Sunday, May 17, 2009

Epilogue - Hey!

I hope you enjoyed this! I really enjoyed writing it haha. Sorry you have to read it from the bottom up. Read it in order!

Chapter 9 - Sermon on the Mount

He bought 'the other drift car' this time. The slow one. He bought it ‘pre-built’, from a young man much like his former self. There was a sense of satisfaction in delivering the lesson to another, a lesson that had been so hard-learned for him. He raised the car. 15 inch tires. This was drifting. He once was blind, but now he saw. Free of the crunching fiberglass, boost leaks and grimaces, the path before him was clear.

What had blinded him in his youth? 215 felt the same on an 8 as it did on a 9. Roll center was not made up by engineer nerds to salt his game. Body parts coming off on track was not, in fact, ‘sick’. And 'fender braces' never did anything. Internet trends came and went in his absence. 'Drift blogs' edged out of his 2 week history. He felt eyes pass over his tin can in the paddock, and he didn’t mind.

Flickr and Facebook long since updated, he no longer knew everything about everybody’s cars, or referred to internet drifters he’d never met as if he knew them personally. Everything was so much easier, so much simpler without the internet rat race – a race that he could never win. Was there even a finish line? What was he chasing in the first place?

Looking back he no longer saw the intrigue in being on top of the forum trends. Hiding his peasantry behind fiberglass and single-stage paint. Worrying more about how his car looked in pictures than how it felt to drive. You can’t see your fitment while you’re driving. You can’t see your ‘aero’ either, until it falls off – somehow he was convinced that this was cool.

His insecurities let drifting take over his life. He let others dictate how he spent his time and money. People just like him, just as insecure, converging on the internet searching for acceptance around a token motorsport. ‘Drifting’ was always secondary to the ‘judgment ritual’. If ‘the forum’ said jump, he said “how high?” This was the mindset of the ‘drifter’. Forever chasing someone else’s ideal, someone else’s dream, always a moment late to the trend, and never fully satisfied. A trained parrot could 'build' a 'drift car'! Actually drifting was a last resort when your build thread didn’t make the cut, or to keep the jealous vultures off your back. Those who won’t admit this, who claim to be ‘passionate about the sport’, need to take a long look at their PayPal statement and be honest about where their real motives lie.
Our drifter now knew this.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chapter 8 - Order of the Phoenix

It started as a little knock knock on start up - an almost inaudible tapping. He knew instantly what it was. He buried the thoughts in the back of his mind, dreading his next move. He drove his Mom’s Altima for a few weeks. He almost forgot the sound. The last year at Pennzoil had taken its toll on our drifter as well. Was there more to life than a ‘chill job’ and a ‘sick track car’? He had given the last 3 years of his life to 'drifting'. 'Drifted' less than 5 times, 6,000 forum posts, and what did he have to show for it?

The engine was failing fast now. When would he pull it? Fix it? Sell it? Sell it all? His debt weighed in his chest each time he punched his PIN – 8-9-2-4-0. A dull pang. He could… start over. Clear the debt, find another job, move out? His friends were nearing the end of their four year educations. $40,000 a year sounded nice.

He killed a few silver bullets in his room, alone. “Track car part out” - Post New Topic. Subconsciously it may have been a test, a cry for help. To see if anyone remembered him, if anyone still cared. "Why am I fighting to live if I’m just living to die? Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothin in sight?" Maybe Pac was right. Tired of runnin.

He moved it all, his mom’s garage clear for the first time in years. Debt gone; it was like fresh air. Bits of his baby living on across the country. He missed it. His new Integra had carpet, 2 10s, sipped 87. But he couldn’t shake the memories – driving home from the body shop, backing off the trailer, onlookers in the presence of something greater than the sum of its parts.

He had done it once, he could do it again. He had his office job now, shirt tucked in with a few grand a month. He’d plan it better this time. No girl – she was cheating - with another drifter. Do it for himself, no one else - no decals, no fiberglass. He hardly posted anymore, when he did it was encouragement for an old friend. No bickering, no insults.

Why don't we turn the clock to zero, honey
I'll sell the stock, we'll spend all the money
We're starting up a brand new day

Sting, windows down, valley heat. It felt right.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chapter 7 - Getting Ahead?

