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Travel

Race (out of) the toilet

Take that outhouse and run for your life!

MT illustration: Sean Bieri
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Published 6/17/2009

Summertime's teeth are showing and you're flat broke. So the season will force your thoughts southward: You see yourself in crummy DTE lawn seats watching Loverboy and Flock of Seagulls, or cornered at someone's backyard barbecue where ape-draped probationers show you why they aren't allowed to go anywhere near beer, or attempting to sleep in heat to miserable street beats of bad far-off songs and firecrackers. You're on terms with mean mosquitoes and the meaner queenly push-tits in crimson hot pants whose promenade colors Woodward near Six Mile. … Ah, dreaming summer 2009.

Or you're in a tiny house whose tin roof is rusted to a warm umber. There's a grassy stone walkway, between half-grown evergreens, leading up to it. You're sitting inside, frightened, um, shitless — not from claustrophobia, or that sense of pure vulnerability that rises whenever your pants are down — no, this particular fear is the thought of the ugly dark depth that's right under you, one partially born of the unholy scent and attendant squirmy larva you can practically hear festering below your bare butt. 

You wonder as a kid would — hell, just like any other hapless soul would — about the absolute life-ending panic-horror that'd ensue if, dear God, you actually slipped through the opening in the perch and plopped in. You wonder about the sure death in the pee and poo 4 feet below.

More fear: What if some bastard on the outside pushed this flimsy lean-to over? What kind of nightmare …? 

Weirder: You're sitting there, trou 'round your ankles, gazing at that lock-hatch thing on the door that's directly in front of you, wondering, "It'd be something, huh? What if some dude had the idea to race one of these things? Like a contest to see whose could go fastest! Wow. Now that'd be funnier'n hell." 

OK, the metaphor is face-smacking obvious: Yeah, we're all in the crapper, financially or otherwise, can't go anywhere, and many of us are terrified — some of us even for our lives — and we could at any moment slip and drown in the shit. 

What to do? 

Well, if you're stuck there, if you've the guts, you busta move, mister. Right?

The guy who did decide to race outhouses certainly did. I'd call that dude genius.

And the press release says that the so-called Outrageous Outhouse Races in Richmond are the highlight of summer for "many people" in Michigan, a Labor Day weekend tradition that's been around for years. "Come see who has the fastest toilet in town as they run down Main Street!" Now that's a timely press statement not based on hyperbole and horseshit, not in these times, anyway — and it's one I can get behind. 

Is this about escaping sour economics and a depressed milieu? Yessir. See, this race is a metaphorical finale to personal inertia, to summer, one that sees folks getting all proactive, getting out and busting their shit. It's a finale that's more than a vicarious thrill. It's worth the muggy, dollar-scarce months that precede it, worth collecting couch change for, one that will be, without doubt, Michigan's best, if not briefest, staycation. One that will be self-defining!

I'll be there to bid farewell (to summer). I'll be moving. No shit.

The Richmond Good Old Days Festival is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 11-13, at various locations in Richmond. Note that, in addition to the outhouse races (Friday, 6:30 p.m.), the event also features motorcycle displays, a classic car parade, a carnival, a ping-pong ball blowout, arm wrestling, the Little Miss Richmond contest, karaoke and much more. For complete information and directions, go to richmondgoodolddaysfestival. org/friday.htm.

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