Sunday, November 02, 2008

HO Racing

I feel foolish talking about this shit now. Our country is at a crossroads, the world is in turmoil, the dogs of war are barking everywhere.
But in 1964 we became Aurora HO race car enthusiasts. We got our Aurora kits and laid out our layouts and began to race our little cars on little tracks in our basements. At the time there was a nationwide craze for 32nd scale tracks. There were racing tracks built all over the nation for people to bring their cars and race them against each other.
Not us. We bought the smaller size. Speed was the gig but speed on a small, small scale. Nonetheless the ability to make your car faster became a dominant impulse. We bought magazines and parts to soup up our cars. We were mini Ed Roths. We bought slicks for the rear tires and learned how to make our cars super fast.
We envied our friends layouts. As usual Terry had the coolest layout in the land. Trees and shit and the fastest car. All laid out on an 11' piece of plywood. Mine was small and in my basement and no one came to try out their cars.
We bought containers to carry our cars and we bought extra parts and we were mini mechanics. We sat like demented enthusiasts for hours at a time making little plastic cars race around and around and around. Not far from playing video games and killing aliens hours after hour after hour.
I remember one night in mid winter walking home from Terry's with my little beige plastic box and taking a bad spill on the ice and all my precious cars spilled out into the street.
I cried. I raged. I was filled with humiliation, not just for the fall and the loss but because my cars never were as good as Terry's. I was incompetent. I was just a chump. A fool.
When I got sick and fell outside my home one frigid January night I was made acutely aware of the parallels.
When I got home that night in the early sixties I told no one of my humiliation. I went upstairs and lay in my bed and felt smaller than I'd ever felt in my life. I wanted more than anything to be able to make my cars race like the wind. To have a cool track. To have people admire me and my passion.
Instead I spent that night picking up little electronic parts and rubber tires and tiny pieces of plastic under a cold January moon.
The things we care about seem so foolish. I could name dozens now equally stupid and I'm a grown man.

1 comment:

Jim Maddox said...

My brother and I had the Pike's Peak HO set out of the Sears catalog. It looked cool, but the cars always flew off the track going up and coming down unless you went really slow, but who wanted to go slow?
There was a 1/32nd scale race track in the old Pioneer Store building at the corner of Elm Ave. and Glassboro Road in Woodbury Heights, but the racing craze didn't last too long, and before you knew it, it was gone.