Back in the saddle after long break in Montana.
I know most of you come here looking for the mixed-up idioms of my Beirut-born, Armenian wife. However, I am going to play against type today and write about NASCAR, guns, and vermin. (Just pretend it’s an election year.)
First, I would like to point out that NASCAR’s top driver, Kyle Busch – who won last week and who will compete again this week and who will likely win the stock-car auto racing title this year – DOES NOT HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE.
Busch was ticketed in May for going 128mph in a 45mph-zone in Iredell County, N.C. And despite an open plea to the court, and his attorney’s 40-minute argument to the judge, Busch was unable to avoid 45-day license suspension.
Let me start by saying, I love a court which allows a 40-minute argument in a traffic case.
I am lucky when they allow me four minutes in L.A. traffic court. Even then, the judge is normally asleep halfway through. So kudos to N.C. District Court Judge H. Thomas Church.
Second, how does Kyle Busch get to keep driving race cars on national TV at 200mph when he is no longer allowed to drive to the corner store? Don’t you need a license to drive NASCAR? What other rules do not apply to NASCAR driving? As my friend David Geller asked, “Can he text?”
Either way, I am really hoping Busch gets pulled over during Saturday night’s race in Bristol, Tenn.
This reminds me of when I was pulled over in 2001 while driving with my pregnant wife in L.A. We were eastbound on Beverly Blvd at Vermont Ave. I was waiting to turn left. Aleen pointed out a large sign ahead. It said such a turn was illegal.
I blithely announced, ‘ That rule doesn’t apply to Kit Troyer.’
I was halfway through the turn when we heard the siren.
I pulled over and started to say something to Aleen. She cut me off. ‘Don’t speak,” she said.
When the officer came to the window, Aleen launched into lengthy, urgent story about how pregnant she was, how desperately she needed to pee, how her husband really, really didn’t want to make the illegal turn, how she had badgered him into it because she was DYING to pee, how there was a gas station at the corner, how just looking at it now was making her want to pee, how she was so pregnant that when she needed to pee, she REALLY needed …
Every time she said ‘pee,’ the officer took another step back from my window. By the end he just waved us away and said, ‘Good luck.’
While rolling into the gas station, I started to say that I wasn’t even sure whether there was a bathroom. Aleen cut me off again. “Don’t speak,” she said.
She still uses the line THAT RULE DOESN’T APPLY TO KIT TROYER whenever she sees me getting cocky, or breaking a dog-leash law, or getting myself into some other scrape she will likely have to talk me out of.
Aleen said BB guns were dangerous.
I said they were no big deal and that I used to shoot rats in the garden at my childhood home in Maryland.
This news didn’t cheer her up.
Nor was she impressed by my Idaho nephew’s information that he and friends used to shoot each other in the leg from close range just to see whether BBs would break the skin.
“They almost never do,” he said.
To be honest, Aleen is a fish out of water in Montana. She is indeed, as The Lemonheads once sang, “not the outdoor type.” This may date back to the first time I took her fishing. We ran into a major infestation of mosquitoes.
She hid in the rental car while I fished. Even down on the river, I could hear her smacking the windows with a rolled-up Hollywood Reporter trying to kill the enterprising 20 or 30 bugs which had gained entry.
We came to a Barney Fife-style arrangement under which she was allowed to carry the gun and one BB, but she had to keep the BB in her pocket.
A final word about rats and guns. One of the best newspaper stories I ever wrote was in Boothbay, Maine, while I was working for the Portland Press Herald in 1991. My job was to write about the towns of Wiscasset, Damariscotta, Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor.
One day a man called up complaining about the cat lady who lived on the property next to his. The place was filthy, he said. Cat feces were everywhere. The smell was overpowering. Improbably enough, given the number of cats, rats were becoming a problem, too.
This guy had half a mind to start shooting all the rats and piling them up, to give public evidence of the problem.
My ears perked up.
Even an inexperienced reporter like me could sense a good story when he heard it.
I drove out to Boothbay. I wrote up the whole thing in painstaking detail and took pictures, too. The story got nice play on the front of the local section.
Boothbay residents were pissed.
Town officials were annoyed because the town billed itself as a vacation spot, not a breeding ground for vermin. The cat lady was annoyed because she claimed the rat problem long preceded her proliferation of cats. Even the rat shooter was annoyed, due to the town-wide ridicule over his trophy-style pose with one of the dead rodents.
Boothbay was the same spot, incidentally, where I was once loudly, aggressively berated by a town selectman during a meeting for a story I had written.
His face was red. He was screaming. He was literally spitting mad.
Afterward, I said to an audience member, “Jesus, what’s the deal with Don?”
“He’s actually not as bad since he retired.”
“Retired from what?” I asked.
“Customer care at the airline.”
Next week I shall discuss all the children I’ve nearly sent to ER in my life while playing over-exuberantly at playgrounds and in bounce-houses.