About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

A “Shoe”

Kunicki discovered a water leak before racing even began and had a DNS (did not start), Edelstein blew a rear end in the morning session, which he had to replace before we went out at 2:50 and had a DNF (did not finish). So two of the fastest drivers on the grid had to start at the back of the pack when the afternoon race started.

Rick Stark was on the pole, Randy Dunphy next to him, John Goodman and I were third and fourth, with Kallberg behind me. When the green flag came down, monster V-8s howled down the straight, through Turn 1 and into the wide sweeper, Turn 2, nicknamed “Big Indy.” Kallberg moved by me as I moved past Goodman.

Stark and Dunphy, fighting for the lead, had contact. Dunphy’s red Falcon went into a slow spin in the middle of traffic. Somehow, we all avoided him, and his job then became cutting through the rest of the pack along with Kunicki and Edelstein.

It’s easy to build a Corvette into a competitive race car, half the work is alrady done. It is harder to do a Camaro, and much, much harder to do a Falcon. But Dunphy and his mechanic have a very fast Falcon that consistently places near the top of the field, despite the fact that it is essentialy a brick.

Watching Dunphy come through Turn 9, whether from a race car behind him or from the stands, is breathtaking. The car lurches and hops and moves the very outside. I’ve always been afraid the loose gravel and dirt on the outside of that turn would grab him.

Like in the first race this morning. He didn’t miss a beat as he raised a cloud of dust.

“It was out there for 50 feet or so, but I just rode it out,” Randy said to his mechanic, or something similar. I got it second hand, and it was noisy when I heard it.

“Ride it out.” At 100, maybe 110 miles an hour, in a turn, “riding it out” is not the first thing one feels like doing. But doing anything else is far, far worse. It used to be said of Porsches that you never, ever, “lift,” or take your foot off the gas in a turn. That is a recipe for a spin.

So is touching your brakes when half of them are on hard pavement, the other half in loose dirt. That is the number one cause of fatal accidents on the highway, and it would have put Randy nose first into the concrete wall in front of the stands. So, he “rode it out.”

Randy is quiet in that sometimes intense way of Viet Nam Vets, willing to take responsibility (he wondered aloud if he had caused the contact, until reassured by others he did not) and very reluctant to blame, he usually wears a smile. He drives well, is very predictable, and in our sport, that means a lot.

“He’s a real ‘shoe.’ If people knew what it takes to drive that car that fast, they would be amazed,” said his mechanic.

A “shoe,” in our world, is someone who wears a racing shoe to do the best that can be done with whatever he has, does it very well, does it better than most.

Randy didn’t win the race this afternoon. I finally got past Rick Stark, who has been driving the wheels off his small block Corvette in this event, and I took first. But my vote for “Shoe,” of this weekend in Seattle, goes to Randy Dunphy in his red Ford Falcon.

Day at the Races

The new tire combination, rubber from earlier this year and late last year, worked well in practice this morning.

Qualifying started at 10:30. I was warmed up, Yellow Jacket was warmed up. We were flying right along, I had just gotten by Kallberg and was accelerating out of turn 2 when there was a “BAM!” and I lost power. The engine revved freely but was not turning the wheels. I drifted down through the hairpin of Turn 3A and pulled off at the turn station, scrambled up to the safety shed.

They towed me back to the pits at about 11 a.m. I told Jeff Taylor I thought the the clutch had let go, maybe the transmission. I crawled under the car and started turning shafts and tires. The transmission sounded like it was chewing on beer bottles.

With a new engine, and a new clutch, we found the new weak link.

Three or four years ago, I sold my back-up transmission to Dave Edelstein. Dave sold it to Jeff and Jerry Taylor. The Taylors used it, took it out of one of their cars, rebuilt it and sold it back to Edelstein. Today, he offered it to me.

Jerry from Colorado had offered to let me use his back-up transmission, gratis, for the weekend. Tom Cantrell had three or four in his trailer, and offered me one of those. Humbling, this competition.

And then Edelstein asked if his mechanic, Ken, could help me out. Ken and Jeff Taylor dove under my car. The two of them hauled out the old gear box, put the new one in. I brought them tools and unhooked the shifter from above, filled the new tranny with gear oil. By 2 p.m., the job was done. At 2:30 we were back on the track.

I hadn’t realized until then that the old transmission was so bad.The newly rebuilt one shifts so much more smoothly. I took back to Kallberg the new set of tires he sold to me for this race, since a transmission breaks the budget.  The old skins were working fairly well, they’ll have to do.

They worked well enough that Kunicki, starting from the back, ended up in fourth, and I ended up in fifth. Edelstein is two spots behind behind me. Kallberg is still fighting mechanical gremlins.

And because of the help of friends, this weekend is not yet over.

