Say, America, that you drink ten Bud Light Limes in a row, on top of two Cherry Bombs and a sip of something pink and curdled involving Malibu Coconut Rum, and decide to go in search of NASCAR debauchery. Perhaps, to get into the spirit of things, you bum a menthol Newport and smoke it until green sparkles appear in the corners of your eyes. Say half a dozen of you, similar substances coursing through your veins, head out from Northwoods through a gap in the chain-link fence while the security guard isn’t looking. What would you see?
RVs and pop-ups decorate the dark, rolling landscape, packed together like Chiclets, each strung with Christmas or rope lights or, more elaborately, light-up Budweiser signs and disco balls. Couples, families, or groups of guys are huddled around fires, each encircled (for safety’s sake) by rings of dead beer cans piled up in careful structures some three or four cans high. No solo women campers, or groups of women. There are cardboard cut-outs of women, naturally, holding beer signs, loaded with Mardi Gras beads, beside large hand-lettered signs reading BEADS FOR BOOBIES! Some camps are set up as tiki huts, some with simple plywood bars, but most are fold-up chairs around a fire, a cooler for the beer. There are over nine thousand campsites, around fifty thousand campers, and during racing events the city of Brooklyn, which contains this state park, becomes the third-largest city in Michigan. South of us the racetrack is afire with floodlights, and the glow of it rises above the trees like the Northern Lights. From time to time, above us float flame-powered red lanterns that drift higher with the air currents, then head west and disappear into the stars. Who knows who is lighting them?
One canopy is decorated with brassieres, and you casually ask where they got them all. “Last night, donations, every one!” says one of the men inside. He then takes you on a tour of each bra, and says a judge came by an hour before, smelling each, and awarded the prizes. First is a red and black lace brassiere, second a pink one, and third something in black. None of the bras are for small women. “Nice work, gentlemen!” your husband says, and Lucky pats him on the back, saying, “I like your style!” You shoot your husband a glance: Oh, so we’re going to bond over the degradation of women now?
Suddenly a pretty thirtyish woman appears from between the RVs. “Have you seen two small blond girls?” she asks. She wears her hair in a long braid and is dressed in cut-off jeans decorated with caution tape. She is very drunk.
“Well, no,” Lucky says, pondering the idea. “What are they up to?”
“They goddamn ditched us, that’s what! Sixteen and seventeen. You see them, Britney and Caitlin, you tell them get the hell home!”
“What’s your cell number?” Lucky asks.
“Ain’t got a cell. They live here in town. You tell them I called the cops!”
And off she staggers, her long braid swinging. You comment that looking for a Britney or a Caitlin at a NASCAR rally would be like looking for hay in a haystack.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Lucky says happily.
You have basically spent the night with Lucky and Jennifer, from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd concert until now, far past midnight, in a campground called Juniper Hills where you have no right to be. The concert took place after the Nationwide race, at the water tower where anyone with a race pass could enter the grasslands; thousands of people were gathered around, drinking cans of beer, and every other man seemed to know Lucky. Ahead, on a stage and magnified by monitors, Kenny Wayne Shepherd played his country guitar and rocked his head gently, so his longish blond hair fell over his face. “Who is Kenny Wayne Shepherd?” you had asked on the way over, and Jennifer answered, “Oh you’ll recognize him, ‘Blue on Black’? ‘Deja Voodoo’?” You shook your head. You wondered aloud what would hap- pen to all the crushed beer cans underfoot, and only later saw Onsted Boy Scout Troop 637 moving through the crowd like hyenas, tan and spotted with merit badges, picking up the cans and tossing them into recycling bags, secretly jiggling them to see if they were empty. Men with beer bongs wandered around the audience, offering their services by pointing a finger at your chest. You shook your head. The man beside you took one, and his buddies emptied their beers into the funnel as the man struggled to swallow the foam that overwhelmed him.
Beer bongs are everywhere tonight. You pass a double one strung on a pulley from a tree and watch as it is lowered, filled with beer, then raised again so two strapping young men can stand up to the tubes and, as the umpire shouts and releases the catch, race to the finish. You pass another, deeper in the Brooklyn Trails campground (Lucky is following an instinct northwest, saying he needs to be drunker to find it), and this one is twenty feet high, decorated with rope lights, with a cut-out lady standing beside it and a cartoon bubble reading: LADIES, YOU KNOW WHAT WE WANT TO SEE! Lucky points out that this is the fucker they tried to get him to do the night before, but he doesn’t do beer bongs anymore, not since last year in a race when he found out, after finishing his bong, that they’d put whiskey in at the end. He was drunk for days. “No more,” he says, “no more, but you should give it a try.” David says no thanks, he’s had plenty in his time. Then your husband turns to you.
“How about you, Andy? Ever done a beer bong?”
You recognize the little smile on his face. You will never forgive him.