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A View From the Back of a Push Cart

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As I looked down at my teammate dragging along underneath our cart, the skin on his back experiencing up close and personal every inch of Center Street’s rough asphalt surface, I wondered, “What brought us to this point?” Quickly shaking off this bout of introspection, I snapped out of it and yelled down to the grimacing lad, “Quit goofing off, get up and push!!” Yes, it was yet another Center Street Push Cart Race, and we were losing again. But is winning really the point? Does Vince Lombardi’s famous adage apply here, that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing?” When Brad Blaiser, former proprietor of “One Nation” on Center Street, fielded his plywood platform cart a few years ago, was he out to win anything? The unadorned 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood made the treacherous circuit down the 800 block of East Center Street with Brad and his wife sitting elegantly at a dinner table perched on top, sipping soup. As the aerodynamically obtuse vehicle rounded the halfway pylon, a waiter appeared, exchanging their empty soup bowls for steaming servings of Cornish hen. Is the race about sportsmanship and honor among competitors? Our team, The Born Losers, fielded a circa 1950 refrigerator cart in one race that was practically uncontrollable because of its weight. As we reached the halfway point at the Bremen Street intersection, the Fuel team, sporting a stripped-down competition clothes dryer, was just a few paces ahead of us. As our cart made one of its many erratic lunges in a random direction, it quickly became obvious to us that we were about to impact the back leg of one of the Fuel team’s pushers. We lost the race doing our best to avoid maiming a fellow racer. What was “Swami Bill’s” motivation as he glided down Center on his magic carpet surrounded by writhing harem girls? Or the “Wobblies” as they pushed their massive lumbering railroad boxcar cart? What went through Scott Johnson’s mind when the rubber flew off of his cart’s wheel chair tires as he ran neck-and-neck with us last year? What motivated that man dressed as a S&M horse pulling a sulkie in the race a couple of years ago? And while we’re asking questions, what happens to all of these hundreds of carts after the race? Is someone collecting them for an International Push Cart Museum? The answers to all of these questions can best be found by standing along Center Street on a sunny autumn morning. This year’s race will be held September 10 at 11 am. As the “coordinator” of the race, I have to admit to having absolutely no idea who is going to show up to race, how many carts will be there, or what the carts are going to look like. For each team, it is a closely guarded secret, only to be unveiled on the morning of the race. But there is one thing I am sure of. When long-time master of ceremonies Frank Chandek (of “Dr. Chow” fame) picks up his bullhorn and starts the proceedings, a genuine, wildly eccentric Riverwest moment will begin. OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST Outdoor Pool Tournament, African Market & Music, Westside Rollers, Scavenger Hunt Bicycle Race, Capoeira Batuque Street Roda, Bands All Day, Arts & Crafts Vendors, Food, Beer, and more…
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