Realization

  • I’m 25 years old.
  • I’m living in America.
  • I have good job.
  • I drive my dream car.
  • I have my own place.
  • I’ve made friends here.

I’ve made it.

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Birthday Weekend Part 3

Sunday

This morning I worked for a few hours on a system upgrade, which went really smoothly. Then I came home and chilled out until I headed over to Doyle’s (a local bar) to watch the USA vs Portugal match.

Before the game everyone was cheering the American side (especially Dempsey), and booing Portugal (and especially Ronaldo). When the anthem played, everyone stood up, removed their hats, placed their hands over their hearts, and sang along. I knew what I had to do. Standing with my hand on my chest, I sang along. It was a defining moment for me: being part of an American sports crowd singing the national anthem of my country. I was no longer just an American ‘on paper’. I was an American for real. I was home. I belonged. I was part of the crowd, a member of the team, part of the population. I was just another American singing the anthem.

I’ve written about that issue in the shadows of this blog. I’ve been working through the problems of dual citizenship, being a dual national, and having two national identities. I moved here to establish my American identity, all the while running into more and more ‘Australian-ness’. That moment was a huge step and a big milestone towards becoming a true American.

Side note:
My appreciation of America is not blind patriotism, or the ironic ‘murica’, but genuine confidence in the potential for America to be great. At one point we all cheered: ‘I believe that we will win.’ That describes exactly how I feel about America. On the world stage playing football, and in general.

Anyway, the game was a draw, which makes America’s progression more difficult but not impossible. The emotion and memory of those 90 minutes at Doyle’s will be with me forever.

‘Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.’

Birthday Weekend Part 2

Saturday

I woke up to an invitation to go a street parade in Seattle. I declined, because ‘the mountains are calling’. I grabbed a few essentials and peeled out. First stop: gas. Second stop: Walmart in Puyallup for bottled water. Third stop: Ranger station at Mt Rainier National Park.

Wherever you are in Washington, and especially in Tacoma, you are bound to catch a glimpse of Mt Rainier. You can’t miss it. It doesn’t tower over everything, so much as it appears between buildings, trees, through bridges, and at the end of an open road. It is an inescapable landmark. Today was the first time I’d ever actually approached it.

Highway 410 is a two lane, yellow lined, black top, mountain pass. It zigzags around the base of Mt Rainier, connecting Enumclaw in the west with Yakima in the east.

I’ve been on a couple of weekend road trips with a few of the car guys back in Australia. We’d drive a big loop on the Great Alpine Road, over a mountain range in Victoria. It was always a weekend of fun driving, road side repairs, and camaraderie. on those road trips, when you get higher into the mountains, the line markings turn yellow. I always loved that moment, and the yellow lines themselves. They are very American, and signal that you’ve made it up into Alpine territory. I was dreaming of coming to America for the yellow paint on the road.

All the way up, I was stuck behind soccer moms in their minivans, and a doing-less-than-the-speed-limit PT cruiser. I overtook the slower cars, one by one, at high speed. The FR-S’ sixth gear is perfect for cruising, fifth and even fourth are really for passing. In one swoop I passed a couple of trucks and slow guy hauling a trailer. It was exciting. I bet they all think I’m a total jerk.

Two older Nissan coupés were pretty lively, passing slower cars and keeping up with me. We stopped together at the ranger’s station and had a quick chat. The leader had a pretty banged up little car he had been working on. The spark plug wire had come free, which is why he hadn’t been able to keep up completely. I took off before their group did, and it’s probably better we went separately. I was enthusiastic enough throwing the FR-S into corners, without needing any extra encouragement.

This was a solo road trip anyway. I’d come up here to go driving and hike up some kind of peak. Whenever we were on camping trips in high school we would do these ‘solo’ things. Basically you headed out on your own into the wilderness for a couple of hours. Just to spend time alone. You weren’t allowed to talk to anyone, and you just sat there and wrote stuff down. I think I needed that solo experience today, and that’s why I chose to go driving on my own, rather than go to Seattle with friends. The passenger seat still felt empty.

I chose a twisty road, which was incredibly fun. Even the hairpin corners were a blast to pull out of in second gear. I didn’t go too hard because I’m still running the engine in (less than 1000 miles), and I don’t know the limits of the car, so it’s not worth pushing it so soon. I did get stuck behind a slow truck on the straightened out stretch to the top car park. At that point it was all scenery anyway, so I didn’t mind.

I took some photos of the car at various points. I climbed up a snow capped mountain peak above the car park. Certainly not the tallest peak around, but it had a pretty awesome view over the mountains and of Rainier. Climbing up was hard work, climbing down was a matter of falling gracefully. I also realized just how far my cowboy boots have travelled with me.

Coming down I was stuck behind a slow VW and a motorcyclist who had a bad habit of breaking all the way through corners. It didn’t matter though, I peeled off at one point to a campsite, and took some more pics of the car with Rainier in the background.

