One of life’s necessary chores is fighting boredom and ennui and we are all responsible to ourselves for that.
But every now and then, someone comes along to give us a hand — like Jerry Falwell or Gypsy Rose Lee or River Laker.
The latest helpers in that arena aren’t nearly so controversial. But in a good-natured and American can-do way, their pastime is no less perverse. And they’re about to make a big splash in the Star City, courtesy of Festival in the Park.
We’re talking about Power Tool Drag Racing.
When you think about it, that’s a weird bunch of words to string together. Allow them to sink in for just a few seconds. The imagination reels.
In sporting terms, Power Tool Drag Racing is a burlesque that’s equal parts drag-strip machismo, mechanical genius and tool-shed nerd. It’s kind of like a low-rent version of that TV show “Robot Wars.”
Except: The participants are racing rather than trying to destroy each other. The “motors” are circular saws, grinders, belt sanders and whatnot. And they’re tethered to highly charged, extra-long AC extension cords, rather than powered by puny DC batteries. In some cases, the “wheels” are actual saw blades.
In keeping with the drag racing theme, there are no difficult radio remote controls for racers to master. Racers have only a simple switch to throw. The races take place on parallel 80-foot long, 12-inch-wide wooden tracks, edged by 2×4 wood studs that keep the machines on course.
The big Roanoke debut of Power Tool Drag Racing is Sunday afternoon, 1 to 4 p.m. on Jefferson Street and I can’t wait.
Who comes up with this stuff, this mixture of art, electricity, nuts, bolts and a desire to use something in All The Wrong Ways, purely in the name of fun?
Here, the answer is John Wilson, a sculptor, Rob Humphreys, a former firefighter, and John Johnson, a master mason. They’re the founders and organizers of this oddball metal madness, which heretofore has happened mostly in back alleys and lonely warehouses.
This promises to be a lot more exciting than watching Ardell Stone dancers on a too-small stage, wilting in the hot sun.
A couple of weeks ago at a local bike shop, I picked up a flyer advertising this remarkable event. Wednesday morning, I caught up with Wilson and Humphreys over at Wilson’s studio on Campbell Avenue.
Wilson is an ex-cable car driver from San Francisco who looks at least 10 years younger than his actual age (which is 69). He bears a striking resemblance to musician Neil Young. Humphreys, 45, lives in Raleigh Court and is a dad to four. Johnson is a fixture on the Roanoke bicycle and living-simply scene.
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