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We Raise a Glass to Garages and Rain

If you’re blessed with space for wrenching and thinking, never miss an opportunity for either.

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Weezer said it best, in my opinion. “I feel safe in the garage.” While relaxing in my garage with a beer last weekend, those lyrics kept repeating in my head. Almost everyone who visits this website will find nothing noteworthy about that moment, but I can tell you that beer tasted like quiet triumph to me.

Finally, after more than six years of chasing R&T around the country, we’ve found a place to settle down in the Seattle area with our two children. Moving boxes, packing tape, and the removal of old pink toilets have left little time for contemplation or contemplation. A new place takes years to get into shape, as anyone who’s recently relocated can attest. We won’t be able to empty the last U-Haul box until 2030 at the earliest.

However, I was able to sneak away for a brief moment amid the mayhem. To mark the occasion in a minor way. The gentle Seattle rain sounded like a drumroll against the garage’s single wide window as it fell on the roof. For some reason, it felt like the right time to sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold beer. So I sat and drank while I contemplated.

Welcome to Kinardi Line, the self-loathing auto writer’s mouthpiece. Dedicated to shitbox adoration and questionable takes.

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Even after the first mortgage payment, owning a home still seems like a long way off. As a result of high-paying tech jobs, Seattle’s housing market has been on an upward trajectory for more than a decade. For us to get a house in our price range, we knew it was going to take something out of the ordinary.

The garage is to be credited for that miracle.

We got to meet the owner’s son at the showing of our house. He’d just happened to be mowing the lawn when I saw him. It was a lucky coincidence. Before he left, I started a conversation with him about the house. This is how it started:

My beloved Washington State University Cougars have a fan in his family, it turns out. One of the most devoted members of the family was the late matriarch of the house. On occasion, she would travel to away games and enroll her grandchildren in college. Afterwards, the son took us on a tour of his childhood home, reminiscing about the times he spent there. It wasn’t long before the discussion spilled into the garage.

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He told me that the house had previously been occupied by racers when I asked him about it. My eardrums pricked. Family members ran NASCAR-sanctioned stock-car racing series in the Eighties, according to the man. The garage’s rafters were stuffed with old parts and a race trailer was parked in the back yard as a result of their hard work. The smell of old gear oil and bald race tires lingered in the corners, but the garage had been cleared of old racing memorabilia since his mother’s death. One beam hung from the ceiling to serve as a reminder of what had once been. At the end of each race weekend, it was used to pull the engines. There was no doubt that he would be more comfortable selling the family house if that old beam and its garage were put to good use in the future.

Then again, my Miata could certainly use a V-8.”

This was our twenty-fifth failed attempt at offering full asking price for a house. The owners graciously accepted, despite the fact that selling on the open market would have netted them a larger profit. After a grueling home-buying experience, we finally moved into our new place a month later and discovered a photo of my son at my new work bench. In the front yard of the house, a race car was surrounded by trophies. In the photograph, his brother stands with a beaming smile and ’80s sideburns.

Until that rainy weekend, the photo sat on my workbench unmoving. I held the photo in my hands and sat in a peaceful state of mind. It sparked memories of garages, fathers and sons, and the passage of time. After a few sips, I couldn’t help but think of my late grandfather.

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For a living, Larry Voeks dug septic tanks. His “garage” was more of a workshop nestled in the Cascade Mountains’ foothills. There is a lot of rain in that area of the world. There were three bays in which he operated his small business: diesel engines and hydraulic fittings.

When I was in my early twenties, I used to go to his shop on weekends and use a long chain from the vaulted ceiling to open the bay door. That was the end of Grandpa’s working career. Most of the time when I arrived, he was still dozing off. When I needed advice (which I usually ignored) or just some lukewarm beer, he was always there in the right place at the right time to offer it (which I usually ignored) (which I always accepted).

It was only after we had a few beers together that we realized how much we had in common. When my shirt was oil-stained, I felt more deserving of his attention, and yet, he insisted on asking about my writing. My hopes and fears for the future were never a source of embarrassment in conversations with complete strangers, let alone close friends. To my surprise, he told me all about his childhood, including where he liked to skinny dip in his teens, and how he once lifted salmon from a nearby hatchery when food was scarce at home. His shop became a weekly routine for me.

That garage transformed over time into a haven of peace. A place of worship. Even though it was raining on the thin tin roof, there were times when I closed my eyes and just listened instead of doing the work. When Microsoft fired me in 2014, it took me six months to find a new job. Unanswered application after unanswered application ratcheted up my personal stress level. The garage, on the other hand, was a go-to place for me when I was feeling down.

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During my time without a job, I spent my time tinkering with my car for the sake of tinkering, going to the shop to work on various projects. If something goes wrong in a garage, it can be fixed. In the real world, things aren’t so simple.

I eventually got a job again. The rainy weather in my new office frequently brought back memories of Grandpa’s shop, but my visits there became sporadic and infrequent as I grew up. My grandparents relocated and my grandfather passed away over the course of time. All that’s left are my recollections.

Despite the dulled and hollow sound of the rain in my own garage, the rhythm brings back memories of that old shop and a sense of melancholy. Our only option is to continue driving through the fog.

Slowly, but surely, my own garage is taking shape into its own unique space. With the help of that old beam, I’m hoping to lift a few engines. Eventually, I may grow old enough to give up refrigeration and keep a pallet of cheap beers in the basement and learn something new about my grandson. Who knows?

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Keep going if you long for a place to park your car, just like I did. If you’re not ready for it, life may grab your arm and pull you in. To get the most out of it, spend some time alone listening to the rain on the roof of your own home. Keep it close to your heart. Take a moment to appreciate the good things in your life, and then get to work. As long as you’re in the garage, you’re safe.

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