All good things...
All good things come to an end; with the end, good things shall come.
Nearly twenty years ago, I was first exposed to the ‘Three Amigos’ of Clarkson, May, and Hammond. Their show ‘Top Gear’ wasn’t available in the US. The now famous clips from the early days circled in forums. Finding their videos proved to be a precarious adventure into the torrents of Limewire, as YouTube hadn’t yet been created and the most impressive phone was a Blackberry.
I’d watch the three berate each other in a language I could understand, yet didn’t, because of all the slang we don’t use across the pond. I saw them drive cars—cars I recognized, some I didn’t, and others I dreamed about. Nearly everyday in college, I’d sit at my computer pouring through the confusingly labeled—often outright wrong or virus laced—files confusingly labeled “TOP GEAR”.
It was in these days that I ultimately found Clarkson’s review of the E60 M5. I can remember, sitting there in a half-broken computer chair, staring at an antique computer monitor, while often a friend or two sat on my mattress—on the floor no less—while we gawked at the footage and how cool it must be to ‘do what they do.’
Finding friends obsessed with cars seemed easy back then. I was in an automotive technology program at a local community college. I had a Z32 300zx—non-turbo because that’s all I could afford. My friends and fellow students were just as obsessed with our hobby. We spent far too much money on ‘mods’. We drove like idiots and often paid (literally) for it. Top Gear was always a hot topic at home and at school. Circles would form around a school computer as someone pulled up a clip they found buried in the hinterlands of the internet.
I was first intrigued to write about cars around this time in my life. At the nudging of an instructor, I’d nearly done it. Maybe the instructor realized my mechanical skills weren’t up to par to succeed in the profession or quite possibly he saw something in me. Either way, I didn’t pickup the pen for the next ten years. I had to get a different career, write approximately two-thousand professional reports, and do all the adulting (wife, kids, house, etc.) I could before the idea came back to me.
I was first tempted reading articles on Jalopnik. I reached out to one of their contributors who referred me to Jalopnik’s then feeder site of Oppositelock. It was there I met some of you. The site was unpaid, often overlooked, and rarely promoted to the front page of Jalopnik. I thought, ‘I could get promoted to the front page. It could be me!’ As the months and years soon went by, it never happened. Oppositelock or ‘Oppo’ as we former ‘Opponaughts’ called it was culled by the parent company after they paid dearly for releasing Hulk Hogan’s sex tape without his consent. A site, such as Oppo, where they had no control over ‘who posted what,’ was simply untenable now.
Regardless of my failures to gain a coveted promotion to a homepage, I began to appreciate and desire the thing we all need most in this hopeful profession: the grind. Writing became a release and a habit. Often if I didn’t write, I’d find all the excuses I made why I didn’t ‘write that article’ were exactly that: an excuse. The gift of creativity, any creativity, can be a curse. The upwelling of ideas isn’t always in a timely manner, nor do you feel the quality of your work is ever at the highest levels. The job of writing might as well be known as a ‘practice’ because it’s impossible to master.
The grind was enough to get me to the point where I started to feel comfortable. Let’s face it, if you want to be a writer, what do you first need to be? A writer! As the days ended at Oppositelock, I wondered, ‘Where would I take my writing?’ It was at the suggestion of some of you that I come to DRIVETRIBE (DT). Full circle might be an understatement because I was now vastly familiar with our ‘Three Amigos’—most of their content was easily searchable, Top Gear was ultimately released in the US for the later seasons, and they were already doing ‘The Grand Tour’. On top of that, I now owned an E60 M5, in the same color (not on purpose) as the car Clarkson tested in 2005.
In the two years since coming to DT, I was introduced to you, the community, gained valuable friends, and maintained many other friendships that I made years ago. This hobby of ours strikes people of all colors, orientations, and places at rates infrequent. I’d never met an automotive writer before writing about it myself. Now, I count many of them among friends. We ‘freaks and geeks’ had a home at DT—a place where all our obsessions and creativity could be expressed. The flotsam and jetsam of this community will find new homes. It’s likely that future automotive communities might be underwritten by the hardpan of ‘I got my start on DRIVETRIBE’.
And that’s what I think Clarkson, May, and Hammond meant for us all along. This industry is a difficult one. They needn’t tell us of their difficulties starting out: we’re experiencing them right now. Often, you’ll hear of a successful automotive writer or personality talk about ‘if they know how hard it would be.’ This little piece of automotive sanctuary might be ending, but we’re all better off for having found it. We few, precious few, need only to continue the grind, drive more, geek out more, and share the passion with others. And as one door closes, another opens.