I went on a road trip with Mr. Toad earlier this week. We were going to Ron Chuck’s shop to drop off some parts, along the way I ran smack dab into a part of myself I had slid into a room and locked the door. Some of you may remember that this whole BLOG started out as a racing BLOG, that was 8 years ago. I last drove in 2004 and my car and I parted ways in 2008. SInce then I will admit that I have avoided going to the track like a vampire avoids the vatican. As melodramatic as it sounds it simply hurts too much to go there.
This is a pretty common affliction for race drivers in remission, don’t anyone ever kid you racers never “retire”. A couple of years ago I was working radios for Mr. Toad at Laguna Seca. I wasn’t driving that weekend for one reason or another and I had deluded myself in to thinking that it would be “fun” to just go and be at the track. As I approached the pit wall with my headset and my clipboard I came across my Pal Sean Harmuth. He was similarly attired, headset for Randy Harris’ in car radio and clipboard for times. Sean was another driver who was sidelined that weekend. His expression said volumes, his words added frosting to the cake of joy.
“This sucks” he said.
“Yup” I replied.
We nodded, put on our headsets and went off to take care of our business. Nothing else had to be said. We had acknowledged our place cards at the table in purgatory and we went about the business of eating the monkey brain appetizers.
Prior to my this going to the track (and racing in general) was a big part of my life and my presence in that paddock had an air of ubiquity to it that made me more than a little uncomfortable. When I had returned to Formula Vee Racing I took it upon myself to add a bit of a late 20th century twist to a class whose cars were made out of part originally designed in the 1930s. First I started BLOGGING about racing, something no one at that time was doing in the class. Not only did I BLOG about it but I got people to read it. After that I spent a day researching and then set up a Formula Vee web board to serve the community. That board is still up and running, despite the hit the class has taken because of the downturn in the economy.
All of that having been said, when I left racing it was with some regrets but no looking back. Most of my friends in the area are still racers but I avoid contact with the track as much as I can and certain people in particular. This isn’t because I don’t care for them but rather more in the same manner in which people in AA avoid their former drinking buddies. It like being afraid of being re-infected after recovering from a prolonged illness.
Last week I was talking with my best friend in the world, Steve-who-is-Wade. He and I have always shared a simple view of how you should live your life. Life is about stories and if you aren’t making stories you aren’t really living. Stories aren’t made in cubicles or offices, unless the offices are populated with celebrities or multi-headed fish. Stories are made out in the world, out on the edge of sanity where the buses don’t run. In this particular conversation though had taken a distinctly downward turn.
Steve-who-is-Wade recently had surgery to have his Kidney removed and I…well things haven’t been so great for me these past few years since I had certain soft bits removed (without anesthetics) by a big haired girl from the hills of New York. Along with the soft bits it seems the big haired girl also took my passion, not just romantic passion but passion for just about anything. Steve-who-is-Wade and I concluded we both were lacking any real passion just now. Steve-who-is-Wade had the gaul to conclude that passion might only be for those younger than us. Inside me a demon screamed that was not the case but the ever running clockwork that is my brain began to wonder if that might actually be the case.
I have always been a romantic, for better or worse. No Passion is a death sentence for a romantic. It starts as a hitch in your step that plants your feet and removes your swagger. The strength of your hands wane and your arms become heavy. Your thoughts become defocused and muzzy, your rose colored glassed fade to charcoal grey. All of this flow upstream to your heart, like poison flowing downhill to the source of a pure spring and turning it to ichor. In the end all that remains is the chitinous husk of a human being, probably planted on a couch watch reruns of NCIS or (even worse) Survivor.
Back in the Toad mobile on our way to the shop, cruising past the Legion of Honor on a beautiful San Francisco day. With much talk of racing and I find my spirits being buoyed. When we get to the shop, with all its greasy and metallic smells and scattered bits of race cars my spirits rise even more. I can hear it in my own voice and what was that? Am I LAUGHING? Jeezus, what is happening to me? My step gets lighter and my arms are weightless. I trade gybes with Toad, Ron and the guy with the Parrot on his shoulder who I have never met. On the way home I find myself thinking thoughts of racing again, thoughts of fire and tubing and wrenches. I can feel the warmth of the paddock sun on the back of my neck and hear the shriek of formula cars accelerating. Dark thoughts fall away and unfinished designs for as yet unborn flash through my head.
Then I stop. I realize I have been here before, I left the games industry to try and follow these dreams. In the end I had to turn my back on them because the simple fact is that as much as I love the racing world it will NEVER pay the bills. As happy as it makes me I can’t think about this stuff right now! The rational part of my mind muscles its way in like a gruff Bobby with a “what’s all this then?” The rational mind is always good for a real downer just about the time you need it.
When we get back to the Toad Hall I am gobsmacked and oddly silent. No one comments on this, bizarre as it is. At the end of the evening I slink away to the office/Guest room with A Dr. P to watch RESCUE ME (always a life affirming moment made frightening by how much I identify with Tommy Gavin).
Laying in the dark on a creaky fold out bed, Eddie Izzard on the head Phones to try (unsuccessfully)and drown out my thoughts. My friend Taunya comes to mind at moments like this. A successful actress in the past and avid producer and film maker she fell victim to the vagaries of Hollywood and the downturn in the economy and now lives in Salt Lake City. During a midnight chat on Facebook we exchanged commiseration about each others situation. These days she works attending to elderly patients in an assisted living facility. That doesn’t stop her from doing what has made her tick for most of her life. At night, on weekends and every spare moment she has is filled with video projects of her own and gigs on other people projects.
“If I am going to starve” she told me that night, “I am going to do it doing something I love”.
Those words gave me a helluva lot more comfort than any of Eddie’s banter.