Driving home involved a quick stop at Mickey D’s and a lump of traffic that carried me all the way back to Tacoma. I snuck a good look at Mt Rainier in my side mirror coming home down River road.

Birthday Weekend Part 1

Thursday Night

So I had dinner with some friends at a nice restaurant near my place. We were celebrating one of the girl’s birthday. Sort of mine, too, but mostly hers. It was her night, and it ended up being amazing fun.

After dinner we stopped at a night club for their lackluster ladies night. The DJ was playing okay music, until his buddy jumped on a drum kit and drowned out the bass. Electronic beats and live drum kit is a great concept (see The Presets), but in a virtually empty club?

Ladies night at this particular venue meant guys paid a five dollar cover charge. To go upstairs, where the cheaper drinks and all the girls were, cost an extra $2. Going upstairs felt predatory, and the girls were young. Downstairs was a sausage fest, with chairs and tables filling up any kind space of dancing. So we left there pretty early, and headed to a more familiar and friendly place.

This bar was much more accommodating and comfortable. We lined up the jukebox with some 90’s alternative rock. Our little group has a habit of singing along to Lit – My Own Worst Enemy when we go out. We rocked that bar, it was great.

There’s a guy in our group who has a badass apartment building. I’ve been there three times, always after a big night out. We lightly danced to Iggy Azalea – Fancy in his apartment, and went swimming in our underwear.

There were only four of us left at this point, and it was already early Friday morning. It was then that I realized how tipsy everyone else actually was. I don’t have a problem with it, I just hadn’t noticed. The night ended when the host got out of the hot tub and put his shirt on.

We went upstairs, and then I dropped the birthday girl off at her apartment. I drove home, a bit angry about something. I don’t know what ticked me off because nothing bad had happened. It was a great night out. I went to work on Friday with about 3 hours sleep.

Football

‘Der Ball is rund und das Spiel dauert 90 minuten.’ – Sepp Herberger

‘The ball is round, and the game lasts 90 minutes.’

So I’ve gone a bit crazy with world cup fever. I watched two games on Saturday, at a local bar, who have a marquee setup with big screens inside. The atmosphere was epic when England played Italy. The place was packed and everyone cheered when either team scored. I became heavily invested in the second match, Côte d’Ivoire versus Japan. I wanted Japan to win, but I was elated to see Côte d’Ivoire play such excellent football and come away with a win. I’m also (obviously) following the USA and Germany. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the Australian side. Both the US and Australia had a formidable challenge at the Group level. That said, there have been some surprising victories so far, and the feeling I get is that anything could happen.

I used to play soccer back in high school with my friends in the school’s league. We never played particularly well, but we had heaps of fun. Ever since, I’ve developed a passion for the game. Both playing and watching. I haven’t played field soccer since finishing high school. I’ve been meaning to get back into it. With all the hard work and fulfilling of dreams I’m doing at the moment, now seems like the perfect time. We’re coming into summer here as well.

It turns out that playing field soccer was exactly what I needed. I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks. Playing a couple of games on Sunday, helping teams without enough players, reminded me why I like staying fit and healthy. Today I went to the gym after work and just ran off and stretched out the soreness in my legs. Then I went to the local school’s field and kicked the ball around to brush up on my basics. I’m planning on doing more practice tomorrow night too. I know I need it, and I have a great reason to put in the effort now.

Watching and playing reminded me of what I’m about. It’s another dream fulfilled.

86

I’ve been hesitating to write this entry for a little while now, because I don’t want it to sound like I’m showing off. This whole blog at times feels like I’m just showing off. That’s partly why I wrote the last entry. Having a bad day means my life is becoming normal, after the initial euphoria. This isn’t about instant gratification or selfish wish fulfillment. This is about working hard to accomplish the dreams I’ve held onto for a long time.

One of those dreams has been to own a Toyota FT86. It’s an awesome 2.0 liter, rear-wheel drive, coupé sports car. It’s a combination of two parts of Toyota’s racing heritage:

  1. Toyota 2000 GT (from the late 60’s)
  2. Toyota AE86 (from the 80’s)

So it has serious enthusiast street cred. It’s also beautiful, and drives incredibly well. The development of the 86 was a collaboration with Subaru, who developed the boxer engine. There’s already a large aftermarket modification scene – for style and performance upgrades. Mine is absolutely base model with no extras, in silver. It’s badged and sold in North America as the Scion FR-S.

I call it my Top Ramen car, because:

  • It’s Japanese
  • I can only afford to eat cheap microwavable ramen with the monthly costs of the car
  • The AE86 is featured in the anime Initial D, where the main character uses his AE86 as a tofu delivery / drift race car

I love my new car. Owning and driving it is motivating me to work hard so I can afford to keep it. As soon as it’s paid off, I’ll be driving it around America.