Fantasies and fairytales

I have this bad habit of dreaming and fantasizing about all the ‘what if’ situations that I could end up in. ‘What if’ I did this; ‘what if’ I did that. It’s not a bad thing in itself because I appreciate my imagination, it’s part of my creative side that lets me cope and create at the same time.

But when it comes to real life situations, sometimes I get carried away with thinking about all the possible courses of actions and their consequences. Then I’ll end up going round and round in my head debating what is the best course of action in case -this- happens or -that- happens. It’s frustrating to say the least, when I’m trying to make a serious decision.

Sometimes I think it’ll be much easier if I could completely ignore the voice in my head and instead just do things. But that’s not a part of me, I can’t turn it off. So I’ll just have to work with the voice instead of fight it.

For example; 6 months ago I resolutely decided on something for myself. Now that’s in doubt and I’m not sure anymore. At the same time, I’m only not sure because I’m considering the ‘what ifs’ of the situation. I don’t expect anyone to understand this, me being cryptic and all.

I think it’s still hard for me to let things flow. Still learning.

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Going home

He  arrived at the airport with plenty of time remaining, checked-in with no issues, and made his way into the departure gates. It was nearly 2 years ago that he was in this same place, getting ready to leave what was, to him, his home. Not the place he’d grown up in, not the place he was born in – but the place he felt he should have been born in; the place he felt he’d grown up in.

The past week had been a whirlwind on the road. Moving from place to place every few days, never in one place too long. Long days and nights of walking and exploring, chatting and eating. All good things, but they took their toll on him, as he given himself no time to be alone; to be peaceful. But this place he was in gave him energy. It recharged him, revitalised him. The sights, the smells, the people, the food; the colours, the sounds. All at once; not overwhelming the senses but uplifting them. There was never a day that went by that he didn’t appreciated it all. Everything around him. He knew where this was where he wanted to be. In all the days he’d been here, there was never a place he regretted going; never did this place make him feel like an outsider, even though that’s exactly what he was. It simply felt like home.

Now inside the departure gates, he was surrounded by shops and people. Some on their way out of this country. Some on their way into this country. Everyone had their own place to go, their own things to do. Except him. He just stood there for a few seconds, taking in everything. Taking in where he was. And he thought “it’s time to eat that lunchbox I bought”. He’d bought it at the train station right before getting on the bus. Knowing it was his last meal from this place for at least a long while, he had been determined to get a meal which meant something to him; a meal which he had eaten in many different places, a meal which never once tasted the same; a single meal which sometimes had sustained him an entire day. A meal which from the last time he’d been here and learnt so much.

As he wandered into the waiting area with lounges arranged in S-shapes, he spotted a seat at the end of a curve. This was where he was going to have his last meal, and he knew this as soon as he saw it. Settling into the seat, he put down his backpack which weighed down on his body, at once both part of him and a burden; it contained all his memories. Sights he’d seen, places he’d been. He unpacked his lunchbox, and took a bite.

It was then that the tears started welling up in his eyes. Suddenly, he felt so alone. So alone in all of this airport. This city. This country. This world. He didn’t want to go back. It wasn’t his home, he’d never felt like he belonged there at all. Most people around him hadn’t considered these questions; for him, it weighed on his mind every day. He pulled his cap lower to cover his eyes, and continued eating his lunchbox. Mouthfuls of food inbetween sniffles and tears dripping down his face. The food wasn’t this salty the last time he’d had it. But that’s probably also because he wasn’t feeling this way the last time he was eating it either.

Questions ran through his mind non-stop. “What am I leaving behind here? Why do I have to go? Why can’t I just stay? Can I just leave the airport again? How long will it be before I can come back? Will it all be different? Will the roads I walked be the same, will the stores still be there, will the people I met still be around?” There was nothing he could do to stem the flow of tears and thoughts, both pouring as out as one. It had been a long time since he last cried, or even felt an outburst of emotion such as this. He just let it keep going, and he kept eating at the same time. It probably looked pretty silly, if anyone was watching. Crying and eating. Nobody cares, anyway.

