I turned 21 (see when I was 3 for the reason for the gap between my real age and the blog post title age) at the End of January 1992.
21 back then was a big deal. You were now an adult and had a fine collection of horrible birthday cards with silver keys on them. WTF was all that about? The custom and practice was to ‘have a 21st’.
I wasn’t going to do this, no, I was waaay too cool for that shit. I was going to meet my friends in a pub and just sup a few pints. On the evening before this ‘old man’ version of my 21st I went out for a nice dinner with my other half. We ended up in the Long Valley and bumped into a friend of hers. She was heading out to somebody’s 21st and she asked us to come along for a bit of a gate crash.
Which we did.
As we climb the stairs to the function room I meet a cousin of mine coming down the stairs and wonder how he knows this person whose party we’re crashing. (Thick as two sort planks, me).
We open the door to the chant of ‘surprise’. Everybody laughing, me like a twat.
Still a great start to the year and a great night out. I remember very little of the night except vomiting in my mother’s front garden and later waking up and wondering why my bin was full of sick. Aongus (New York 1990) had saved me from doing a ‘Jimi Hendrix’ in my sleep. So to him I am thankful. He had slept on the floor of my bedroom on the excuse of looking after me but the perusal of the porn stash was part of it as well.
There are two types of friend you have in life – those with whom you’ll share your porn stash (very few) and those you won’t (most). Very important lesson there children if you ever find yourself under enemy fire.
In 1992 I graduated from college into a perfectly flat calm economic climate. As in nothing was happening everywhere. Nobody had a job. Anywhere. I passed another summer as a student engineer in Cork County Council and then had several tempting offers: The dole (mother would need to be dead to claim the dole in my house); emigrating to America (I had won a visa lottery) or heading back to college to be paid to do a phd. The last two were tempting so I hedged my bets and signed up for a phd in hydrology and non-point source pollution and headed off to the US for 2 weeks in order to validate my visa.
I was on a tight (non-existent) budget going to the US. I flew with Aeroflot to Miami and collected my hire car (no satnav back then) and spent 4 hours in the middle of the night driving around southern Florida – totally lost. This was all in a post-hurricane Andrew landscape of no trees, houses or anything resembling a living creature.
I tried to sleep in the car. Without air conditioning the car was a furnace after 5 minutes so I ended up sleeping in a holiday inn (way outside my budget bracket) for a few hours.
My plan was to drive from Miami to the Grand Canyon and back in 2 weeks. I learned very few things on that trip with a few exceptions:
Sometimes you are better off not knowing what is in front of you. It can’t scare you. – very important for running is that tip.
You can drive across Texas (800 miles) in a day.
I also learned that El Paso is a shit hole; Oklahoma is boring; the Grand Canyon is very big; Flagstaff is nice; People from Little Rock are very friendly; Tennessee and Kentucky are beautiful in the Autumn and that Miami to Florida is nearly 6,000 miles.
I went back to college with my visa validated and started on my dream job: being paid to be in university. With no exams. Result!
So 1992 came to an end. Me an adult (physically) and money in my pocket. Next up I had to buy a car. Without wheels I was destined to be a nobody. Much as I would have liked a mark I GTi my budget wouldn’t extend to the alloys for one.
For anybody who has a good memory for shitty cars I want you to close your eyes now and conjour up the following mental image:
A 3 door whore: A 1980 MkII Ford Escort. The one with the square headlights. This rear wheel drive beauty was coupled to a powerful 1.1l engine – running on 3 cylinders for added roughness and to tame all those wild ponies. This was finished in metallic gold paint. And rust.
Long before ‘pimp your ride’ came into being I was busy at sexying up this mean machine (the words ‘you can’t polish shit’ should be somewhere in your head about now). Did I lower the ride with Ohlins suspension and add brembro calipers? Fuck no. Did I gas flow the head unit and drop in a performance cam? Nope. I did what none of the Honda civic oiks have thought of doing:
I sprayed the dashboard metallic purple; painted the outside in gold hammerite and sprayed red and gold flames across the bonnet, front wings and off the rear wheel arches.
And my girlfriend (now wife) didn’t dump me. Must be because of my huge personality 😉