It’s hard to write about my obsession with cars without sounding like a complete ass. It’s also boring. I mean, who wants to listen to me drone on about that? Yeah, the new Superfast is an amazing Ferrari, did you know.... BORING. PRETENTIOUS. MEANINGLESS.
But I've found the greatest medicine for myself: Race car driving.
I watch racing on tv all the time. Formula 1 is my true love, but I’ll watch 24 hour Le Mans, The Dakar, Indy, Nascar, drag racing, hill climbs, demolition derby... whatever. But Formula is the ultimate in racing for me. And for a time I was ok with just watching it. Until sometime over the summer my obsession got so overwhelming it made me anxious. I would equate it to my panicky love of Billy Idol in 1982; it was so huge it actually made me feel hyper -- like hyper and anxious, with no where to go with it. Lying in my room late at night, staring up at my three identical posters (ala Warhol) of old Billy, and thinking - what the fuck am I going to do? How am I going to marry him? or whatever half baked love fantasy I had with no beginning, middle, or end.
Formula and fast cars in general became that for me again. Sitting in bed, scrolling through picture after picture of car and driver, googling anyone and anything I didn’t understand (ask me about vertical velocity). But unlike my 12 year-old self, I realized I was able to do something about this obsession. I’d go to racing school.
So a few months later I found myself at the West Palm Beach International Raceway getting into an open wheel Formula 2000 car with absolutely no clue of what the fuck I was doing. Not a clue.
Our instructor said, “The most important thing I can teach you is to learn to manage your fear and find your line.” It went in one ear and out the other at the time, but that advice is key to racing, and, I think, pretty useful in terms of living life in general.
My first lap was hilarious because I was, to be honest, afraid to downshift. Which is just ridiculous, and strangely enough my body wanted me to downshift. It’s instinctual -- YOU HAVE TO. So I pulled into the pits and called over Eddy the mechanic, who, at the end of the day, has very little time for hysterical women. But he became my favorite person of 2017. Think Buttermaker from The Bad News Bears.
EDDY! You gotta help me I can’t get the up revs if I can’t get the up revs I can’t do this what the fuck eddy you gotta show me!I've been through hell eddy! I dont drink! I don’t take drugs I’m stressed out! I have a lot of anxiety! You don’t know! I have a pillow business (yes I actually said that) I’m stressed I've got a lot of pressures EDDY and I can’t get the god dammed up rev!And if I can’t get the god dammed mother fucking up rev I’m a failure!
So that’s me in the pits freaking out on Eddy like a foulmouthed Doris Day in some bad movie.
He, being Eddy, calmly tightened my belts for me, closed my visor, and said, "B - heel toe and stop thinking. You got this. And if you don’t, maybe it’s not for you." And then he just walked away.
Not for me? NOT FOR ME? No way. Fuck you, Eddy!
So I went back out and I just ground the shit out of the gears -- 1st to 2nd to 3rd and 4th, back to 3rd and 2nd to 1st until I figured it out. Full throttle, half throttle, whatever. It took me two laps and then something just clicked and I got it. The heel toe is still tough, but that’s just practice. But I got it. And when I came back in I jumped out and ran over to Eddy and said, "Did you see that? Did you? I got it! I figured it out! Did you see it?"
There’s a lot that happened in those three short days, more than I can cram into this post, but the number one thing I took from racing -- and exactly why I will continue to race cars -- is that once I got out on the track and hit my first apex, I was not thinking about anything other than exactly what I was doing. It’s the only time in my life -- and believe me I have searched in the bright spots and the dank dark spots of this world -- that I've truly felt like I was in the moment. And I found it there on that track in West Palm beach.