My Day At The Races, Part 1: Anticipation, Memories, and Cats and Mice
My sleep Friday night is erratic and troubled. I know it is the tension of The Idiotarod coming. Previous years being on Team COBRA was like the night before Christmas. This year it was like the night before Christmas... except that we were Santa. All know there are hundreds and hundreds of people counting on us. But by Saturday morning there is little left to do but to let the events play out. We had made all of our plans to the best of our abilities and just prayed that it would happen and that it would be fun. But 99% of the fun has nothing to do with the organizers. We are like the builders of a sandbox. It is there to play in, but we need the kids to come in play and THEY are what makes it fun. In fact, they bring the sand. We just have to make sure we haven't left any holes. Or left any turds in the box. (Okay, this now wins for tortured metaphor of the week.)
In the morning there is a flurry of phone calls as we schedule rides and what not. I spend some time cleaning up from Friday nights party and run out to the stationary store for last minute supplies. I try to eat, but my nerves are so bad that nothing tastes good except coffee... which I just know is going to react badly in my stomach later.
JD has stated he is picking me up at noon. At eleven I shower and then get dressed. I have, in a fit of hubris or something, decided to wear my best suit. I don't know why I thought I wouldn't get hit with food or vileness. I just love the idea of it. My job for the day is the collector of the judges decisions. My plan is to do as little judging as possible, just moderate. I though I should look stuff, accountantly, and the suit is dark with a vest. It also always makes me feel cool when I wear it. And having a bit of attitude will help during the day.
When I get it on, I check myself out. I wear good shoes, but I decide against dress socks and go with the smart wool socks instead. Friday was brutally cold, and even though Saturday is supposed to be warmer, it is still cold. I have bought a $3 pair of gold wire-rimmed, non-prescription glasses, and I slip them on to complete the look. I have to say, I loved it. I had certain seriousness and weight that I normally would have a hard time pulling off. Cheap black gloves and I am ready to go.
I gather all of my materials in my Tivo courier bag. An attache case handcuffed to me wrist would be better, but I wasn't about to spend big bucks for a tiny bit. The courier bag still works. I also through my COBRA jumpsuit (with freshly ironed on gold stars indicating my Committee Membership) and my COBRA knit cap into a pink shaping bag left over from a recent baby shower. It has bunnies on it (the bag, not the jumpsuit) and the idea that I look like I may be going to a fancy Baptism or Bris makes me giggle. It is the theater I love. And for me theater is in the details.
JD is of course running late because MrR has had his phone break in the night. MrR has the vast amount of the contacts for the day. I mean, we have planned enough and decentralized enough that the day should just happened no matter what individuals drop out. But if something goes horribly wrong, we all know that we would look to MrR to see what he says. He is very much the spirit and driving force of the day. If anyone deserves ownership, it is him, regardless of what he might say. So he had to print out his contact list and use MrsR's cel phone for the day. They don't get to my house until 12:30.
I am in the car with JD, MrR and MrsR. We realize that it is just the four runners from the first year of the Idiotarod. The only one missing is Williamsburg. (What ever happened to Williamsburg?) It is a poetic moment. The four of us, driving towards the start of COBRA's Idiotarod. It had just been 3 years since that first year, the year Hackett blew up his face.
I remember back to us sitting in front of one of the checkpoints that first year. We notice that a team that arrived after us has left before us. MrsR goes to and investigates and discovers that they bribed the judges! It is a revelation to us. Immediately you can see the gears turn in all of our heads. Especially MrR. You can just see him get that mischievous grin, that grin that says,"Oh... we can cheat... oh, how that changes everything...." I don't know if we used the word sabotage that day, but its meaning was in our heads. Sabotage would become our mantra, our modus operandi. And it was back at the moment.
As we get closer to the starting line we get a phone call. Our advance person at the REAL strtaing line is reporting that there are already police there. (Note: Some believe that we changed the starting location at the last minute. Untrue. For weeks we had been planning to publish a decoy start line. I mean, come on! This is COBRA! Do your really think we would publish the starting line 24 hours before the race?) Just three beat cops, but they are already there. It is not even 1:00pm yet! We wonder how they could have known but since some idiot had posted the address in the forums the night before, it wasn't a huge surprise. (Another note: If we call you secretly, don't you think that means we are trying to keep it secret? You're an idiot.) But we also think it is funny. There is the part of the whole day, the cat and mouse we know we are playing, that we all love. While we would be ecstatic if the police just stood back and watched, we know that would never happen.
We also know that if you send 1000 people into one area, there is no real way to stop it. We wouldn't be able to stop it if we tried. Events like the Idiotarod are a testament to the power of individuals when they get together. It doesn't just have to be for social change. It can be for art. I am not calling The Idiotarod art. No, yes, I am. It is art. But more on that later.
We are sent into a bit of a tizzy however. We start brainstorming alternate plans for the race. We start think about who we need to call, what plans we can shift, how we might need to adjust. And that is part of the fun of these sort of events and part of the insane magic that is COBRA. I have no idea what the planning was in previous year (and we where certainly helped by them having done such amazing jobs in the past), but COBRA as amazingly democratic. No, democratic is wrong. Organic. It was ideas tossed in the ring, without ego. Sometimes ideas where accepted, sometimes not. But usually yes. And someone would take charge of it and start researching it and make it happen. Or not. There were no fights internally in COBRA (or at least not that I know). Ideas just formed, mutated and appeared, often empty of ownership.
And that carried on to the last day as we discussed about what to do about the police. It wasn't even a debate... it just happened. As a unit we adjusted, shifted. To be overly dramatic and slightly creepy, we were like old lovers, asleep in bed. We just shifted with the other, no thought.
(NEXT: ENGINE #9 and MY SPECIAL TIME ALONE AT THE FINISH LINE.)