Timberline

Nearly every day, I look out windows of my treehouse at a rambling row of volcanos. Higher ones emerge from forests as rough crags of rock and ice. I’ve hiked the most gentle several times, to someplace above 10,000 feet, above the trees, where steep flanks of deep pumice and slag lead to ragged extrusions of stone.

That well-defined edge, where forests end and mountains declare indifference, is the timberline. There is life above the timberline, but life defined in different ways. Lichen rather than trees, or wheat. Beetles, rather than cattle. The timberline looks porous close up, but seems a sharp edge when seen from a distance.

Some places in the American Southwest hit 128 degrees the other day. Water freezes at 32 degrees, boils at 212. 122 degrees is halfway in between, but I would say that’s our “timberline” of temperature. I think life would be redefined on the other side.

Deserts have a “timberline” of sorts, where moisture to sustain species we relate to, or depend on, stops being available. Where hard oceans of crust, dust and rock butt up against the softness of river and pond, irrigated habitability.

I imagine there is a similar “timberline” of depth in the ocean, where pressures become so immense and blackness so deep that life, as we can relate to it, transitions from vibrant, lush, dart and dash,  swoop and swim, to a barren watery world of barely imaginable creatures.

Is there a “timberline” of health, too, an edge where the organization of organism breaks down? A line where suddenly, everything changes? Where broken hip or pneumonia are not just conditions but mark the boundary between life as we knew it and an afterlife unknowable, death all but certain?

Is there a “timberline” of society, where order and commerce, love and laughter, flirt and flamboyance, become chaos and violence, ugliness and horror, marking a place beyond which our species cannot survive? Is life as we know it possible in what we knew of as Syria, one of the oldest locales of civilization?

Is there a “timberline” of spirituality, where serenity ends at a rough jagged edge of chaos and madness, empty of all meaning or significance? Can that line be seen, or are the threats so subtle that the line is crossed without awareness, the bubble of spirit exhausted like altitude sickness on a mountain top, being too deep beneath the waves when the tank goes dry?

This week we plant trees and lavender around the treehouse. Maybe we’ll plant an apple tree, too, before the season turns. Go to a movie. Remember to meditate. Call my daughters. I need to plant myself, too, on this side of my timberlines.

No excuses

A tough weekend at the HMSA Historics. It was pretty obvious early on that we were third fastest on the grid, and that didn’t improve.

Hardware wasn’t to blame, it was the wetware. Yellow jacket ran well. But I made some decisions on and off the track that didn’t work out.

To begin with, I have not done any karting this year. In past seasons, I had a couple months of  karting by now to improve my reflexes, to get into the feel of speed, to get used to flowing with G-forces. Trying to finish “Chalice,” wrapping up some real estate work and personal matters, I decided to forgo that sharpening. It showed. Thinking I could jump into the cockpit after nearly ten months, and be the best I could be, was just stupid.

I did not adequately think through a decision I made about tires. Not Hoosiers vs. Goodyears; Both work fine. But I chose tire sizes that were wrong. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but it mattered. Again, my error.

Pre-race preparation was poor: My internal clock, always a little off-kilter during a race weekend, was running too slow. I let myself be distracted. I did not leave myself time to adequately prepare for each session. Which meant  that by the time I got on the track, my head was not where it needed to be for precise shift points, turn-in markers, braking zones. When you are looking for one second in a two-minute lap, this matters.

Previous problems with oiling caused me to make engine changes that should have been reversed after the oiling problem was solved. I didn’t do that.

And it was hot. God, it was hot. 140 degrees on the asphalt, little or no relief even in the shade. Thinking was a chore. I did a few things to take care of myself, but should have done more.

But Yellow Jacket, with engine prepared by John Sartelle, brakes by Jeff Taylor, was in fine form. Had I been able to bring my best game, it might have been a different story.

Hopefully that will be the case in Seattle this next weekend.

A noisy weekend

“Congratulations, your application has been accepted for entry to the 2013 Portland Historic Races at Portland International Raceway June 28th – 30th.  We look forward to having you join us!  This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Corvette, “America’s sports car”…

You have entered: 1969 Corvette

Your Car # is: 95

You are in group: 5”

Acquire and Defend

Squirrels and rabbits below my treehouse fill a stash and then guard it. Sparrows chase hawks lurking near their nest. Observng my own bio-psychology, I feel different emotions attached to “gathering” and “protecting.”

Gathering gives a rush of pleasure. Senses are heightened, the “looking for and finding” sends a little endorphin pulse. Future behavior wants to replicate that little stroke.

Protecting follows a pulse of fear. Potential loss flairs as a form of anger, behavior aggressive. Successful protecting  may not reenforce this behavior, the fear impulse seems more primal. It takes a while to get over loss of love, wealth, or right to bear arms.

