Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 31, 2o13
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Regular Diners are aware of the fact that about a week ago, I nearly Bought my Ticket to the Great Beyond on the Glenn Highway here on the Last Great Frontier of Alaska. I'll get round to further thoughts on this latest Brush with the Grim Reaper in my life, but since it's hardly the first time I came close to Crossing the Great Divide. I thought I might review some of the other ones, in Chronological Order. As folks who have read the Over The Road series, Coming of Age in the Age of Oil, and Pump Up the Volume know, I've been privledged to lead a pretty entertaining life in the Age of Oil. That stuff ain't the half of it all though. Now we track how I MIRACULOUSLY made it through those years to end up as a Collapse Blogger on the Last Great Frontier. Strap on the Seat Belt, you'll need it.
Not every one of the stories I will keyboard out here put me close to Buying the Farm, some are just now funny stories of dumb Accidents and bad Situations I got myself into over the years, most often Driving related, but not always. I'll list first the Titles for these stories, you can scroll to ones most interesting to you or just read the whole thing, whichever you like.
Drifting Out to Sea- Age 5
The Big Sled Crash- Age 11
Jumping off Buildings- Age 12
Skiing off Cliffs- Age 14
Head Meets Windshield- Age 17
Booze & Ludes- Age 19
The Motorcycle Crashes- Age 18-21
Sleepless at Spaghetti Junction- Age 35
Tipping the Trailer- Age 37
Sliding Sideways to Minneapolis- Age 38
Dropping 2 Miles- Age 50
Flying off the Glenn Highway- Age 55
Drifting out to Sea
Right before we left for Brasil, I went out in a Rowboat off Rockaway Beach in NY Shity with a boy named Michael. He was around 14 I think at the time, I was 5. He was more a friend of my sister, who is 7 years older than me. I think there were 2 others in the boat, not sure though, memory is dim on this one.
Anyhow, it was real easy rowing OUT, since the tide was ALSO running out. We rowed around offshore around half an hour, Michael was getting tired and it wasn't THAT exciting to be sitting on the Aluminum seats of the Rowboat (at least for me), so we decided to head back to shore.
This was not so easy. Michael was fatigued, and the tide was still running out. He pointed the boat at the shore, but hard as he rowed, we kept getting more distant. The people on the beach looked like tiny ANTS. I got scared we would not be able to make it back, and started crying. We started singing "Michael, Row your Boat Ashore". It WORKED! You see, the Tide Turned and was now flowing TOWARD shore. Michael got the Help of God to bring us in. The Finger of God.
The Big Sled Crash
This one probably could not have caused my DEATH, unless I really mispointed the sled and went Head First into a Tree or had a chance meet up with a car at the bottom of the hill I sledded whenever we got decent Snow in NY Shity.
The house in Flushing, Queens I lived in after my parents Divorce was at the top of a pretty steep 2 Block long hill. In winter when we had Snow and Skule was cancelled, I would sled down the hill, lots of FUN on my Flexible Flyer sled. Old Fashion kind with Steel Runners and T-Bar "steering". The T-bar allowed the sledder to bend the runners slightly left or right to direct the sled, more or less. Effective at low speed, faster you went though less effective,and about useless if you hit some ice. Ice was GREAT though, because on Ice you really went FAST, and going FAST is what it's all about for EXCITEMENT in sledding. Or Skiing, or Driving Carz too.
Anyhow, after the Lindsay Snowstorm which came when NY shity was having Financial Issues and the Sanitation Workers were on Strike, the streets weren't cleared for a WEEK and schools were closed, it was sledding HEAVEN! I was out sledding every day, and by the end of the week the hill was basically Glare Ice having been compacted down by cars running over it.
My Last Trip down the Hill on that occassion was FAST! Except I had about ZERO control over the sled and stopping it travelling that fast wasn't possible even digging my boots down on the ice. I crashed into a fence post of a house at the bottom of the hill, and broke one of my wrists.
Thing was, I did not want to ADMIT to my mom that I got hurt sledding, because I was afraid she wouldn't let me sled the hill anymore. So I kept mum about it, and next day rolled off the Couch in the Living Room and started moaning my Wrist Hurts! Go to the Doctor, get X-rays and casted. My mom never knew I broke the wrist on the Hill sledding. She went to the Great Beyond believing I did it rolling off the Living Room Couch! I never told her. LOL.
