As a kid, I loved a rush as much as the next guy. I recall joining my cousins on the top of the six-foot high wooden swing-set their dad had recently built for them as they took turns jumping off the top and daring me to join them. Rope swings into the creek were always my jam. I loved climbing trees as a kid and still do when the mood strikes me and the right tree presents itself. This is my story of how saying yes to thrill-taking led to a life-long dent in my nose, an impact that stares back at me every day in the mirror. It is an event that literally made me who I am today.
In the summer of 1980, I was busy being nine years old. I hated my little brother for no transgressions on his part except he existed. Heath and I enjoyed our weekend visits with our Dad, Charles. Heath and I didn’t see Dad and his new wife, Tanya, every other weekend (as my parents’ divorce ruling allowed), but we did see them regularly. When he still lived in Missouri, our visits happened at his house in Columbia. Sometimes we went to the home of his new bride’s parents near Kansas City. On those visits, he would shower us with toys and exciting experiences. Children’s Palace! World of Fun! Clints Comics!
We’d return home to our Mom who always seemed glum about the result of what I saw as an otherwise stellar weekend. We didn’t understand then that she lacked the resources to regularly take us out for pizza or to amusement parks. It was against that backdrop that Dad took us go-carting.
Today, I am not conscious of the mechanics of how I drive or bicycle or walk for that matter. I have done those things for so long that when it comes time to do them, well, I just do them. Riding a bicycle is unconscious for me. Sure, I need to know where I am going and intentionally choose a safe route there, but how I ride is baked into my brain. There was a time when each of us did not yet know how to walk, bike or drive. This story is set in the era when I did not yet know how to drive.
One sunny, summer afternoon, on one of those Dad-sponsored trips, my father drove us through the Lake of the Ozarks. We may have been on our way home from one of our visits to Table Rock Lake. The green Datsun truck snugly held me, my Dad, his new wife Tanya and my brother Heath. We pulled into the parking lot of a go-cart track. I can’t remember if it was planned or the result of my pleading, but there we were.
Rows of pint-sized open-topped go-carts awaited me. I was naturally eager to learn how to drive and at 10 couldn’t seriously engage any mentally competent, sober adult to let me practice with their car. My Grandpa’s lawnmower was the closest thing I knew to driving thanks to the loud motor that drove the blade that cut the lawn where the green grass grew all around all around and the green grass grew all around. I digress.
Cash exchanged hands and I was soon behind the wheel of My Very Own Go-Cart. The track worker told me that one pedal was for gas and one was the brake. I did not take note. As soon as the man said, go I stomped on it. The steering wheel quickly made sense. Turn left to move left and right to head to the right. My Dad, Tanya and Heath (at five he was too small for the track’s carts) watched me from the snack bar. I covered the small go-cart track quickly in my ride, so I went around again. And again.
At one point, the track worker stepped onto the edge of the track. My time was up. I was thrilled. “Step on the brake!” he yelled. I just gassed it more. I legitimately didn’t understand brake vs. gas pedals. I went faster. The next time I came around to the start/finish line the track worker trotted out and ran alongside me. “Use the brake pedal!”
I went faster instead of slower. My speed soon eclipsed my ability to control the cart.
If it were a comic book (and it should be) there would be a sound effects balloon where my cart came in contact with the tires lining the track. The contact drove the back side of the cart up into the air and violently down again. There were no helmets as I recall. I was lucky I didn’t flip my go-cart. My face took the force of the impact and specifically my nose. When my Dad dropped me off at home on Sunday evening he sheepishly had to explain to my Mom why my nose was blue. She was, again, unimpressed with the outcome of our visit with our Dad.
Now almost 40 years after that fateful day, I still don’t ride go-carts. That probably is due to the fact that I aged out of the demographic and presently live in a go-cart desert. I also still sport a flat spot on the bridge of my nose. It is a constant reminder of my imperfection. It is familiar. My wife told me the other day she had never noticed how asymmetrical my face is. She may not have noticed had we not been in the early stages of a self-quarantining experience brought on by the threat of catching COVID-19 virus.
Stories are important. They define who we are. I sometimes think about that day at the lake of the Ozarks go-cart track when I think about how it was to grow up in a broken home in the late 1970s and 80s in the American state of Missouri. I started my business as a way to capture peoples’ stories whether life-changing or the mundane patterns that shape us. The business serves as an extension of why we make movies with our phones or take pictures at weddings. We want to remember the times we have lived.
-Trevor/March 16, 2020