The weeks leading up to the drift event wore hard on our drifter. He was nervous and out of practice - scared to be shown up by the younger all-business drivers. He began spending all his spare time at a low-rate local speed shop. The shop was trying to break into the drift scene. Decals on every hot local car, but it was no secret that they made their money exclusively from green Rotas and Blox arms.

Our drifter sold his prized rare wing. The forum said it “flowed better” without it. He took a sizeable hit reselling it. He really liked that wing. He almost kept it in spite of its poor reception, but in the drift world, to stand out is to stand alone, and he was lonely enough already.

At ‘the shop’ he enjoyed near celebrity status. They let him park right in front. The young management loved being associated with his car, he was secondary. But they looked out for him. He would be the face of ‘the shop’ at the upcoming event. He received a flurry of vinyl decals, a custom alignment, and engine refreshments with spare bits lying around the shop. The attention brought his spirits up. His car was loaded onto the shop’s trailer for the morning trek to the track. It looked good - ‘Race Car’. Any drifter will tell you, nothing beats the feeling of rolling into the paddock in a big diesel, race car in tow. Fashionably late for all to see.

First run of the day he lost his front bumper. It was no worse for wear, but he left it off the rest of the day. It may have been the lack of front ‘aero’, or it may have been his lack of practice, but the car was an understeering mess. There’s no worse feeling than an initiation flick that just keeps going. Wheels fully locked, thump thump thumping over the soft March dirt. After each run our drifter could be seen crouched in desperation, bleeding more air from his front tires. 215 - who would’ve thought? The car looked good, no doubt, and looks go a long way in any motorsport. Public opinion of our drifter was, for the most part, unaffected by this poor showing. But he was worn out, tired of it all, never before had he felt so unmotivated. Unmotivated to maintain his car, return to driving, or even post on forums.

Some decent action shots emerged, and naysayers turned in his favor. He was ahead of the curve for the first time. But the man behind the curtain was falling apart. His W-2 said $11,000, his checking account said $600, and his credit card bill still said $6,000. Is this what ‘ahead’ felt like?

Chapter 6 - Swing for the Fences

He arranged for the car to be painted the next week. Red? Silver? White? He couldn’t decide. He made up his mind in the body shop lobby. White, no pearl, no nothing. He handed over the keys. His budget was spent, but he had done it.

The car looked perfect. So much pride in an 89 economy car. The feeling of driving it home, slow over the imperfect pavement, stretched tires kissing the fresh fenders – this was bliss. He lowered it further for its photoshoot, for its unveiling. He recruited a local Asian with a DSLR to do the honors. They weren’t friends, but they were ‘car friends’. The pictures were flawless. Like a big vanilla double scoop dropped on asphalt.

He made a Flickr account for the occasion. Copy image location, Paste. He edited the quirky relevant title accordingly as he had seen done so many times. "Ice Cream Paint Job – pg 11 update!" "So Much White Tony Montana Jealous". He must have refreshed those build threads fifty times before a response appeared.

“Something looks off. Not bad tho.”
His body told him to be angry, but his heart sank. That guy didn’t get it.

Kids with ‘project cars’ rained praise on him, but the people he cared about, his target audience, the ones who 'got it', were unimpressed. He tried to tease out advice from their ambiguous posts. Obviously changes were in order. Our drifter didn’t come this far to be “not bad”. This was Everest. Fuck K2.

Money was short. He suspected his girlfriend was cheating on him, and started sinking fifty bucks a weekend into ‘clubbing’ to keep an eye on her. All the while driving a big white imperfection.

He was stalling. Pressure was mounting for the next step in his build: action shots. Those drifters, always with the action shots! As if ‘building a car’ (changing the bumpers, wheels, and suspension) wasn’t enough. There was a drift event coming up and he would have to dig deep for the $200 entry fee. But there was a high likelihood of photographers, and he couldn’t put it off any longer. He was beyond rusty, but it didn’t matter. A few choice action shots can save a drift career. Suspension compressed, 'aesthetically damaged aero', it had all the makings of a great clincher.

Chapter 5 - Charge It

Pennzoil was steady work. A manager had just left and our drifter’s schedule became more flexible. Life was “chill”, he would tell people. Six hours a day, four days a week. He was taking home plenty of money for his build, but not fast enough. Trends changed with the weather. In drifting, it’s always fourth down, and you gotta throw the hail mary.

