Man oh man, what a lot of devastation in the east right now, from Hurricane Sandy. It's like watching an epic science fiction movie, except it's real and those aren't special effects. Those are real homes, real boats, real buildings, and real people. I know some of them.
Seeing sea water pour into Manhattan, flood the subway system, and cascade down into the Ground Zero sight may seem like an overblown sci-fi flick, but it's real.
This is where we all need to stop our mundane lives for a second and take a step back. Stuck in traffic and aggravated? Relax and realize how good you have it. And do something. Right now, millions of people are effected by Sandy but the real things they need aren't necessarily "stuff" related. They need assistance, they need protection, and they need help to rebuild.
A lot of funds and charities are going to pop up in the coming days, and you never really know how the money flows out to where it's needed, so my advice is to donate what you can to the trusted American Red Cross. They are always there in times of need, and this is one of biggest. I just donated and it's easy.
Barbara and I have many friends and family members all through that region, so we're hoping everyone is okay. More directly, my teammate Nick Casertano lives in New Jersey. His wife Shannon and their little girl Ally are safe, but without power and without much hope they'll have power for days. As for Nick, I'm not even sure where he is. Thousands of flights were already being cancelled on Sunday, so there was no way for him to get back to Philadelphia (where his car was parked) and when I said goodbye to him as the race ended, Nick was weighing options ranging from just going to Indy where he has a lot of friends, or maybe trying to fly in somewhere south of the damage so he could rent a car and drive home, to who knows what. I'm not sure which option he chose...
Bottom line: A lot of people are going to need a lot of help.
Meanwhile, let's take a quick look back at the Las Vegas weekend, in rambling fashion. With all the Sandy stuff going on, I don't feel much like being goofy, and I hardly feel like blogging at all, but the show must go on so here we go...
The weather? Perfect.
The crowds? Very nice on Friday, huge on Saturday, enormous on Sunday. I don't recall the last time we had that many people in the huge Vegas grandstand on any one day, much less over the course of three. Fantastic turnout. And that's a good sign in many ways. My actor buddy Buck and I were talking about how the Vegas crowd is different than most, because it doesn't rely as heavily on the locals. The Vegas races are far more "destination events" for people who travel there from far and wide, so it's not just the cost of a ticket that plays into attendance, it's also the cost of air travel, hotels, and meals. To see a gathering that big makes you feel pretty good about the direction the economy is moving.
The racing? Pretty exciting, although not for us. That final round in Funny Car, though, sure was dramatic and it set up what's going to be a pretty stressful and possibly down-to-the-wire Pomona. That was a classic example of what a "40-point round" is, in vivid detail.
The event? Hectic as can be, for us. We didn't have hospitality, so we were in our old-school single pit set-up, but just like the overall crowd was huge, our collection of friends and family was enormous as well. It was crazy, but a good kind of crazy.
We had our friend Gerald and his girlfriend Kari with us, and once again Gerald kept us well fed and happy with delicious meals every day. Always great to have Gerald and Kari in the house, and also cool to be able to congratulate them on winning the NHRA "Nitro Gene" video contest. How great is that? Just take a look...
It was about a total non-stop weekend of conversations and photos, meeting great people and a million of you loyal readers, plus our good friends like Crazy Jane, Chris, Tom FWL, Doug and so many others. It seemed like my head was spinning all weekend.
The top story, though, was the one about neighbors, friends, and Jersey Boys.
Neighbor Dave and his wife Nichol joined us for the weekend, and it was Dave's first race appearance in well more than a year. I gotta be honest, it was like he never left and it was so fantastic to have them both with us. As we left on Sunday I felt the natural compulsion to say "So when is your flight to Pomona?" but I caught myself before doing that. I know he had a great time, and the guys on the team were thrilled to see him, so hopefully he can get out to a few more next year. We need you Dave!!!
Buck came out to the track all three days, bringing little Gibson with him for a bit on Friday and then again on Sunday. Buck and Gibson watch all the races on TV, and Gibson can instantly spot the LRS car and recognize Tim. He had a ball, and was just buzzing about his first drag race. That's why he came back out on Sunday with his dad, because after Friday's experience he was begging for more! We have a new NHRA fan on this planet, and he'll be a lifetime member of the fraternity.
On Saturday, Buck came out with some friends from his world, including a couple of other stage actors, and most of them were also seeing their first drag race. Like little Gibson, I think we have a few new die-hard fans in the fold. Neat people to meet, and a great experience for all of us.
On Monday, I booked my flight for early evening so that I'd have the day free, and that was reserved for a trip over to the Hujabre home in suburban Vegas, to see Buck and Gibson again, to give Mary a huge hug for both Barb and me, and to meet little Hudson for the first time.
It's hard to believe, now, that Gibson took his first steps while the Hujabre family lived with us during the Minneapolis run of the Jersey Boys touring show, because he's now running around the house at light speed like a little whirling dervish and he has a little brother who looks up to him. I think it's safe to say that both little Hujabre boys are pretty much amazing and adorable, and that comes from two loving parents who are a lot of fun.
We played the NHRA slot car set for a while, Gibson gave me a tour of the whole house (including his race car bed) and Mary made us all an incredible lunch. They have a wonderful home, and I'm a more than a little honored to have seen and heard from Buck how he was taking mental notes at our home back in Woodbury while they were there, and a lot of how they have their new Las Vegas home decorated came from those cues. The dominant framed pieced in the living room (which also houses a rack of guitars, a keyboard, and a set of drums) was a large piece that included a couple of autographed shirts from Dave Rieff and a winner's jacket I gave Buck, along with other racing photos, his credentials from the race, and various pieces of assorted NHRA memorabilia.
How was the crowd? Take a look!
The Jacobsens and the Hujabres... The greatest of friends and the greatest of people.
I headed for McCarran Airport a little early, from Buck and Mary's house, thinking the place would be a zoo with all the cancellations, but instead it was just the opposite. I guess, with so many flights being cancelled ahead of time, there actually weren't that many people stuck at the airport without contingency plans. So instead of dealing with huge lines and massive congestion, I walked right up to the ticket counter to check my bag, and then (for the first time EVER) walked right up to the TSA agent at security without having to stand behind a soul. I ended up being about two hours early...
Two flights and four and a half hours later, we were touching down at GEG, and an hour later I was home. So nice to hug my wife, snuggle with the boyz and sleep in my own bed. It's just plain good to be home...
Do you remember Colin Doyle? Colin is my nephew from Slippery Rock University, who did a two week internship with me at St. Louis and Reading. As the final piece of his practicum assignment, he wrote a blog for me about the experience, so I'm going to include that in the next installment. It's really well done, and I think you'll enjoy hearing from Colin what his two-week stint in the NHRA world was like. Look for that coming up in the next one...
Until then, do what you can for the people on the eastern seaboard. Helping is what we Americans do best...
PS: Good news via text arrived right after I finished this blog. Nick Casertano finally got on a flight to Philly and is safely there. He's now on his way home to his wife and daughter in Sandy-ravaged New Jersey.