Sunday, March 27, 2011

HBO's "Dirty Driving: Thunder Cars Of Indiana" and Sammy Hawkins: Three Years After The Making

The first time I saw the HBO Documentary "Dirty Driving: Thunder Cars of Indiana,' about two years ago, I was sitting down in my den channel surfing. When I landed on the HBO channel, I notice these "down to earth characters" who were real life people living in a Mid-Western struggling town in the United States called Anderson, Ind. This was not some reality show where everything is basically scripted. This was totally real. I was captivated and fascinated right off the bat by this particular documentary. Here you have some guys and ladies who love local auto racing and whose lives revolve around it in the midst where hundreds of factory jobs have left their town. In spite of these people living in a town where people are really hurting in a tough economy, there's a bright spot of happiness where one pursues their dreams of trying to win the overall seasonal grand prize and trophy for having the most victories in one season.

I have to admit, I am not a auto racing fan. Yeah, I've watched a few bits and pieces of NASCAR on television here and there. But I can't say, I've watched a whole race. I am more interested in people and human drama. And I like to watch how people interact with each other and I like to watch how things are made and built-up or destroyed and torn down. "Dirty Driving" a not a documentary about auto racing completely. It was more of a documentary of how one particular character or the main character, Sammy Hawkins, was holding on to his job at the local Firestone plant and his family and pursuing his dreams of winning his first race. It also showed his passion for his weekend sport at the Anderson Speedway. Sammy was portrayed as an "underdog and a fighter." And real life, he really is an underdog and a fighter. During the time, the documentary was being filmed, he had not won a race as of yet. But he was not going to give up and until this day, three years later, he is still racing.

After I watched the documentary, I wrote it about it on a former blog that I had. And then, when I created a new blog, I somehow lost it. But in the mean time, I asked to Sammy to be my friend on "Facebook," and his "Myspace" site. I've been able to maintain a friendship with him through these social networking sites and recently I was able to ask him a couple questions to see how he feels about the documentary and where he stands now three years later since it was made.

Me: It's been three years since the documentary has been out-how does it feel these days after three years about being one of the main subjects of a documentary that has been shown all over the world to millions of people and still continues to be shown to millions of people all over the world these days?

Sammy: I enjoyed being the main subject of the documentary very much. I have had a lot of people write me telling me how my "never give up" attitude has helped them. I have had a hard life with the loss of three children and my ex-wife keeping from seeing my oldest daughter, Brittany. I have since been reunited with Brittany and I now have two small children, Roselynn, age 4, and Jarrod, age 2. I enjoy all the fans I now have for someone who has still never won a race. The closest I have came has been second place. I still watch the show now and then and I still laugh really hard at some of it. I didn't like the fact they cut the good neighborhoods out of the film and the shopping district. We also set up a New Years Party at "Shouts Sports Bar" and it was also filmed and it didn't make their (HBO) final cut.

Me: I know in the past that you have expressed some real dissatisfaction with the HBO people regarding the documentary. Do you still feel that way and do feel this way about Jon Alpert, the director/producer of the documentary too? He seems to think quite fondly of you according to the literature on the HBO web-site about the documentary. He says that you are a "underdog and a fighter" and he admires that in you and that Anderson, Ind., reminds him of where he grew up in a similar town in the state of New York.

Sammy: I still think we should have been paid for our time doing this film. They are making a bundle on the film and they chose not to pay us a single dime. This film was about a failing town and people trying to survive in it and HBO also walked away with a hit and left the people that could have helped with any kind of payment. They are selling thousands of DVDs on the HBO web-site and they couldn't give us anything. Jon Alpert, I like, but I think he let us down by not standing up for us and getting us compensated for the film. I really like Jon and I also admire him a lot. I got to at least fly out to New York with my wife for the premier and got to tour the Big Apple. I had always wanted to go to New York and see the sights and that was really exciting for me and Christina. I didn't like the fact they kind of portrayed her as an alcoholic. She isn't. When we work on the cars, we would (back then) drink our beer so she chose to do the same. Now I'm a father of two and I have changed my life 100% and I'm still looking for work since Firestone closed in 2009.

Me: What would you say about this documentary since it has been out as far as putting you and some of your fellow race car drivers in the spotlight-has this documentary brought you and good fortune or bad fortune? I know you said that you didn't get paid a dime for it but has anything good come out it? And what about Anderson, Ind., in spite of the tough times with the lost of all the jobs and tough economy, has anything good come out of it for your town as far as the documentary goes?

Sammy: I'm only speaking for myself when I say that there has been good and bad come out of it. I had the local paper attack me in one of their articles and I wrote an article of my own and delivered it in person to the newspaper office. Needless to say, the jerk that wrote the article would not come down and speak with me but they did print my article. I have had some great sponsorships from Log Cabin Resorts in Northwester Indiana and from Byrd Brothers Trucking out of Dayton, Ohio. I haven't gotten a job though. I did a few radio shows. One for Jack Flash online radio and one for John Michael Vincent from a local radio station in Indy. Other than that, I have had a blast with it. My wife doesn't like all the publicity. But I kind of enjoy it since I had never gotten to be in sports when I was in school. So I guess, it was my time to shine so to speak. Lol. The only thing I did for Anderson was bring more people to the track on the weekends. We got a Nestles plant in town that brought a lot of people with them when they moved here. So that didn't create a lot of jobs. We also have a casino now but it can only provide some many jobs and the rest of us are left out in the cold. Other than that, I don't think it did a whole lot for the town.

