The author (in his little cow suit) and some guys dressed up as chickens and an egg.
The derby setup in Providence was like none I’d ever seen before, mostly because I had never seen any derby setups before. They permitted a mile of downhill stretch on Waterman Street and lined it with hay bales and metal barriers for people to eat shit on as they tried to navigate the treacherous turns. The teams were judged on three criteria: speed, creativity, and showmanship. I think it was my job (and the other judges’) to judge on showmanship. I’m not even sure. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It’s not like I went to judge school. I sat on some stage 20 feet above the crowd laughing the entire time. Fucking Pras thought he was going to use the footage for his reel and was trying to be the Simon Cowell of that shit. He gave low scores and made negative comments to the participants. Not me. I know what the fucking people want. And the people want me to have another beer. I drank the entire day until I was smashed. All the other judges were taking it so very serious while I had a Heineken bottle in a paper bag. And when it was my turn to give a score it was a 10! Always a 10. And every time I held up my 10 the fucking crowd of thousands went ape-shit. I guess Red Bull recorded everything for television and at some point the host (who Pras was trying to F the whole day: “Yeah, baby. You know I have an apartment in Manhattan? You ever been to Manhattan?” Who the fuck has never been to Manhattan, Pras? I mean, it’s not like it’s fucking Bali or some shit!), she comes up to me, puts the mic in my face, and asks why I gave the soapbox that looked like a dinosaur or crab or Flintstones car a 10. I was drunk. I giggled. Then I looked at Miss Rhode Island and said, “I just really like what they’re trying to do for world peace and world hunger.” Then I giggled again. Miss Rhode Island, on the other hand, did not giggle. The rules of the race, if you care, were: All soapboxes must be human powered, meaning no engines or external energy sources allowed. Prefabricated cars are not accepted. All vehicles must be less than 6 feet wide, less than 20 feet in length, and no more than 7 feet from the ground. And finally, all cars must weigh no more than 176 pounds (not including the driver). Before the race I walked through the pit, where all 100-plus soapboxes were, to meet each racer and see what the hell was going on (and film a special on the event for VBS.TV). As I made my way through the crowd I saw some handicapped spectator guy with no legs in one of those motorized wheelchairs cruising along. I screamed at him, “You’re a cheater! That’s over the weight limit! And you’re not allowed to have an engine! You’re a cheater!” Unlike me, he did not find my comments funny at all. I cannot begin to explain or describe how amazing each design was. People put so much time and effort into their Blues Brothers cars, viking ships, Starship Enterprises, and huge lobsters, that you just need to watch the footage to understand. The winners were a team called the Good, the Bad, and the Nerdy and they rode a wheeled calculator to the first-place prize of a NASCAR experience where the team will go to the pit, meet the driver, and attend a VIP party. Second place was Deuces Wild (one of my favorites), a bathroom on wheels with the driver riding in a bathtub, with a copilot (for stability) riding next to him on a toilet, holding on for dear life. As entertaining as the people and the soapboxes were, nothing inspired me as much as the other judges did. On the drive from the race to the hotel Miss Rhode Island eloquently expressed how much she disliked Paris. “It’s, like, they’re all jerk faces there! Some guy tried to grab my butt!” Then Miss Teen Rhode Island chimed in with the most amazing linear thought: “I’m going to Mexico for Christmas this year.” I looked at her little teenage face, smiled, and said, “Yes. Mexico… the other Paris!” See Chris at the Soapbox Derby on VBS.tv. For more of his writing, go to Chrisnieratko.com.