Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time to dance

This song (Road to Morocco) captures my current state of being.

Life gets busy, life gets exciting. And, as a result of fatigue, I do not write as often as I would like! However, today's article is one of the most important ones since I left Rhode Island: it is a point of no return in my existence; it is the point in which I made a decision to be my own master. Keep on reading, because the events narrated here span several days worth of meditation, talk, and personal evolution.

Things are going well at Burlingame Motors. I have spent good part of the last two weeks designing and figuring out their website with my employer, who now seems quite impressed with the work of his (generally clumsy) apprentice. Here is a picture of the shop in the 1980's, a little piece of history that, unburied from a yellowed envelope, brought fond memories to René:

And this is the shop currently, taken from the same place, thirty years later:

And here is a picture of René, my boss, back in the early days of the shop: a young Swiss immigrant with a spirit full of promise and excitement. Last week he told me that when he started working there he got a speeding ticket for driving a Ferrari Daytona at 75mph in a nearby industrial avenue... and how he was not liable thanks to his Swiss driver's license!

When I look at the pictures of how the shop has been gradually been built, I have developed a renewed sense of appreciation for it. I see my boss as someone who was in the same position as I was, someone who struggled, made mistakes and enjoyed his time in the same grounds I am now working at. And here I am, about to make a decision that will shape the rest of my life.

On Thursday, November 3rd, I left the office fifteen minutes early to head to the airport. Waiting for me, in his Ray-Bans and brown moccasins, surrounded by Asian girls, was Tyler, the person who, a few weeks earlier, had proposed to set up an online TV show together.

After a quick tour of the shop, we headed to downtown San Francisco for dinner at one of my favorite places: R&G Lounge. Tyler was craving seafood –rarely fresh in Kansas–, so this fit the bill just right! I even had him try roast duck for the first time. "Tastes like chicken", he said, with a wrinkled brow of uncertainty.

After that, we talked extensively about his Buick Roadmaster wagon, as we descended from the Bay Bridge on to the Flughafen Tempelhof in Treasure Island, an old Art Deco building used as a set in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It so happens that this location also has the best views of the San Francisco skyline, which made Tyler joke about our "romantic date" and my "seductive powers" through my car's "Corynthian Leather". Blessed be you, Mr. Montalbán!

The next day we agreed on having a hearty sourdough breakfast at the Embarcadero. We stuffed our faces with delicious toast and sandwiches, and with full bellies we drove on to the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, where we lusted after some of the most beautiful collections of cars ever gathered under one roof.

And here is one of my favourites, a Daimler expedition/hunting vehicle that belonged to the Maharajah of India, with its original scars, nicks and dents, safe from the pristine restoration process the other cars had been subjected to.

What is interesting about the Blackhawk Museum is that it is devoted to the preservation of automobiles as a form of art more than anything else, as a aculpture that just so happens to move on its own.

We then visited one of San Francisco's funkiest spots: Haight-Ashbury, a busy intersection full of thrift stores, artists, backpackers, tourists and assorted weirdos. At the local Goodwill, Tyler found a brown corduroy jacket with magic powers: not only it was a perfect fit, but it attracted the kind comments of a group of backpackers and a beaming smile from a girl passing by.

The evening was spent at a classy Italian restaurant in downtown, with minuscule servings full of explosive flavor, and an innovative (and very rational) approach to restrooms in which only the toilets were separated by genre; the sinks were shared. Made sense!

On Saturday we went junkyardin'. Donuts for breakfast, and a few hours at two different Pick'n'Pulls. There were a few interesting finds, like a working Saab convertible for $1,100... or two W114 280C's in the good company of a Jeep US Mail panel van. Heading for our third scrapyard, it started raining. Hard. We stopped by Mike's At The Crossroads, makers of one of my top three burgers. It kept raining, harder and harder, so we changed our plans in favor of dessert at Screamin' Mimi's, home of the best homemade ice cream in the North Bay. It was at the tune of heavy rain and dessert that we got started on a somber conversation on money, college and romantic partners: pain, sacrifice and loss. I would say that talking about hurtful experiences, especially being of a similar age, made our bond much stronger. And probably by now Tyler knows, as many of you, that one of the less-talked-about motivations behind my crazy life decisions is to find an antidote to my long, agonizing, romantic grief –as described in this film of mine. I fight my pain with sheer determination to construct a life that is worth waking to each and every single day, a life with no regrets. And so far, so good!

Upon our return to the city, we found a rooftop bar to have a drink with a view: the Mark Hotel, the same one at the beginning of Bullitt –not sure if Tyler found it on purpose or not! I drank my first glass of Scotch in almost ten years –the first one being a sample my father gave me in his bar, in my early teens–, while Tyler sipped (downed!) his drink.

Since I had never been at Behihana, Tyler proposed that we should go to the one in Japantown. Food was delicious and acrobatically prepared; and, as one would expect from Tyler and his magic jacket, our (chronically shy) waitress showed some hesitation on keeping or handing him the picture we all took together at the end of our meal. My hat's off, mister!

Sunday was... Sunday. Surprisingly good breakfast at McDonald's, and smooth ride to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. There, watching the ships, we talked extensively on the show, and elaborated the six episodes that would conform the first season. It is top secret, but all I can say is BE READY.

Lunch at the fanciest Taco Bell in the world, followed by Harold and Kumar (ouch! my brain!) and more talk on the logistics for the show, especially my cursed immigration requirements. Browsing through the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's website we just found out that, thanks to the overwhelming pressure of the labor unions, I would have to be matched to every available single US worker ever born before I could get hired: leave the leftovers for the new kid. Ironically, this protectionist practice –regardless of how good or promising my ideas are–, if enforced to its full extent, would further destroy two potential US jobs (cameraman, sound/editor) and many an exciting time for viewers.

Without getting too political, I would just like to say that it is heartbreaking to see that I am seen as competition, as an enemy, by the labor unions, despite trying to invest my money and find/create jobs for others. As a resident alien, I cannot even create a design company to help my friends and promote new talent. Everything I am entitled to is to bow my head and work for someone else as a camera monkey, but ONLY if no one else wants the job. It is a crippling measure for people with fresh ideas who just happened not to be born here in the US.

We will muddle through this paperwork maze. I know that what I have achieved so far has been inspirational for many. By choosing to write my thoughts and experiences, and by seeing the reactions I am getting, I feel at this point that it is my responsibility to stay here, and fight for what I believe in –and that includes you.

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