I swear to you, I don’t know how it could have happened. I had been so diligent, for so long – I took all the necessary precautions. I stopped hanging around with the wrong crowd. I stopped frequenting the usual haunts. And yet in the end, I was undone by an anonymous e-mail. In retrospect, I suppose it is like any other vice, you don’t fall completely off the wagon at first, rather you gradually slide off.
My road to ruin started with an innocent enough e-mail directing me to some out of the way Web site. No harm in that, right? So I went to the Web site and there I saw pictures – lots of pictures. I felt the urge starting to well up inside me, but I told myself I could fight it. I forced myself to forget about the Web site for several days, but eventually, I went back – I just couldn’t resist.
At this point, I knew I was loosing control and that the next step would undoubtedly be a face-to-face rendezvous. However, I wrestled with my conscience for several more days… Should I or shouldn’t I? Wasn’t it irresponsible? How would it affect my family? In the end, I rationalized it by telling myself that it wouldn’t hurt to go and just look. But deep down I knew that once I got there, there would likely be no turning back.
So on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I drove an hour and half out of town, to a remote location, with a load of $100 bills in my pocket. Now why would I need all that money if I were just going to look? In the back of a dingy, industrial complex, I saw her in person for the first time. To the casual observer she didn’t look worth crossing the street for, but I could immediately see the potential. Her guardian had apparently lost interest; it was obvious that he just wanted to be rid of her. We haggled a bit and ultimately we struck a deal that was so good, I was almost embarrassed… well, almost.
I don’t know what it is about me, but for some strange reason I’m a sucker for a basket case. I wasn’t looking for a project, but when I saw it something in my brain snapped and I just couldn’t resist it. Oh, the shame of it!
I’m not sure if I’m the only nutcase that bears this affliction or not, but it seems everywhere I go, I see racecars and restoration projects. A dilapidated Ford Falcon sitting in someone’s side-yard? No, that’s a Monte Carlo Rally-spec Falcon, complete with Mustang suspension and a 500-horsepower small block. A rusted green Alfa Romeo GTV sitting in a field with weeds growing over the top of the roof? No, that’s a blood red GTA replica with Campagnolo wheels and Autodelta livery. Oh, the voices! Make them stop! Make them stop…
Bringing a new “project” home is always an exciting experience – for me it’s like Christmas morning, only greasier. However, once I get my new toy home, I realize I have a problem to overcome – I have to reclaim my garage. See, it’s been almost four years since my last “box of bolts and shrapnel” came home and in the intervening time my garage – my temple to tools and all things automotive – has slowly been taken over by bicycles, baby clothes, boxes of unloved cookware and enough wrapping paper to encircle the island of Madagascar like a Cristo art project. No, before I get to put the racecar in its rightful place, my wife and I have to spend some quality time “discussing” what items can or should depart the garage. Finally, after many hours of creative reorganization and no small amount of groveling, my new toy finally takes its rightful place on jack stands in the middle of the garage. So, with my workbench finally cleared of Barbie’s 4000 sq.ft. “Dream House” and a half a dozen or so wicker baskets, I dust off my tools and commence disassembling.
Ah, Heaven. There’s no greater gratification in the world like resisting temptation for four years and then completely giving in to it. On that first day of my return to insanity, I spent a blissful six hours pulling off parts, cleaning up pieces and blooding-up my knuckles, just like the good old days. However, at five o’clock, I had to put away my tools, turn off the lights and go back inside to my regular life. My wife took one look at me, covered from head to foot in grease and grime and said, “You look like you had a fun day.” Yep, one of the best in four years.