Saturday, January 27, 2007

Keep the Axles Spinning Easy

The cub scout pinewood derby fanfare is over and I can finally unbutton my woodcrafting collar and loosen my proverbial toolshoop tie. You see, I'm not a handy guy. I admit this to you but not to my seven year-old son, Skyler. He's in that stage where he thinks I'm somewhere between Jesus and Boog Powell. While Boog Powell never walked on water he was pretty handy on the baseball diamond, though his record in cub scout car races is unknown.
The boy and I bought the official kit, fashioned the classic wedge shape, attached weights to bring it up to the five ounce limit, and lubricated the axles. I fretted about the wheels. Those wheels did not roll straight on our kitchen floor. They did not rest level on our countertop. Girly requests for time and attention from the family females were rebuffed while wheels were leveled and straightened.

One wheel didn't touch the ground every time I made necessary adjustments - a violation. I tired different axle approaches: tapping in from the side, pounding in from the bottom, all with the same result. I realized there were too many variables. I glued in the back wheels without a road test and waited a day to add the front wheels to the mix. That helped my sanity if nothing else.

Skyler painted the car. I visualized a Jackson Pollock drip masterpiece, but we goofed when we dripped multiple colors before the first one dried. They mixed together on their own when we weren't looking. Pollock cub-scout blue and yellow drip car turned space green car. Skyler added star and planet stickers and we glued extra weight on top. I lubed the axles with the sanctioned graphite dust, turned it in, heaved a sigh of relief and smiled all the way to the car. This was uncharted water for me, the son of a psychologist, where household tools weren't in the garage, but were kept in the file cabinet; ink blots and cartoons of deer holding enema bags. I shit you not!

Race night got underway after work Friday and I told my son that I didn't know if we'd finish first, but we wouldn't finish last. We stood in the cafetorium at the local Middle School and recited the pledge of allegiance before racing night commenced. We finished first and second place in our qualifying heats. Our grade level featured sixteen racers and we didn't medal, but we were competitive.

The 2nd half of the evening was open pack racing, all ages against each other. 60 cars competed for the pack trophy and a chance to compete at a future district race. The green space machine qualified for the quarter finals and then the semi-finals with some fortunate matchups and solid performances. We didn't advance to district but we finished in a tie for 8th place out of 60 cars and that was pretty good considering I'm the son of the man with the inkblots in the garage. The deer with the enema bag retired.

I trotted out the Desiderata speech about there being those who were greater and lesser than you in many of life's trials in the minivan on the way home. Don't know if that sunk in. We only lived five minutes away from the race site.

P.S. Our neighbor won the whole thing and I must say he also has the best lawn too. I hope they win district. Good Luck. Maybe this summer I'll trade him some ink blots for tips on keeping the axles spinning easy.

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