Scenes from the Parking Lot

Maggy, Mark, Katie, and Wendy. Photo by Davey Looman.

In this photo, from left to right we have my sister Maggy, Mark Looman, me, and Wendy Looman. We’re standing in the Salina Kansas International Airport. Maybe it wasn’t really international. But we’re there for the 1981 Solo II Nationals.

Mark and Wendy’s dad Davey sent this photo to my mom, along with some sort of memoir, to be published in the next issue of North American Pylon. My mom says it’s good stuff. I wish I could tell you more about it, but I’ll have to wait for the next issue just like everybody else.

So while I wait in heavy anticipation, let me describe to you my own scenes from “the life.” Every September, some early morning, usually on the first day of school — yah — Mom and Dad would pack up the our van, the Great White Whale, with wheels and tools, suitcases and a cooler filled with Kraft cheese slices and Pepsi Cola, and attach the trailer with Li’l Stroker the Lotus on it. We’d take a two-week long vacation to Salina, Kansas, staying in hole-in-the wall hotels and eating at all the greasy spoons, with only a single speaker AM radio for entertainment in our old Dodge van that for some reason could only channel John Denver tunes.

We would then camp out in Salina, usually in a hotel, once in a motor-home, and spend a week in the autocross paddock completely unsupervised while our parents went off and participated in something we understood as very important, on one level, but on the other, we were completely isolated from them and I honestly have no idea what was happening, but that was fine, because, again, we were completely unsupervised.

I’m one of the few who can say I’ve been on both sides. I think I may have gone to more nationals as a kid than as a competitor, but I’ll have to stop to do the math. Both sides are good, but one might be better.

Mark and Wendy are Davey and Joyce Looman’s kids. They’re from Michigan. I have no recollection of how we met, but I remember how we’d run around the paddock and then around the halls, some of them secret, of the Salina Convention Center. Four days in Salina wasn’t enough. I couldn’t wait for September for it to happen all over again. The first time I ever remember feeling heartache was when we went to Salina one year and Davey told Maggy and me that Mark and Wendy were staying with their grandparents. We never saw them again. Nationals would never be the same.

So while I may say I learned how to solve the Rubik’s Cube to impress Barry Schmitt, it was Wendy who taught me that it was possible. She had brought with her the Rubik’s Cube book, the manual to the stars. I never felt more smart.

Wendy also taught my sister and me a secret language, and she does not know this, but my parents have never forgiven her. I dare say that it was Wendy herself who opened the door to my linguistic fascinations. I always wanted to be bilingual, and I had no idea that all you had to do was at a “b” sound to every syllable, and you, too, could pronounced words intelligible only to those who knew the secret language.

For our whole week in Salina, we spoke nothing but this language. The whole four-day drive home back to Pleasanton, Maggy and I spoke nothing but this language, deepening our sisterly bond. I would further my practice by translating the all the highway signs.

Ebelkobo, Nebevabadaba, thibirteebeen mibiles, Mobom!

I think the year this photograph was taken, all of our parents won national championships. Bah, I can’t remember. Who cares. But it was one of those years. I don’t remember a time in my parents lives when they were more happy. That meant that Maggy and I could do no wrong.

Goobood tibimes.

Years after this photograph was taken, after I’d crossed over to the other side, I made my first try at running in the Open class (some people call it the “men’s class”) at nationals, co-driving with my dad in Del Long’s Lotus 7. I have to say that it was a scary thing to do, because it was the wrong thing to do, and it was the wrong thing to do because women just didn’t do that. My parents had fought for the existence of Ladies classes (their motto: a family that plays together, stays together), and who was I to go and mess up all their efforts.

So, let’s say, I wasn’t getting that much emotional support on the home front. My father could barely speak to me. Autocross had taken on a whole new meaning for me, as it it was now not fun. 

One morning, at breakfast in the hotel, Joyce and Davey sat at our table. My dad explained with shame what foolishness I was trying. “I just want to push myself. I just want to run with the best, to see where I stand,” I tried to explain, quite afraid of what Joyce might tell me, because she had won fifteen national championships in a row in Ladies classes.

“You’ll go very far in this sport,” she said, very calmly. Wendy’s mom understood. It’s not about winning.

I nebeveber foborgobot thabat.

When we were innocent, we played with boundless energy, we snuck off the premises and onto the nearby golf fields, stole golf balls, and only got caught once. We crafted entire homes with complicated floorplans, basements, attics, you name it, with LEGOs. Grown ups drove around pylons for a piece of wood and a jacket and worried over what people might think about them, while we kids solved complex mathematical problems and invented a language.

It’s pretty amazing what you can do when you’re having fun.

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About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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11 Responses to Scenes from the Parking Lot

  1. DAVEY says:

    Thanks VERY (very!) much for your response. It was exactly the feedback I hoped to get!
    I am forwarding your blog site to Mark and Wendy.
    Mark has three girls. He has a web site with a skillion photos. A really good dad. Mark actually became a LEGO instructor for grade school kids for a while!
    He bought a freinds (Hank Beachy) 1967 Austin Cooper S. he never did mechanical work befor e but did the whole thing himself!
    Wendy is in Minniapolis and is (I think the title is) Assistant Professor of Nursing. Also a VERY neat person.
    I hope you all can get a dialog going!

  2. Joyce Looman says:

    Hey Katie, What a great blog. I especially like the end sumation about adults winning a piece of wood while the ‘kids’ are doing the heady things! Quite an observation. I don’t remember telling you that you would go far but glad you did! Keep up the good work. And stay in touch.

    Joyce

  3. Mark Looman says:

    WOW. My childhood summed up. The things we did as kids, molded me.

  4. katiekelly says:

    Well, the Looman family sure helped mold ME.

  5. katiekelly says:

    Hi Joyce,
    Thanks so much for your comment. Actually, I think you said more than that. I just appreciated your support.

    I really love Davey’s piece. I’m so glad that he shared that with us in NAP.
    xoxo,
    Katie

  6. Matt Murray says:

    I read Davey’s article last night. I did not realize it had been so long since they retired. We should get them out for the 35th Nationals, a co-drive or something.

    Matt

  7. Jim Murphy says:

    Katie,
    Good to see that you still enjoy autoxing. Your parents told me that you have been bicycle racing and have had several injuries in wrecks; I hope that you give this up and go back to autoxing in your Dad’s Lotus.
    Davey & Joyce,
    You both are missed. How about just co-driving when you get the urge and come on back to Topeka again. You biggest challenge will be choosing which car to drive.

    Jim
    Atlanta, GA

  8. Del Long says:

    Thanks for taking my Yellow Car to a couple of National Chamionships.
    I think everyone has a Davey Looman story.
    We were all running a two day Divisional event in Waterloo, Iowa. Davey’s car broke a rear sway bar bracket and he tied it back together with a piece of rope and finished out the event finishing very well. Davey was very good at doing more with less than any one I know.
    Del Long

  9. Thanks for the memories. I would always love the way Davie would collaborate with folks to perform his various talent show ditties. My all time favorite was his collaboration with Bill “Lumpy” Lamkin with his folk guitar singing a Davie inspired twisted version of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”. All of my kids -now grown up – can still sing (cue Eric Clapton please) “It’s all right, it’s all left, it’s all right ….. chicane”.

  10. jean kinser dana says:

    I love those people, and dont forget the dog, who would roll over with legs spread at the name Roger Johnson……one of my all time favorites was his story of he and Roger and the infamous blow up doll….I had tears at that talent show. Never missed a talent show as his acts were always highly anticipated to see.

  11. Pingback: Readers Write « Katie Kelly

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