I have worked with a guy named Tom for years and years and though we have vast differences in age, interests, social views, etc. we can go on and on if you get us talking about traveling and doing the things we love: racing funny cars for him, playing music for me. A few weeks back I got word that Tom had been involved in an accident while racing and was in the hospital but was going to be okay. When he returned to work he was bruised, obviously sore, and walked with a cane. When talking with him about the crash, his biggest regret was that no one got it on video. That seems to be the differentiating factor between this one and his LAST crash from several years ago; he shows that video to anyone that will watch. There’s no money in amateur car racing, but these drivers and crews take time off on Friday afternoons to drive across several states to post up at a track for the weekend and engage in their passion. Sleeping in the truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot helps avoid hotel costs and increases the chance of making it home early Monday morning and breaking even on the whole trip.
Two weekends ago Mandi and I had the chance to go to an event hosted by our local wrestling promotion, EHF (think local-level WWE). We were in a different world, the small crowd there was obviously comprised of dedicated fans and family members that were truly in their element. $10 was such a bargain for the 3+ hour show with dozens of performers, announcers, chills, spills, and thrills. Performers and their families had traveled from all over the region (some claimed to be from California, but frankly I didn’t believe them) and from the size of the crowd, consideration of venue rental, and the ticket price… there wasn’t a lot of money left to distribute at the end of the day. After selling a few home-made t-shirts, these folks head back home and try to heal up before work on Monday morning, wearing their hopes and dreams in the form of bruises and sore muscles.
My dad has a long, affectionate relationship with the game of chess, one of his proudest moments being the founding of the Western Michigan University Chess Club back in the 70’s. The younger version of my father spent much time traveling the region playing rated chess tournaments with a similar financial story to those above. Splitting hotel rooms with his friends to assuage costs and hoping to win a high enough spot to break even at the end of the day. My parents’ most recent vacation plans (now in their late 60’s) orbit around St. Louis and it’s burgeoning international chess scene as my dad is drawn to the community, the sport, and heated analysis with strangers while my mom comes along for the ride.
There’s a beauty I’ve observed in looking at folks outside of my circle and being able to identify the thing that drives their interest, the thing that they are willing to sacrifice for, the thing they find community in that is so different and so similar to the music community that I call home. It’s something small and sweet that makes the stranger seem less strange.