This Is My Year

This blog post is brought to you by the beer Steve brought over, as mentioned in my last blog post. And a bottle of Duvel. And lack of sleep. And lack of food for the last two days. And an upper respiratory infection. And two medications for the aforementioned upper respiratory infection. I was going to stay, “I should get a sponsor for the booze,” but immediately hesitated when I realized that a “sponsor for the booze” to get more can be the same phrase as a “sponsor for the booze” to stop drinking (e.g., AA).

We’re off a great start here.

The Japan

I wasn’t going to post anything on my blog yet because I’ve got so much to do that I haven’t gotten to bed before 1am since I got back from Japan late Tuesday night. That trip was absolutely amazing - probably the best trip I’ve had so far. I’m doing a full article on it for Redpants Unzipped, so stay tuned for that. It also led to a few conversations about Unzipped and the projects of my two buddies that were there with me. I’m not going to spoil anything, but here are two hints about two of the projects: Z-Tune, and Mischief.

They aren’t related so don’t go nuts on theories.

A quick summary of the trip would include Tokyo Auto Salon, Alpha Classics Racing and the playground of cars that is Fuji Speedway, a Wagyu steak dinner, Tsukiji Fish Market with a great friend, pig dick drinks (yeah…), a pile of meat called PETA, shameless selfies with car show models/idols whilst wearing paper helmets (yeahhhh…..), and the best company a mess like me could hope for… it was fucking beautiful.

And just to top it all off, I’ve FINALLY fit into my red pants - the Redpants - that I’ve been too bootylicious to get into for nearly two years.

The Crew.jpg

Last time I went to Japan I had mobile wifi that worked really, really well. This time, I thought using local networks on my cell phone would be fine. It was not fine. I had wifi in my hotel, but I was barely there at all. So after a week of being away and unable to do even small amounts of upkeep on things, I came back to some 200 new emails, plus the daily influx while trying to get through them. As always, I sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience when I can’t respond promptly.

I don’t want to spoil my article about the trip, and I’ll end up ranting with full vigor and vim if I even touch upon it, so let’s stop there.

This is where I open another bottle of Duvel and remember there’s a story behind the title of this blog post and I haven’t yet told it.

The Japan, Part 2: The Japanening

Bonus points for catching the reference.

So as I was saying, the trip to Japan was amazing because of all the stuff that happened. But there was more than just that. I asked Luanna (from ACR) if she’d be willing to take me to a few places around Tokyo on Monday, which was my last full day before flying back to reality. She had the day off and speaks Japanese and English (and Portugese) and has been living in Japan since she was a child, so she could fill me in on some of the cultural intricacies that I’d otherwise not get on my own.

Monday happened to be a holiday called ‘Seijin no Hi’ (Coming of Age Day). The holiday celebrates becoming an adult and a lot of people go to temples for various ceremonies. One place Luanna and I went was Meiji Jingu, a major shrine in the heart of Tokyo.

One of the things people do for the holiday is write a wish on an 'ema' (a wooden plaque) and hang it at the temple. The ema all had boar on them as this is the year of the boar in the Japanese Zodiac (year of the pig for the Chinese Zodiac). Luanna asked me what year I was born and I looked it up. Turns out I was born in the Year of the Boar.

"See? It's meant to be," she said. "This is your year."

She told me I needed to take a picture with the oversized ema display. Rather insisted, actually, and I really appreciated that genuine interest that I’m fortunate to experience from so many of you, dear readers.

Year of the pig.jpg

Every once in a while someone says something to me that is so profound for the time, the place, and my situation in life, that it resonates with me on a deep level and becomes a decisive moment that marks a change in my life. The last time this happened was when my buddy Blade convinced me to buy that infamous pair of red pants with the best peacock speech I've ever heard. That one simple comment by Luanna was another such moment.

I bought an ema and wrote on it. But it wasn't a wish or a prayer. It was a declaration.

This is my year.

The Japan 3: The Japan Continues

Back in June I wrote a blog post that included a section called, “There’s No Control Like Out of Control.” In it I talk about my father being diagnosed with cancer. It was one of a few major events that heavily contributed to 2018 being a total [long string of expletives] year. [Insert more expletives here.]

I mention this now because it was another momentous moment in my life. Not just that my father was diagnosed with cancer, but that his outlook on life completely changed.

We didn’t have much money when I was a kid. My father’s been dealt so many bad hands throughout his life that I feel like a spoiled brat when I utter even a slight complaint. To sum up a few pieces of what is sure to be a riveting and best-selling duatobiography (COPYMARKED!! Also, I’m looking for publishers - email me), I’ve been wanting to take my dad to Japan for a long time as a ‘thank you’ for making me the man I am today. I’ve got his flaws. I’ve got his strengths. He was voted “hottest dad” at my graduation from the Defense Language Institute so I’m happy to say I’ve got his looks.

