One of my most tried and true stress-relievers is to charge up my iPod, gas up my car, buy a fresh pack of cigarettes, pick a direction, and drive. No particular destination, just away. It’s insanely expensive, it runs the car even more into the ground than my daily driving does, and the chain smoking probably isn’t the best for my health, but hey, it’s the best way for me to learn every Rihanna song in my library word for word. That, and it gives you time to think. Time to think about anything and everything. Sports. Jobs. What cutesy thing you should text next to the girl you’re into. Family. Friends. What the best way is to forget that girl. The course of your life. The mistakes you’ve made. How great you’re life could have been if you hadn’t been a dumbass and instead of listening to what your friends and family told you was your best option, you just did what the fuck you wanted to do and felt like was the right choice. And lest we not forget the immemorially bittersweet and hauntingly sublime task of remembering the girl because hey, sometimes you’ll meet people in your life that make you realize that Snoop Dogg was wrong, and that bitches ARE shit. Oh, and, of course, my new favorite hobby of trying to figure out the best and most creative Saw like way of killing Gotye, like he would have to delete his ex off of his Facebook friend list in order to live or something like that, or forcing him to put some fucking clothes on because he is NOT good looking enough to be naked in a music video. But I digress.
The best time to drive-think, I’ve found, is the middle of the night. Unless you’re on a major Interstate, you’ll see maybe four other cars every hour, the stoplights switch to flashing yellow, and you finally get a chance to start living in a Thompsonian manner and drive as fast as you damn well please down the empty streets because the cops that are out give less than one full fuck about you. It’s the emptiness of the road, I think, that really gives you the ability to completely tune out what’s happening around you and just dive into the previously unexplored depths of your head. It allows you to get away from the mindlessness of shitty TV and Internet memes. It allows you to sit there and slow down and actually try to figure out this miraculous little game of “Let’s See How Little We Can Fuck This Up” that we colloquially refer to as life. It allows you to light your fifth cigarette in forty-five minutes, driving at sixty miles-an-hour, weaving in and out of your lane and only be phased by the fact that your voice is almost as gravely as the shoulder that you’re barely holding onto.
But recently I feel I’ve reached a new horizon. I’ve turned down a different road. A road that’s not so easily navigated. Or at the very least the road is transforming into something horribly regrettable. The timers of the stoplights don’t work, so instead of flashing yellows I get solid reds at every intersection. Six beady little LED pieces of shit telling me I can’t keep going, that I need to stop, regardless of the fact that there isn’t another conscious human being within 5 miles of my position. The city has stopped picking up the road-kill, so when you drive over the same road every day for a week, you get to see the stages of decay, from the fresh carcass still intact, legs of the deer still looking as if they’re galloping, to the bloating fly-infested cesspool that forms as the legs straighten out under the influence of rigamortis, and finally ending in the depressing pile of hair, leather, and venison jerky with a center of black and goopy organ nougat.
Even the car itself has started to haunt me. This was the car I learned to drive in. This was the car that’s seen thousands of cigarettes, hundreds of spliffs, a half-dozen blunts and a Crave Case or two. This was the car that saw everything from first dates and kisses to last dates and breakups. This was the car that has the unfortunate experience of seeing me get my first handjob. Hell, with the amount of manual stimulation and fellatio that has gone down (haha, get it?) in that car, I think it’s probably best that we do part ways (I know it’s not romantic, but we were all in high school at one point. As for all that stuff that’s happened after I graduated high school, I really have no excuse). Not even the coolest and most compatible of women have ever stayed with me this long after seeing my penis.