As the tears dried up, so the lunchbox ran out too. And then, he felt peaceful. No, it wasn’t all right now. But he knew that he had work to do. Dreams to achieve. And going back was going to help him achieve those dreams. And one of those dreams was to come to this place again. This place which held his imagination, this place which occupied his mind, this place which had captured his soul since he was just a young boy – and had never let go.

Photo credits: skyline at 五分埔, 台北,台灣 (Wu Fen Pu Wholesale Markets, Taipei, Taiwan)

Motorbikes or Cars?

Being a 90’s kid, I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a humorous and candid show with Jerry taking his friends out for a ride: simply talking and having coffee.

If you haven’t already noticed in the sitcom, Jerry is a major car guy (specifically Porsches). In an episode with Sarah Jessica Park, “A Little Hyer-Aware“, Jerry talks about his youth where he was worried about whether he would be a ‘motorcycle guy’ or ‘car guy’,  believing that there was no way to be both: “I’ve got to decide what I am and who I am and that will determine how I get around”

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Recounting a story in his father’s shop, one of the mechanics rode a motorcycle to work every day. During a rainstorm, Jerry asked the mechanic if he wished he had a car, but only to be bewildered by the response: “No, I just wish it wasn’t raining.”

Do you think you can be only a ‘motorcycle guy’ or only ‘car guy’?

I ask this because I’m seriously starting to question my “allegiance” to the car world. Having a small roadster is the closest thing I drive to a motorcycle. The low side-walls and open top makes you feel free and open. The little 1.6 trumpeting from the back mimics the fluttering of a two-stroke. It’s the closest thing, but it’s not the same thing.

 

Why I Ride

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous. I could get cleaned up by a car any second. I could lose traction and hit a tree. I could go wide in a turn and go head-on into another car.

But why do I do it? It’s not the negatives that spur me on, because if it was, then I wouldn’t be doing it. For me, the positives outweigh the negatives.

The freedom. The sensation: the wind in my hair (boys and girls, keep your helmets on), the breeze on my face, the smell of the rich exhaust, the rasping roar, the low but rumbling idle, the thrill of going faster than you actually dare, leaning further and further into corners, the realisation that my life is largely in my hands – these are some, but not all, of the many things which make riding a motorcycle an amazing experience.

My right hand controls how long I live for – seconds? Minutes? Hours? Or how soon I come to my end. If I feel lucky, maybe I’ll give it a bit more of a twist. If I’m lucky, nothing bad will happen. And if nothing bad happens, then that means I’m blasting my away from everyone else, in my own world.

I’m yet to come across an apt description of what it feels like to be cruising along at, clear road ahead, beautiful blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze, peace and quiet around except for the exhaust, one with the bike. My head inside the helmet, in its own little world – drifting away, yet at the same time 100% focused on riding, feeling the bike, feeling the road. It’s surreal, addictive and exhilarating like nothing else I’ve ever tried.

The beauty is that I could be rocketing along – or I could be cruising along, it wouldn’t matter. It’s the experience that counts. Not how fast you get there. Not how many turns you took. Not how low you got around the corners. And the best thing about it all?

That’s for you to answer.

Musing: Those moments

This one’s going to be slightly tangential, drifting, and philosophical – A.K.A this might mean nothing to you.

Today, I had one of those moments; where everything just feels right, and there were no worries on your mind, and you were just in the moment doing what you loved. Let me set the scene. I’m a burger lover, and today I woke up with one thing on my mind for lunch: a nice juicy burger (or two). So off I went to the shopping centre and bought all the ingredients; some nice chuck steak, lettuce, cheese – and to top it off, I found brioche burger buns after searching for months. I knew it was going to be good today. As I set off home, the sun was shining, the breeze was slightly cool and very refreshing – i didn’t care for traffic at all, just took my time.