Me: If another filmmaker where to approach you again about doing another documentary about you and the Anderson Speedway, would you do it again? Would you do anything different this time? Would you make sure you got some kind of compensation or get a contract signed if possible?

Sammy: If another filmmaker came to town, yes, I would do it again. I would make sure they were planning on paying me this time and definitely get a contract signed before doing anything. When Jon was here, I did a lot of arranging of meetings for him and talked to all the other drivers and got them to go along with it. The only driver, I had nothing do with was Billy Riddle. That kind of happened on its own. I would let them know that we will not be taken advantage of and expect royalties from the showing of the film as well as a lump payment for our time. HBO had us signed a release so they could film but nowhere in does it say we weren't getting paid. We expected to get something besides a handshake and a thank you. I would not let that happen again. But I would love to do it.

Me: Thank you for your time, Sammy. I appreciate you as a friend on "Facebook," and I wish you all the best for you and your family. And I sincerely hope you find a job soon. You're a really good guy who holds his head up high in spite of the tough circumstances that you face presently. God Bless and thanks again, my friend.

*You can "friend" Sammy Hawkins of Facebook and Myspace. Also, you can join the "Sammy Hawkins Fan Club" on Facebook. I'm sure Sammy would love to have you as a friend!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sweet Tasting Milk From Southcentral Kentucky

I recently tried a new homegrown product that I bought at Houchens IGA Store the other day that's made right here in Kentucky. Well, actually, it's not made by humans. It's made by cows-it's milk! It's called, "Chaney's Milk." This stuff is absolutely delicious! I highly recommend it and you can only purchase it at Houchens IGA Stores or Houchen's Jr. Food Stores in Bowling Green, Ky., and Southcentral Kentucky.

People who live around here have been hearing a lot about Chaney's Dairy Barn these last several years. Chaney's does a lot of advertising on the radio and television and they are have special events such as "Moovie Nights" at their dairy barn especially for children. I have eaten had their awesome ice cream several times and it's really good too. You can't beat their ice cream either.

So if you want a true sweet taste of Bowling Green and Southcentral Kentucky head on over to Houchens IGA or Jr. Food Store and grab a half gallon of Chaney's milk. is milk is totally awesome! And if you're wanting some incredible ice cream, head on out to Chaney's Dairy Barn which about five miles south of Bowling Green on U.S. 31-W (Nashville Road) heading towards Franklin, Ky.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Split Tree Barbecue: Looking For That Good Barbecue In Bowling Green and Southcentral Kentucky

I drive to Scottsville, Ky., every Friday and I was always see the barbecue restaurant called "Split Tree Barbecue," in Alvaton. I have been meaning to stop there for a while. I've actually eaten there years ago when they were in their old building where there was a real tree in the parking lot that had two large branches growing out in different directions. Of course, eventually the state came in and widened the road and torn the building down. Back then, I had the barbecue plate and it was really good as I remember. Also, through the years, there's been several newspaper stories about the restaurant in the Bowling Green Daily News which always brought back memories regarding my visit there.

Now there is new building and they have a nice sign out front with picture of a tree with splitting branches. But the building is really not new because it's probably been in this location for the last 10 years or so, I'd say. Lately, they have been advertising their "House Special"on the big sign out front. So, that enticed me to stop by to have lunch recently.

The building is really a nice looking building on the outside as well on the inside. As you enter the lobby, you'll all of sudden recognize that familiar sweet smell of hickory barbecue smoke. You'll also notice a lot of people's business cards placed all over the walls on the wooden cross boards. I think this is a tradition that has been going on for years at this restaurant. I walked over to the window where I place my order and I saw Jerome, the owner of the business with his friendly smile. He asked me, "What will you have?" And of course, I said "The house special with a sweet tea, please." I notice Jerome still uses a pad to write the orders on. I'm not quite sure if it's a means of accounting for him regarding the money he has collected or just it's a way to keep track of what he has sold.

The house special was really out of this world! It's basically two corn cakes with their specialty smoked barbecue pork and smothered with their excellent tasting barbecue beans. I chose to sit in the large, airy and bright screened in porch area with a long picnic table in front of the big screen television while I ate. And I loved their barbecue sauce! It's a really good vinegar base type of sauce. It's the kind I prefer. They have several other offerings on their menu too. You can look on their web-site link above to see their menu items.

If you want some good Warren County barbecue, I would highly advised you to stop at Split Tree Barbecue. It's about five miles southeast of I-65 on Scottsville (Ky. 23) heading towards Scottsville . While I was leaving and walking to my truck, I noticed that there were cars with license plates from Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Apparently, Kentuckians aren't the only ones aware of Split Tree Barbecue and the great taste of smoked barbecue that they offer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Charlie Sheen vs. O.J. Simpson

"You know, concerning the sudden world media blitz on Charlie Sheen, I'm starting to have flashbacks of the O.J. Simpson ordeal minus murder."-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Charlie Sheen, American Culture, Society and Media

"It's sad but true. In dealing with today's American culture, society and media regarding Charlie Sheen's addictions and mental illness, one man's misery is another man's entertainment.-Galen A. Smith Sr.