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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Excerpt from "The Raceway"

From the new collection "Dreams, Desires, And Dead Ends" All Rights Reserved. 
©2012 Robert Alan Chappell -- Reproduction in part or in whole of this work constitutes property theft and will be prosecuted. 

It was a time of great change, and the Mid-West does not like change.  First there was us, the progeny of the changing nation which would later be called the Baby Boomer generation.  We been born into the seeming prosperity of the aftermath of World War II, and for the time being were one of the welcomed changes occurring in their lives.  That of course would change in just a few short years, centered around the years of '67, '68 and '69. 

John F. Kennedy and Camelot were still in full swing, and he had just announced his intention to Go to the Moon.  Viet Nam and The War At Home were only fragile nightmares for now.  The deaths of the American Ideal that were the assassinations not even in the realm of nightmares as of yet.

And last but certainly not least, were the new motorways (as they were called then), the remaining legacy of Dwight Eisenhower, as far reaching in their consequences for the coming years as the Moon Adventure would be.  The new Interstate Highway System.  Long strips of continuos blacktop spreading and linking all of the major cities in ways that the old highways — often twisty-turny in nature following the whims of the landscape — would not be.  These were supposed to be clean straight lines advancing to and expanding the horizon.  The Age of the Motorcar.

And here I was, growing up in the epitome of speed and advancing metal, Indianapolis; home to The Speedway and The 500.  Sleek shiny pods of metal screaming round and round the circular Pathway of Fate.  

It was also the time of the advent of the (also seeming) Raceway inspired interchange systems designed to re-route long distance traffic around those cities, that would come to be known shortly as Beltways.  These big loops had often ground through neighborhoods, leaving behind (for now) large gashes in the vegetation and housing.  They were at this time, in the process of being born, and like many another change at this time, the birth was not without it muddy consequences. 

that would be the later drainage system under this behemoth, were for now, ramps and tunnels for the gas-fueled dreams of youth.

We of course, the Progeny living within the growing radius of Sub-Urbia, would not find this gouging of the landscape (for now) objectionable.  No, just the opposite.  It allowed for us, living in the shadow of The Raceway, to carve the Raceway of our dreams in this man-made lunar landscape, not for screaming pods of metal, but for screaming bi-pedaled testosterone in the building.  The just placed circular (tubular) concrete conduits that would be the later drainage system under this behemoth, were for now, ramps and tunnels for the gas-fueled dreams of youth.

We didn't have a sports team of note (at that time) to root for, but we did have The Speedway.  It was, at that time, one of the few of its kind in the country, a hint of things to come.  And we used that newly graded but not yet concreted path of the future to our own advantage, speeding around on our bikes, leaping over conduit and change for a time, remaking the larger landscape to our own pathways of dreams.  I spent many an hour where my mother knew I was, going round and round.

And it was also the recent advent of The Mall.  No longer would there be an old-fashioned town center where shops would be, but the clean, gleaming concrete tower of The Mall.  The particular Mall that was close by me at that time, was a siren call to going 'further away from home' than I was 'supposed to be.'  It was the lure of my coming gypsy life, taking me far afield from anything considered home.  
My parents were not amused.  And they also did not see the traveling from city to town far afield influence of my fathers constant need to be On The Road in my further and further wanderings.  All they saw was that I was going where no child of theirs was supposed to go.  Too Far.

I was an awkward, gangly, bespectacled twelve, entering into the throes of what in my later life would be called geek love.  I was the eldest of three boys, so I didn't have an older brother to ask advice from, and I had an absent father who, when he did come home from being on the road, didn't have a lot of time for me and fatherly advice.  In other words, I was on my own.

So I spent every waking hour that I could at Our Raceway, after school and on weekends.  Racing round and round the circuit of dust and dirt, pretending that we were those Racers that were our heroes.

The only other siren call that was close by with nearly as much pull was the small one runway airport that was also within my bikes pedaling distance.  What time I didn't spend at The Raceway, was spent there amidst the Pipers and smells of spilt airplane fuel.  I stood glued to the chain link fence that separated me (for safety purposes) from the dream of speed aloft.  This one would later replace The Raceway, and it's ground based transit mundi. 

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