Driving up to Dixie
Since the Milledgeville trip got some of the mental cylinders firing, I took another socio-historic expedition last night -- to the Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia. Let me up front say that I have no interest in NASCAR culture -- absolutely none. But this ain't NASCAR. Not by 3/8 of a mile -- that's the length of the dirt oval around which the home-grown Econo Bombers, Limited Late Models, Super Bombers and Pony Stocks gound their way to modest glory.
Dixie was built in 1969 and, much to my satisfaction, looks like it hasn't changed a bit. I had recently watched Lamont Johnson's The Last American Hero (1973) and the movie could've been filmed there yesterday. The grandstand was pristine, with the "Welcome to Dixie Speedway" sign gloriously uncorrupted.
It's such a joy to go to a public space that is untainted by crass corporate sponsorship. There are a handful of painted plywood billboards out by the third turn, for places like The Dixie Land Fill and Lucas Oil. Alternatively, the Georgia Aquarium is a repulsive spectacle in out-of-control commercialism. I recently went to a Braves game and every square inch of the place was branded with someone's logo. And the ballgame was insignificant in relation to the enormous jumbotron video screen that flashed and endless series of commercials and cornball graphics. Meanwhile, the play-by-play at Dixie was provided over an old-school p.a. system, by a gloriously unpretentious announcer (someone nearby on the first turn concocted a drinking game in which participants heist one every time the announcer says, "I tell you what...").
The best way I can describe it is a cross between a high school football game and a cockfight (I went to one of those a few years ago, but that's another story). It was a communal experience far more socially gratifying than a night in Virginia Highlands, it was a much more visceral experience than a concert or a movie (being pelted with ground red clay as the cars churn past, smelling popcorn and exhaust, feeling the deep roar of the engines and the occasional thump against the concrete wall about 50 feet away). After all that, the demolition derby (with only five cars) was something of an anti-climax.