Everyday leading up to the event we received updated work flows They were full of slight revisions and minor tweaks to the various days that we'd be on site. Once we were there, hitting the ground running on golf carts, beach cruisers, cheap BMX bikes, and a wildly entertaining assortment of forklifts, the changes kept coming. Down at The Dub, as we inched closer and closer to race day, roughly six flight schedules, all slightly different than the last, would come across the wire, quickly printed up and hung up outside the Production Office by Easy Money. These were intense schedules, down to the various minutes and seconds of the day- when this would happen, when this plane would take off, and when this helicopter would need to circle in for refueling. The schedules were endless and the only thing concrete and unchangeable were the frequency in which the schedules would change. The organizers, an eclectic brain trust of Euros and Aussies, were determined to leave no stone unturned.
Everything would be scheduled, everything would be included in the work flow
Yet amidst all the changes, a few were missing. Changes that never once appeared on a work flow or a master plan or a flight schedule. These changes skipped through the cracks of Air Race organizational structure like the empty Red Bull cans skipped down the runway of The Dub. Yet there was no interested parties with expensive cameras waiting by the tower to retrieve these changes like there were with the cans. These changes were left to fend for themselves. Because no one can really plan for things like falling for a girl too hard when you shouldn't, angry Austrians looking to break an American who in their opinion smiled too often, and the abrupt passing of a favorite uncle who was bested by mowing the lawn on a lazy Maine afternoon.
Those changes, those disruptions, were left to their own devices.
Sadly, you just can't plan for everything that's going to happen in life, let alone three weeks out in sunny San Diego. It's not as if a gaming effort wasn't attempted. Doing the work that we do, you live on your toes- perched and ready like a midget at a urinal or a Helpie in a golf cart. Changes, issues, little fires that need to be put out just seem to be a part of the job. But admittedly, an issue of the heart is one that can't be remedied with a few zip ties and the changes in the family dynamic can't be solved by a quick run to Home Depot. It's easy to forget that life is still moving when you're down on a desolate airfield, a good old stone's throw from the Mexican border. Wildfires only a couple hours north go unnoticed, as do bill collectors, box scores, and dirty laundry. It all fades into the background and gets lost behind the work flows and master plans and the vain attempts to understand exactly what's wrong with a generator as a crazy German tries to explain it in rough and tumble broken English.
When your mom calls halfway through the fourth quarter of the Celtics game to tell you that Uncle John has died, you're less equipped to deal with that than you are if say, all the power at the Dub goes down and angry pilots and crews are starting to gather around, wondering why they can't get into their hangars. Those are solvable problems, problems that have answers. When Mom calls and you hear your dad crying in the background and you suddenly find yourself on the exact opposite corner of the country all alone in an empty hotel room on the 23rd floor, the answers your looking for just aren't there. They aren't there the next morning, no matter how fast you drive in a gigantic forklift while blasting Bruce Springsteen and Gang Starr. Eventually you run out of things to creatively move around the now empty runway and you have nothing else to do besides get in the truck, turn on the A/C, and call home.
That's when the answers dry up. Plans are done being formulated. Everything is supposed to be simple. But it's not and when you need simplicity the most, shit starts to get complicated. More complicated than any language barrier could ever be or maddening crush could get close too. The girl is awesome because she's real. She makes sense because of the way she laughs and the look she has in her eyes when you're talking to her. The problem there is timing, distance, and probably a few other factors you probably missed while shotgunning Red Bulls or speeding down to Mexico in a rented F150. The problems that come with that will fade with time. The rumbling in your stomach isn't hunger, but it'll eventually dissipate in the same way.
It's not original to say the life isn't easy. It's not original to say life is hard and ultimately there isn't really any way to originally describe the twists and turns of life. Life is a son of a bitch who one minute seems to enjoy kicking you when you're down, but also boasting you up when you're flying high. When Air Race ended, I expected to be stoked and exhausted. I'd have a few drinks, hit up the beach, and then fly out to Utah- spending a few days of drunken laziness in the mountains before heading east, back to Philadelphia and the life that's being led there. But instead I'm flying to Maine in small, bouncing plane, currently somewhere above Canada unable to conjure up much positivity at all. Tomorrow we're driving even further north and at some point, I'll have to catch a lift back to Philly- more broken down & battered than I expected to be. I'm not thinking about funny adventures that happened over the past couple weeks or random drunken escapades with mountain ninjas along the cozy confines of the Embarcaderos. I can't sit back and smile, kicking around memories of craziness driven from boredom and lack of sleep with some of the best people I've had the pleasure of being with.
Instead I sit here with nothing but a couple cold bottles of frustration, a few shots of chilled regret, and the glimpse of sadness tromping over the horizon like bill collectors coming in hot a week too soon before payday comes. The work flows have since stopped and we don't have anymore master plans to immerse ourselves in. Now we have recaps and expenses reports, rehashing of the past weeks events and joint transitioning towards the next big throw down, wherever and whenever that may be. I can only hope that that one will be different- that it won't be complicated by school yard crushes and deaths in the family. But if this whole experience has taught me anything, besides my need to start learning foreign languages, is that you never know what's going to happen next and that, more than anything else in the world, is never going to change.
Hope to see you next year San Diego. Keep the light on, hold the pine nuts, and keep Padres' tickets cheap and I'll come a runnin'.
Smoke on, ninjas.