Friday, July 22, 2016

Time trials

The best driver I’ve ever been. That’s me behind the wheel now. Because I’m no longer Camrynonymous. I can no longer cut and duck and dive and obfuscate. I’m a rolling representative. I am the local rolling symbol of exactly what it means to be driving around a black Skyline.
But what, exactly, does it mean?
Bogan. Hoon. Riff-raff. Dickhead. Selfish, show-off prick. Scofflaw. Maniac
I can tell people think these things about Hooncars™, because suddenly, everyone else on the road has become the Deputy of Roadtown, and it’s their responsibility, nay, their job, to make sure that young fools behind the wheels of P-plate specials know their place. I’ve never gone for a drive yet where someone in a car next to me hasn't been desperate to remind me that I’m not special just because of this allegedly-special Dickhead-Mobile I’ve got myself.
And my god, I love it. I truly do.
Nothing is more righteous-making for my soul than having a 2012 Focus see me coming and dive in front of me, just to remind me that a two-door Nissan is not an excuse to feel special. That I should be just as unhappy and law-abiding as everyone else.

My favourite is the Completely-Non-Drag-Race Drag Race. The lights are red. I’m alone in the right lane. But not for long. Mr Honda Accord pulls up alongside. 
And doesn’t look. 
He’s going to show this bloody hoon dickhead what’s what. ‘Form 1 Lane’ glints briefly in the sunset 200 metres ahead. A wisp of smoke drifts across the start line.
Green light.
Señor Accord guns it. The revs are climbing, his indicator’s on, this single lane belongs to him! 50 metres back, I change carefully into second gear and watch a 43-year-old man in a gray family sedan win a race against his own sense of failing dignity. 

It’s a story which repeats itself over and over. Mostly, it’s four-wheel-drives trying to ensure that I know that I’m only doing 60km/h by engulfing the entirety of my rear-view mirror with their shoulder-high grills. 

A black Skyline seems to represent many drivers’ basic need to remind themselves that they have made a correct and righteous choice of car, by explaining to me that I’ve made the wrong one. And all this through the language of aggressive over-taking.

If I weren’t opposed to bumper-stickers, I would purchase one which read 

Of course I believe you’re faster than me, dear.

I’m certain it would reassure people that cars aren’t everything. Loud, black, low, silly: these don’t have to be your regrets when you walk up to your white station wagon. 


I understand this feeling, because I’ve been on the flipside. Yes, in the SweetRide. I was at Non-Drag-Race lights in the right hand lane and a red 2015 Maserati GT pulled up. I actually felt guilty even looking.
‘Right’ we both said. The lights went green. Off we went.
‘What are you doing?’ asked the only woman in my life from the passenger seat. Which was an incredibly good question, because it was a) raining, and b) holy fuck what were we trying to prove?
The whole thing was over and called off before anyone passed 50km/h. 

And that revealed to me the beautiful thing about driving around among Men Who Must Prove The Length and Strength of Their Automotive Decisions Through Accelerating: I remember needing to pass and assert myself and mashing the foot down and hoping. In the Skyline, I don’t think I’ve ever really pushed the peddle more than halfway. It rarely even gets past a third. There’s probably cobwebs and happy little spider babies growing up on the floor beneath the Go Peddle because it’s never even touched there. This stupidly beautiful car has so much resting power curled gently about its turbo-charger, its intercooler, its gearbox, its tyres, that every time Mr Peugot 206 goes howling off into the distance, you can almost see his toes sticking out of the bonnet, while I’ve barely even touched it. 
Because when you’re in a straight black line pointed toward the horizon, you don’t really need to remind every scalp-scratcher in a Kluger who’s happiest with their sensible life decision.

It’s pretty damn obvious.

Friday, May 13, 2016


It’s one of the finer feelings about having this car, and it should be recorded. It doesn’t happen too often. I move in the wrong circles, but it is inevitable. I work 9 to 5. I dress as such. I do my hair nicely for the office. I accessorise with scarves my wife has bought me. I drive a black Nissan Skyline. Loud exhaust. 

It’s late. Not too late, but 10:30pm. The line between home and party. I’m driving home from the hospital. I’m having fun up the windy hills roads. I’m not brave enough to exceed 40, but I sound loud. I’m a bullet painted black and a grown man making ‘brrm’ noises. Pull into the servo, I arrive at the servo.

A group of lads, men. Five or six, are hanging around the entrance, clustered about Park 1 next to the sliding doors where one of them, impossible to tell who, owns the Lexus IS300 with the aftermarket whiff about it. The Is-It-Pearl? paintjob not quite gleaming. They are talking cars. You can just tell. Someone is talking, everyone is nodding, one guy quotes a number, another an abbreviation. 

As I swing around past the pumps towards Park 2, necks stiffen. Exactly no one looks in my direction. No one. Someone begins talking again. Someone says the word ‘turbo’, not about the Skyline, but because it’s a common-use word outside the OTR sliding doors at 10:30pm on a Friday night. 

I turn the engine and leave all the windows open. I get out. I look like someone’s accountant. I’ve got checks where I should have logos. I have to step around a guy with dreads and say ‘G’day’ to a bloke exactly 5 years younger than me who’s pretty committed to the Tex Walker moustache. He says ‘g’day’ back. He’s the one who says ‘turbo’ again, on my way out.

You don’t buy a Skyline to be cool. You don’t buy your dream car to impress anybody. But passing through that throng of tuner car fan-dudes in my creased trousers with my intense hairspray, I felt cool. An article by Maggie Stiefvater in Wednesday's Jalopnik reported a guy showing pictures of his own stupid car and saying ‘This car is what I look like on the inside.’ It suddenly started to make more sense.

