It was a free offer, and the kids were invited, so I decided to set aside my prejudices and go for it.
The company I work for was a sponsor of the Monster Truck Jam that was coming to town, and as such, they had reserved a party suite at the stadium where the event was to be held. This was the only reason that I entertained the thought of going – that it would be somehow less offensive in a party suite. Still, I was unsure how it would go down with the kids.
My daughter was an easy sell. She, in fact, had seen commercials for the event on television and asked if we could go sometime. I was happy to be able to offer her the chance to go, and when I told her about it, she was overjoyed.
My son is much more like I am – not at all interested in professional sports, and in fact holding some disdain for the culture that follows them with the rabid attention of brainwashed zealots subscribing to the belief that the only important thing is to win win WIN! I was sure he’d have no interest in going. But I asked anyway.
“Any chance you’d be interested in going to the Monster Truck Jam?” I asked casually.
“Not likely,” came the reply from behind a book.
Since he’s 12 years old, I briefly entertained the idea of letting him sit this one out and stay home alone. However, there was one thing I knew would entice him, so I tried again:
“It’s in a party suite. There will be pizza.” I offered.
“Okay, I’m in,” he said, through the book.
In addition to the tickets to the event, my boss gave me some “party in the pit” passes to go down and see the trucks up close.
“You wanna go early and see the trucks?” I asked him.
“Don’t push it,” he replied.
We got to the stadium about 15 minutes before the event started, and the traffic jam surrounding the event started off the internal dialogue that ran the rest of the evening. The following are notes I took throughout the event:
6:55 pm (stuck in traffic at the entrance to the parking lot) – In order to minimize the walking distance inside the stadium, I attempted to park on the side closest to the suite – and paid the price. We were stuck in doomsday gridlock like everyone was trying to reach the last Costco before the bombs fell. It would not be the only time I regretted the decision to come.
7:10 pm (still stuck in traffic) – “Why did we do this?” I asked myself, while the growing unease from my daughter in the back seat started the repeating “don’t worry” chorus from me. I really could not have cared less if we missed half the show at this point, but wanted to put forth at least the appearance of concern. Hayden, unsurprisingly, was silent on the issue of tardiness.
7:15 pm — $15 to park?? Seriously? I agreed, only because the tickets were free. It occurred to me that the majority of the people there would be the type who paid good money to attend this event, and willingly paid $15 on top of it to park. I became slightly afraid.
7:25 pm – we find –I’m not exaggerating—the last available parking space on this side of the stadium, right up against the wall surrounding the place. We could have parked across the street for free and walked in, and the effort would have been the same. We exit the car, and the first thing I notice is the noise. It sounds like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in there. If it’s this loud from the edge of the parking lot, what must it be like inside? I’m instantly grateful for the person who suggested bringing earplugs for the kids. Wish I’d have brought some for myself.
7:35 pm – we made it to the club level of the stadium, and my only thought is: good Lord what have I done? The noise is deafening. We walk past each section looking for ours, and every time we pass one of the entryways the noise is even louder and it makes me wince. How the kids are gonna handle it, I don’t know, but I can’t imagine those cheap rubber earplugs are gonna have any effect on Satan’s cacophony of chaos that is emanating from the arena. I’m praying both kids ask to go home.
7:40 pm – we reach the suite and scan our ticket stub to gain entry. We walk in and see people spread out throughout the suite. Then we notice the tables with the food – the pizza, the hot dogs, the salad – it’s all gone. Empty. Uh-oh. Forty minutes late, and all the complimentary grub is gone. I’d forgone a McDonalds stop on the way, telling the kids, “there’ll be pizza and stuff there.” Hayden looks at me as though I betrayed him. And in truth, I feel I have.
