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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #378
The Beanolator
David Gunn

Beanjamin "Beanbag" Bengaze approaches his car and, as always, pauses to run his eyes lovingly over it. What looks like a mere jacked-up '73 Javelin with Cragars is in reality one of the most potent hot rods on the circuit. Beneath the traditional hood scoop lurks a 426 wedge motor with cross ram intake that a Vega turbo boosts to an even thousand horses. Peeking out from side louvers are dual 780 Holley carbs, and a working oil derrick is affixed to the roof. The rest of the car is hidden from view by the alcohol effluvium leaking from the exhaust headers. Bengaze opens the door on which is emblazoned a giant beanbag, his track moniker, and slips easily into the cockpit. He straps himself in, checks the gauges--oil pressure, static discharge, vapor lock, gyrocompass, magneto couplings, Use Unleaded Fuel Only--and turns the key. The motor roars to life, a puissant, raging banshee whose rumble turns to a milk-curdling scream as he revs the engine. A cloud of exhaust whose bouquet is more Johnny Walker than Texaco envelops the spectators, who cheer stuporously. Zenon of his crew waves him out of the pit area, and he lurches up to the go chute. A dozen feet to his left sits his competition, Ol' Leadfoot, a trick Camaro with a 1,200-horse Hemi, multiple-stacked leafs and a rear deck spoiler that's half again as long as the car. A bumper sticker proclaims "This car climbed Mount Vernon." He'd raced Ol' Leadfoot scores of times, he was sure of it, but right now, for some reason, he can't recall the outcome of a single race.

Bengaze pulls on and adjusts his helmet, which is not much more than four stitched-together beanbags fastened to a pair of goggles and small reading lamp. He taps the two-way radio sewn into one of the seams and speaks into the microphone. "Beanbag team, do you copy?"

A flood of static fills the headset and he hastily cranks down the volume. "...ee bot ... ooo too ... ore any ... ime pace un in uum ... bot ...ee orts, copy?"

Bengaze dials down a control on his telecommunications console. "Uh, negative on that copy, Beanbag team. Repeat, no copy. Please say again."

Too late. The timer lights have begun their countdown, so Bengaze switches off the radio. No distractions now. There are six lights on the timer tree, spaced two seconds apart. Track wags often joke that it takes nearly twice as long to start the race than it does to actually race. For some of these hot rods can hurtle down the 1,320-foot/quarter mile course in five or six seconds, reaching speeds in excess of 750 joules in the process.

The timer lights tick down the tree. Four--he glances over to Ol' Leadfoot, and notices a row of Hawaiian dancer bobble-heads attached to the spoiler, the vibration from his Hemi causing them to gyrate wildly. Three--a wonderful memory of his first win on the peewee oval circuit in Waukesha, Wisconsin fills him with a warm flush of pride ... or is that instead an inopportune loss of bladder control? Two--a final scan of the gauges: oil pressure, 120/80; static discharge, 0.086; vapor lock, in progress; gyrocompass, north by northwest with Pegasus rising; magneto couplings, check; Use Unleaded Fuel Only, Johnny Walker Red. One--in an instant the light morphs from red to orange to yellow to violet to indigo to blue to green, Go! Bengaze stomps on the accelerator and the Beanolator rockets down the roadway. Powerful g forces (9.8 meters per second per second) press him back into the seat padding. It's all he can do to keep his hands on the wheel.

He knows he shouldn't, nevertheless he hazards a glance out the side window to check on Ol' Leadfoot's progress. He doesn't see the car, but he does smell bobble heads, and they're not far off! Can't the Beanolator go any faster? He mashes the pedal to the floor. The engine wails, redlining the rpms, but yes, it can. The kilometerometer reads 800, then 900, then 1,000! Outside the other side window, the spectators in the stands blur by, like a kaleidoscope of billowing pastel knickers and bloomers. Just ahead is the finish line. Or is it? Surely six or seven seconds have elapsed by now. So where's that checkered flag? The kilometerometer touches the 1,100 mark and creeps upward into uncharted territory. But that isn't all that's creeping upward. Theoretically confused ground-effect aerodynamics (TCGEA) have conspired with a temporal gravity reversal field (TGRF) to produce a TCGEATGRF, a phenomenon that lifts the front of the Beanolator into the air. Bengaze engages the aileron. That helps, and keeps the forward tires within an inch of the track. However, another potential dilemma looms. Directly in front of him now is what looks like ... a tunnel? Right there in the middle of the track, a dark round passageway, outlined by a coruscating ring, as if a gang of fireflies had hitched a ride on a roulette wheel. What's going on? Where is that damned finish line?

Things have gotten too weird. Enough! Bengaze pushes the big red Stop button on the dashboard. Better to live to race another day than die in vainglorious victory. The deafening engine roar suddenly fades like an old pair of dungarees. The parachute, however, fails to deploy, and, unchecked, the Javelin hurtles into the tunnel.

Two discrete sounds fill the Beanolator's cockpit--the scraping of the derrick against the tunnel ceiling, and muffled noises from the two-way radio, which seems to have turned itself on. Bengaze adjusts the tuning and dials up the volume.

[echo] Why, it's us, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar! In fact, this very 378th episode! Isn't that amazing! Well, good luck to you Beanjamin, wherever you are. Hope to hear from you in the future. For now, though, you and the rest of our audients will hopefully hear from Kalvos.