Jumping off Buildings
Not long after I got the Cast off my Wrist from the Sledding Crash, in the Spring there were lots of Construction Projects going on in my Neighborhood of Flushing. Many of the old Wood Frame houses constructed in the 40s & 50s were being torn down, replaced by Multi-Family 2-3 Story Attached Houses and small apartment complexes. It was increasing Population Density, shrinking living space and making living in that neighborhood more affordable for the workers who rode the Number 7 Flushing Line into Manhattan to make their daily Bread and Rent/Mortgage Payment.
After Skule, said construction projects were Fun Playgrounds for Climbers after the team of construction workers left for the day. In those days, they didn't bother to even put up Fencing to keep out the kids. Not that fencing ever works for that anyhow, but it was easy to mess around a construction site then.
Anyhow, one day they had dumped a HUGE pile of dirt for Landscaping on this property, which also was already built up to 3 stories with Balconies. No Stairs built yet inside, you hadda climb to get to the Balconies. Then the only way to get DOWN was either to Climb back down, or to JUMP. With the big INVITING pile of loose dirt at the bottom, I figured I could JUMP off the 3rd Story, roll out and be OK. I bet my friend William 3 Spiderman Comics and went for it. I'm sure I would have come out unscathed on this one except my left foot hit one of the few Rocks in the Dirt Pile, and I snapped my ankle. OOPS. On this occassion I could not hide it from mom and hadda promise no more Building Jumping. I have remained TRUE to this Promise since, and never Jumped off a Building again. LOL.
Skiing off Cliffs
Having spent much of my early years in Brasil, I didn't have much experience with Winter Sports other than Sledding, but being a Coordinated sort of fellow I figured I could do ANYTHING, especially when I was 14 and pumping the Testosterone. I went on a Skule Trip to Hunter Mountain in Upstate NY, one of the first Ski Resorts to do "Snowmaking", aka using huge amounts of Oil to blow "snow" onto the trails if nature was not cooperating and dropping down the Flakes.
After a cupla trips down the Bunny Slope taking a few falls while I figured out how to stay upright and turn, I figured I was ready for the BIG TIME, and lined up to get on the Big Lift to the top of the mountain. Skiing as a SPORT in the Age of Oil is of course completely DEPENDENT on these lifts, since if you actually had to CLIMB the mountain you ski down, MAX reps you could get would be 2/day. 3 hours to climb UP for 20 minutes Skiing Down, maybe. For Downhill Racers who hit speeds of 80MPH, it would take all day just to climb up for one run.
Anyhow, my trip on the Lift was hilarious, it took me 2 tries just to plant my ass on the seat correctly, first time it knocked me over and I faceplanted in the snow as several lift chairs passed over me and I rolled out from under, not easy to do with skis on. My next try I got on fine, but getting off I faceplanted again.
First trip down the mountain I was Cautious and took one of the beginner slopes down. It was a bit harder than the Bunny Slope, but not much. My 2nd trip I took the Intermediate slope, zigzagged down the run and felt like a PRO! 3rd trip I decided I was wasting my time on the EZ stuff and bypassed 2 levels of trails to go STRAIGHT to Double Diamond! OOPS! Not a good choice.
The trail was WAY narrower so you couldn't zigzag so much and way steeper too. Basically you hadda point downhill and just GO! Which quickly took me up to speed I was totally unprepared to handle, I missed a turn and went careening Off Trail heading first for a Tree I stupidly avoided hitting, since it would have stopped me there without too much damage. At that point I also should have bailed, but kept going. Right off a 20' cliff. I hit bottom, busted my leg and slid further, fortunately halted by some brush, because after that was an even bigger 50' dropoff. About 30 min later the Ski Patrol showed up on Snow Machines, strapped me on a sled and got me off the Mountain. End of my day Skiing, I was bummed. LOL. I eventually got better at it in succeeding years and never had any other Near Death experiences on the slopes.
Head Meets Windshield
I took Driver's Ed at Stuyvesant in my Senior Year when I was 16. If you took DE, in NYS at the time you could get your Driver's License a year early at 17, 18 was the Norm. In those days the "Passage" to Adult Citizen of the FSofA was all Uniform at 18. At 18 you could Fuck, Vote, Drink, Drive & Get Conscripted by the Illuminati to Fight Wars for them. Never ceases to amaze me how we now accept the idea you gotta be 21 to Drink, but you can go Kill People in the War Machine at 18.
