I can't realistically sing Back Home Again in Indiana because I've been a Hoosier all my life. But I got to hear it sung live for the first time in my life at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday for the Indy 500.
The entire experience of the day made me proud to be an American and a Hoosier.
I took my son, Kal, with me on the excursion. We had to get up at 4:00 in the morning to make it there before traffic and parking was too much of a nightmare. All the pre-paid parking was sold out by the time I bought tickets.
Traffic was already a nightmare at 6:30 as we came nearer to Georgetown and 38th. And it had just been getting worse since 5:00a when I had first checked it. We ended up parking blocks away--I don't mind the hike--at one of the neighborhood houses. Everyone around makes a few extra bucks by parking cars on their lawns for race day.
We followed the masses of people walking south, found our gate with no trouble, and got through security quickly. Found our seats by 7:30, then went exploring.
I love morning times. Even at a different place like the IMS. The air still smelled fresh--not like later in the day when 300,000 people were there all sweating together under the heat of the sun.
I had limited my coffee intake until I could be sure there were adequate facilities to handle elimination. Having satisfied that curiosity, I found a place that sold coffee and donuts. The donut was good. Mostly fresh.
The coffee was not. I've downed all sorts of second-rate coffee in the 25+ years I've been a coffee-drinker, and this filled a brand new category.
It had the flavor of the old, musty, dirt-floor basements in some of the haunted houses I show as a real estate agent. Not haunted for real, but you know what I mean.
Even so, I drank most of it because it was a source of caffeine and something hot on a cool morning.
Kal found a nice hot pretzel with cheese, plus a tasty cold beverage.
We walked through the official merchandise tent. I don't know why we did it. I'd rather have an experience than trinkets. So we walked right back out. Later in the day, the line for that tent was crazy long.
With still hours to go before any major action was happening, we set out to walk. And we kept walking--around the entire perimeter behind the stands where all the food and merch hawkers were.
People-watching is interesting. Most people looked fairly normal. Some were more interesting than others.
I saw multiple people that just simply forgot to put on their pants, or had clothing modified to show the entire backside. You won't catch me joining that fashion trend.
Some others just gave me a chuckle, like the lady wearing a shirt saying "Coffee, Chaos, Wine." She's totally a mom. No kids in sight, but that's a shirt for any mom.
Another guy had on a shirt declaring "Okayest D-ck Around." Okay, no need to verify that one. We'll just take your word for it and move along, dude.
Walking around the entire perimeter takes some time. The track is big enough--as I found out later on the ever-reliable social media--to contain the Vatican City, the Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl Stadium, Churchill Downs, the Taj Mahal, the White House, the Coliseum, and Liberty Island. Bottom line--it's huge.
We were ready for seats and a drink by the time we completed the circuit.
Then it was time for more people-watching and just general observation. Somebody from the days before had let their dog go potty under the seats. Oh, gotta check under our seats. All good. Don't want dog doodoo on the little coolers we brought.
As more and more people filled the stands, they drank more and more and threw their cans toward the track.
What kind of schmuck throws or leaves their trash for somebody else to clean up? That's one of the most lazy and selfish things to do in my opinion--making extra work for someone else when you're perfectly capable of taking care of yourself.
Anyway, I realized that the fence surrounding the track does double duty: it keeps car debris from flying into the audience, and it keeps audience debris from flying into the cars.
The seats filled and filled and filled. If there was anything empty, I couldn't see it.
The excitement ramped up as the opening festivities started. There was a parade of festival princesses, then a much longer parade of servicemen and women from every branch of the military.
Words of welcome from an Army general and others. Jewel sang the national anthem, which was finished off with a flyover of fighter jets. Jim Cornelison sang Back Home Again in Indiana. The Golden Knights did a sky-diving jump and landed right in front of us in Turn 4.
A second flyover from the fighter jets, this time much closer and treating us all to the sonic boom. I'm always in awe when I see fighter jets. I used to want to be a fighter pilot when I was a teenager and part of me still just loves being around all that.
Finally, the drivers started their engines and did the pace laps around the track. The air felt electric with excitement.
There's no way to translate on a TV screen just how fast those cars are going. Way over 200 mph looks so much more impressive in real life. No caution flags until almost the halfway point. The wrecks in the second half made up for it. Thank God nobody was hurt.
We didn't have anyone in particular to root for, though when I found out two of the drivers were from Indiana, I was automatically for them, plus the lone lady driver. Unfortunately, she had car trouble early on and was out of the race.
Josef Newgarden won the trophy in the end of that dramatic finish.
We followed the sea of humanity back to our car and into the predictably slow traffic trying to leave Indy.
I'm a mix of liking and following a plan plus being spontaneous. So heading north out of Indy, I had the sudden thought of driving by my grandparents' old house on the west side of Indy. The 71st St signs sparked that thought. That's where we always turned to wind our way over to W 52nd St.
Then the waterworks started. I don't bawl at the drop of a hat usually, but when I do, I make up for all the times I don't.
Grandma and Grandpa bought 4 acres on W 52nd St in the 1950s, then they built their house on it--much with their own hands. Grandpa made built-in furniture all over the house, carved sink aprons, made wood cornices at the windows. A prime example of Mid-Century Modern style.
I have years of happy memories made at that property. Driving slowly down Potter's Pike and onto W 52nd made them all come flooding back. I wish I could have those times back with them.
Many of the houses on their street have been modified or updated. Some torn down. Some torn down to make way for gigantic homes. Some are still the same.
I had to be careful not to look like a creep and set off the neighborhood watch as I sat there in my car bawling over missing my grandparents so badly.
The house is somewhat the same, but so much is different. It's just not as well-kept as when Grandma and Grandpa had it. The row of pines in front has died out and there are several other dead trees. The bushes in the front badly need a haircut.
Kal was asleep this entire time, and given the little amount of sleep he had the night before, I knew he would be out the entire time, so I wasn't in any hurry to get back home.
Being in real estate, houses come and go, and it's hard to get emotionally tied to property. Except my grandparents' houses. There's just something about those that pulls me in. Maybe I'm trying to go back to such happy times. And life is happy now!
Even if I owned the properties, I still couldn't redo the memories I have. They are forever just in my memory to pull out and enjoy any time I like.
So that song, Back Home Again in Indiana, fits for me, even though I have always lived here in the state.
Back Home at Grandma's, Back Home in Indianapolis, Back Home at the Indy 500. Back Home at my current house. Back Home with my family. Back Home with friends, new and old.