Opinions are like assholes…

Everyone has one, and they usually stink.

I’ve remained silent on the Stewart/Ward incident since it first came to light in the wee hours on Saturday night.
There were far too many questions, and not enough answers to form any reasonable opinions. I saw no reason to add to the noise.

3 days later, nothing has changed in that regard. So why speak up now?

Because I’m just so fucking irritated.

I HATE when something negative happens in the racing world. (no matter the series/genre) It becomes a call to arms for every Johnny-come-lately, couch jockey, who knows fucking NOTHING about the sport, to pontificate, and accuse, and jump on the bandwagon. Most of them with no skin in the game, so no regard for the consequences of their words and actions.

Then there are those in the know (or who claim to be) that stir the pot for their 15 minutes of internet and news cycle fame. Sensationalism at it’s worst. Click bait for hits, and links, and retweets, and ratings.

There are two people that know, without a doubt, what transpired on Saturday night. Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward. That is it. And even their versions (had Ward survived) would likely have differed in interpretation.

I don’t watch Sprint racing, so I know nothing of what it takes to manoeuvre those cars around the track. To speculate in anyway on the actions of Tony Stewart from a technical point of view would be misinformed on my part.

I’m also not going to jump on the blame the victim bandwagon. This situation is tragic enough without the undertone of “he had it coming” added to the mix.

Do I think he holds some culpability for running around on a hot track. Yes. Have we all done something stupid in the heat of the moment when we were in our 20’s? Fuck Yes.

Have we seen other drivers, in other series, attempt to do the same thing? yup. (I’m just glad that there are a handful of strong men in Orange and white fire suits that wrestle our angry drivers out of harms way in the heated moments.)

99/100 times, he would have made a foul familiar gesture that we have seen many times over in similar situations, and walked back to his car. Done. Move on to the next event.

But a multitude of circumstances beyond anyones control collided in that moment, and well, we all know the outcome. To assign blame to either is futile. It changes nothing. All we can do is reflect, learn from the situation, and move on.

Most of all, right now, It makes me incredibly angry to see a man being absolutely vilified based on a handful of “hot headed” soundbytes and moments over the course of his career, to the point of accusations of intention and cries for murder charges.

Give your fucking heads a shake.

I don’t know Tony Stewart personally. But I do know many other professional drivers on a personal level. NONE of them, not even the ones with “tough guy” reputation, would in a million years, even in their most heated moments, ever, EVER intentionally aim their vehicle at another competitor, especially one standing outside of their car. It just wouldn’t happen.

Those out there that even entertain that notion are merely playing their hand and showing the world just how truly ignorant they are, and how little they know about racing and the racing community.

These men and women willfully get into a car and risk their lives (their own lives, not their competitors). The respect they have for their machines, their colleagues, and their sport flies in the face of all of the uneducated, ignorant commentary and accusations.

Stop making a “story” out of this tragedy. It’s heartbreaking enough for all involved without turning it into a lynching or a movie of the week.

I wish for a sense of unity and protection for our racing community. Let’s not play into their storyline. Let’s stop fanning the flames. Stop commenting on and sharing the sensationalistic stories. Don’t validate the ignorance.

I wish for peace and healing for the friends and family of Kevin Ward, and the same for the friends and family of Tony Stewart.

Mostly I wish for peace and healing for Tony Stewart. I can’t imagine what he is going through right now.

The only saving grace at the moment is that there will always be another bigger story around the corner to distract this A.D.D society. Perhaps the devastating news of the loss of Robin Williams today, which broke just as I started to write this earlier, will shake some sense into this world… least for a few hours.

Ok then… guess I should recap…

My colleagues and I arrived via media shuttle from the designated media hotel. Entering the Allstream Centre we headed up the escalator to the “Tim Horton’s Media room”, where a table of timbits and fresh coffee awaited us. We were greeted by a table of volunteers from race partner Toronto Tourism, who handed us our BPA free water bottle (we are after all a green city, using a green facility for the weekend) and a data stick containing a digital visitor guide with everything we would need to get us around this fair city. There was also a map at the table, and information on all of the attractions within the core of the city, including Summerlicious! We do after all have to eat, and having someone there to answer questions, make suggestions, and help with reservations was great! Especially for first time visitors to the city.

