One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” finds the characters played by John Candy and Steve Martin pulled over by a policemen who is more than a little fascinated by the condition of their car. Of course, their vehicle burned up in a hilarious incident the night before, and there is ice and snow covering the vehicle as they drive down the road in their horrific caps. Yet when stopped by the police, Candy points out that it’s the damndest thing. The dashboard melted but the radio still works.
Then years later, along came the song Dashboard by Modest Mouse. Please watch the video. It’s so delightfully strange. But the lyrics tell a story of survival in the face of strange odds.
Well, it would’ve been
Could’ve been worse than you would ever know
Oh, the dashboard melted
But we still have the radio
Getting through some of life’s experiences is all we can do sometimes. A few friends of mine, men and women, have recently gone through marriage breakups. Some have discovered that despite the meltdown of their marriages, their “radios” still work. The voice in their head tells them that it’s going to be okay.
Oh, it could’ve been
Should’ve been worse than you would ever know
Well, the windshield was broken
But I love the fresh air ya know
(The dashboard melted, but we still have the radio)
I have had friends, and sons and daughters of friends, that have come through drinking problems or substance abuse. Some of these situations were responses to life’s generally hot breath. Others were damaged from the inside out. The drugs were attempts to self medicate.
Why should we ever even ever really even get to know?
(It was impossible, we ran it good, we ran it good)
Oh, if the world don’t like us
It’ll shake us just like we were a co-oh-oh-oh-old
Now here we go!
I take a dose of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicine each day. It helps, as the psychiatrist who prescribed it once said, “to put air in the tires.” Like many people, I’ve come through some intense stuff in life. Caregiving. Lost people that I love. Faced work and financial challenges. But as noted, my radio is still playing. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about how my head works. Learned to consider life’s challenges, yet not ruminate on doubt and negativity. Tough lessons to learn. The dashboard has melted on occasion, but I still have the radio.
And of course, the most important treatment for mood and motivation (the dashboard) is my running. And my riding. And now my swimming.
It was no coincidence back when I was 14 and first went out for the cross country team… that my body and mind reverberated with life in response to long distance running. Studies have shown that good chemical things happen when you run.
That doesn’t necessarily uncomplicate your life. But with time to process and think about what’s going on around and inside of you, there’s a better chance you’ll figure it out. Come up with creative solutions. And think about the practical aspects of your actions.
Well, we scheme, and we scheme, but we always blow it
We’ve yet to crash, but we still might as well enjoy it
Standing at a light switch to each east and west horizon
Every dawn you’re surprising
And the evening was consoling
Saying, “See, it wasn’t quite as bad as”
There’s a great Peter Gabriel song in which he’s inside his house imagining this monster outside his door. All night long he’s cowering in fear, yet when he opens the door in the morning a harmless creature lays curled up at his feet. It only wanted to come inside to get warm?
We obviously have many coping mechanisms to get along in this world. Sometimes things go up in flames. Yet the funny part is finding out how things turn out despite how far your fearful imaginings take you. That’s why the scene with John Candy and Steve Martin sitting in that frozen car with the dashboard melted is so goddamned funny. They’ve been through hell together, those two. But the music still plays.
You can make up your own allegories from here on out. Perhaps you have a training partner with whom you’ve been to hell and back. Or maybe you’ve come through a divorce, a death of someone important or a divorce. Perhaps a long struggle with food addiction and weight or drugs is always in the back of your mind. None of us is perfect. All of us cringe while the dashboard, on occasion or in our past, melts before our eyes.
It just pays to have a way to figure it all out. Time to process, even to twist the truth around and look at it from all angles.
Hard-wired to conceive, so much we’d have to stow it
Even needs have needs, tiny giants made of tinier giants
Don’t wear eyelids so I don’t miss the last laugh of this show
(The dashboard melted, but we still have the radio)
Life is absurd, you see. And random. There is no pre-ordination or pre-destination to it all. God is not, as Modest Mouse also once said, a control freak.
But there his hope and salvation in learning how to deal with life’s obstacles. And sometimes the voice of God is just the crackling noise coming from a radio that didn’t melt when the dashboard did.
Dashboard Songwriters: JOE PLUMMER, ISAAC K. BROCK, JEREMIAH MARTYN GREEN, ERIC SCOTT JUDY, JOHNNY MARR, THOMAS P. PELOSO © Peermusic Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC