Thursday, February 28, 2013

I couldn't Have Done It Without Dad

I know it's been a while, and I'm sorry about that.  I start writing something, and then I think, "what's the point?"

I had a post planned last year about a couple things I noticed that interested me.  Decided not to post it.  Then, there's the book.  I have ideas, and this book will be in the 150-200 page range.  A living history of Antioch Speedway, because I'm always learning new things.  I haven't been able to motivate myself.

I ask myself, does anybody really care at this point, and the answer comes back, "I don't think so."  I take a step back and forget about it.  Problem is I have two ideas, one is for a broader history book listing several tracks in California, but does anybody care?  As I see the names change, does that stuff matter to anybody anymore?

All too often, we stop caring about those who came before and the things that happened.  People paved the way for us.  I was so happy when Petaluma ran that Johnny Soares Classic, because that man is a legend.  Period.  He is my hero in racing.  People like him and Bert Moreland and Bob Barkhimer can't be honored enough.

Then, there is John Soares Jr.  People might hate him, some like him. I respect the man.  I always have, even when we disagreed.  He gave me opportunities that a kid from the grandstands never gets.  Even now, he fights to give racers a place to race and takes big risks, so like I said, respect.  I go over in my head whether I'd do this racing thing if I could go back, but if I did, I would still support John and his dad would still be my hero.

And, I believe his dad would be so proud of him and what he has done for racing.  John took his own path, but he was inspired by his dad in what he's done.  And mark my words, people, you will miss him when he's gone.  He's dedicated his life to the sport when sometimes it would have been smarter to do something else.  Why?  He loves racing.

But, let me tell you a story.  It's been a rough last few weeks for me.  The last couple of years have been difficult at times, but I have cherished every moment spent with my dad.  He tried to take care of me and tried to steer me in the right direction.  I wasn't cut out for the roofing business that he spent thirty years of his life in, but he was proud of what he did.  I am and always was proud of him.  He tried to take care of his family.

I was a little screw up in my younger days.  Lousy at school.  Not many friends.  No social life, but my dad brought me to the races.  It was one of the fun things we did together, me, dad and Jackie.  Cheering on Len Mello, another hero of mine.  Loving being at the races every week.  I absorbed the races, knew all the names, the nicknames.  Ran hot wheel races on the coffee table based on Antioch.  Len won there a lot.  B Main drivers tended to do better in my hot wheel reality.

They laughed at me for cheering for Len, this B Main driver, and then he won the championship.  It meant so much to me, and I spent an hour after the races in the infield talking to him that night.  He did it and I believed in him.  I cheered louder than any body, and even now I get choked up thinking about it.  I was hooked on racing, and it became the favorite form of entertainment for me then.  Even bigger.

I began keeping a scrap book, then taking pictures and keeping records, then score keeping.  When nothing else was going right in my life, I had the races.  I remember giving drivers the scores I had for them and watching as they argued with the score keepers and got their finishes changed based on what I had.  It made them a few extra bucks, and I knew that some of our guys were low buck.  It mattered.

I began writing a magazine in 1985 not long after a good grade on a paper (about the track) in English class convinced me I could do this.  I doubt anybody but Anna Temple bought one that year.  I was a lousy salse person.  I loved writing about it and talking to people about it.  I wanted to make a difference.

By 1987, I was selling enough to convince myself to keep writing, plus I wrote for Racing Wheels at the suggestion of Jim Pettit Sr.  He even brokered a meeting between me and Gary Jacob where Gary gave me a typewriter.  Gary just wanted me to keep covering the track, and Pettit was an early supporter.  Gradually, things grew, and despite stupid moves on my part, I continued.  In 1988, with a broken typewriter and kicked out of the pits, I might have quit had Jim Robbins and several racers not awarded me at the banquet that year and took up a donation for a new typewriter.

I nearly lost the magazine in 1992 after stupid moves, but dad convinced me to go to the races and let people know what was happening.  Two people, Rick Bollinger and Johnnie Baptsta, donated money and told me to keep going.  So I did, and from that point on, I focused and kept my mind in the game at all times.  Steadily investing in things that would improve the magazine when I could.

Now, some people thought I was wasting my time.  Dad probably did too, but he encouraged me nonetheless.  I never could have done this without him.  Never.  The work I put into it was full time every week, and a labor of love that I hoped some day might pay off.  It was a crazy dream.

