Can a car meet save your soul, or is it just destined to turn into a gathering in a parking lot that will have plenty of phones at the ready to record the next “Crowd-Killer Mustang” meme video? Do neighborhoods have any leg to stand on when complaining about get-togethers, or are their cries justified? Experience determines the answer, but I’ll defend a meet-up to the end.
At the beginning of 2010, things had gone just about as wrong as they could have gone in my world. I was going to be medically separated from active duty service thanks to a back that was both injured and self-destructing. My first marriage resembled most of Paradise, California post-wildfire and the paperwork ending that scene was just about done. I was on the outs with an entire section of my family, it seemed, and on the car fronts, it was just as bleak. My daily-driver Monte Carlo was just fine and I was making do with the “Superbeater” Dodge Mirada in it’s mostly-as-found condition, but the 1973 Chevelle that had I had known since grade school had proven to be a rotted nightmare, the rubber-nosed Camaro that my ex-wife had left in my driveway was a dumpster fire that I would end up selling to a kid who made payments for that $200 pile, and the car that I had sunk every ounce of skill, knowledge and imagination into up to that point in time, a four-speed converted, 360-swapped Dodge Diplomat, had finally met the end of the road when the block froze and split and I found that I couldn’t bring myself to try to fix it anymore. I was emotionally drained and was having a hard time seeing a positive light in anything.
Around this same time period, I started hanging around a coffee shop that a friend of mine and I had found shortly after moving to the Fort Lewis, Washington area, and started hanging around with a group of Subaru-minded folk from a nearby tuning shop. I didn’t own a Subaru, and really didn’t have an interest in owning one. And I’m all but certain that every last car I brought out to the meets behind Java Jam were punchlines for jokes away from my ears, but those meet-ups were probably my saving grace that year. We’d roll out to the occasional autocross meet at Bremerton Speedway, or we’d cruise up to Seattle for a bite at Dick’s Drive-In before some spirited late-night driving back south. We went to rallies, we worked on cars, we stood around in the mist playing hackey-sack and bullshitting with each other until someone decided they had to go home, at which point we all kind of rolled back to our domains. With every meeting, the batteries were recharging. The interest was growing once more.
I’m still friends with a few of the folk from that group. The coffee shop is long gone, and most everybody has moved to their different corners of the world. But those meets were amazing and just what I needed. No revving or racing, nobody pretending like Street Outlaws was scouting for talent. Most of the times the cars took a backseat to conversation. And that’s all that was needed. I could put that experience into better terms, but maybe here is where I should let The Roman from Regular Car Reviews do what he does best. Check it out: