A thud stirs my slumber.
I snap my eyes open, but darkness remains. A sharp whirring noise stands out above the din. Startled, my hand shoots to my face, sliding a cover off my eyes. Then I remember.
As my eyes adjust to the brightness, I can feel the ache of the last two weeks wash over me. Glancing to the left, I see a closed port window; light gray in color and smooth in texture. My back groans as I begin to wake, the 'cushion' doing nothing to support me. I'm on an airplane. I open my mouth to speak, only to be greeted with a sand paper tongue.
"Amanda" I rasp, feeling for her arm. The flight was the last leg of our three piece journey. Seven and a half hours earlier, we departed from SIN, Singapore's Changi Airport. Before that, we had departed from the mystical nation of Vietnam. But that's a story for a different time.
I suddenly realize I need a drink, only to recall I don't have one. Our bottles were confiscated in Singapore, and our lovely airline (who will remain unnamed)(fuckers) charges three dollars a bottle. Which I refuse to pay. I lean over and reach for the window, sliding it open to reveal a bright and sunny day. Foreign landscapes roll past as my eyes adjust. We must be close. Sure enough, not a moment passes before the pilot comes on.
"We've begun our descent, we will be landing shortly. Welcome to Melbourne. We hope you enjoy your stay."
Amanda's eyes open as the plane touches ground. I see her confusion give way to consciousness as she too remembers where we are. The second part of our journey has officially begun.
Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Melbourne. We'd been travelling since noon the day before. Or was it two days? At this point it was impossible to tell. We stumble off the plane, greeted immediately by a foreign yet familiar accent, along with signs cautioning those who feel sick to immediately seek medical assistance. We'd seen how serious this was being taken elsewhere. In Singapore, stations had been set up with large thermal sensing devices, scanning anyone who walked past and reading their temperature. A two week quarantine awaited anyone above 100. The quarantine stood in Australia as well, and with each passing day the threat became greater.
Security and customs seem to take an eternity. I have yet to find any water, save for the vending machines that take money I don't have yet. My sand paper tongue has upgraded from 80 grit to 40. I feel like I'm chewing on a pile of small rocks. Exhaustion is also taking its toll. I'm not thinking clearly. Everything that happens is either hilarious or enough to make me snap, sometimes mere moments from each other. Seconds seem like hours. Time might as well be standing still.
The mood immediately changes as we leave the main doors and see two beautiful, familiar faces. Colton (@sixspeedsoul), an old friend and the one who had initially told me about the invite to Status, and Sarah (@sarahbarou), the fearless creator of the event. We introduce, exchange hugs and head to the car. More introductions follow as we leave the building. Charley (@centru) who I've followed forever and spoken to on many occasions but never actually met, is standing with his travel mate Dereck (@mbn_media). Not two feet away stands Gold Coasts own Josh Simpson (@d_a_t_e_d) and Melbourne local Hudson Jaman (@hudsonjaman) with the second car assistance. The next couple hours fades into a dehydrated blur; a few mullets, some low quality jokes and a salad I forgot to get with chicken later we are pulling up to the Status house. Though, house is not strong enough word to describe it.
As we drive up the hill, the home of an 80s kingpin rolls into view.
Through the trees, I see a brick base and three brick pylons supporting a room above (the kitchen and a sun room of sorts). Around the side, a massive balcony overlooks what feels like an Olympic swimming pool, surrounded by a unique (plexi?) glass wall that mirrors the one around the balcony. Seemingly there are several entrances around the building, none of which are open. My body groans again as we haul our suitcases and gear around and back to the different doors. Eventually, we make it inside. Through the pool door we walk into a dim hall that is painted a bright yellow, but leans orange more than green. A Brick arch hangs over a counter top. Large wooden doors make the place feel a bit like a dungeon. But the SIZE. The downstairs by itself is a complete home. Full kitchen, massive living room area with couches, recliners and a projector. A fairly large bedroom and two bathrooms fill the rest of the space. Even the hallway between the living room and the bedroom is quite big.