I love the feeling of looking like a career office worker driving a twenty-year-old boy-racer-mobile and having people have to concede that maybe, just maybe, all dickheads don’t hang around outside servos on Friday nights. Some of us have a backseat full of books because we took our wives on a Dymocks spree. 

Making the fan-dudes gathered around their mate’s Lexus have to re-think who they thought wanted to be in their club, is also pretty great. That’s the feeling.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I wanted to set an example. A bad example. Well, a good bad example. Not for my son, but for the men around me. 
‘Boys and their toys’ people say, wagging fingers and rolling eyes. 
Exactly. What is a boy with a toy, except for happy? And what’s wrong with happiness? 

Before we get all naïve about it, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with happiness when it comes from a  grown man clutching a metal thing he can see his reflection in and making ‘brrmm brrmm’ noises with his slightly moist lips. This slobbery gent has responsibilities. He has a family. He has a job. He has loved ones and limited time in the day. Happiness spent with his shiny metal thing is happiness spent in the absence of all those things one builds a fulfilling life around. Money spent on the shiny metal thing is money lifted away from comforts for those he shares his life with. 
Fancy Car can easily equal Selfish Dad. 
This is why Men In Flash Wheels are often regarded with suspicion. 

‘Who went without?’ is the question that readily springs to mind when we see two doors and a sloping bonnet. Of course, there’s no way of really knowing, but for my friends, there is.

I come across as a reader, I suppose. Car-Guyness is something I’ve kept hidden. The car helped me come out of the closet in a few ways, but one of them was putting that little germ in the minds of those men around me: toys aren’t bad. Cars are fun. (Well, fun cars are fun.) Since it arrived I’ve started conversations about cars and seen a faraway look of dreaming and scheming I haven’t come across.
‘Hell’ it says ‘if he can do it, it must be possible.’
Even entering your dream-date coordinates into is fun. I do it for people all the time.
‘Look!’ I write in an email out of the blue ‘There’s one in Melbourne! Look how priddy! Look how actually cheap the stupid thing is! Sell the Camry! Roadtrip!’

No one’s actually done it yet. The toy, for my friends, is a symbol of a very well-balanced life. No one’s trading folded arms and The Face of Disappointment for a 12 year old Beemer with a timing belt of indeterminate status. These things have to be thought through. 
Toys must be earned.

So when I dropped by the in-laws yesterday, and saw a 350Z, in black no less, parked where a reliable station wagon should have been, I knew that in some small way, I had failed. 
The good bad example was just a bad example. 
The automobile that should have been able to ferry elderly parents and a child who cannot legally sit in the front seat was instead the black, sleek nephew to my own little slice of happiness.
I’ve never been a fan of the 350Z. As long as I’ve liked Skylines, 300ZXs, Silvias, GTRs and everything else, the 350Z always seemed a little bit buggy. As in: it looked like a bug. From a lot of angles, the tail is too long, the proportions a bit chubby. That’s usually fine. We all have our favourites.

Now it’ll always be the symbol of a dolt. A buffoon who thought of nothing but himself, until I, with the naivety of country kindergarten teacher on his first Tindr date, skipped by in the little piece of positive incongruity that I imagined would simply send imaginations wandering over to Gumtree > Cars > Under $10,000. Instead, I was saying ‘Let them all go without. Look after yourself.’

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I blame Doug Demuro.

Doug Demuro is a kind of journeyman journo for auto-blog site, He first came to my attention as the guy who bought himself an actual Ferrari and drove around in it for a year as a daily driver. And wrote about it. The articles were interesting and well-written; good fodder for slow work days. But it was the idea that you could actually buy a crazy, stupid, insane car that ended up with me tonight taking loving snaps of my very own Nissan Skyline in my very own driveway.

I also heavily blame Top Gear. Top Gear became popular in Australia around the same time the Bugatti Veyron was born. Top Gear called the Veyron, the petrol-driven car’s ‘Concorde moment’. Nothing would ever go faster or higher or better. They were right. But they also fertilised the idea of ‘car talk’ in a way that had never existed before. No one who’s heard of the Veyron, or watched a thing about it on Youtube can walk away without being able to smugly recite at least one of its delicious factoids. The Veyron made you feel smart, interested. If you had a mind to, you could find more Veyron facts. All of them amazing. And there you are, reading about cars. And here I am, carefully pulling a car-cover over my jet-black R33 Series 2, and considering whether I should just take it for a quick spin before bed.

But, back to Doug. After he sold the Ferrari, Doug asked his readers what he should buy next. The American car market is different. It’s vast, and astoundingly cheap. European exotics abound, oddities and curiosities are freely available, if you can trust your mechanic and make the odd interstate trip for something special. Weirdly, Doug didn’t go with a vintage Porsche, or a hilarious land yacht. Doug bought a boring old 1990 Nissan Skyline. The R32 GT-R. America has another weird rule where they can’t have anything newer than 25 years old imported. Last year that age-of-consent passed in a non-creepy way and thousands of Doug’s readers applauded when he imported one of America’s first crop of Skylines. In thrilling gray. Exactly like the ones I’ve watched P-platers thrash around Australia for ever. Covetously watched. Australia doesn’t have that law. Skylines are cheap. So cheap that for many years almost every news item about a horrible street-racing fatality that didn’t contain an upside-down Commodore, contained a shot of about five metres of the twisted metal vomit that Skylines inevitably turn into. 

If Mr Ferrari could buy a Skyline in America and be called the King of the Internet (Car County), maybe I’m not dreaming?

And the Gumtree searching began …

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32