I used to hang out at the Nordstrom residence.  Actually, I stayed there quite a bit during a five or six year period.  I learned a lot about racing thanks to Al Nordstrom, and dad actually worked on the body of Al's car for a couple years.  He loved doing that, and Al welcomed him to it.  This was during a time when dad got Cancer and had a pretty serious surgery that forced his retirement.  He would have continued roofing if he could have, because that's the kind of man he was.

Gradually, dad's time at the track went from the stands to parking in the car by the fence in a certain place where he could see the finishes, and then that access was blocked and he didn't go.  But, he supported my efforts.  The magazine grew as I got my first computer and Jackie joined to help things get even better.  When I told dad of John's plans to bid for the track, he endorsed my idea of supporting him even at the risk of getting kicked out if John lost.  He knew good things could happen, and they did.

I know he was proud of me and Jackie when we took on the more active roles at the track that John and Donna gave us, and I know we helped make a difference when we were there.  When it began to fall apart, dad supported me going to Chowchilla and Merced to chase this dream, driving me back and forth to the train station.  The last couple years I was involved in the sport, it was because of people like Don & Linda O'Keefe, J.D Willis and especially my dad that I continued to try as the magazine was failing with the rise of the internet.  Really thought I had something special with the DCRR State Point Series too.  Dad was my biggest supporter, and I tried to make him proud.  Whatever it was I accomplished in my life is because of him.

Folks, I'm here to tell you to cherish time with your family.  All too often I blew off family get togethers with aunts, uncles and cousins to be at the races.  Weddings, graduations, "I need to be at the races."  You never know when it's gonna be the last time, so tell your loved ones how much you love them.

Dad had not been in the best of health these last 2-3 years, but I tried to make things as good as I could for him.  Time spent watching TV with him or just going to the store (He still drove, but I did all the walking around), meant everything to me.  I love my dad.  He meant everything to me.  When he was having a difficult time a few years back, my sister would tell me that if nothing else, we would have each other.  Then she passed away.  I still miss her.

Dad went to the hospital in December for a serious operation.  He was gonna make it.  I just knew it.  He always did.  He always came back to me.  Not this time.  I was told December 21 that he wouldn't make it.  We spoke that day, but it was the last time he spoke to me.  On Christmas Eve, he passed away.

I love you dad.  Thanks for being my father and my best friend.  Thank you for everything.  I don't know where my life will go next, but it will never be the same.

I may not have said anything at all here, but the word has gotten out.  So, anybody still reading can read this from me.  I do want to post more often here, but we'll see.  Just remember to cherish the time spent with the ones you love.  It can be taken away in an instant, and those precious moments are worth more than all the money in the world.

Until next time...  Don

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Update

Long time no post.  Anybody still reading?  As it turns out, I have something important to say that I will post soon.  Some of you already know what happened.  I've also been sitting on a good number of posts that for one reason or another I never put out there over the years.  I think it's time some of these posts see the light of day.  I am uncertain what I will be doing next, but I have been writing quite a bit lately.

One of the sites I write at allows me the freedom to cover different subjects.  I think I will eventually just start a new blog for that, while still adding racing related content here.  As I said, I've been withholding some stuff that you may find interesting.  Some of it may be controversial.

When I opened this blog, I had no desire to hurt the current effort, and that is still my intent.  Therefore, I wrote some things and pulled them over that concern.  I now feel like it won't hurt anything now to comment on things from back then, and people may have always wanted to know what happened.  Some of it has been with me since I walked away, and it has bothered me.

But, Recollections is in the name of the blog.  I don't purely want to editorialize on things, and that's what many of these post do.  I want to get into some of the fun things I had planned.  I want to talk "All Time Best" of Antioch Speedway, tackle a few obscure stories and get into my Hall Of Fame lists that I was starting to work on when I shut it down.  I've also grabbed some official lists from the abyss that people may have forgotten.

Anyway, that's in the plans.  Most of my writing lately hasn't been racing related.  The book idea is still there, but the motivation to dive in is not.  I did write a couple stories on the other blog that may be of interest.  They are about Danica Patrick at Daytona.  I can't seem to get a link to appear to the stories, but you can find those two titles among the other articles I wrote by clicking   HERE    if you want to.