Friday, November 27, 2009

An Annual Heartwarming,yet Pathetic Thanksgiving Tale

This isn’t a Thanksgiving recipe. It’s more a series of events that became a recipe for disaster.

You see, my wife and I like to spend weekends on Eastern Long Island. It’s nice to get away from the concrete jungle of NYC for peaceful time at the beach. Nothing beats salt air and the squawk of the sea gulls, especially when the beach is empty.

Out east, our place is tiny. It’s about as big as the bathroom in Dale Jr.’s motor coach. Our kitchen is tiny, and we no family in the Hamptons. So one particular Thanksgiving, for turkey dinner, we headed to a mom-and-pop diner we’d patronized before near Riverhead Raceway. Viviane likes the diner’s rustic feel, and I prefer the small-town prices compared to Southampton’s shi-shi designer joints with small portions on the plates and large portions of jewelry on the patrons.

That particular Thanksgiving, as my wife and daughter and I settle into our booth, things feel disjointed. The restaurant seems...different. Two cheery squeaky clean peach-cheeked clear-eyed buxom-blonde teenage Christian girls immediately slap down with sympathetic smiles plates of steaming turkey, spilling over with rich gravy and fluffy trimmings. No menu, they just bring piles of food.

Looking around, the other patrons quietly enjoying their dinners are a bit, well...different. Disenfranchised, could you say? Now, my family isn’t dressed for the Prom; Riverhead is still largely a blue-collar town, and yours truly has on old sweats that have been near the tide but not the Tide, if you know what I mean. I’m in dire need of a haircut, presently resembling Boris Said with Bed Head.

But even I look more formal and generally presentable than the others. The men wear greasy caps and scraggly growth on sad faces. The women appear as if they’ve been around the block several times at a high rate of speed. We are in Kansas no more.

Indeed, as our wide eyes scan the room, it soon becomes very clear the Giangolas are enjoying a soup kitchen Thanksgiving dinner with the homeless.
Andrew Giangola's book, "THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans" is available for pre-order on the and the NASCAR.COM SuperStore

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can a Stereotype be Funny?

I attended Gaby’s middle school graduation earlier this week. I was dressed nicely (upon my wife’s strong suggestion.) As an aside, some of the girls were dressed as if they were getting ready to sit in a storefont window in Amsterdam. Gaby had on a sensible black dress and flats.

Today, a boy approached Gaby and asked, “Was that your dad with the glasses at graduation?” (Everyone in NYC has Lasik, I’m the last person in the Manhattan under 80 yrs old left wearing glasses.)

Gaby says, “Yeah, why?”

Kid goes, “Doesn’t he work for NASCAR?”

Gaby says, “Yeah, why?”

The kid says, “Because he looks like a classy New Yorker, not someone who’d work for NASCAR.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

I've Died and Gone to Sports Bar Heaven

It’s the biggest calendar-related news in NASCAR since Darlington’s Labor Day race migrated westward. Maybe bigger, because when the crown jewel is involved, people talk.

As any die-hard sports fan with calluses on his butt knows, the NFL is considering moving the Super Bowl, also known as "the Daytona 500 of football," back two weeks, to accommodate more new games on the pro football schedule.

The “Big Game” would potentially fall on the date of the Daytona 500, traditionally scheduled for the Sunday before the third week in February. (Not to be confused with the third Monday of February, which is Washington's Birthday, or the second Tuesday in November, which is Election Day, or the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox, which would be Easter.)

A possible NFL schedule change probably won’t happen until its 2012 season. But already, sports pundits writing for the newspapers still in business are pushing for NASCAR to move the Great American Race.

Since I’ve been on Facebook all day, I haven’t had a single conversation with anyone at NASCAR about this. I came up for enough air to see the news, and immediately thought, Did I just die and go to sports bar heaven?

With absolutely no inside knowledge because I have a big mouth and who would trust me with anything, I’m reckoning what we have here is the looming, blooming, booming specter of the most spectacular double-header in sports history: The Daytona 500 leading into the Super Bowl.
I hope my TV screen doesn’t burst in all the excitement.

These two action-packed sports have a lot in common. They’re number-one and number-two in ratings, draw the biggest live crowds, and are marked by intricate strategy, violent hits, yellow flags, pomp, circumstance, a heckuva National Anthem, and new commercials. NASCAR and the NFL are made for one another.

Double up their marquee events on the same day, and the other networks might as well go off the air or run a yule log.

I know what you’re asking: What about the Super Bowl pre-game show? Let me ask you, have you met a single person who’s watched the Super Bowl pre-game show?

But won’t the Great American Race overlap with the NFL title game?

The green flag would have to drop at the Daytona 500 a few hours earlier. But the massive exposure produced by the double-header would be worth it. Take Coors Light, the official beer of NASCAR and the NFL. Imagine the gargantuan Coors supermarket displays. Race cars will be flying through goal posts made of Silver Bullets all the way into the frozen food aisle.

This dynamic doubleheader would be an absolute bonanza for Sprint, too. The title sponsor to NASCAR’s premier series and official partner of the NFL would own the day. A company would basically have to rename itself “Thanksgiving” to reap this level of overall branding dominance during a single day on the calendar.

Undoubtedly, dozens of thorny logistical and contractual details lay in the way for scheduling these behemoth sporting events on the same day. I’d bet they could be worked out. I wish I had the time to consider them myself, but I need to get back on Facebook.

