EFF ONE

I know that a lot of you surfers to this site are Americans, so I don't want you to take offence just because those of us who live in Britain (otherwise known to the French as "the US aircraft carrier off the coast of Europe") find your little foibles rather amusing.

Every year we have gone to Indy, it seems to us that the locals have grown even more "ample" in size. This is not surprising when most of us "ferners" had to resort to sharing one starter between at least three people. Of course, American buildings, cars and general facilities are built to cope with larger than life individuals, but I did notice large queues at the F1 Paddock swipe gates, caused by the locals having to turn sideways to get through.

Mind you getting into the paddock was a lot easier this year that getting into the country. Given that the good ol' US of A is the land of the free, it was rather odd to find out how much difficulty there was for some of my colleagues who rather foolishly admitted to being journalists. They were hauled into interrogation rooms to explain their lack of visas, in scenes reminiscent of those we were used to in the bad old days of the Eastern Bloc. Journos and photographers needed visas to get into the US back in the Cold War days but after a while the US Embassy got bored giving them out and told us all not to bother. Now it seems the humble sports hack, arriving to promote the region, are treated with contempt and photographers are suspected of planning to take snaps of all the ample members of the population to prove, no doubt, that any potential invasion force would have it easy as the home security forces would not be able to run away very quickly.

Given the demand for food, it is no surprise that Indianapolis has its fair share of good restaurants and I visited one of them with some members of the Jordan team. As the team is hard up at the moment a group of journalists had agreed to buy them dinner. The Jordanairs were all very relaxed but then, special team guest John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame) had not yet turned. A couple of days later, there he was, large as life and twice as ugly. Always an entertaining character, he has come up with a new nickname for EJ, referring to him on all occasions as "Edwina."

I can't wait for the other team bosses to address him thus, next time they have a meeting to agree to disagree on everything, just as they did several times last weekend.

Another night found me dining with Jenson Button's management. I ordered a dish called, "The best lamb in the world," and one of the other diners did the same. At this point I mentioned to the waiter that this was impossible: if I was having the best lamb in the world, surely the other guest must be having the "second best lamb in the world." He ran off in such a panic that I can only assume that he thought I was going to sue him.

US legislation is a source of bewilderment to us visitors: seat belt laws are rigorously imposed, but you can ride a high-powered motorbike without a helmet. Spitting in the street is a crime but a wellknown bank ran a promotion in which every person opening a new account was given a free gun!

Speaking of guns, there was a fascinating story in the Indianapolis Star about the hazards of the hunting season, which has just got underway. Apparently, the majority of accidents which occur as man pursues beast do not revolve around mistaking a man for a moose and shooting him, but from hunters falling out of trees! As the local sheriff explained without a hint of irony, "Gravity is one of our primary killers."

Pomposity is always a hilarious feature at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the press room boasts a languorous announcer who, in the sonorous tones of the Gettysburg Address, interrupts our work with meaningless twaddle about locker keys, museums, lunch and other matters of the day which we already know about. This year's prize for the most pointless declaration came on Friday when he sallied forth with "I would like to remind you that this room is a working area, so please honour the people who are working and make it a true working area."

I suppose there's a first time for everything.

There were surprisingly few celebrities in the paddock, although Anthony Edwards, who played the geeky-looking Dr. Green in TV series "ER", put in an appearance. He is to take on the role of "Brains" in a forthcoming film version of "Thunderbirds" using real actors rather than puppets. When it was suggested that "Brains" has a lot in common with F1 designers, Edwards joked that he had modelled himself on Patrick Head for the part.

Ironically, poor Patrick was walking rather like a puppet, having broken his foot when he slipped down a step in the Williams windtunnel recently. I hope Mr. Head remembered his infirmity during the race and curbed any desire to kick something in rage, as Juan Pablo Montoya conclusively cocked-up his World Championship chances.

It wasn't just the Williams crew who were disappointed, as half of the population of Colombia had packed into the main grandstand. By night Indianapolis resembled downtown Bogota on carnival night. The Montoya fans were a good-natured mob, who turned every bar and club into a fiesta, and they also boosted the local economy as they swarmed through the shopping malls like a plague of locusts. I bumped into one of their number having problems with his credit card in a clothes store. I tiptoed backwards out of the shop when it emerged that the name on the card read Pablo Escobar! I was also rather alarmed when the airport loudspeakers made repeated calls for members of the Ochoa Family.

Sunday night saw half the paddock head for a blues club called The Slippery Noodle, in what was very much a dress rehearsal for the debauched final night of the season in Suzuka's Rog Cabin bar. With only one race to go, there were signs of frantic rutting from the young bucks of the paddock. The corniest chat-up line I heard was, "there's plenty of fun to be had in my bedroom!"

Presumably the young man in question travels everywhere with a clown suit and a box of indoor fireworks.

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