The Baja 500 Diaries II: Missing Parnelli Jones

June 11, 2014
11 Shares Facebook 10 Twitter 0 Google+ 0 Pin It Share 1 11 Shares ×

Friday, June 6, 2014

The two cops with very big automatic weapons at the hotel gate do not want me taking their photographs. They’ve both got great boozy faces, but it’s just not on. That’s why you always see them on T.V. wearing masks, just like the criminals and narcotrafficantés. After seeing me shoot the bull with a few of the monosyllabic gear heads forever gathered around the parking lot drinking watery Coors Lite, I’ve been introduced to by Kristen and a few members of Chuck Dempstey’s pit crew, one of them loosens up a bit. A sticker doesn’t hurt, either.

He has, it turns out, a son in Chicago and is a fellow fan of Javíer ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez of my football club, Manchester United, and the Mexican national fütbol team. Then we hit it off. His name is Rogelio and can I please, please introduce him to Beellee Weelson (that’s Billy Wilson of Corpus Christi, Texas), who’s got the best Chevy Silverado trophy truck. Sure, I say.

The Baja 500 Diaries II: Missing Parnelli Jones

He points and laughs at my pale Guero skin. “El sol le vendra bien, señor.”

The sun, he tells me, will be good for me. I think I must look like that gusano, the worm floating at the bottom of the bottle of mezcal I was drinking from last night.

A really noisy maroon Chevy Camero with lots of bond patches shows up driven by a very leathery, pomaded veteran, his hair parted in such a clear line it looks like he used a spirit level and a razor.  Normally I would call him old but it’s really hard to tell with certain slightly leathery, deep-tanned and venerable-looking as this guy. Lots of jewelry, and not cheap… rubies and diamonds in the rings, a giant fifties-style solid gold I.D. bracelet… He seems sort of sass-the-world wealthy. Kind of looks like that guy who always walks point by choice in Vietnam War movies. No telling how old he is.

Rogelio finds his ‘special spot’ at the Villa Marina and he parks. The truck bed is loaded with plastic boxes, at least a hundred bottles of water, what I’m guessing is a giant fuel pump and other car parts and doodads. I introduce myself. He is, he tells me after trying to macho handshake my poor paw into a bowl of rice pudding, “Mr. Jones.”

The Baja 500 Diaries II: Missing Parnelli Jones

I can tell that he’s a little hurt that I don’t know exactly who he is. Somebody waves in his direction and he’s glad to get away from my non-acknowledging presence, giving me a wave as he alters course around a speeding bike. His big boots are unbuckled and the loose ends slap at his heavy calves as he walks away.

“Es un aristocrata venido a menos,” Rogelio says with a shrug. An aristocrat. An aristocrat who has come down in the world. Takes me a while to figure out that one, though. I thought he meant ‘artist,’ not aristocrat.

Later, I ask a lot of guys and it turns out I just botched my celebrity brush-with-fame moment big-time.  Mr. Rufus Parnell Jones, a/k/a Parnelli Jones, winner of Indianapolis 500 in 1963, USAC Stock Car champion of 1964, USAC Sprint Car Series champion of 1960, 1961 and 1962. Proprietor of Parnelli Tires… 80-years young. Whoops! So much for fallen aristocrats.

“You got shit between yer ears, bwoy,” another guy named Roger asks from the next table when I’m having breakfast the next day.  “Call yourself a journalist.”

The Baja 500 Diaries II: Missing Parnelli Jones 3 votes

11 Shares Facebook 10 Twitter 0 Google+ 0 Pin It Share 1 11 Shares ×



Adult-oriented material ahead!
Do you wish to proceed?


No thanks.