Thanking A Good Friend

Forgive me for one day, while I take care of some personal business. One of the more vocal readers of this site was missing in action for the last couple of months. Up until this week, John Mc had not been heard from in the comments section of this site since December. I have never met the vast majority of readers that comment on this site. I will admit however, that I do know John Mc. In fact, he and I have been co-workers since July; although I’ve known John for several years now. We used to know each other when I worked for another company, strictly on a professional basis and our conversations were pretty much work related.

Then one day, I happened to be in John’s office and noticed a Mario Andretti helmet, a Sam Hornish Penske car, Buddy Rice’s 2004 Argent sponsored Panoz and a replica of Jim Clark’s Formula One Lotus. IndyCar fans are extremely rare in the south. Imagine our surprise when we both realized we had known each other through work for a few years, but had never talked about our passion for IndyCar racing until then. We became instant friends.

We don’t always agree on most things – in racing or otherwise. We are on exact opposite ends of the political spectrum. For whatever reason, he is a fan of Memphis State University or whatever it is they want to be called now – while I’m a Tennessee Vol. I like the Titans, while John is a die-hard Chicago Bears fan. John buys American cars, and I buy Japanese. He likes Hornish, while I like Helio.

But we also have a lot in common. We both grew up going to the Indianapolis 500 and as it turns out, there were several of the same years that we both attended as kids. John’s first race was 1964, mine was 1965. We both share the opinion that AJ Foyt was the greatest driver that ever lived, and that Bill Vukovich probably would own that title had he lived longer. In fact, John’s mother was pregnant with him while she attended the 1955 race in which Vuky lost his life, so in a way John was there that fateful day.

Last summer, John recruited me to change jobs and join his company. I agreed and for the past several months, we have had offices across the way from each other – both decorated with IndyCar paraphernalia. None of our other co-workers get it. All they know is NASCAR. But John and I have become best of friends, even though we disagree on so many things.

Just before Christmas, John was hospitalized. He had had heart trouble before and although I was concerned, I assumed he would get things adjusted and be out in a couple of days. As it turned out, it was much more serious than we thought. In fact, my good friend, co-worker and fellow IndyCar fan was close to death – dangerously close.

It became obvious that John would be gone for a while. He and I have completely different roles at work, but I was asked to assume his duties as well as my own – which I did for the last two months.

There is a happy ending to this. John Mc started back to work this past Monday. As expected, knowing his personality – he overdid it the first day. He tried to take it easy for the rest of the week, but he is a hard man to hold back.

So why am I telling you all this? Because on Tuesday, John’s second day back at work, he did something that made no sense at all – he brought me a present, although I should have been the one buying a present to welcome him back. He brought me four vintage Indianapolis 500 prints, by famed auto racing artist Ron Burton. There were three from the 1966 Indy 500; AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Jim Clark. But the fourth was my favorite – Parnelli Jones in Ol’ Calhoun in the 1963 livery.





This will make a nice set for my office, to go with all of my other IndyCar memorabilia. I’m sure John realizes that I will now be that much further ahead of him in the quest to have the gaudiest office. It’s hard to believe work actually gets done in such a racing shrine, but it does.

We all take friends and family for granted, until they’re gone. I always appreciated John’s friendship. After his brush with danger, I’ve learned to appreciate it even more. Welcome back, my friend. And thanks for the artwork.

George Phillips


12 Responses to “Thanking A Good Friend”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Hi George, thank you for a story with a happy ending for a change. Glad to hear that your good friend and co-worker are back in the pink…. Oh… BTW…. Guess where I was on business ‘AGAIN’ on Wednesday and Thursday, yep!!! Indianapolis…. So, as always we managed to squeeze in a few minutes for a trip to the track, a low spieed pass around same and a bfief review of the museum. (I had someone from our parent company in Japan traveling with me, so he was pretty thrilled to have the chance to stop.) We also ate at a very good steak house in town by he name of Mo’s…. I highly rcommend Mo’s however, be forewarned of menu price sticker shock. BTW…. At Mo’s they also carry a couple of the Andretti Napa Valley reds, (Merlot and Cab) And… I cast my vote for the Andretti print thank you very much…. Slante’ …!!!! Bent Wickerbill….

  2. Jim Gallo Says:

    My God George, this scared me when I scrolled down, since I have 3 of these prints myself (missing Jim Clark and the Lotus). They have been framed and on and off my walls for more years than I can remember. You do have a true friend indeed. Thanks for the early morning shocker.

  3. The Lapper Says:

    I’m glad he’s back, too.

  4. A Bears fan who buys American and loves Indycars? I like this guy already…
    Glad your friend is feeling better and back in action. Nothing beats having someone to talk to about racing, and it’s usually MORE fun when they disagree with you on half of the stuff you talk about!

  5. SS Minnow Says:

    Glad to hear he’s doing well. I also have 3 of the 4 prints, but I’m missing Mario. I love having these in my office and have always liked Burton’s work.

  6. Steve K Says:

    Well before my time, but great looking machines driven by the best.

  7. Folks, we all know that George is a great guy, but he is also an awesome friend. By the way, George, its The University of Memphis!!!!! 😉

    • Brian Mc Says:

      Glad that the story ended well for both of you. Glad that you rewarded George who assumed more duties for two months. Hope you both enjoy the new IndyCar season!

  8. Mike Rice Says:

    I’m glad that John Mc’s situation turned out well. A good friend like this can be a pretty rare find, and this is a great way to express what that friendship means to both of you. Well done, both guys.
    I think PJ was better at Indy than Foyt. So did Bignotti.

  9. This is a lovely tribute to a true friend. We don’t tell our friends how much we appreciate them nearly enough. Thanks for sharing this with all of us! And I’m totally jealous of those prints…

  10. It’s so interesting you just received these prints. My father past away 3 years ago and we decided to clean out one of his closets yesterday. up on a top shelf covered in dust was the IDENTICAL set of 4 Ron Burton prints. My father attended the Indy 500 back in the late 60’s in his role as an ad executive for a major NYC ad agency. I assume he got them because of this…
    PLEASE ENJOY YOUR SET .. finding mine, I will. They are going to be framed and displayed in our 6 year’s room and he will know they came from his POPPA!!!

  11. […] The first year, the prize for getting the most right was a warm & fuzzy feeling. In 2010, the prize was an polo won by Megan Bickel (Bickelmom). This year, the prize is vintage memorabilia – a set of four prints by artist Ron Burton; of cars driven by AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jim Clark and Parnelli Jones in Ol’ Calhoun. These were donated to the cause by my very good friend John McLallen. To see these prints, you may either view Tuesday’s edition of One Take Only or view the article I wrote about these prints a little over a year ago here. […]

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