But I know it’s not the car. It’s not the road. It’s not those bastard stoplights. It’s me. It’s my life and my choices and my situation that are getting all fucked up. It’s at the point that I can’t even bring myself to lie about it and tell everybody the same old throw-away, pre-packaged lines that I dole out whenever I don’t want to put the weight of my problems on other people. I can’t even muster up the breath to say, “I’m fine,” or, “Everybody has shit in their lives,” if it’s someone I can’t bring myself to lie to. Now when I drive, it’s like there’s this overload of stuff to think about. It’s too much to be able to sort out and think about in my head as the car ticks over 170,000 miles. How am I supposed to pay 25 grand in student loans making $9.25 and hour? How can I ever make it in the world as some type of writer if I let the shit in my life debilitate me to the point that this is the first thing I’ve written for my pathetic fucking blog in four months? How am I supposed to tell the girl that’s currently fucking me that I really don’t want anything remotely serious to develop out of this? And then the realization that, due to work and sleep and booze and drugs, I haven’t actually seen or talked to that girl in like, two weeks, so I guess she knows I’m not looking for anything and now I’m back to just masturbating. Then there’s the fact that I’ve finally come to the conclusion that moving back home after graduation was the worst possible decision that I could have ever made in my life, as it has pretty much destroyed any chance of a positive relationship between me and my family. And on top of that, slowly my friends have started to move away or get real jobs and have their own lives and issues that they need to deal with, not to mention that I’ve got to deal with being cut out of people’s lives that I actually, genuinely gave a shit about. And then there’s the fact that I kind of want to start going back to my therapist to try and figure out what the fuck is wrong with me and why I constantly feel this more or less even, steady, slow-burn depression and relatively large anxiety issues, but I can’t bring myself to do it because of the resentment that I feel toward him ever since he called this whole shitty downward spiral fall that I’m in the midst of, all the way down to what set it off in the first place. Then there’s the question of whether or not I’m going to get around to the whole quitting smoking thing, and then there’s wondering exactly how far back I’m going to continue to push the line that separates the drugs that I’ve done from those that I’m not comfortable with taking yet. And then there’s the fact that for whatever reason, I’ve got this habit of being really shitty at letting things go, and I have a tendency to, even years later, rip previously healed wounds back open just for shits and giggles to try and remember why it hurt so much, just to find out that if you do such things, all those horrible events in your past, all your wrong choices and bad decisions and unfortunate circumstances and years of being treated seemingly unfairly still fucking hurts, so that when you start to think about life too much, it starts to become overwhelming, and you end up doing more harm than good for yourself. And on top of all of that, I start to wonder why the fuck I know every single word to “Call Me Maybe” and actually got legitimately mad at work the other day when my coworker changed the radio station as soon as it came on.
A couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs that I follow, AdamsDaugther came back from a bit of a hiatus (I don’t care that your blog is kind of girly at times, I like girly stuff. Like Gilmore Girls, Andre champagne, your blog, and Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bars). She had a post about how she was coming off of a rough patch in her life and decided to rededicate herself to blogging (and cooking). And, with the exception of her using The Notebook as the source of her revelation (Sorry, I like girly stuff, but I made a promise to myself long, long ago that the only time I would ever watch The Notebook would be if I found myself in the position that watching it would help me get laid), I realized I needed to do something, too. I need to get back to doing what I love, to what I want to do with my life. I need to get back to writing and making these amazing connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of life. I need to get back to bringing everyone a little bit of Panda insight. I need to get back to reveling in the awesome things that happen to me, and publicly crucifying those who wrong me. There have been too many boozed out shenanigans and too much regrettable sex in strange places and too many drugged up adventures that have taught me too many little-known rules of life to just keep them to myself. I haven’t spent all my money on bad decisions to just remember them. I need to tell them.
And it makes complete sense for me to do so. Even though I maintain that, in some ways, I needed a break from reality to post up inside my head, it’s time to get back to being me. Even though this road has been littered with those now-dried up and blowing in the breeze deer carcasses, they’ll eventually be gone. They’ll fix that fucking stoplight on 124th and Capitol to actually match up with the green lights on the road so you can drive from Peawaukee to downtown Milwaukee without stopping once. The rest-stop outside of Johnson Creek won’t have a car just creepily chilling in the parking lot with nobody in it. I’ll drive around Wisconsin at four in the morning and not have to wonder about whether the car coming toward me is a drunk driver or just another fuck-up like me, driving aimlessly to try and drive all the shit and demons from their head. There will be a time that I’ll stay out until five in the morning and drive home as the sun rises into the lavender-indigo sky as I speed past the unfortunate lot of my service industry brethren who are chosen to open the places of employ head off to work propped up by no less than 500 mg of caffeine, and the phosphene-like death throes of the LSD I took earlier that night streak across my perception as the drugs slowly meet their demise in my well-overworked liver, and I’ll realize that, no matter how badly I manage to fuck it up, no matter how much bullshit I’ll have to deal with on account of others, no matter how many people or stoplights continually tell me what I can’t fucking do, and no matter how many times I willingly let people hurt me with the vein hope that they’ll truly realize what they’re doing to me and my psyche and change their mind, maybe my life is way too damn interesting and beautiful to not write about.
Take it easy,