After getting home, I get myself setup. I love to cook – I just love the process of it all, and of course, the result – but sometimes I think I love cooking more than eating itself, and if you knew me then that’d tell you something. I bring out my speaker and attach it to my phone, and choose my playlist. This week, I have absolutely been listening to one thing only – 甜梅號 (Sugar Plum Ferry), a post-rock band from Taiwan (discovered them through KKBOX, which is a story for another day!). With nobody else at home, I turned it up full blast. I love to cook, and I love to sing (I may not be very good at either, but I love both nonetheless), and one thing I love even more – cooking and singing at the same time. It just soothes the soul.

Anyway, I digress, because Sugar Plum Ferry’s songs don’t have lyrics. They don’t need lyrics, because their songs speak to the soul like no words can. And as I was dicing, seasoning and mincing the beef, I rocked out with not a care in the world, not a worry, not a feeling of urgency. Just going at my own pace, enjoying the moment. It was in those moments that I felt peaceful and happy, and content. I’m struggling to fully express what I felt with words, because I just can’t seem to frame it correctly with words. I was listening to music I loved, I was making food I loved, I was looking forward to eating it, I had a full day ahead to do whatever I wanted. After some recent turbulent times, this was exactly what I needed, and I had it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re often so busy with our work, social engagements, and various other responsibilities and commitments to even sit down and tend to ourselves. You know how sometimes you’re just sitting outside and a bird lands nearby and it starts to preen and clean itself? Let’s take that as a metaphor for our psychological wellbeing – sometimes we just need to stop flying, get on the ground and have a break and get the dirt off, straighten our feathers before we go fly again.

So in the end, what is my point? I’m not sure, because I can’t really sum it up either. I just wanted to write out my thoughts on this day as I haven’t enjoyed a day like this in a while.

Oh I realised I still haven’t finished telling my story. So, I rocked out, riding the symphony in my mind like a surfer rises to the crest of the wave and cruises through the barrel – it was one of those surreal moments. I made my burger, sat down, ate them both, and let the music continue. I sat there for a while, basking in the sunlight with a full stomach, happy ears, and a peaceful mind. There was nothing else I wanted, and nothing else that could be given to me to make me more content that I was at that moment. It was more than that though. I just enjoyed the process of everything I’d just done, so much that even if it tired me out, I didn’t feel it.

And then I returned to reality – I had to wash the dishes. I hate washing the dishes.

Photo credits: taken by skyline at 橋頭海攤公園 (Chiao Tou Beach Park), 台南,台灣 (Tainan, Taiwan).

DIY: Vintage Doors

There are a few guides online for re-trimming your door cards but no-one has attempted to re-trim a standard pre-94 NA door card to fit 95/93 LE speaker covers. So after a couple of weeks of planning and buying parts, I’ve finally made my very own vintage-retro doors.

Estimated Time: An afternoon – weekend.
Difficulty: 6/10
Tools require:

  • Screwdriver
  • Spray Adhesive Glue
  • Staple Gun
  • Hex nuts and bolts

Step 1. Buy some vinyl/fabric of your liking. I got 56inch by 32 inch from eBay. This covered both panels with the diamonds going horizontally across the door with enough vinyl to spare.

Step 2. Remove the armrest, door cup and door handle.

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Step 3. Remove the door card from the door. I have a standard 91, so the speaker covers were a separate piece to the door card itself. Just pop out the tabs with your fingers. I found it easiest starting from the corners with the speaker covers. Here is a photo of the door without the door card. You can use this as a general reference as to where the tabs are located. Just run your fingers across the edge and you should be able to feel where the tabs are.

Step 4. Remove the screws and staples that attaches the door bolsters from the door card

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Step 5. Place the door card on the back side of the vinyl and with a sharpie, mark out the size of the door card. This will be used as a reference for you to cut. Because I have a 91 and the speaker covers are a separate piece, I traced both of them as if they were attached so that when I install them back on, they would look like a single piece.

