It must be admitted that if the Doc hadn’t already shared his post, I most likely would not be sharing mine today. I’m in the middle of my cheat day, and reading Dante’s canto about the gluttonous. But here we are. A few thoughts:
Dante doesn’t get to the Gluttonous until Canto IV which is the 3rd circle of hell. He describes it thus:
Io sono al terzo cerchio, della piova
etterna, maladetta, fredda e greve;
regola e qualità mai non l’è nova.
Grandine grossa, acqua tinta e neve
per l’aere tenebroso si riversa;
pute la terra che questo riceve.
Or, in ‘merican:
I am in the third circle, of eternal, accursed rain, cold and heavy, never changing its measure or its kind; huge hail, foul water and snow pour down through the gloomy air, and the ground that receives it stinks.
Sounds like a Chicago winter.
Anyway, the Gluttonous’s punishment is to wallow in this mudrainsleetsnow for eternity. They’re constantly just mired in it and miserable. And if that weren’t enough, enter Cerberus:
Cerbero, fiera crudele e diversa,
con tre gole canina-mente latra
sopra la gente che quivi è sommersa.
Li occhi ha vermigli, la barba unta e atra,
e ‘l ventre largo, e unghiate le mani;
graffia li spiriti, scuoia e disquatra.
Urlar li fa la pioggia come cani:
dell’un de’ lati fanno all’altro schermo;
volgonsi spesso i miseri profani.
Cerberus, a beast fierce and hideous, with three throats barks like a dog over the people that are immersed there; he has red eyes, a beard greasy and black, a great belly, and clawed hands, and he scars and flays and rends the spirits. The rain makes them howl like dogs, and the profane wretches often turn themselves, of one side making a shelter for the other.
I always thought of Cerberus as a dog, but Dante calls him a “vermo,” or “worm,” and says that he barks “like a dog.” Suffice it to say, he nasty.
So in addition to being mired in eternal gross weather, they have Cerberus mawing and flaying them to death.
Which, sitting here at the end of a cheat day, which included chocolate donuts, a package of mallow cream pumpkins, pizza, coke, root beer, M&Ms, and a happy (sic) meal, feels very appropriate. Maybe not the mawing and flaying, although the intestinal distress on runway 1 feels like it might eventually be accurate.
The pizza was in the middle of the day too:
As the Doc mentioned, Dante’s Pizzeria in Logan Square is a pretty cool place. It’s like Kuma’s without the attitude. I was a little bummed that we got slices, because their pie options sound delicious. With slices it was basically cheese, pepperoni, sausage or “slice of the day.” I went with pepperoni and the doc went with the slice of the day which actually looked not half bad. As you can see, the slices are more NY style than Chicago, but they were delicious nonetheless. If this were just a normal, boring looking pizzeria I might not have been so jazzed about the food. But the place is really neat.
The decor is spot on. Whoever did the main mural has at least read a graphic novel version of the Inferno, if not the whole thing:
And as mentioned before, this was in the middle of the cheat day, so the real pain hadn’t started yet.
This is a long winded way of saying that I think my greatest Dante sin is gluttony. I used to think my greatest Dante sin was Wrath. Remember that Dante’s inferno test? In college I consistently scored in the “wrath” level. But as the culinary monotony of each week crawls onward, I look more and more forward to my beloved cheat day. It wasn’t until I started depriving myself of the pizza and the chocolate and all the fun stuff that I realized just how addicted my body is to all of that. The wrath has largely subsided, and now all I want to do is eat pizza. All the time.
And that’s where go-karting comes in!
Go-karting has been essential in creating a sense of calm in me. I’ve been doing it seriously for about 3 years now, and I can’t stress enough how, even though it seems like an adrenaline pumping super sport (while you’re doing it. To the observer it looks like glorified bumper cars), it’s all about getting in the zone. I don’t meditate, and have a hard time clearing my head of all the unnecessary chatter. But when I’m in the zone with karting, everything goes blank in my head, and all I’m thinking about is the line., which is to say “the optimal path around a race course.”
When someone would overtake me, I used to get frustrated and angry, then I started realizing I could learn something from drivers who were better than I was. Now I almost don’t notice it when I’m overtaken. It’s just something that happens. Similarly, overtaking other drivers used to be my #1 goal, and it would frustrate me to no end when I couldn’t get past them. Now I give myself up to the line. My faith in the line is eternal. If I’m driving the right line, then I’ll overtake them. If I’m not, then I won’t. It’s that simple.
So karting for me has now become about that small percentage of things that you can learn every single time you’re on the track. Sometimes you need to unlearn the stupid thing you’ve hardwired into your brain. Sometimes you need to be reminded of something basic. Sometimes you need to eavesdrop on the guy who is constantly in first place to hear his tricks.
Which is exactly what I did last night at Sugar River Raceway in Brodhead Wisconsin. I’ve written before about Sugar River Raceway here and here. I’ve been back a couple times since those writings, and each time I’ve gotten better. Last summer I won my first bronze medal in the Turn Key Thursday night league races. Last night I won my second bronze medal.
I also learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes they tell you something in karting school that is a hard and fast rule, that you learn later on isn’t so hard and fast. So for example they tell you “never use the gas and the brake at the same time.” Well friends, I’m here to tell you that, in the right circumstances, using the gas and the brake at the same time can make all the difference in the end. Without getting too technically into it, the idea in karting (or any competitive driving) is that you need to brake into a turn, and accelerate out of a turn. Pretty much what they teach you back in drivers ed.
The problem with this especially in karting is that the motors are so tiny and really basically one step up from my silver bullet smoothie maker, so that if you brake too much, you are coming out of the corner with no serious acceleration. That is, if the motor’s RPMs are allowed to get too low, it’s gonna be an uphill climb trying to get that baby going again.
The last turn before the big straightaway at SRR is a hell of a chicane with some serious speed bumps, and a daunting tree that you could easily crash into. It’s a mess to navigate, and wicked hard to control. I used to just completely skid through it, say an atheist Hail Mary, and hope for the best. I tried everything, braking, coming off the gas, etc. I finally settled on coming off the gas slightly, but I was never able to get out of the turn very well, and the experienced racers always overtook me after the turn.
But eavesdropping on the guy who is constantly in first place, I learned his dirty secret that coming into that last turn before the straightaway, he just taps the brake while keeping the gas all the way down. This keeps the RPMs of the motor high while giving you much more control over how the kart handles in the turn.
It took a couple laps to figure this out, but once I did I was able to put enough distance between myself and the guy behind me that I smoothly sailed to that beautiful third place.