He cleared off his desk and put his RAZR in calculator mode. Eight grand, tops -$400 a month, 20 months. No sweat. He made double that, and time was a non-issue. It was beside the point that that same eight grand could buy a decades newer sports car, pay rent for a year, or cover 40 all expense paid drift events. He was in it for the long haul.
He linked his PayPal to his credit card and took a deep breath. He had never felt so empowered! Platinum. He could hear the compliments now… well, read them.

The boxes came big now. Rays, D-max – a pallet! The wing, the only one in the states – the cream in the coffee. He kept it all a secret. If he had friends, he wouldn’t have let them in the garage. He was really doing it! How he wanted, when he wanted. Because waiting is for pussies, and our drifter ain’t no pussy.

But a man can only spend so much money before he has to show it off. Just one teaser, he thought. He posted a picture. A dimly lit garage, standing way too close. The fiberglass bodywork hung on the faded chassis like a loose lampshade. One tire-less wheel jacked in its well to show fitment. Initial reviews were mixed. The aero was 'fresh', but there were no less than three other builds using the same kit.
“Wait til it’s done.”
Safe and sorry? He was confused. He was doing everything right, but it sure didn’t feel like it. He had come too far. The summit was in sight, and our weary drifter pushed forth.

Chapter 4 - Keys to the Castle

Our drifter had heard of such a place. A gated community. Streets lined with good fitting wheels, the hottest 'aero', 'built' cars – a world without roll centers, and ironic cut vinyl decals on every free inch of glass. A few local high rollers dropped condescending hints of its existence. He knew he 'got it'; he knew he’d fit in! He just had to prove it. But how could he afford it? There had to be a way. "Build it and they will cum LOL", he thought.

His menial social life was already feeling the strain of this frustration. He had stopped taking his girlfriend out months ago. She was a hostess at Chili’s, and fairly well-connected. They would take his parents’ dinner into his room, and he would browse the forums while she sat on his bed, texting guys she met at work.

“Look at this. Look. This is the kit I’m gonna get. Wheels suck, though. He’s a loser anyway.”
“Uh huh.” She got up. “I’m going home.”
He jumped up from the monitor to block the exit.
“Wait, wait, you don’t wanna stay?” His hands on her hips. He was so anxious these days he couldn’t sleep without rubbing one out. Keeping her over would also guarantee him a ride to work the next morning.
“Cops hate my car. You know that, baby.” He said, kissing her neck. “I need this.” Hands going up her shirt.

His car was in disrepair. He hadn’t ‘drifted’ in over a year. But he was ready. He bumped his build thread with a casual “new shit comin soon”. A few token props followed. He began to lube his comeback with reverent compliments to the local big shots.
“Soooooo fuckin dope, Adam!!!” Easing onto a first name basis. "Looks fucking hot, Brian!!!"
They knew he 'got it'. In the coming months he would show them.

Chapter 3 - Bogging

His paychecks came and went now. PayPal Premium, Ebay Gold Member – A+ buyer. His rep was growing. He spent every spare moment on an internet forum – tracking trends, posting with the best and brightest. He had it all. 5 lugs, towering shift knob, quarterpanels pulled skyward, but he wasn’t happy. His build thread slowed. The forum’s heavy hitters were pulling away – 3, 4 body kits a year - 9, 10 inch wide wheels.

Our drifter began selling. Everything. The paintball gun - no reserve. Snowboard WTT - nothing. His $1000 eight inch 5zigens, not one year later, returned only half that – to an MR2 owner. Shame welled inside him.
Kit, wheels, kit, wheels, kit, wheels, kit, PAINT! Fuck!
He began to hate his car. Its sunken wheels disgusted him. He resented his disfigured wheel arches, buckled quarterpanel, urethane bumpers faded to yellow.
His mind raced with ideas. Volk – white, D-max – sparkling. But reality tightened its chokehold on his dreams. He began to take out his anger on the internet forums.
So much money! So many builds! So little taste! The frustration was tearing him apart.

“Bottom mount seat?!”
“Please don’t get an RB20.”
“Lower you fucking pussy!”
“Vertex. UGH.”
“What. A. Waste.”

