A couple years ago, I rented a new Corvette and took it up the Angeles Crest. I wanted to find out if I just liked fast cars or rather if I just liked driving fast. It turned out and it remains the case that I like driving fast. But like most other things, I'm a formalist and I do my extremes with a modicum of restraint. I like being competent at extreme things, I am not particularly interested at being extremely competent at anything. There is the shadow of my father's most prescient and wise words that hangs over me. "A little bit of everything adds up to a whole lot of nothing."
That is why, in the end, I am much more likely to spend my hard earned money on a moderate Porsche rather than any other fast car. I am attracted to its formality, its capability of achieving without straining, its ability to draw one out of mediocrity without a sharp learning curve. Yeah. That's me. The moderate Porsche guy.
In this, I make the distinction between moderation and mediocrity. After all, I'm still talking about some appreciable measure of extremity. How's about 120 MPH in a 55 zone? This is actually something I'm fairly comfortable doing, and have done several times. The thrill, after all, comes from leaving the mediocre behind. Half the time I hate being boxed in by laggard traffic, but the other half is from the possession of the power and skill to make things happen as quickly as I can think of them. To see across four lanes of traffic through which you can thread a half mile ahead of your current cruising position is a siren call. On a motorcycle it's almost trivial. In a fast car, there is a different kind of risk. In an expensive Porsche, another dimension of risk is added. All that risk aside it's the thrill of moving from a casual 80 to a manic 135, of making the other traffic stand still, to boldly go. That's a kick in the pants, but it's also barrel fishing.
The real test is to measure oneself against oneself. That requires a track and practice, and that is an expensive proposition for the kind of Porsche owner I'm most likely to become in the next couple of years. That's the sad trombone. That said, there is a strong element of wish fulfillment going on here. I've always wanted to own the Porsche and the Rolex. It's a kind of California thing. It's personal. It's what I would hate not achieving, even though I go back and forth about the Rolex and have for the past 15 years. If I never own my own Porsche, and I never drive fast on that mountain road, it will be an experience I would greatly miss. If I never impress a Maitre D with my Explorer GMT, I can live with that.
Deep in my soul there are a couple interesting characters with whom I'm entirely comfortable. One of them is the guy who drives west on Sunset to the sea, but with that jungle music turned up. I already have composed the tune I want playing when the valet returns my hooptie and I prepare to burnout. So all of my cars had to be cool. The Porsche will be cool.
I think it is true that one cannot enjoy multiple cars. It isn't natural. It is an acquired taste, and one that I'm not sure that I want to acquire. Of course I don't know what it means to be retired with disposable capital. But after all of the car shows and auctions I have witnessed - well they're kind of like strip clubs. You're real happy for the guy who just scored but you're really not all that jealous. I can't tell you how much fun it is for me to sit behind my LG flat screen and enjoy the screeching cars at Goodwood, but do I really want to fly out to England to be a guest of a club they would never let me join?
What I can do is join the club I don't have to join, which is the gang of motorheads native of SoCal car culture, the Cult of Mulholland the Tribe of the Angeles Crest, the Crenshaw Cruisers and the Hoonigan Squids of Griffith Park. I was more than just knee deep, then again, not totally deep, but deep enough to be deep. I wonder if, as I look upon these tepid loves, I have ever wanted anything so much as to break all laws. No. I've only wanted to satisfy my self, and I've never been so greedy as to expect it all at once. I've always wanted to live a long and fruitful life. Perhaps I'll become more reckless once my daughters are married.
This weekend, I took myself through a sheepdip of the Porsche Experience and tested my limits on the little track over in Carson. I can say without qualification that it was a breathless experience, and it was very pleasant to learn that I have a solid grasp of the basics. Unlike when I started shooting several years ago, I was not handicapped too badly by my videogame experience. I could tell what driving on virtual tracks had done to mess me up, but I straightened a lot of that out in a hurry. My motorcycle experience served me well in that. But that was all the first step. Now I'm knocking on new doors.
My strengths are in braking. That's the one thing that I got consistent good marks on. I could take the car reasonably up to 80-90% of its ability with good control. My weakness was a lack of understanding of how hard I could corner, ie how much speed I could take into a corner. I was in too much of a hurry to accelerate hard out of a corner rather than to brake less coming in and ride the speed through then power out later and smoother. That's probably a typical videogame error. At times, I was also not looking far enough down the track because I didn't have a good idea how fast I could actually go given the traffic. My biggest error was slow hand speed on the skid pad. Until I figured I could waggle a lot more on the pedal and steering wheel, I was trying to smooth my way into a perfect drift. So I was trying exactly not to be jerky and I think jerky was called for. All in all, I got a good taste of driving fast. God have mercy on my soul.
The next day I did some American muscle in a Mustang. That was quite the different experience as it was mostly done on the legendary Pasadena Freeway and on the 10 West. It mostly consisted of blowing through traffic as described up in the top paragraphs. Satisfying, but silly. I have to say that kind of driving is much more fun if your car is both loud and obnoxious in sound and color. The yellow vette from two years ago was perfect. The black Mustang, not so much, but since it was a convertible and we wore Ray Bans, it was doucheriffic. I think the only thing that can outdo that kind of badassery would be doing wheelies on bikes.
So there's that.