7:42 pm – I see familiar work faces all throughout the suite. None of them is welcoming, and in fact they all look “changed” somehow. Like they’ve all had their personalities drained out of them by the murderous roar of the engines, mere shells of humanity. They look haunted. I realize they must be half-crazy from the maddening noise. Do they remember me, I wonder? Do I need to spell my name in the palms of their hands like Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller at the water pump? Are they able to recognize me with the sound of Hell unleashed all around them? Not for the first time, not for the last, I wish I had declined the tickets.
7:45 pm – the only seats available are outside the limited safety of the suite itself, and for a bit we just stand there and stare at the noisy spectacle below. Angel stadium has been transformed into a giant dirt pit, and presently a big white and blue truck is busily roaming around the hills and the painted shells of other cars in what appears to be some sort of obstacle course. The whole thing calls to mind a hornets nest, built in the eaves of a house or a barn, skillfully crafted over time and transforming an otherwise harmless structure into a dangerous source of pain and fear. It seems like locusts have descended on my crops.
7:50 pm – what in God’s name was I thinking bringing my kids here? The noise is everywhere. Deaf people can hear this. It’s rattling my bones and rearranging my DNA structure. How are people just sitting there and “enjoying” this? I look back at co-workers who still only look at me as if they have some vague idea that they might know me from somewhere.
7:52 pm – the first of many, “Dad, I’m starving, and you said there’d be pizza” comments from Hayden. I tell him I know, I’m sorry, I’ll feed him as soon as we leave. I point out there is popcorn, and he eats some of it. I discover the fridge has several sodas left in it, and that makes a little bit of a difference, so I pour drinks for the three of us. I’m calculating how long to stay without looking like we just came and bolted and wasted the tickets. Ten minutes seems too short. Maybe fifteen would work.
8:00 pm – a few co-workers have shouted hello; a couple exchanged awkward, screamed pleasantries. Some look rather sympathetic – I wonder if they’re as miserable as I am and just hiding it better. Others appear to be enjoying it – they’re smiling and laughing and having a grand old time. I know why I don’t hang out with these people regularly.
8:05 pm – we finally force ourselves to sit in the seats outside of the suite, exposed to the deafening roar. It is Armageddon out here, and I sit in amazement, wondering when the blood will start pouring from our ears. I look over at my kids. Hayden is annoyed beyond words. Makena is enthralled. I ask Hayden to be the bigger person and just go with it, since his little sister is clearly having a great time. He agrees but only after obtaining a promise from me that we could get something to eat immediately afterward. I agree, for I’m actually quite hungry too. Makena is content and watching the events without commentary, but with a smile on her face. I decide to try and pay attention to see what it is that captivates her so.
8:15 pm – from what I can tell, there is an actual point to the madness. Each truck gets a chance to run the course, and there is a timer. Apparently they have only so much time to complete the course. There are also judges – three young women who hold up score cards after each run, much to the cheers and/or boos of the crowd based on their agreement with the scoring. I briefly wonder what sort of degrees these ladies must have earned in order to judge this event. It also appears that the drivers earn higher scores by catching a lot of air when their trucks jump over the dirt mounds. It’s sort of like figure skating with Transformers.
8:20 pm – I go in to get another beverage and hear the crowd erupt behind me. I return to my seat and see that apparently the driver of this particular truck lost control and crashed upon landing. He was standing outside the vehicle and receiving his cheers, while a tractor came to move the apparently disabled vehicle over to the side of the course, where it would remain for the rest of the evening. I thought how figure skating would be much more interesting if–when the skaters fell—they were just swept over to the edge of the rink to sit in a heap for the remainder of the competition.
8:25 pm – there are several groupings of brightly painted cars huddled together like throughout the course, sort of like the barrels you see in a rodeo corral that the riders navigate their horses around during their timed trials. Only in Monster Truck World, these cars are really more like dead bodies that are trounced upon by the marauding invaders come to take their land. I wonder if the same effect couldn’t have been achieved with, say, boulders or just more dirt mounds, but whatever. They use cars, and the trucks mash the cars beyond recognition, and the crowd cheers it all on. I just don’t get it.