Andrew Giangola is writing a book on remarkable NASCAR fans titled, THE WEEKEND STARTS ON WEDNESDAY. He posted this blog merely to get you to read that last sentence, as he attempts to secure a book deal, and the whoring of the entire project begins.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jennifer Hudson and Serial Killers

Super Bowl Sunday, lots of teenage girls are getting ready for the Big Game and a glimpse of Jennifer Hudson lip synching the National Anthem. But G wanted to hit Barnes & Noble.

She asks for money for the bookstore. The wife gives her 80 bucks. I’m secretly having a heart attack, though G is good about bringing back the change.

She leaves the house with black jeans covered in menacing silver zippers, high shiny black books with a mile of laces, and a skull-and-crossbones hand bag. I’m wondering how G got so sleek and tall and where this child actually came from.

Later, she arrives home with a thick book about Serial Killers.

She spends the whole afternoon reading it, mostly serious – really studying the content – but occasionally smiling and giggling.

I slept OK that night, though the bedroom door was locked.

Lately, V and I hadn’t had much luck talking with this infinitely complicated 13-year old girl. But the last few nights, G is an ocean of words. She's giving us detailed psychological explanations of the serial killer nature v. nurture argument (as kids, most serial killers were pyromaniac bed wetters who tortured animals); knocking back the myth most serial killers are caucasian (they pretty much mirror the population, you just don’t hear about black people getting killed because blacks tend to kill blacks – just as whites tend to kill whites – and the media will put the murder of a rich white socialite on the cover but a dozen black girls disappearing in the projects doesn’t rate), and making the case that believing there are very few female serial killers is wrong (the first woman serial killer dates back to the 15th century.)

So next time you see gruesome pictures of body parts preserved in some quiet dude’s fridge, there is a silver lining.

That usually white male former pyromaniac animal torturing bed wetter is bringing my daughter and me closer.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Springsteen Belongs in Daytona, Not Tampa Bay

Who isn’t lost in the flood of hype about Bruce Springsteen performing at the Super Bowl halftime show?

But it’s all wrong. The Boss should be playing two weeks later, across the state at a much bigger live event, The Daytona 500. This great American rocker is made for The Great American Race.

It's simple. Bruce is a car guy. His songs take place on Rattlesnake Speedways in the Utah desert, not football stadiums. He sings of wrecks on the highway, not fumbles in the end zone. His honey is working it in the back of a pink Cadillac, not the sidelines of Lambeau Field.

Springsteen wants you to strap your hands cross his engine, not his shoulder pads. He’s never written about flea flickers and high ankle sprains. He’s asking you to crawl into his ambulance, not a golf cart headed to the locker room following a helmet-to-helmet collision. He wrote a song called "Stolen Car," not “We Illegally Taped Your Practice.”

The Boss's own heart is disconnected from this Super Bowl. He says he knows nothing about football. Whereas the inaugural ball performance of “The Rising” was pitch perfect in performance and context, the 12-minute halftime show isn't fully relevant to the Boss. He admits a strict marketing play.

Some fans are crying “sell out,” but that’s harsh.

In this iTunes era, to have a successful release an artist has to basically shut out the struggling corner music store and sell his exclusive soul to a big box retailer (which Springsteen did, with great regrets in placing a recent Greatest Hits disc). The Boss admitted he brought the band to Tampa Bay only to do “something big” and draw attention to his new CD, "Working on a Dream."

Springsteen is rock’s most enduring and legendary performer, an indefatigable showman still giving sweat-drenched three-hour plus acts at 59 years old. (In fact, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who have been to a Springsteen show and the uninitiated.) To know and appreciate Springsteen is to experience him live. The Boss will play to, what, 80,000 people at the NFL championship? Tickets for this game, and the crap shoot of whether the fourth quarter will even matter, will run fans the rough equivalent of the GDP of Honduras.

The "Big Game" -- the sport refered to is known without even mentioning it -- is one of the world's great sports spectacles. But in the grandstands on Sunday, it's doubtful there will be very few of the common, working class folks inspiring the Boss's songs and accounting for millions of his album sales.

Had Bruce waited two weeks, at Daytona International Speedway, he and the E Street Band would be playing to nearly 200,000 hard-working Americans more worthy of his amazing blue-collar energy and durable songs about the redemptive power of the automobile. A $55 ticket to the Great American Race can be had for about 1/20th the price of the cheaper seats at the Super Bowl.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll tune in and crank it up. I had the black and gold jacket as a kid on Long Island and will be pulling for the Steelers. But half time is what's attracting me to this game. While the prospect of seeing McCartney, the Stones and Tom Petty on the world’s biggest TV stage since four mop tops from Liverpool brought their glorious “yeah yeah yeahs” to the Ed Sullivan Show had been pretty cool, the Boss brings the whole halftime rock show concept to new levels.

In fact, many people are more psyched for Bruce's mini-concert than the game itself. The brief song lineup is shrouded in complete secrecy. Odds-makers had to shut down a site taking bets on the song selections, so many people had flooded it.

On a grand stage, when the Steelers and Cardinals take a break, it will be 12 unforgettable minutes of the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. But the Boss, car guy at heart on a last chance power drive, should have chosen Daytona on February 15, where he wouldn’t be the only hot rod angel rumbling to the promised land.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dog Face

My wife was speaking French to her Belgian relatives. She is a bit out of practice. She wanted to say a young boy has strong character in his face. Instead, she told her cousin her son has dog features.