And then I woke up…

I was hoping that someday I, or one of my colleagues, would be able to open our post race review with that paragraph. It is after all my home race, once one of the jewels in the crown of top level open wheel motor racing in North America. But as much as I’ve voraciously denied it over the last handful of years, and fought with every ounce of my being to promote, defend, and improve the event (I do a post-mortem every year with a laundry list suggestions) those days are gone and they aren’t coming back anytime soon, if at all.

(*for the record: media shuttles ended years ago, Tim Horton’s has never sponsored the media room, and Toronto Tourism has never provided swag bags or info, this is just a fantasy version of the “Welcome to our City/Race” I’ve wished for for years* )

I was so complacent coming out of the weekend, that I wasn’t even going to bother with this blog/recap. Previous recaps have fallen on deaf ears for years now, so why bother. But I wanted to have something to look back on and point to a year from now either as a triumphant “look how far we’ve come” or as a “well, it’s not surprising” (hopefully it won’t be the latter)

Something is just… off.

I was thinking maybe it was me this year. Maybe the mental/emotional state I’ve been in leading up to the weekend had tainted my joy/excitement, so I was biased. I even tried to muster up a phony state of “hyper-cheerleader” mode the night before the weekend kicked off. But it just wasn’t there. In fact the hype wasn’t anywhere in the city prior to or during the event.

My “nephew” ;-) and colleague Tony DiZinno very eloquently expressed my opinion/words in his piece today. (the Detroit vs Toronto section) (actually I agree with the whole damn thing)

Yes, I know it’s unfair to directly compare one event to another, as each one is unique in it’s facilities and promoters, but this year… this year… I don’t know. There just seemed to be a sense of “meh… whatever *shrug*” in Toronto.

The On-Track schedule was jam packed. (over packed in my opinion with 7 series, 13 races) I’m guessing they make a pretty penny from each series for use of the track and facilities, so the more the better right? To some maybe, but I think having a bit of a break on track would have offered up more of an experience off track. Then again, with the lackluster presentation around the grounds, maybe it was best to keep everyone distracted by the constant drone of engine noise…

I’m not going to review, compare or contrast the on-track stuff. There are enough arm chair drivers/race stewards out there analyzing the shit out it, so I’m not going to jump on that noisy bandwagon. (again, fwiw, TdZ spoke for me in that regard too)

My reflection will be with the event itself.

There was a definite disconnect when it came to the “event” part of the race weekend. (Ironic when speaking of a street race where the main “insult” over the years has been that those attending are “event” fans not race fans) It’s like the writing was on the wall coming into the event, and the absolute bare minimum was put in motion to pull off the weekend, without any extra expense or effort.

Already gone were the days of street parties, restaurant and bar tie-ins, and well attended media kick offs. Next went the multiple beer gardens and entertainment stages on the grounds during the weekend.

Soon gone was the party and fun atmosphere of “Thunder Alley”. Followed by the rows of neatly laid out selections of vendor booths selling great food, sponsor related gear, and handing out samples, etc… (though come to think of it I did get a free sample of travel sized men’s deodorant and body wash)

Last year they tried to revamp the weekend a bit, adding “Fests”. This saw the return of a couple of Craft Beer gardens, a site wide liquor license, and two separate areas of some of the cities most amazing food trucks.

This year, walking around the grounds behind the grandstand, one got the impression that the vendors that did show up to participate for the event were told to “park it anywhere” when they arrived as there was no rhyme or reason to the layout whatsoever (and yes, the giant gaping hole/construction site can account for some of that, but it was mapped out last year, and there was a better set up on the grounds) There were only a handful of Food trucks (half of which were chain restaurant trucks, not the local independent ones) and one beer garden. There was a Fire-Fit competition, but with the heavy on track schedule, I wasn’t able to catch any of that. Apparently there was some sort of lumberjack competition too… (can anyone verify that?)