Step 6. Cut out the vinyl, spray on some adhesive and place the door card and speaker panel on. Remember to remove the paper and metal mesh from the speaker panel. At this point, the only thing holding the speaker panel to the door card is the vinyl. So to help with rigidity, I used some hot glue to help strengthen the two pieces.

Step 7. Just staple around the edges. I found that instead of trying to mimic the factory cut, it is better to leave extra fabric so you can use one hand to pull the vinyl tort, and then use your other hand to staple it into the fiberboard. Once firmly stapled and attached, just cut off the excess.

Step 8. Cut out holes for the speakers and door cup/handle. Next, align the 93/95 LE speaker cover on the vinyl and mark out the holes where they attach on the door card. Then with a drill, drill through the door card/original speaker cover . Then with some hex bolts and nuts, tighten them to your new door card.

Step 9. Reattach the door bolsters. Installation is just the reverse of removal.

Step 10. Enjoy your new retro door card!

Before:

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After:

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DIY: Custom Retro Switches

This mod is fairly popular for anyone going for the retro mx-5 look. Nothing says retro more than toggle switches, plus the stock switches on the NA tends to build carbon deposits on the contact points resulting in the switches not working. Embarrassingly, it has happened to me a few times when someone was checking out my car. This window switch idea came from a bloke in the UK. Check out his site here for more details on wiring and design.

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Anyway, here are the stuff you’ll need. I’ve also linked some Jaycar pages where you can buy some of the parts. This project is fairly time consuming. Took me about 2 hrs in total to fabricate. It may have taken longer, but thankfully, I have a workshop with all the spare parts and tools at work which I could “borrow”. 😛

Parts:

  • 1 stainless steel plate, cut to a rectangle 66x52mm. It should just cover the stock plastic window switch. The corners are similar size to an Aussie 10 cent coin. Check the radius as you are filing down the plate. You can buy this at Bunning’s.
  • 2 toggle switches.  You will need Double Pole, Double Throw (DPDT), ON/OFF/ON momentary switches.  Here’s a link to where you can buy some.
  • 12 ring or fork crimp connector. I had some lying around the workshop but again here’s a link to where you can buy some.
  • 10 gauge automotive wire.
  • 1 Mazda MX5 plastic window switch. Feel free to buy one from ebay if you do not want to cut up your current ones.
  • 4 nuts and bolts. Had some nifty hex bolts lying around, but any bolt from Bunning’s should do the trick. Really depends on personal preference.

Tools:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Hack Saw
  • Range of files
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Crimper
  • Phillips-head screw driver
  • Hex key and spanner
  • Dremel

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Using the dremel I hacked out everything on the switch. Take care when cutting the hole as you don’t want to cut/weaken the three mounting points on the plastic backing. Don’t worry too much about cutting a nice straight rectangular hole, the metal backing will cover the hole. Just make sure that it’s big enough to fit the toggle switches (I’m just a bit anal about shit like this).

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Next, cut out the metal plate to size and use a file to shape the corners. Obviously sand the corners as well, if you like, sand the surface for a brushed look. Since the switches have been hacked, this make it very easy to check if you have the correct dimensions. It helps if you draw a mock up plate out of paper/cardboard to make sure everything fits.

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Then, hold the metal plate against the plastic holder and drill through the two pieces with the desire hole size for your bolts. This ensures that when it comes to assembly, everything fits.  perfectly. Where you drill the holes are completely up to you.

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Finally, crimp and solder everything together. Remember to put heat-strink on all your connections! I found 10-guage wires difficult to solder strongly, but I stumbled on this  very helpful video on soldering thick gauge wires. Alternatively, you can use flux if available. Here is the wiring diagram.

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Then all you need to do is assemble and you’re done!

