A tribute to Earl Ma
by Memo Gidley
My great friend Earl Ma passed away today from a battle with cancer.
Most drivers and media people in racing would know Earl.
How could you forget the guy -- really? He was a racing super-fan.
At first glance, he was the Asian guy with all that stuff -- you know -- four or five cameras hanging around his neck, a vest stocked with batteries, notepads, microphones, his pants about 6" too short -- and many times tucked into his socks -- and of course -- his unmistakable knee pads.
And then the handshake! Anybody who has shaken Earl's hand knows that that was an experience in itself. It felt like his arm was coming off! I can honestly say that in all my years of handshakes, none matched Earls. It was so awkward and weird -- truly one of a kind.
There are so many things, qualities, quirks that I loved about Earl.
The guy had this passion for the Simpson's. Earl only missed watching something like three episodes of the Simpson's in all the six or seven years that it was running. Who does this? Earl did. When the Simpson's came on, you better be prepared to have a TV for Earl.
Earl was no BS and straight to the point. He said what was on his mind and that was it.
Having a conversation with Earl on the phone was a challenge and I loved it. I would hear this silence and wonder if he hung up or what. I would say, "Earl -- are you still there?" His answer, "yes". I made a game of this -- seeing how long the silence would last if I didn't say anything -- who would give in and say something first.
I lived in Indianapolis for a few years. I loved him coming to Indy. Earl was not a wild guy by nature but he also was always part of the fun.
From shooting fireworks from some hotel deck to taking a Ford Focus rental car out in a dirt field and doing doughnuts with a bunch of people stuffed into it, Earl never said much, but he was always along for the ride and part of the fun.
Earl had this great dry sense of humor. You knew that you said something funny when Earl laughed. And the laugh -- he always had that laugh that sounded like a cough.
If Earl ever stayed in your house it was another unique experience. One of Earl's passions was making models of cars. Earl was always making a model of some car. If he stayed at your house he would transform it into a model making factory. He would spread out paint, glue, newspapers.
And then to see the man work was truly amazing -- he was the ultimate multi-tasker. One piece of an Indy car glued on to a model, one paragraph written, five e-mails sent, a 20 min nap -- and then it all over again all night long.
Going to see Earl in Hawaii was also so fun. I was fortunate to have Earl convince me a number of years ago to come over to Hawaii and do a karting clinic. I had a lot of fun over there with Earl. Including things like -- crashing the Baywatch Christmas party and pretending to steal the Baywatch boat -- helping him film his countless hours of video to document each trip, Earl driving me and friends around the island in his red Pontiac and documenting me trying to surf.
What an experience that was. I remember being his passenger once and looking down to see some smoke coming out of his steering column. I said, "Earl -- what is going on?" His response, "It does that sometimes". I said, "Earl, your car is on fire." Earl's response, "that's normal on long trips".
Earl was a great writer and I really enjoyed everything he wrote. Earl loved to speak his mind and the truth when it came to his writing. He wrote on every type of race or any topic of racing. Who would guess that the guy was an architect -- his day job -- huh. Nothing excited Earl really about designing buildings -- Earl loved to write about racing.
It seems like in almost every step of my racing and for the last 8 or so years, Earl has been part of my life. I have countless CD's of pictures that he took, models he made for me of cars I have raced, stories that he wrote, videos that he put together, times that we spent together -- great memories.
I am not alone. Earl touched many people and was one of a kind.
I have always felt so lucky to have known Earl.
I have always felt so fortunate that he was part of my life.
I have always been so proud to call him my friend.
I'll miss you buddy. Thanks for the great times.
-credit: memo gidley
Like Memo, we will miss our friend at Motorsport.com. Earl gave us and our readers enjoyment in his unique features, his online reporting and his wonderful photos. Earl was a member of AARWBA and won countless awards in writing and photography. We will miss his talent.
But more than that, we will miss his friendship, his wonderful honesty, his phone conversations -- just as Memo described -- and his sense of humour. His final race event was this year's Indianapolis 500 in a wheelchair, just having completed a stint of chemo, and had a wonderful time.
Earl, you touched our hearts in many ways.