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A woman I was dating at the time introduced it to me, and it came with almost every ingredient you could wish for when it comes to having a good time: beer, rock 'n' roll, friends, gambling, summer, a cornfield, and cars smashing into each other. What's not to like?!
The first time we went we started at Cary's Lounge in Rogers Park, a classic Chicago bar with record covers on the wall. That's where we boarded a bus for Joliet, and the bus rides there and back were so much fun in themselves that we might as well have just gotten to the track and turned around and come back home, what with the beer, the tunes and the observational humor of the traffic we were riding in.
At the track itself, we settled in with beverages, really good bad food, and a fine appreciation of our wondrous locale in the middle of almost-nowhere, by city standards. We looked out at the cornfield just beyond the dirt oval and wondered aloud, Is this Heaven?
No, but close: It's Demolition Derby in Joliet. Now get your bets in before the first race kicks off.
That's right, there's gambling at Demo Derby. At least there was for us. One of our crowd assumed the mantle of the House, and began charting the wagers. Now, it's not like we had a Daily Racing Form to inform our bets, but we did have colors, team names and the general look of the battered cars parading onto the field of play.
Having betting interests on the "races" upped the emotional stakes and added urgency to our screaming as the teams - think Roller Derby - circled the track, some cars looking for prey and others trying to avoid getting clocked. I'm not a violent person, and I don't even generally like violent movies, but I'm telling you, watching a decrepit car line up a poor sucker who can't get out of the mud or who is stalled and helpless is a dramatic pleasure with few peers in life, because who knows if the predator will even make it there. But if they do, crunch. It's incredibly satisfying - and nobody gets hurt.
There's also always some kind of "halftime" event that typically includes stuff burning and/or exploding.
The bus ride back to Cary's was even more boisterous as the ride to Joliet, and the sing-along that kicked in when "Won't Get Fooled Again" cried out of the boombox was one for the ages, second only to those golden nights at the Beachwood Inn when the jukebox set lifted the entire bar off the face of the Earth, and even better than the "Tiny Dancer" scene in Almost Famous.
Demoliton Derby only happens a couple times a summer; the latest was last weekend. I couldn't make it, but the next one is coming up. Beachwood Field Trip?
Chicago Hitmen vs Southside Bandits.
Compact Derby and Figure 8.
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