Anyway, the whole “fest” thing confused many, according to some I talked to at the track, as they thought they were separate events off site. (only highlighting how poorly they were executed at the track) We have a lot of festivals in the city on the weekends in the summer. In fact Toronto’s Festival of Beer is happening this coming weekend… but I digress…

Back to the race fan experience…

We’ve become used to being treated like the red-headed stepchild by the series itself (apologies to red-headed stepchildren everywhere) with the lack of Fan Village set up. At least in previous years there was an attempt at a set up, as weak as it was, but this year there was nothing. Added to that the absence of the Verizon Technology Booth and charging stations on pitlane, glaringly missing as it is acknowledged during every race broadcast south of the border (last time I checked all phones could use a charge, not just Verizon phones) To my knowledge Verizon is still looking at entering the Canadian market… so why the snub? Especially from the new SERIES sponsor. Target, an associate team sponsor, embraced the Canadian market a year before they arrived, with full signage at the track, and branded giveaways. (I still use my free Target travel grocery bag everywhere!) So where’s the love Verizon?

As usual, there was a sad makeshift IndyCar swag merch booth with but a skeleton selection of wares. None of the individual team or driver merch trailers make the trip (too much hassle at the border apparently) but I guess that’s ok, because we can order that stuff online, or get it at one of the American events that most of us travel to (that’s right, we have no problem making the trip across the border to support US events)
And besides, we could get the Toronto event branded swag at the … on no, WAIT… There weren’t even ANY Event souvenirs!!

Wanted a t-shirt that said “Honda Indy Toronto”? you had to sign up for a grocery store credit card. That’s right. No pins, no mugs, no t-shirts, no jackets, no lanyards. Nothing for anyone to purchase to commemorate the weekend besides the program. (which by the way PRN did a stellar job on once again)

Hell, we don’t even get any scanner rental love up here anymore. (something that would have been useful for the stands full of people wondering what the fuck was going on both Saturday and Sunday)

Pre-race…

It was a who’s who of “who??” “celebrities” being driven around in the back of the pick up trucks behind the drivers, with our embarrassing joke of “Mayor” bringing up the rear. (way to taint our event by association doofus) FYI, every news outlet used their entire allotted “talk about the Honda Indy” time to run clips of his slothiness in the back of the truck riding around the track, gut hanging out, jacket flapping. In case you were wondering? There IS such a thing as BAD publicity.

Then came the most horrifying version of O’Canada I’ve heard in a long time. At least pre-race ceremonies (as lacking as they were) would be capped off by the signature, spectacular fly-over which Toronto is known for… or not.
Not even a fucking traffic helicopter to buzz pitlane for those of us looking to the sky in anticipation.

Post-race…

Now, I certainly wasn’t expecting a personal thank you for attending and covering the event. (Kudos once again to the powers that be in Detroit for that extra special touch) But with all of the rumours and speculation circulating regarding the future of this event, one would THINK, this year of all years, that the promoters, or at the very least Charlie Johnstone, would hold a post event wrap up press conference in the media centre. (which happens every year and at most events on the circuit) to quell the rumours, and perhaps lay out the steps being taken/suggested for the future, so we all have something more than a shrug and an “I don’t know” in response to questions from readers and fans.

Nope. Nothing…

So there is it. The weekend started with a whisper and ended with a whimper.

One would think that if this were in fact potentially the “last hurrah’ for this event, that the powers that be would want to go out with a bang! Creating desirability for current partners to re-up and future partners to jump on board, or at the very least to leave everyone wistfully longing for it’s return (see Baltimore) rather than sadly acknowledging that it was time to put the old girl down…

FOOTNOTE:

I would be remiss if I weren’t to acknowledge the “good” as well.