Science indicates we value something we are trying to protect twice as much as we value the same thing if we are trying to gather it.  See Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Psychologists talk of “systems” of behavior.

These systems may originate in various regions of the brain, but are not like the pipes of a power plant. They are organizations of input and response, similar to what we used to consider “instinct,” though that implied not being changeable.

Though these systems seem to be inherited, so is our ability for language, and our ability to use words and images to trigger fear or pleasure nearly as real as the actual loss or gain.

Oligarchs own America

It’s too late. They won.

Revelations about the National Security Agency spying on citizens by collecting phone records and Facebook messages, snooping on us via the Internet, finally brought the issue to light.

But the real story is exposed by connecting the dots. Edward J. Snowden, the man who leaked the NSA spying, didn’t work for the NSA. He worked for a corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, whose vice-chairman was a former head of the NSA. Like using mercenaries in Iraq, our government has subcontracted security, and gives corporations powers greater than those of any individual citizen.

Corporations doing the work of government can be as pernicious as government trying to manage outcomes in the market place. Perhaps more so, because our government, at least in theory, serves at the will of its citizens.

Corporations have, and should have, as their primary obligation the maximisation of their own influence, power and profit. When corporations do the work of government, whether providing mercenaries or performing data collection, the lines of accountability become tangled.

Booz Allen wasn’t spying via telescopes or listening devices: They had other corporations hand over records of who we were calling, and when. They claim legitimacy, and deny they recorded our phone calls or messages, and that may be partially true. But we have very little privacy in this new digital world where the collection of data by government or corporations is of high interest and great value.

If you search for a car, for months you will see car ads online. Search for a vacuum in February, and you will see ads for those from March until May. This is no coincidence. They read what you are reading, they are looking over your shoulder and collecting this information. And they have the capacity to manipulate that information at will.

The biggest threat to democracy in America does not come directly from government. It comes from AT&T and Verizon. Not only do these behemoths increasingly control how we communicate with each other, they control the very information we depend on to make decisions. Yes, Google and Apple, too.

If one wants to research abuses by cell phone companies, it is increasingly likely the search results will contain pages of sponsored ads, or stories about cell phone contracts instead of real information. AT&T and Verizon, working alone or in collusion with other corporate partners such as Comcast,  have that capacity to manage what we see.

Given that these corporations now own the politicians of America, with congressmen like Oregon’s Rep. Greg Walden doing their bidding, the game is essentially over.

Despite warnings from President Eisenhower about the “military-industrial complex,”  despite the 1960s, despite mountains of evidence of market manipulation and collusion and outright lies by these voracious corporate gluttons, despite the vast transfer of wealth from the middle class to the 1/10 of one percent, despite all that and because of all that, they won.

They won because there now is one primary vehicle of information and communication, the lifeblood of any democracy, and they own it. They listen to what we are saying, they let us see what they allow. With that, they stunt our ideas and muffle our speech.

Music and Blues

Scot Vine shared a Facebook Post: “Everytime Bohemian Rhapsody starts playing… I’m not satisfied by only singing the lyrics… I have to sing the opera voices. And also the guitar part.”

Yah, I get that.

Other songs that compel me to turn the volume way, way up and sing or dance alone in my loft: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, sung by Jeff Buckley or just about anybody else, is still at the top. Janis Joplin. Amos Lee. “One and Only” by Adele. “No Other Way” by Paolo Nutini. There are many, many other on the list that appears to have a thread of Blues running through it.

Odd, the Blues don’t make me feel blue. Is it a sense “sharing” that uplifts? That feels too near the surface. The Blues operate at a deeper level. What drives that wonderful emotional communication that functions below language, memory, or explanation? Like reaching for something stuck inside a pipe or behind the desk or under the bed, I can’t quite grasp it with my rational mind. I can brush it with my fingertips, but it won’t be dislodged.

The “Ray LaMontagne” station on Pandora is a current favorite on Sunday afternoons.

Next step

Chalice is finished. There are still a couple of important comments to come in, but rewriting the conclusion is finished. First responses have been very positive. Proofreader edits will be entered by the end of next week.

Finished… well, the work of the writer is finished. Work of the author continues: Legal considerations remain; the book needs to be formatted for Amazon and uploaded; I need to format for print then get it printed; and I need to hire a publicist. Actually, those are not the work of author, but part of my work as publisher.

I wish my squeamishness about the label “self-published”  would dissipate. Despite observations about the revolution in publishing, especially over the last two years, despite  exhortations by Steven Pressfield, despite my belief in the work itself, despite the existence of 110,000 words in the form of a story, despite my experience with  “professionals” who focus only on markets and not art, despite all these facets, the feeling “it’s not real” nags me.

But it is real, and it has real value. And soon, anyone who wants to discover that will be able to hold Chalice in their hand.

And I will move on to the next one.