DIY: Charcoal Canister Removal

The charcoal canister is essentially a device that traps fuel vapor that evaporates from the gas tank. Rather than simply releasing the vapors into the atmosphere, the vapor can be recycled and drawn back into the engine to be burned along with the fuel/air mixture. Of course, this is great when the car just rolled out of the factory, but after 22 years, the filter is complete clogged with nasties and gunk, resembling a bad dish of curry, rendering it completely useless. Even Mazda has stop stocking these parts for spares.

A common thing mx-5 owners therefore do is to remove it. Saves a bit of weight (a really small amount – 1.4kg) and generally clean up the engine bay.

Estimated Time: 15-30mins

Difficulty: 2/10

Tools require:

  • 10mm spanner/socket
  • pair of pliers
  • 2-3 cable ties (optional)
  • knife (optional)

Step 1: Locate the charcoal canister. It is located on the left side of the engine bay, between the radiator overflow tank and the inlet manifold.

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Step 2: Remove the top two hoses. On is a pull off and the other is a clip on.

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Step 3: Remove the hose connecting to the throttle body. I found these pull off hoses were quite tight. Using a pair of pliers help with leveraging the out.

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Step 4: Remove the attached connector.

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Step 5: Remove the bottom two hoses. This may be quite tight and difficult given the small amount of space. Once you have done this it should look like this.

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Step 6: Using the bottom hose from the canister and two cable ties or recycle the hose clips to connect the two pipes together.

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Step 7: Go to your boot and you should find a small hose nipple on one of the bolts on your rear lights. Take this and insert it into the throttle body pipe.

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Step 8. Take out the canister and all the relevant junk that was holding it.

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Step 9: Give the area a good clean and seal the connector with electric tape.

Voila. You’re done! Sell this shit on ebay and buy yourself a beer 🙂

Doing the things you love

One of the greatest pleasures in life is being able to indulge in the things we love. Whether that is an activity or vice, a temporary fulfilment of a craving or working towards a long-term goal, or even if it has no ‘meaning’, it is the simple action of completing that activity that really satisfies our soul.

The greatest thing is to have the freedom to do what we love. Not possible for everyone, I admit. But if you are one such person, then please appreciate it. That you have the ability or time, or energy, to do it.

For me, it is riding my motorcycle on open road; cruising past fields of green with the sunshine on my face and wind blowing through my helmet. Hearing the roar and rumble of my bike as the engine purrs along and I work through the gears. Feeling the road through my wrists, every bump I go over, or the smooth rolling road surface. The consummate visceral experience can rarely be matched.

Or, it could be as simple as going for a walk in the park and watching the sun set. These are the things that feed our soul and really put our mind at peace. And ultimately, whatever it is that you do, the end result is (though you may not set out with this goal) you bring peace to the calm that is the constant battlefield of your mind. Every day we are bombarded with messages and notifications, a hundred tasks to complete – deadlines and due dates. It’s activities like these that let us draw away from all the noise and regain our inner sense of self.

Next stop: Unknown

I’d be lying if i said I was young. I don’t feel that word applies to me anymore, as much as I wish it did. At the same time, I don’t fit the term ‘old’ either. Well, neither of those terms are really correct about me in any sense. What I’m really trying to get at is, it feels as though I’ve now grown up (though not necessarily a grown up all the time haha) and should be finding my place in the world. Sure, if you think that means having a stable career and saving for a property, being with a long term partner, everything all rosy – but no, pretty much none of that applies to me.

A lot of people my age are now pairing off, getting married, some are having kids, a lot have pets, a lot have moved out of home, some have moved overseas for work. And most people are solidly on their career trajectory. Which is great, for them, because that’s what they want! But how many people are actually living on the edge – how many people are faking it till they make it? How many people actually know their next step?

I guess I got a little lost in the rhetoric there. My point is that whilst society has this typical plan for us, we don’t have to adhere to it. Life is too short to be linear, and often it’s a lot more fun to go the long way. You can see the scenery, experience life, and ultimately end up in the same place as the person who followed the typical path.

The Urban Account