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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Tony Vickio-Lap 10

tri oval-Talladega
Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.
Painting at the Big Tracks
by Tony Vickio

Lap 10: Major Problem

I leave the Grounds Keeper standing there, still talking, and run down the bottom side of the logo, with Bobby right on my heels. When I get there I look at the black paint on the ground. Paul is standing there, looking at me with the spray gun in his hand...."what"? he says. I tell him what the cameraman said. He says, "Oh"! It looks like the arc between the marker flags is too "sharp", but I can't really tell by looking at ground level. Looking at a 30' letter you are standing on, you can't get the perspective, you can't see a mistake. Doing these large signs, you have to totally rely on your layout. The camera man saw something bad enough to make him call in and that was enough for me. He has a good view. The roof of the Control Tower is 13 stories in the air! I have to go up and look for myself. Oh man, I don't want to do this! I don't want to (I'm petrified of heights) but I have to see what's wrong and the only way is to go up! We get in the Mustang and drive around the backside of the main grandstand and walk towards the elevator. When you look at the backside of the grandstand, it is a whole new perspective.

Yes, there is an elevator that goes up to the "Control Tower". When we drove up to it I said to Bobby, "I'm walking up, I'm not getting in that %***in' coffin"! It was the type of elevator a construction company would use. They would attach it, temporarily, to the outside of a building they are working on. Part of it looked like it was purchased from a bankruptcy auction and the other half was homemade! Being petrified of heights this was a real challenge, but due to the seriousness of the situation, extreme measures had to be taken. Two of us get in this "thing". It is a square box made from angle iron and wire mesh. It is painted a dingy red and you can see through it on all sides, even when you look down! The floor is made from metal grating! Yes, don't look down! The maintenance guy on the outside pulls the sliding door shut. "Clang"! Sounds like a jail cell shutting. He turns around and reaches for a large switch on a light pole. He pulls the switch ............nothing! Oh NO! He wiggles the junction box and there is a sudden "jerk" and a hideous clanging sound of dry metal rubbing on dry metal and we are headed up. This thing is clanging, banging, jerking from side to side and making the metal on metal grinding sounds that have the same effect as when you hear someone scratching their fingernails down a blackboard! Half way up, I can actually see in my mind, the cable, one strand at a time, fraying and snapping!! We are going to get almost to the top and drop like a stone, I can feel it! Finally we stop and Bobby slides the metal/mesh gate open and we step (more like jump) out of the "thing" onto the platform of the Control Tower. I quickly look around and I don't even see the track, only the mountains in the distance. Now I'm really scared! We walk over to the outside of the Control Booths where this metal ladder is attached to the wall. It goes up to the roof. We are now 13 stories in the air and I am not doing so hot and now we have to go up on the roof!

I slowly climb the ladder. Hand over hand. Yes, my knuckles are white! I get to the roof and step on. Oh God!!! This is high! I look over to the camera and this guy is walking around the edge of the roof like he's two feet off the ground instead of 13 stories. He says, "You the painter"? I just nod, can't talk yet." I thought I'd better call someone before you got too far along", he said. I finally got enough courage, at these heights, to say, "Thanks!" Come on out here, you can see it better". I think, "%*** you buddy"! I cautiously walk over to where the camera man is. Slowly, still hunched down a little, I reach out with my left hand and grab onto the camera leg and look down. Oh my God!! I can feel myself being pulled over the side of the tower by some unseen force that's saying to me, "fall, faallll"!! I snap straight up, shut my eyes for a second, and take another breath. My sweaty hand is locked on the camera stand leg. If I'm going, the camera is going with me! I don't like this! I look again. Oh God! As I'm looking I say out loud. "Holy S***"! I focus on the "0" in the 500. Yup, he was right, it is "deformed". "We're %*****"!

I look at Bobby and say it again. I get that "cold" feeling of panic when all of a sudden you are confronted with a situation and you don't know what to do. "Here is where you earn your money" comes into my head! Calm down and think, I tell myself. I get back from the edge and sit on the roof. I have to think! After about 30 seconds of deep thought, an idea pops into my head just like to proverbial light bulb thing! Eyes wide and with a look of pure genius on my face, I turn to Bobby, "I think we can fix it! I have an idea. I stand up and pat Bobby on the back while saying, "You will have to do the painting". "What the hell you talking about, I can't paint that "0"! he says back. I say, "We will have to do just the left edge of the second "0" and maybe part of the edge of the other "0", I said. He looks at me, "are you nuts"? "It's the only way. I will stay up here. When you get back down, go to maintenance and get a radio. Get the gun and I will guide you from up here on the radio. You will be my hand". I said. "OK, I'll try it", he said, shrugging his shoulders with the "I don't know about this" look.

Bobby gets on the grass and looks up at me waving the two way radio above his head. I think, "Oh God, you don't use hand signals with the damn thing, you talk on it"! I click the button on my radio and in a strong voice I say, "Talk on the damn thing you nut"! He jumps and looks at the radio and in a minute he says, "I'm here"! "Yes I know", I think to myself. He looks like an ant down there! I start to give commands over the radio. At first it was little awkward, but we got into it as we went along. I even forgot how high in the air I was! It went like this, "face pit lane. Now start walking.......slow! walk, walk, walk.... straight.... ok, spray, keep walking and spraying....... right, right, straight, right, right..........stop". This took hours. The cameraman watched us for a while then got bored and left. When we were done, I was happy with the results. It was acceptable. I got back in the elevator for the ride down. I was so burned out I didn't even care if the cable did break! I didn't even hear the clanging and banging.

I went out on the grass, looked at Bobby, and with a slap on the back......."good job man"! I said. Bobby was my "right hand man"! The entire job was done and I was happy with the results. We left the extra paint on the trailer hoping we wouldn't need it for the weekend. "Hit the walls all you want, just don't slide through the grass", I thought. The "Michigan Gang" surprised me by saying they were headed back to the motel to pack up and head back north, right now. They didn't even want to stay to watch the race. Paul had a business to run and being away from home is not easy! Off to the side, Missy was crying. She wanted to stay so bad to see the race. She thought part of the deal to come down here was they would be able to stay and watch the race. She had never seen a NASCAR race and was a Dale Earnhardt fan. To be at Talladega, Earnhardt's favorite track, it was a dream come true! It truly is a race every NASCAR fan should see in person at least once. There is no description to seeing a race at Talladega. Mike found out about her wanting to stay and to show you how nice the people that run the track are, they let her stay at the motel and even bought her an airline ticket home Monday after the race! Now she was happy! Bobby and I were staying until Sunday; no way would I miss a race! We planned on leaving right after the race was over. Actually we had to stay until Sunday. If someone slid through a logo during Saturday's race, it had to be repaired before Sunday. It had to look perfect for the race on Sunday.

We all were at the motel saying our goodbyes, shaking hands wishing them a good trip home. The old Ford pick up sat level now. You could still see traces of paint on Charlie. I guess you could say he won the duel between himself and the sprayer from hell. He was still alive! One of the good things to come from this trip was meeting Paul Britten (owner of Britten Banners). He is one heck of a guy! We are friends to this day and in a later tale, we do another job for Britten Banners at Watkins Glen. It is not on grass, but on Glass and you will not believe what happens in this "tale".

That night (Thursday) we headed for the motel bar and our Styrofoam containers of food. We have a whole new attitude as things are done and everything turned out OK! When you are done with one of these jobs, you feel "lighter" and a little prouder. Especially when you have a serious problem and you figure it out and fix it. All the pressure is finally gone!! What a feeling!

The race is getting closer and people are starting to arrive. It's getting very crowded at the motel. The atmosphere is changing! We are at our two "usual" seats, thanks to the bar tender, eating our supper and sipping on a Bud. Race atmosphere is hard to explain unless you have been there. Everyone is hyped up for the same reason! I glance over to my left and there is the bartenders husband (Jerry), engulfed in his smoke cloud playing the Poker Machine. He glances back and nods his head as to say, "how ya doin?'". I nod my head back and give a slight acknowledgement with my bottle of Bud. The tables behind us were almost full of people eating dinner. Most of them were dressed pretty casual. The two couples right behind us stood out from the rest. They were all in their 60s, but were dressed as a wealthy person would dress. The men had suits and the women wore dresses and lots of jewelry. Just the way they talked, ate and looked, they were wealthy and flaunted it. Done eating, we decided to have another "cold one", sort of a celebration. Soon we hear loud voices, not the normal "bar talk". Not wanting to get involved in anything but curious, I turn and looked over my right shoulder. A waitress is at the table of the wealthy couples was talking to them in an unusually loud voice. Within minutes, right out of the blue, all hell breaks loose!

Lap 11: The Bar Brawl


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