

Overall, it was a fantastic way to grow up. It was a lot of hardwork, and pounding sun in hot black uniforms, yes. But it was a fun, family endeavor that allowed us to meet wonderful people, make great friends. We laughed a lot, and in the interim, walked away with a lot of knowledge, lifeskills, experiences and memories.


Your turn.


  1. I used to be a ballet dancer. From the ages of nine to sixteen, I went to classes three times a week - ballet, tap and modern for an hour at a time. I was in show after show, and I was the only boy in the whole school.

    When I was fourteen, we got a grant of three thousand pounds (a lot of money in 1993) to put on a production with the Northern Ballet Theatre. I got the lead, and worked with them for six months touring the region with the show. I loved it.

    I gave it up. I tell everyone it was because I got too tall (how many 6'4" ballet dancers have YOU seen?) but the truth is, I gave it up because it wasn't cool enough. I was sixteen years old and discovered drinking and teenage freedom. Something had to give, and dancing was the least manly thing to go (the clarinet went shortly after).

    I still regret giving it up, but it has left me nice and flexible: I can still touch my toes without bending my knees eleven years later, and none of my friends can do that!

  2. Wow, that's very cool!

    I can touch my knees without bending my knees.

  3. My stories fail in comparison. I guess the only thing that I can throw out is my Mom taught me how to rip an apple apart without cutting or smashing it. It's a neat trick.

  4. I've actually always wanted to know how to do that!

  5. Oh lord. I've already blogged many of my best stories. Playing bass naked for big crowds in Spain, Running with the bulls, Climbing Mt Washington, uh...lessee.
    How about beating the gym teacher at fencing in 9th grade. He hated me (with good reason. I sucked at gym and hated him first) but when he picked me out to demonstrate fencing for the class I kicked his ass sideways. That was the only thing I ever accomplished in gym class. That was also probably the last time I actually WENT to gym class before dropping out.

  6. Wow, what a post! Loved reading about the drag-racer side of you :)

    Something that not many people know about me:
    I didn't speak a word of English until I was 18. Ok, I spoke about 6 words. Then I suddenly realized that I needed to speak English to survive. I started by reading books and I read them like a maniac. In 5 years, by the time I came to US, I was able to speak well but still was not too comfortable in English. In the past 9 years I lived in the US, I improved my English to a point that I am equally comfortable in English and my mother tongue.

    I know it's not a big deal, but to me personally, it's an achivement. And I try to get better at English every day.

  7. That is so cool. Thanks for telling me that! (See how I personalize the blog experience?)

    Here's something you don't know...

    I grew up on magnets. My dad started a magnet business when I was little. Not refrigerator magnets, but the kind that gets glued on the back of those pretty things. And magnets for science, industry and education. The slogan was "Strongest in the Magnetic Field." Cute, huh?

    From about 6 years old, I worked in the factory. I stamped bags, packed boxes and cleaned the factory floor and the bathrooms and the kitchen/lunch room. I worked through high school. When I went to college, I thought that was it.

    But no. I came back from school and started working with my dad. I became the Sales Manager. I knew every magnet in that place, what it could do, how to choose the right one. I knew about rare earth magnets (neodymium iron boron, samarium cobalt, etc.) which are the strongest magnets for their size. Don't remember learning about the rare earth metals? They are the ones at the very bottom of the periodic table - the teacher hardly ever gets to those! I knew about magnetic strip - rubber with adhesive, magnetic sheeting (for signs on cars and stuff), assemblies for cabinets and holding lights and hooks and such, electromagnets for junkyards and assembly lines. But my favorite (do you have a favorite magnet?) is cow magnets which are sold to be "fed" to a cow and live in one of the stomachs to keep metals (from fences and tractors) that it eats when grazing from tearing up the insides of the cow when it regurgitates its food.

    I worked hard. I liked my job. I loved when people asked how business was and I'd say "Picking up." And I got to go to schools and teach the kids about magnets. I'd bring alnico (aluminum/nickel/cobalt) magnets for the students to magnetize themselves. I teach them about assemblies and how steel focuses the magnetic field to make the magnet up to 50x stronger. And more. It was great fun. I even got to teach at the Science Teachers Convention to show the teachers how to teach the kids about magnets. How lucky was I??

    The years went by - I was about 25. My brother joined the company. He is a materials engineer. He'd do the tech sales and I'd keep going. But I decided to go for the career I'd studied in college. Advertising. And as it turned out, I had a knack for it.

    So, I moved on. My dad is long retired and my brother runs the business remotely from Maine.

    Sometimes I miss all that geeky fun.

  8. That's so great to read about your drag racing experiences.

    Here's something...I have had nine knee operations. Not from an injury, but from malaligned tendons which caused my knees to dislocate. I've had 2 on my left knee, 7 on my right, 4 different surgeons, in 3 different provinces (Canada eh?)

    Cause I could barely walk down a flight of stairs by the age of 12, I was not able to compete in any sports other than swimming. I swam and swam and swam and loved it and *almost* made the 1984 Olympics.

    My knees are better, I can skate and ride a bike and play with my kids, but no downhill skiing or aggressive court sports like basketball.

    I also enjoyed reading svenyboy's ballet experience.

  9. Will you adopt me? That is too friggin cool.

  10. Wow!! I would have never ever imagined!!!!

    I used to be in the music biz. I was a quasi-celebrity in my hometown. I was on TV a Bit, did interviews, live shows, and I even recorded half of what was going to be my album, but I blew it all off to become a mom.

    When I was 11 I got accepted into a Special School for Academically Advanced Children. But my parents didn't let me go.

  11. that was excellent. My life pales in comparison! :) So I've nothing to share at the moment but sure enjoyed reading about your growing-up years.

  12. I'm actually Tsarina Anastasia's granddaughter, adopted by the Myrick family in 1971 shortly after my birth, raised in anonymity and relative quietude. I'm currently doing the same with my son. I mean, who wants to be deported to Siberia from Tucson!?

  13. OOOOooo, this was so much fun; I have such an interesting bunch o friends. We're going to have to play this again!

    Andy: Perry! Thrust! Thrust! Thrust! I mean, you go, boy!

    Twisty: I'd never have guessed from your writing that you haven't spoken English your entire life. I'm dumbstruck, it's an amazing achievement.

    Wendy: Now I know you even more, I'm glad you shared this with me. We've been playing with a "toy" that consists of 2 magnetic spheres that you toss into the air, making tons of noise as they reconnect. I want to run and show them to you now.

    Nancy: I was on the swim team in my sophomore year of high school, but I was the slow one: good at distance, but lousy at speed.

    Jag: Yes. I will adopt you. Clean your room.

    MaryP: A celebrity in our midst! Can you make mini movies with you new camera? YouTube us with a song!

    JayAre: Think! I know there's something we don't know! Have you ever won anything? I won a blanket once.

    Shy_smiley: All these years, and I HAD NO IDEA!! No wonder that guy we worked for called you "Princess" all the time. I didn't know he was in the know!

    Everyone: Thanks so much for sharing, this was really fun!


Back talk! Comment here!