To all of the drivers, crews, and teams, (and their families) who bring their A-Game and skills to the streets of Toronto every year, and put on a stellar show for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Big ups and a hearty thank you to all of my Honda Canada peeps. A++ effort all around, in particular your support of Make-A-Wish Canada. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The fine folks at Torchia Communications. I know your hands are tied a lot of the times, but you guys put in a fine effort to work within those limits to make our jobs easier on the weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Keg Steakhouse. Once again, two stellar meal experiences for me and my out of town guests over the race weekend. (the same cannot be said for our experience at Jack Astor’s on Saturday night… )

and the heartiest thank you to my all of my colleagues who do make the time and effort to travel to my fair city to cover this event, contributing to the city coffers with your tourist dollars ;-) Safe travels my friends. See you on the other side of the border soon.

A Cautionary Tale…

I was tasked recently with writing… everyday… whatever was in my mind/heart.
So… today’s stream of consciousness happened to be related to this portion of my life. (apologies in advance again for the distinct lack of actual racing stuff on my racing blog as of late)

A cautionary tale

I realized recently, that my ability to pull off a daily “everything is fine” performance in the eyes of the world is actually doing me a disservice. “Fake it till ya make it” has backfired in a big way.

I was told by someone that they all thought I was this really successful motorsport photographer. Ha! That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Yes, I bust my ass every year, and at every race I attend, to capture the events and promote the drivers, teams, and series, but that’s where the successful part ends. Apparently I’m successful at looking successful.

Back story: It took me forever to be deemed worthy of a hardcard. I get it. When the series merged, despite having a hardcard on the ChampCar side, I was low man (er… woman) on the totem pole again. I had to prove myself. Fair enough.
Did I think it would take 5yrs? no. (first one issued was last year)
One of the conditions was that I had to attend 75% of the races. But since I could never guarantee that I would be credentialed at events so as to secure gigs in advance (often media credentials are not confirmed until 1-2 weeks prior to the event) it was often too costly to make travel plans on “probably”.

But I did, many times. And I worked three “pay cheque” jobs in-between races, to fund my dream of working in motorsports. And though some gigs did fall into my lap, they were few and far between, and barely covered the cost of one race weekend, let alone the season.

I’ve paid my dues along the way, and rightly so. I’ve provided shots for no charge for charity events. I’ve helped out smaller teams, and cash strapped drivers, only to be passed over for someone else when the money became available. I’ve even, as life is cruel in very ironic ways, managed to get other people paying gigs and secure employment.
But now, sadly, years of broken promises, lack of reciprocation, and missed or non-existent opportunities and payments have taken their toll.

Through the kindness of some very generous friends who I was able to bunk in with, I was able to escape my unbearably complicated at the moment life and get to some races this spring. Much like a driver sitting on the couch at home telling everyone he’s a good driver and they should hire him, rather than proving it on track, a photographer/writer sitting at home doesn’t stand much of a chance securing work if they aren’t onsite, building their portfolio and relationships. So with just enough money to cover gas, and a meal a day. I headed to my “happy place”

In return I actually got attitude from some because I haven’t been to as many races so far this year. (for the record, I have attended the same amount of races to date this year, less one, the season opener)

What those in judgement are not privy to, is that in trying to live up to the expectations of the card hanging around my neck like an albatross, and prove myself worthy of covering the series, I actually bankrupted myself last year. I over extended myself to make it to as many events as I could, in an attempt as well to secure some actual money. Midway through the season, I lost one of my main sources of income, but carried on with my race plans unaltered despite the financial hardships, again, the promise of future paid work being dangled in front of me. This sent me into the off season with giant debts, which only got worse with the loss of another source of income coming into 2014 (thus the missed season opener)

I write this not for pity, but in solidarity with others who may be going through the same thing and think they’re alone, and also as a warning. I’ve seen some of my colleagues fall by the wayside this year, with similar hardships and disillusionment, while a fresh new crop of dreamers with hope in their hearts and stars in their eyes enter the fray.

