By Andrew Bucket and Brandon Wetherbee
Monster Jam is at the Verizon Center this weekend. I have not attended Monster Jam. I have been staring at a Grave Digger Matchbox car for the past few weeks. I figured it was worth checking out the Monster Jam Happy Hour at Penn Social.
I asked Andrew Bucket to come with me. He seemed like the right person to bring. Andrew is known for being a funny person and gives solid advice. He also looks like the opposite of the average Monster Jam fan.
I lied to Andrew. I told him we would race mini version of Monster Jam vehicles. The press release said there would be, “racing-themed activies.” To me, this meant that I would smash something with an engine inside it into another something with an engine inside it. This did not happen. This could not happen. Penn Social doesn’t have that much space and it’s a horrible idea. I feel bad that I lied to Andrew, but it could have been worse. At least there was free food.
The thing about free food is that it usually sucks. I couldn’t eat hummus for years after college because at every single event, meeting, get together, rap session, study group– there it was, this blob of, admittedly delicious, but bland by ubiquity, bean mush. Maybe there would be celery. Sometimes Cracker Barrel cheese and a plastic knife. But it’s free so, whatever right?
Well, at Monster Jam I was over the moon about the food in the press area. Let’s start from the right and work our way left: a giant plate of half smokes with a spicy mustard, buffalo wings, BBQ wings, plain wings, celery (but in the context of wings), hummus (but only as a gesture, it was barely touched), chicken tenders, and then crown jewel: Hot. Soft. Pretzels. As many as you want. What do you like on your pretzel? I like to eat them straight up, or with mustard. But on this occasion they also had queso fundito. FUN-DITO IS RIGHT!
My perennial problem has become clear to me. I shouldn’t have been hanging around study groups, I should have gotten into Monster Truck racing. Or, well, miniature RC monster truck racing, which is this case meant the toy cars were driven by the guys who also drive the big ones. The toy cars were a little more my speed. I wondered if the food, however, would also grow in proportion at the actual monster truck race. I feel confident that this is true.
They raced mini Monster Trucks around a very small track in the basement of Penn Social. They being the drivers of Grave Digger (see Matchbox car in above photo) and Man of Steel. It was silly and fun and people bought raffle tickets to also race. All the money went to D.C. Central Kitchen, the place The Obama’s volunteered on Martin Luther King Day. Now Monster Jam and President Obama have something in common.
Bucket and I spoke to some Monster Jam folks. He spoke to the drivers. I talked with the announcer. Everyone was nice. Most had goatees.
Here’s a short exchange between the Grave Digger driver, Man of Steel driver and myself.
How long have you driven the GD truck?
Grave Digger Driver: Fifteen years.
What was the first car you ever drove?
Grave Digger Driver: I was 7 or 8. It was a pick-up truck.
When was your first accident?
Grave Digger Driver: Probably right after that.
When did you decide to get into accidents for a living?
Grave Digger Driver: Probably the same time.
Are there any hot shots we should be watching at the big show?
Grave Digger Driver: The Iron Outlaw.
What do you think, Man of Steel?
Man of Steel Driver: We need to put him in his place.
I talked to Jody Donnelly. The 42-year-old has been announcing for Monster Jam since the late 90s. In addition to having a badass voice, he also races supercross and Nuclear Cowboyz, Nitro Circus and other events. The Fort Wayne, Indiana resident is an all-American dude. In addition to sounding like a ‘real man,’ he also played in heavy metal bands, rides BMX professionally and takes his fixed gear bike out for 20-mile rides. American. Cool dude.
When I told him his life is weird, he replied, “Why is that?” Because he does this for a living. This is his job. He travels around America calling Monster Jam events and races. There are maybe 10 other people that do this. That’s why it’s weird. It’s a cool weird.