How much do I love my wife? She talked me into going to SuperCross.

Now, I like to consider myself a cultural diplomat, an African-American male who builds bridges between cultures the only way I know how: I invite my friends to do things that explore my culture and they, in turn, invite me to explore aspects of their culture. After all, we still live in an age of racial tension and apprehension, where cultures can live side by side one another and still be virtually ignorant of how the other one lives. A policy that all of my friends have agreed to in order to avoid the inevitable misunderstandings that come with racial bridge building is simple: have a soft heart, a thick skin, and a sense of humor. With that in mind, since I had taken a group of my friends to the Black Expo, one of my friends thought it only fair that I go with her to Supercross.

Um, okay. This is exactly what I had in mind.

I didn’t know anything about Supercross, not that I’d admit that to my friend. It’s kind of like one time when a woman asked me out by asking if I liked jazz, to which I said “Heck yeah” despite the fact that I couldn’t tell you Louis Armstrong from Louis Vuitton. I’d seen the commercials for this dirt bike racing extravaganza (you know the drill: “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday … we’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge”), which I took for the motorcycle equivalent of a monster truck rally. However, just like I went to the library to research jazz so that I wouldn’t sound ignorant, I decided to get as much information as I could. Not knowing where else to turn, I asked my redneck-at-heart friend Chip* (it was either that or ask my country club buddies Rusty, Dale, or Cleetus**).

Dear Chip,

I figured, fount of knowledge and sage-like wisdom that you are, that you would be the person to turn to for advice. This weekend I am going to a strange place to be surrounded by strange people. It will be a different culture, different ways, and different language.

I am going to Supercross.

I have gotten concerned phone calls from friends once they have learned that I was planning on attending, warning me that this is a redneck event that I have no business attending. I have taken it as a given that the first cry of “Yee-Haw” is my cue to exit, but I was wondering if there were any other phrases or helpful information that you could give me.

Thanks for your insight,

Maurice

To which he responded:

Maurice,

1. Keep in mind that if they invite you to go out in the woods on a gator hunt, that there are no gators in Indiana.

2. If you are running for your life, it is always a good idea to head north.

3. Bubba is not a friend of yours, no matter what he says.

4. Don’t order a drink with a sissy name. Stick to something served in a longneck bottle.

5. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.

6. Bocephus is the nickname for Hank Williams, Jr.

7. Don’t expect to use reason to win an argument.

8. Rednecks do not like to be call a “puss” by black guys.

9. Keep in mind that two people may be both brother and sister as well as husband and wife. It may be necessary to use a scorecard to keep track of the family trees.

10. Bubba does mind if you dance with his girl, no matter what she is telling you.

11. There is no such thing as a “catcher” in horseshoes.

12. Leave your latest copy of “The Final Call” in your car.

Hope these help,

Chip

Not that I lacked confidence in Chip’s words of wisdom, I still wanted another ambassador to act as my guide. So I called up my trailer park-living buddy, Gerald (last name withheld because I haven’t asked him if it were okay to run my mouth), because, as I told him in my invitation, when I think of white trash, I think of him. He responded by questioning the marital status of my parents at the time of my birth, but agreed to go anyway. To my shock, he’d never been to a Supercross before. He also said that the one condition of his going was that I not wear any “Down With Whitey” T-shirt. I want to point out two things for the record: 1) I wasn’t planning on wearing any of my more militant gear [no “Black and Beautiful”, no “Dig the Skin I’m In”, no “Fear of a Black Planet”]; and two, I don’t own anything with the word “whitey” on it. My goal was to sneak in relatively unnoticed, wearing native gear, until I realized that I owned no denim items or any flannel wear.

As you may have gathered by now, I went into this situation with more than a few prejudices. Admittedly, I expected to see the worst kept teeth since my visit to England. I expected to see chewing tobacco and lots of it. I expected to see nothing but pick-up trucks and Camaros in the parking lot. Okay, I wasn’t disappointed by that last one: I’d never seen such variety of trucks and RV’s (I will spare you any commentary about 1) bringing an RV and 2) what kind of overcompensation issues anyone may have been trying to prove by owning trucks who’s wheels were almost as tall as me).

I would also like to point out that the word “shee-oot”, which I’m not sure is supposed to have two syllables, is not in any dictionary that I own.

And we aren’t even inside yet.

A guy come up to me–me, the only Black guy in line–and says “I don’t know why you’re buying tickets when there’s a lady giving away free tickets downstairs.” I smile, thank him, and wait for him to leave, fully armed with the information about gator hunting. I turn around and my wife and friend, neither of whom were privy to Chip’s memo, were halfway down the stairs. A more trusting sort, all they had to do was hear the word “free”.

A woman from a local radio station really was giving away free tickets. Go figure.

Once we took our seats, I made a joke questioning whether or not Truck-a-saurus would be making an appearance. It was at this point that my diplomats informed me of the redneck scale of events. Supercross was the upper class redneck event. To get more rednecks, I’d have to go to a monster truck show (at which point I expressed consternation at the insinuation that rednecks and trucks could be associated together); and if I wanted to see some true hillbillies, I have to go to a tractor pull. Apparently there is an analogous situation with Formula One, Indy car racing, and NASCAR. [The other job of my diplomatic core was to safely escort me out of the building if I made a “white trash expo” joke too loudly. Which Gerald ended up making instead, because “it’s okay” if he does it. I get that reasoning and accept it for what it is.]

The national anthem was performed by “national recording artist” Wayne Knox (say it with me: “who?”) and then enough fireworks went off that I thought the Dirt Rider Blimp was going to go out like the Hindenburg. [And by the way, did I miss the meeting that decided to insert the lyrics “wee-hoo” into the anthem?].

The event itself was surprisingly fun. The crowd was extremely amiable and just into having a good time. My wife, a huge fan of the sport, tried to explain to me the intricacies of the sport, though, as a male, I don’t need any sport explained to me by a woman (have I mentioned that I’m also a bridge builder between the sexes also?). I picked up on the sport pretty quickly: a race would start, there would be a crash, one guy would get way ahead of everyone else and win. The only problem was that everyone wore day-glo colors, like a bunch of angry Power Rangers (though I did notice that the ones in green seemed to have anger management issues), and I couldn’t tell the individual riders apart.

FYI, there is no smoking allowed in the RCA Dome, despite the fact that we choked on the exhaust.

And I wasn’t the only Black person there. There were four other black families there, though I did get nervous whenever any of them were gone at the bathroom too long. (And before anyone makes a comment about me actually counting, when we went to the Black Expo, a friend of mine, out the clear of the blue, said “eight.” When I asked him about it, he said “I never believed you, but when you are this much in a minority, you can’t help but count how many of you there are”).

My personal highlight was watching the race featuring the 8-year olds. There’s nothing like watching little kids wreck and watching ‘pa’ scream from the sidelines.

We left before they showed the final race, which was due to be shown on national TV. That was all I needed: to be spotted on national television, at a motor cross event, sitting behind Larry, Darrell, and Darrell. That would definitely get my ghetto pass revoked.

* He really is named Chip

** I don’t personally know anyone named Rusty, Dale, or Cleetus

*** reprinted with his permission. More or less.