You know that quote:
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” ― Maya Angelou

Live this. Please.

I made championing this series and this sport a priority in my life, only to discover after spilling litres of blood, sweat and tears, that I was only ever an option to those I worked with and for.

So here’s some free advice, take it or leave it:
Get it in writing. Whatever it is. Get it.
Get the payment first (or at least a retainer)
Don’t over extend yourself for a “maybe” or a “probably” or a “next time”
If your particular skill, product, or service will benefit THEM, make them pay for it! Don’t be their whore. Swag doesn’t pay the rent.

I still hope to finish out the season as planned, but with $50 in my wallet to last me to the end of the month, and my final source of income dangling dangerously close to the edge of the cliff (I’m actively job searching) realistically, I’m rethinking my future, at least in the short term.

My race plans for the season are still in my calendar, because without those to look forward to, life is pretty hopeless at the moment. Of course the irony is that I may have to sell my camera gear soon to keep a roof over my head for another month.
Unless by some miracle, a race weekend paying gig falls in my lap (newsflash: I’m available!) Toronto is the only 100% next race at the moment.

And that’s my Debbie Downer post for the week. Might as well get it out of the way on a Monday right? LOL! Oh well, no where to go but up right? #alwayslookonthebrightsideoflife #itsonlyafleshwound

oh, and since they may be my last racing shots for a while, might as well take a moment and go enjoy my latest race albums https://www.facebook.com/Pit2Podium

And with that, I’m off for a run. Thankfully that costs $0 ;-)

I swear I will start yapping soon…

and y’all will start bitching that I talk too much… But please indulge me one last non-racing related post before I kick off my racing season.

This just dropped into my inbox!

Image

This is my strappingly handsome nephew Dylan!
This is who I was running for last year, and the subject of my last two blog posts of the year in 2013. His journey has been my focus over the winter.
Last time I saw him in person he was bald, and weak, and pale, full of chemicals.
and now he is healthy, and happy, and follicularly filled out!!
This makes me so happy.

And I just wanted to share with all of you who supported me, and him, and SickKids Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Toronto.

And say thank you.

This is what your efforts went towards!
I am most humbly grateful.

Happy Easter everyone!

Dusts off the blogwebs….

I kept waiting for something to prompt me to step back into my “office” and put pen to paper fingers to keyboard… Not that I haven’t written a bunch of stuff lately, it’s just that it wasn’t for public consumption. (you can all thank me later)

Anyway, earlier this evening I grabbed a random pile of papers to sort through, and this fell out onto my laptop keyboard on my desk:

photo

Bizarre… I have no idea where it came from, or why it was in this nondescript pile of papers, but yet, there it was, like a little time capsule.

Even more odd, the fact that this weekend is the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Sadly, I’m not there this weekend. It just hasn’t been in the cards to get to a west coast race again (no money honey) But I was there for the final Champ Car race.
I remember everything about that race.
It was a big transitional weekend for all of us.
It was a weekend of goodbyes… to teams, to a series, even to friends and colleagues.

It was a weekend to make memories.
It was a weekend to move on.
It was a weekend of endings and new beginnings.

Things changed, people changed, I changed. For the most part, we all survived.

Funny, since the page turned on the new year, I’ve been struggling with a lot of the same things. Transitions, endings, beginnings, etc… etc…

anyway… finding this ticket, as melancholy as the memories are, gives me hope.
It lets me know that as dark as things may appear at times (and those were some dark days), it will all work out in the end, one way or another.

Calling all MOtorsports fans…

meeshstacheIt’s MOvember Bitches! And this year it’s personal! I’m on a mission to educate, motivate and eradicate! No one should have to deal with cancer. Especially a 15yr old boy with testicular cancer. It sucks. And It pisses me off.

Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer, behind skin cancers, in young men aged 15 – 29 years. It starts as an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in one or both testicles. It is a highly treatable type of cancer with a very good cure rate (over 95%) if found and treated early.

• Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 29
• Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer
• Because treatment is so successful, the overall long term survival rate is about 96%
• 940 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in Canada in 2013.

My nephew is one of those statistics this year, which is why I mounting a personal charge for MOvember!

I wasn’t going to post about this here, but I have spent too many days over the last month watching clear plastic bags of poison drip into my nephew. I feel angry, and helpless and I just need to do something, anything, to feel like I’m helping in some way.

#fuckCancer

So back to MOvember. I can’t grow a mustache. (Ok, I actually probably can, but NO one needs to see a picture of that. But I will and will post one if that’s what it takes! ) But I’m coming up with things I can do, provide, auction off to raise funds for this cause.

First up: I’m running another 5K this weekend! If I get some pledges to my MO-space, I will run the entire race wearing a fake moustache. (my comrade in arm has pledged she will do the same!) AND I will post pics!
It is cold, it is NOVEMBER IN CANADA, it may even snow, and I will be out at the crack of dark EXERCISING!! That alone deserves a couple of bucks ;-)

If you’re so inclined, and would like to support the cause, you can do so here:
http://moteam.co/meeshbeer

OH, and if you’re participating in MOvember and want to join our wolfpack, we’d love to have you!! (we’re looking for some MEN to join our cause and grow some facial hair) That’s right, I’m looking for other MO-Bros and MO-Ho’s to join my team!

MOtivationNation

Grow a great stache!
Grow an awful stache!
Grow the hair on your legs, chin, mole(!), under your arms!
Whatever works!
Let’s DO this people! Join my team here:
http://moteam.co/motivation-nation

This is a month long effort. I will continue to post facts, videos, challenges, etc…

In the meantime, for all my male colleagues and friends, stick your hands down your pants and fondle your boys. Check em good. And if something doesn’t feel right down there, go get yourself checked by a medical professional.

http://testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/self-exam-how-to/

self-exam

A different kind of race…

Those that know me, know that I don’t run unless I’m being chased or there is bacon or a margarita waiting for me at the finish line. However something very personal is motivating me this month. (which is part of the reason my racing season ended in Baltimore) So instead of attending and shooting the season finale in Fontana, I will instead be hanging out with my nephew at Sick Kids Hospital next week then running a race of my own that weekend in his honour.

Team Cargill and myself take the green flag at the The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday Oct 20th to raise funds for charity of choice: Ronald McDonald House in Toronto.
As a group our goal is to raise enough to cover a family’s stay for 30 days at Ronald McDonald House. (As a team we are only $270 away from our goal!!!)
Each night in the house costs $125 (of which the family is charged $15 for, the rest is covered by donations from folks like us!)
My personal goal to $375* (a 3 night stay, a mere drop in the bucket for most families, and only a fraction of the stay my family has used/will use while my nephew gets treatment at Sick Kid’s Hospital just down the street.

In addition to running, Team Cargill also volunteers several times a year to participate in the “Home for Dinner” program, where we go to the house to provide and cook a meal for the families staying there. (Our next one is coming up soon!)
Click for more info on Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto
http://rmhtoronto.org/

If you’re so inclined, I would love your support of sponsorship (every little bit helps) towards raising funds for RMcD House, and I would be personally honoured if you would rally around my nephew Dylan as he courageously undertakes another round of chemo next week #FUCKCANCER
Just click the link to make a donation! (can be done online for US/International sponsorships too)
http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=2148812

All pledges will receive an official tax receipt (either electronic or in the mail.)

OH, and check out my “racing” shoes!! ->> Chrome Stripes baby!! #PT #ChromeHorn

2013-10-04 17.57.47-2

If you don’t want to toss a donation my way, please consider supporting your local children’s hospital or the fine folks over at Racing for Cancer

Thanks in advance on behalf of my own #ironman/#lionheart
I now return you to your regular racing talk…

EDIT: because I have awesome friends and colleagues, my personal goal was met, but we’re still shy on the group goal, so I’m upping my goal to $500 to put us over the top!