Thursday, July 7, 2011

Aaron vs. The Cook, Aaron @ The Brickyard and Aaron Goes Down Memory Lane and Revisits a Rock

Yes, I know, it is a very long blog title, but a lot happened yesterday and I could have been cheap and spread it out over three days, but what fun would that be? This really is a three part blog post with the last segment showing the place that I first waved a flag in public.

Anyway, my alarm rang loud at 5:30 yesterday morning and typically I will hit the snooze button for at least an hour, but I was more than anxious to get up. In fact, I kept waking up every 20 minutes sure that I had overslept.

I got ready to go and headed to a restaurant. Typically I give names and locations, but the next line of events are to a level of bizarre that I don't want to get anyone in trouble. Truly I am at a loss for words what happened.

So what did happen? I sat down and instantly gave my order of bacon, pancakes, and three sunny side-up eggs. A simple enough order, right? About a minute later the waitress came over to me and said, "The cook says it is against the rules and law to make sunny side up eggs. Would you like them scrambled?" Now this was a major moment because 9 times out of 10 I will passively accept whatever I am told. Rocking the boat is something I do not do. However, I was feeling confident and sure of myself for in just a few hours I would be serving as flagman at the most hallowed grounds in all of motorsports. With the confidence flowing through my vains, and a picture of sunny side up eggs on my place mat, I responded with, "You can't be serious." Perhaps my tone was a bit sarcastical, but I'd say rightfully so. I then said, "I had breakfast here five times in the last month and had them, and look at the place mat!"

"Well sir" she responded, "I don't know what to tell you." I was ready to walk out and leave at this idiocy. To make matters worse, this waitress had served me the sunny side up eggs just less than a month ago. She agreed to go back to the cook and the cook again assured her that they were, in fact, illegal. I could hear the conversation and the waitress came back to me and stated what the cook had said so I again pointed to the place mat and gave the logic, "Why would your chain advertise something that is against the law?" and with that line she went back to the cook and less than seven minutes later I had the breakfast I originally ordered.

This was a rare example of me advocating for myself. Granted my way of life was not changed and in the end this story will not change anyone's life, but I spoke up for myself which is something I rarely do outside of this blog.

With breakfast complete and the skies above Indianapolis a radiant mix of orange and pink as the sun was making its presence in the East sky I made the trip down Meridian to 16th Street. At this juncture I was a mix of so many emotions. I thought back to all the Indy 500's I have attended and thought back to just how scared I was one year ago to be flagging my first USAC Mopar .25 race. Gone was the fear, but what was still there was that sense of awe I had the year before.  That sense of awe is one of the most powerful feelings I have felt and as I got closer and closer to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway I could feel the butterflies throughout my entire body.

The track got closer and closer and eventually I was at the tunnel. To say I had a grin on my face would be selling it short. I was elated, ecstatic, and jubilant all at the same time. Yes, It may just be a race in a parking lot, but it's on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I get the honor of flagging it.

As for the day at the track not much happened and it was a typical day. Last year I had to be a fast learner but this year comes the confidence of now having the experience of flagging eight other events.

It was a hot day, scorching would be more precise, and at the end of practice I felt as if I had been microwaved. I debated which way to take home and decided to take the long way; a way I used to travel a lot when I used to live in Indy.

I pulled out of the track and made my way onto Georgetown Road. It led me to Lafayette Square mall which was a place I spent countless afternoons at the A&W Hot Dog place as well as the Fun n Games arcade. I should state, if you didn't already know, I grew up in Indianapolis for the first 10 years of my life and those memories at that mall are over 20 years old, but I remember them as if it happened five minutes ago. Such tranquil times those were!

From there I made it to 56th St where I have many memories. There used to be a Noble Romans pizza place there that we would always stop at when leaving Indy when we would head back to Saint Louis. We were in that part of town as my friends lived right there as well as my sister.

Further on ahead I was sad to see that a place that used to be known as "Friendly Foods" was gone. That place had a name change across the years as it became, "Friend Foods". I always had a fun time debating whether or not they were still friendly or not. I didn't know for sure though as we never stopped there, but still, the name was kind of odd.

The next intersection I breathed a sigh of relief as this church was still the same. What do I mean? Well, I like consistency and don't like change. This church had, for at least 15 years, the same marquee message and today I found out it is still the same. I do hope though, for the members of that church, that the marquee is simply their motto and not the pastor's sermon as after 15 years I'm sure it would have gotten old by now.

As I approached 86th St I made the decision to go by the old house. Well, I had actually been thinking about the place and I wanted to go there last year during the Battle at the Brickyard, but I was just too tired. This year I did make the trek and as I entered College Park I was astounded at how much the neighborhood looked the same. It's been almost two full decades since I lived there and yet the houses are pretty much the same, the swimming pool is as busy as it was when I lived there, and the thing that made me the most happy was that my rock was still there.

Rock? Yes, a rock, but what you might call a rock I saw as a flag stand. One day after a stressful day at school I decided to grab the flag Duane Sweeney gave me (he used to be the flagman of the Indy 500) and go stand on that rock and give cars that drove by the checkered flag.

Looking back on it this clearly was an obvious sign that I was on the spectrum because I became engrossed in this. I would spend hours on end waving that flag to passerbys. It was relaxing, and on top of that it was good practice in terms of style.

Day after stressful day at school this was my outlet. I was never worried about angering people as most people would either honk, flash their lights, or wave their hands with elation.

I became something of a legend I think, or maybe not a legend, but people started recognizing me outside of my rock. One night my dad and I went to a USAC midget show at Indianapolis Raceway Park and when I went to the concession stand the lady that took my order said, "Wait a sec, I know you... you're that flag kid in College Park, aren't you?"

I call that rock the first place I flagged publicly as I had a set of small flags my dad got from the IMS museum, but I just flagged along from home and trust me, my mom remembers all the times she got struck by a flag as she walked by. Maybe it was this that made her happy I took my flagging to that rock.

That rock is a part of me and as I took that picture and walked back to my car a tear came across my eyes as I remembered just how long ago it was that I manned that rock with authority. Such a long road it's been, and yet I remember it all. Back then I never could have imagined that I'd be touring around flagging real race cars instead of Buicks and Mini-vans. In a way I discovered myself on that rock on those depressing afternoons after school. It was my outlet, my way to express myself, and for all those drivers back then who saw me I wish I could tell them who I have become. What a road it's been!

Yesterday was practice but today is the 1st of three race days. The action starts early, 8AM US Eastern Time and you can watch live at

1 comment:

  1. That's a beautiful post Aaron. Also, I think it's very brave to admit to those feelings. I'm usually too ashamed to tell something like that, because most people can't understand that memories can have such an impact.
    On another note: I couldn't tell before, because I was reading your blog on my mobile phone and I can't comment on my phone, but your blog about your dreams really struck me. It actually got me crying a bit, because I could relate a lot. But I was reading this on my way to work and arriving at work with tears in my eyes didn't seem like a smart thing to do, so I stopped halfway and read the rest on my way home. But seriously, that was one beautiful blog post, might just be one of my favorites.