Nearly four years ago now, I quit my job and started trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. After many (mostly failed) attempts at countless different things, I managed to get a story published in one of my favorite magazines, Iron and Air. That was all I needed to believe that a career as a writer was not only possible but plausible. Let me take this opportunity to say, I am very naive and easily excitable. I am an overly hopeful person when it comes to career opportunities (example 2b: starting a magazine with my friends). I have spent this last bright-eyed and hopeful year getting my ever-loving ass handed to me over and over again. In the midst of the ass-whuppings, I landed one of the most insane jobs I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, with the onslaught of sadness that COVID-19 has caused, those employers once again handed me my tail. But this isn’t a whinge — its a jolly, drunken wake. I’m celebrating happier times.
You may have assumed, dear reader, as an aspiring writer living in NYC, I have a number of freelance jobs. One of the stranger jobs I’ve had was part-time Operations Manager (a multi-purpose tool, like a spork.) for a private, members-only car club in NYC. The club provides a variety of high-end, classic sports cars and modern supercars for the members to drive. Much to my enjoyment, the job required me to spend a decadent amount of time driving these cars. More often than not, I ran them up and down the same one-mile stretch of the West Side Highway like a city rat, running its daily path — if this city rat was tearing ass in a quarter-million-dollar Lamborghini. Last summer, those short city jaunts became four-hour rides out to the far reaches of Long Island and surrounding rural areas of NYC.
I’ve been eagerly searching for the next chapter of my life. I’m about to turn 31 and I’m not feelin’ it. I feel stuck. I feel like I’m making zero progress. I suppose I’m in a bit of a spiritual and physical holding pattern; nothing can move forward until I work through whatever it is I am meant to learn. Or fix maybe? I’m not sure, but I’m gonna chop the tree that’s in front of me, so to speak.
Last summer, I lost a full-time writing job that I had been working towards for the better part of two years. This gig was supposed to be a sure thing — it was not. My wife and I are both pursuing creative careers in NYC (insert any starving artist cliche here), yet one of my part-time jobs requires me to spend a chunk of each week driving the kinds of cars I had thumb-tacked to my bedroom walls. I teach people how to drive them and even sometimes how to race them. How does that make sense? The daily shift from my self-image as a bum husband with no regular work to the social perception of a young guy driving supercars through Manhattan is not so dissimilar to what a lot of people are feeling. If you spent this Spring quarantining, you know what I’m talking about. You probably saw your family more than you ever have but if you’re like a great number of Americans, you kind of feel a little less worthwhile if you’re not making money. I appeared to be “killin’ it,” but I was doing the exact opposite. “Keeping it alive” maybe? “Sustaining it?”
It’s an odd feeling to be sweating the month’s $59 internet bill while hitting 110mph in a Ferrari 458 or thinking “If I get the $2 train ticket today, I can also afford lunch” while folding yourself into a Lamborghini Huracan.
Over the first four weeks of last summer, I drove a few different cars from Midtown Manhattan to South Hampton, Long Island. The first trip I took out there was to deliver a 1990 Porsche 964, a hairy little bugger that’s as cranky as it is lovely. The second and third trips were luxuriously spent behind the wheel of a 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible. One of the more memorable was made in the last of a long line of air-cooled Porsches, a 1996 Porsche 993 C4S.
Porsche has a long history. And having a long history in Germany usually comes with some obvious complications, like Nazi skeletons somewhere in the closet. However, Porsche’s history is significant in spite of it’s Nazi roots. The cute little German cars — wait, they’re not really cute at all, are they? Porsches are lean. They’re purpose-built, asphalt eating gremlins that care nothing about a smooth ride for your spinal integrity or keeping your face attached to your head if you decide to throw it around a corner at speed, or really any comforts of any kind. They might kinda hate us. The only thing Porsche cares for is “vhat verks most efficiently.”
The Porsche 993 C4S left Stuttgart in 1994 and was available through 1998. Using roughly only 20% of the same parts from its predecessor the 964, the 993 was offered to the world as a significant upgrade from its face-ripping younger sibling. The 993 may have looked similar to its predecessor, but it came with a laundry list of new, and supposedly, improved parts. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what most of them mean. Like an all-alloy multi-link rear suspension attached to an alloy sub-frame…no clue. Or, the all-wheel-drive system has something called a “viscous coupling unit”? I really can’t tell y’all much about that, but I can tell y’all, it’s boring. However, I can with full confidence tell y’all that I do understand things like giving the motor a 15% increase in power, widening wheel arches to give better stability, and the first 911 (yes, somehow a 993 is a type of 911) to have a six-speed gearbox. This particular version is one of the full all-wheel-drive models earning it the “C4” designation. Porsche people love these cars. They signified the push forward into the modern era of Porsche while also remaining steadfast in their German practicality.
Usually, I did these drives alone. I’d drive a few hours by myself, chew through the past week’s thoughts and stresses, and then ride the Hampton Jitney back to the city with about 50 something strangers. I don’t really mind spending time alone. In fact, after six years in NYC, being alone, especially in a car, is something I tend to look forward to. However, this time, one of my oldest and best buds, Colter Longshore (who y’all know from other stories on this site) decided to ride with me. Now, I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall. I tend to fill up these little sports cars pretty good on my own, and Colter is 6 foot 6 inches, so together we were maxing this little Porsche out. I usually use these drives to think and process whatever is going on in my life at the time. When I was living back in Alabama, my car was the main way I dealt with stress, anxiety, or really any feeling that needed chewing on. This time, having my road dog ride with me for a change was really nice. I got to turn my mind off a little; as far as all the feelings and mushy stuff and got to focus on the car and the homie.
Y’all remember the movie BIG? It kinda felt like what Tom Hanks and his buddy must have felt like. As kids, we would have killed to be able to spend a day running around in a car like this and now we were. There was a feeling of unspoken buzz and jitteriness. “How are WE in this car and what are we supposed to do now?” But, neither questions needed answering. We just strapped in, heads buzzing with the feeling of endless opportunity, and ran through the city traffic like “shit through a tin horn” (as a certain Alabama head coach might say). We drove and talked. For a few hours, we had a foot in our world and a foot in another unfamiliar world, normally seen through a breath-fogged window. It was a great day, simple and clear; a much needed taking out the cartridge, blowing in it, and starting the console over again (an image best understood by those of us who grew up playing video games in the late ’80s and ’90s).
Duality feels weird. Being broke while experiencing something glamorous or being somewhere peaceful amidst calamity. These things might just be what it is to be a human living in this world. We try so desperately to order things in the way we think they ought to be, but the truth is, I just don’t think we have much control over how things shake out. If you have money and access, then life should be prettier and easier. If you are poor, then life is bleak and devoid of contentment and peace. Come on, we know neither of those things is actually real, but still believe it anyway. Hell, I believe it sometimes, which is why driving fancy cars while being broke feels strange. I don’t believe I deserve to be doing something like that. I know this may be redundant, but some things need to be repeated. Duality is weird, but duality is life. Vis-a-vis, ergo, here-to-fore, and in summation, living is weird, and as a result, we are weird. Feel what you feel and keep on rolling, y’all.