8:27 pm – I see a truck full of big white jugs going to various vehicles and emptying contents from the jugs into the trucks. Gasoline. It occurs to me how much gasoline must be used in an event like this. I decide the terrorists are right to hate us.
8:30 pm – a bright white RV makes its way out onto the course, and I think, “Hmm, they couldn’t find a parking space either”. Then I see that, of course, they must be doing this on purpose. I have enough time to think, “that RV would be perfect for me to take to Burning Man” before I realize, “holy crap, they’re gonna destroy it!” Just as I am about to launch into a diatribe about the waste involved with wrecking a perfectly good RV, a truck descends on it. It’s like the bully on the playground turning from one bloodied nose to pounce on the next unsuspecting kid. The truck smashes into it. Obliterating it. The crowd absolutely loses their shit. I am appalled.
8:38 pm – I am getting ready to tell the kids it’s time to go when I see one truck take flight. Until then, the trucks going over the large mound of dirt in the center of the course just got moderate air beneath them, and it was all fine, but this truck seemed to launch itself with the intent of escaping the earth’s gravitational pull. It positively flew – clear up to our level and beyond, and the stadium erupted in flashes from cameras and cheers of delight. Amazingly, I thought, “Whoa, that was kinda cool”. I waited to see if he’d do it again.
8:39 pm – he did do it again, only this time, he landed wrong, and he flipped over. Suddenly, something in me changed. Some primal urge for blood awoke in me, hungry. He could’ve died! He could’ve been impaled on a steering wheel, or a gear shift! We could’ve seen death at work! Cool! Watching this truck go flying one minute and then go rolling the next brought up a sense of thrilling danger and mayhem that apparently I hadn’t been able to access (probably due to the noise, to which all three of us had somehow acclimated). The crowd went insane and I found myself clapping and yelling “YEEAAAHHH!!!! WOO-HOO!!!!” along with them. Hayden glared at me, again as though I’d betrayed him. I ignored it. Makena was on her feet, and we exchanged high fives.
8:45 pm – another truck jumped and wrecked, only this time, he snapped an axle and his wheel came right off. I laughed out loud and was on my feet, roaring my approval along with the rest of the masses. His wheel came right the hell off! That was awesome! I wanted to see more damage! More destruction! Would there be a possibility of a driver being ejected mid-jump? Could someone perish? Bring on the carnage!
8:46 pm – A brief moment of clarity. “Bring on the carnage”? Was I taking it too far? What was happening to me?
8:48 pm – another truck, another jump, more judging, more cheers, more photos. It was great. I was awaiting the appearance of “Grave Digger” – the only monster truck whose name was familiar to me, for I’d heard it mentioned in radio ads for decades (usually in the context of those enormously annoying ads that start out, “Saturday! Saturday! SATURDAY!”. The Grave Digger truck sat parked below us for the night, and after a spectacular run by a truck known as Metal Mulisha, the Grave Digger was up. I thought, “they must’ve saved the best for last” and anxiously awaited to see if he was able to jump the walls of the stadium and land on the 57 freeway. Surely a truck of such renown would be able to accomplish such feats?
8:50 pm – Something happened to Grave Digger, I don’t know what, but after only one little mediocre jump, he came to a stop in the center of the stadium. I thought he was just building the suspense, but then the driver got out and –somehow a sheepish expression was visible from my seat – waved to the crowd, signifying the end of his run. I thought, “You’ve gotta be kidding! THAT was Grave Digger? That’s it? How anti-climactic! It was barely a minute!”
8:51 pm – Another moment of clarity, and then I felt embarrassed and sorry for every sexual partner I’d ever had, for I suddenly knew how they must have felt.
8:55 pm – we are making our way out of the stadium, and I’m amazed at the thought that is going through my head: “Can’t wait til the Monster Trucks come back so we can do it again.”
9:15 pm – on the drive out of the parking lot, I looked upon the crowd exiting the venue with a new appreciation. These were people who were in touch with their inner “Fuck Yeah!”.
I can respect that.