After some ooo's and some ahhh's we head up the spiral staircase, only to be surprised yet again. At the top of the stairs, a hall splits off into several directions. Beautiful wood floors lead around the corner into what I'd call the dining room. A monstrous wooden table claims the entirety of the space, and is offset pleasantly by the bold red paint occupying the wall behind it. The other wall, off to the right of the table, consists of about 10 floor to ceiling windows, two of which are sliding glass doors. Large, gorgeous curtains are tied back, showing off the balcony beyond. It becomes apparent that each room has some sort of theme. They stick to a certain color combination, or a motif, or a mood. The America room is a pale yellow, holds several light couches and some very unique yellow chairs. A couple pillows are decorated as American flags, hence the given name. This room, also, is backed by floor to ceiling windows, which lends to the open feeling of the home. The room is quite warm, and overlooks the lower parking area. I learn quickly to watch where I'm walking as I nearly fall into the kitchen. The step blends in like camouflage.
As we continue ogling the home I file down the main hall behind the others. Everyone is picking out which rooms they'll take; including Amanda (@mandy_lin627), who picked out the master bedroom while I was goofing around. A dark pale blue, the room gives me a sense of calm. A giant bed frame holds it's own inside, and is the only furniture besides a chair or two. This room, also, is backed by floor to ceiling windows. And to top it all off, it has its own bathroom.
I set my bags down. After an eternity of travelling, finally, a moment of rest. It's a beautiful sunny day. I'm a world away from home. For a moment I wonder. How did I get myself here? How did I end up on yet another journey across the planet, travelling with someone I love, doing what I love. I'm just some kid from Illinois. How the hell did get here.
Hours pass. We make use of the giant pool, practicing some synchronized swimming and enjoying good company. Blissfully unaware of the hectic, nonstop action of the coming week. As the sun begins to set, hunger sets in. We'd already swung by Universal for the biggest damn chicken PARM (it's shorter than Parma you lazy Aussies) I'd ever seen; it was time for something new. Not sure who suggested it, but apparently there's a hot kebab spot nearby (now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure the place was actually called hot kebab). So we pile in the cars and head out.
We pull up to the place, a hole in the wall nestled into the corner of a small plaza. HOT KEBAB stands proudly over the door. Inside, I have no idea what to get. It's been explained to me 10 times but I still don't know what's happening. Really, it was simple. HSP or PSP. Both are your choice of meat and toppings, but over either pasta or fries. As I stare at the small order paper I've been given, it hits me. HSP (the one with fries) is just Carne Asada fries but with gyro stylings. Chili sauce, tzatziki sauce, jalapenos, cheese, and a mix of the two meats. I've never been so smitten.
hot kebab, Melbourne
As the meal winds down, my new friends drift into the lot; talking mods and changes, catching up. I never realized the actual size of Australia til now. Some of the people standing in front of me are from Sydney, which on a map looks like a stones throw but in reality is a 10 hour drive. Some are from Brisbane, which is closer to 20. Doing that in a slammed car is no small feat, yet here they are. From all over Australia enthusiasts are converging on Melbourne for this show. It hadn't occurred to me prior, but seeing everyone here and realizing what an undertaking it was to be present for this event brought it all into perspective. Status was a huge hit, and the fact that this was only its second year running further seals that in stone. The prestige of this affair is more prominent than I could have possibly imagined.
The rest of the evening is spent chatting with some of the owners. The stories of getting here are wild. Broken parts, run ins with local law enforcement, general exhaustion. I can't believe how dedicated these drivers are. Yet, it seems so casual. Josh rented a multi-car trailer to get here but acted as if that was the most obvious, even mundane choice. People all around town are breaking stuff. The whole situation is madness.
From the top to the bottom, from Sarah procuring a massive house for a bunch of random Americans to setting up one of the most well rounded and high quality car shows in Australia, I could not be more blown away. There is something different about the car scene here. Of course I could be romanticizing, or oblivious, but it holds a quality of connection. Of passion. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are in it for clout, just like back in the States. But I can feel the sincerity behind these people. Both with their builds and with their words. Their spirit is striking.
The night runs long. People are starting to get tired. One by one, cars start to disperse. I can feel my bones yearning to find sweet release in a sea of cushions. I take a final look around. I'm actually here.
I can't believe I'm actually here.