I’d mentioned the idea of going to Japan to him every few months and he always seemed interested, but only insofar as being interested because I was so excited about it. At one point while he was in treatment for his cancer, we had the routine phone call in which I’d mention taking him to Japan. But this time, I asked if he even wanted to do it.

“Rich, I see all these pictures of you around the world. I hear how excited you are to do all the things you do,” he said.

I’m crying as I type this because of the beer. Shut up.

“You’re doing all these amazing things and, sitting here looking at how close I’ve come to losing my life… I want to do that, too.”

Okay, these tears aren’t beers. I’m straight-up crying into my keyboard.

My father had never had a passport until getting one for this trip. He’s a huge baseball fan and loves sushi (my brother and I pushed him in to the latter), both of which are WAY better in Japan so I knew he’d love going there and experiencing them first-hand.

I sometimes mention that I don’t really pay myself from Redpants. It’s a continuous reinvestment (and rush to pay for mistakes, since we’re having a heart-to-heart here). The one thing I do set aside and use personally (as well as for Redpants Unzipped) are the credit and charge card points that I put towards airfare.

I’ve never flown first class. Hell, I’ve never flown business class. My one airfare indulgence so far was Economy Plus on my flight to Japan back in November (not returning though). Neither has my dad. So I took a bunch of points and I booked us round trip first class tickets to Japan. He lives in Idaho and I’m out in Florida, so we’re going to meet up at LAX and then board the must luxurious air-pampering we’ve ever experienced.

This is another one of those moments in my life that marks an occasion. I have them throughout my life, as we all do, but this is one that I’m proud of beyond just ‘ah, that’s fortunate’ happenstance. This will be the moment when I can hold a glass of champagne and give a toast to my father for raising me the best that he could with the fucked up hand he was dealt.

Cue champagne tears.

So yes, the Japan continues, and will continue to continue continuing because it’s my happy place. It means something to me far beyond just going on a trip or a “vacation” (quotations because I usually work during vacations) to another country.

I’m sitting here sipping a third Duvel and looking through pictures from the trip to add some imagery to this blog post, and I came across this one.

A True Laugh.jpg

I don’t even remember why I laughed. But I did and it was a deep, genuine laugh. I can see it in my eyes that I can’t see. I can see it in my mouth not being pursed and not facing slightly away from the camera while looking at the screen on my phone to see if I look as dumb as I feel (seriously, look at the pic below). I can see it in John’s perfect synchronicity with some random dude next to him that we had no idea was there but it did wonders for the picture. I can see it in that memory I can feel deeper than the hectic recollection and group-sourced pictures.

And Here I Am

It’s 4:12am and I’ve decided sleep is not a thing tonight (last night?). Oh well. Things to do and a lot of people waiting on me to do it. I’ve done this to myself and have no one else to blame. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

I took a picture earlier tonight - a snarky commentary of my life these days. In this one, it was just me working on a car on a Friday night. I added some snark to spice up what would otherwise be a simple thing. But it made my mind run with thoughts of everything that’s been going on lately.

Hot Date.PNG

There’s a lot going on right now… there’s a lot that’s been going on for a long time. When I got back to Tampa, I was able to get access to my email without the connectivity issues that plagued me in Japan. I was so busy leading up to the trip that I had to skim over emails, messages, and comments that weren’t pressing (sorry, not saying they weren’t important, but was trying to be as time-efficient as possible). I was able to see these incredibly supportive messages you’ve sent to me when I got home.

On one hand, I hit cars with wrenches until they work. On the other, I’m told it matters. You guys are the ones that tell me it matters.

All I see in that picture above is weary eyes and a sucked-in gut. And a sexy car. Nice garage flooring. Great lighting. Okay, but really I focus on my eyes. I mentioned in another blog post that I haven’t done a video in ages because all I see are my own dead eyes when I review what I’ve filmed. That picture isn’t much better.

But it is better, isn’t it? I think so. Maybe it’s the car - I do want a convertible. Maybe it’s the smirk - the subtle acknowledgement that life can be brutal but the only choices we have are persevere or give up.

Regardless, I see an improvement and a return to the the man I used to be - the one that could slog through so much shit it’d make American politics look like Sesame Street.

Because this is my year. Slowly but steadily, regardless of what people see, I’m doing my best to keep moving forward. I just hope my best is good enough.

It is, and I know it is because I don’t have a choice.