They just didn’t get it. All day – Vimeo, build threads, action shots, "fuck-ing-fail". The things he could do with their money… just five grand. His build thread would put them all to shame! He knew there had to be a place for him. A utopian drift forum – a place where everyone 'got it'.

Chapter 2 - Point of Entry

He took the first job he was offered. Pennzoil Oil Change, he updated his Facebook ‘Work Info’ as soon as he got home. He enjoyed the job, telling people he would "rather work on cars than work retail”. Every few hours he’d savor a sweet moment in a cool car. Facebook Mobile Upload - C4 Corvette gauges. He got home tired, accumulating money from sedation rather than conscious saving. He needed a hobby.

He spent $500 on a ‘sick paintball gun’. His quadruple digit checking account felt untouchable. On days off he’d shoot things in his backyard. But he was lonely. He bought WoW – he sucked. Bought a snowboard – sucked.

One day, a young Asian man entered Pennzoil. It was 2 pm on Wednesday.
“Year, make, and model?”
“91, but it’s a not original motor.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your computer – specs are wrong.”
“Two Point Four liter… fuel inj…”
“Two liter. Turbo. Look up Sentra”
“Okay, so it’s a Sentra engine.”
“Heh. Kinda.” His girlfriend shifted in the plastic lobby chair.

He took the keys and clipboard and walked out. The car was odd. He didn’t recognize the headlights, the seat was low and smelled like an old couch. He pushed the springy clutch and cranked the engine, it rose in an untuned strum, loud fan whooshing. He held the revs lightly, easing out the clutch. The car lurched and he stabbed the clutch back down. He saw the Asian watching, smirking in the lobby. He gathered himself and dragged the car onto the tracks to change the oil. The heavy hood popped. Ratty electrical tape and blue crimp connectors sprinkled the engine bay, but that wasn’t what caught his eye. Thick, swooping aluminum – he knew he had found relief for his swolen bank account.

He rolled the car into the parking lot towards the waiting Asian man. He got out of the car, acting unimpressed.
“You like that. I can tell.” He was used to the attention.
“Thnn. Pretty cool”
“Aight, see ya around.”
He nodded.
The Asian drove off.

Modified Magazine, January 2005, Walgreen’s. He recognized the headlights immediately. Thousands of California valley youth, like himself, blurred by tire smoke, stood behind construction barriers. Hands in the air. 5 megapixel cameras saving the moment forever. It could be him - someday they would cheer for him. He bought a car the next weekend. 1989, and it was his, and it was beautiful.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chapter 1 - The Valley, California

Our drifter graduated high school in 2004. Too fat for military, too cool for college. His friends were gone. He saw images of them carousing around faraway college towns on Facebook and Myspace. He still logged in everyday. They wanted to study abroad, get high and ‘chill’ on weekdays. They wanted ‘random play’ – and they got it. He needed new pictures on his Facebook. He needed to 'join a network'. School had never been his 'thing’, though. He wasn't a bully, or a class clown. His Facebook ‘favorite books’ said ‘don’t read much’. His favorite show was ‘UFC’. By the end of the summer after high school he had mastered Gran Turismo 3. He had numerous thousand horsepower cars ‘in his garage’. But he had no one to play with, and his Mom hadn't bought a Costco Frito-Lay sampler box in weeks. Only corn chips were left. No more Barbecue Lays. No more Cheetos. Not three months into the real world our drifter saw rock bottom rising towards him fast.

He had been job hunting for months, skimming Craigslist. Recently he found himself browsing the ‘general labor’ section more and more often. Maybe he would find some diamond in the rough ‘office job’. He daydreamed about going to Subway on his lunch break. Shirt tucked in. Synthetic Rockports stiff on the pedals. ‘Ryan from The Office’, he thought. He would see some 05 girl who would half recognize him. He would buy a ‘footlong meatball marinara’ - pre-$5 footlong. She would watch him intently. He was mature now - extra pepperincinis. He paid cash, wallet fat from twenty-four $9.50 hours the week before. They would talk. It didn't start, it was just happening. She knew his name, he knew hers, but he played cool, indifferent. In his Honda Accord coupe in the parking lot they would have sex, their faces pasted on a 30 second video he had watched that morning. But it was a dream. The jobs never called back and he fell deeper into suburban boredom.