Anyhow, I got my Driving Lessons in Stuyvesant Town, the post WWII Rent Controlled Apartment Complex built on the East Side of Manhattan between 1st Avenue to the West, the FDR Drive to the East, 14th Street to the South and 21st Street to the North. Owned by Met Life Insurance at the time, went through a fairly Notorious BK in around 2009-10. Not too many cars in the complex at the time, pretty safe for newbies to be driving around. We learned how to Signal, Parallel Park etc, main things tested in your Road Test. The Road Tests of the era did NOT include driving on Limited Access Highways. Don't know if that has changed for 4-wheelers, but for Big Rigs you are tested on the Interstate Highways.
In any event, I got my license on my 17th Birthday shortly before my Freshman Year at Columbia. By this time my Mom finally had a car, the first few years after the Divorce from Dad the Pigman we did not have one. I think around the time I was 13 or so we got our first in a succession of Used Cars which either Died of Natural Causes or Mom WRECKED. Mom was NOT a Good Driver. LOL.
Anyhow, after getting my License, in my first Semester at Columbia I was a Commuter Student, I didn't get a Dorm Room initially. I commuted in by Subway, as I had when I went to Stuyvesant, I didn't use the Car. However, my mom let me take the car on jaunts whenever I didn't have classes, so I got some driving Experience, including on the Long Island Expressway, better known to New Yawkers as the LIE.
I don't remember pecisely the reason I was driving the vehicle of the time, a Dodge Dart as I recall, I just remember I was on my way back home from Somewhere on the LIE. There was pretty decent Traffic, but it was moving at a good clip, maybe 50MPH or so in the Left Lane where I was. Of course everyone was following too closely to the car ahead, including me.
Some dickhead a few cars in front of me had some issue which caused him/her to Hit the Brakes, so we had one of those Cascade accidents where eveyone hits the rear bumper of the car in front of them. I was about #5 in the line, and I braked to maybe 20MPH before making contact with the next Bumper up the line. I was NOT wearing my Seatbelt. I put the crown of my forehead into the windshield, creating a nice STAR shaped fracture, but did not even break skin on my forehead, though I got a decent Bruise from this. I have a HARD HEAD. LOL.
#6 Bounced of me lightly, and he drove off. So did I after he did. I told my mom a Rock hit the windshield while I was driving. The new windshield for the Dart cost practically what the Dart itself cost to buy it used. Collision Insurance paid for it.
I informed Mom that a Rock hit the windshield. I always lied to Mom about such things. LOL.
Booze & Ludes
By the end of Sophomore year at Columbia, I was ingesting every drug available to College Students on the Planet at the time. Not a day went by I wasn't thoroughly WASTED on something. LOL. Mysteriously, my GPA in my Junior Year dropped from 4.0 to 3.5 or so. Possibly because I almost never made it to class, and when I did make it I was too Hung Over to take notes at all. LOL. I kept the average decent by cramming in Low Library 24/7 the week of Finals, when they kept the Library open all night, fueled on Jolt Cola (all the sugar & TWICE the Caffeine of Coke!), Doughnuts and Heros from Mama Joy's Delicatessen.
Anyhoooo, in the course of that Drug & Booze Fueled year, on one occassion I got shit faced drunk at the Dorm "Happy Hour" on Friday, and a friend gave me some Qalludes to top that off with. I went further Binge Drinking at the West End Cafe/Bar, and by 2AM I was thoroughly Drug & Booze POISONED, and trying to walk myself back to my off campus apartment of the time I passed out on the corner of 114th street and Broadway.
Fortunately for me, I was found by other Columbia students, who managed to get from me where my apartment was and guided me back there, or maybe carried me, not sure. I don't remember a damn thing after Happy Hour, it's all reconstruction from what people told me later.
The Good Samaritans who found me got me back to my apartment,dropped me on my bed and left without taking ANYTHING. Not my Stereo or even the bag of Ganga on the coffee table! Anybody else found me, I could have been ripped off, raped, murdered, whatever. I only found out about ALL of it a few days later when a couple of the guys came by to check on me and they told me the story. I had no memory of it. I just woke up hung over the next day completely incognizant of how I got home. Probably should have died just from Alcohol Poisoning, but I guess I upchucked enough when I passed out to avoid going overthreshold.
The Motorcyle Accident
In my Junior year, I finally got my OWN set of Motorized Wheels, not a car though. I picked up a Honda 400cc Supersport for I recall about $1500. It was a great City Bike, nimble in traffic, not overpowered and overweight like the Big Highway Bikes Harley made. It was in my budget with the work study job I had at the time, and it freed me from the Hated Cattle Cars of the NY Shity Subways and Busses. Unlike a Car, there was no problem finding Parking for a motorcycle on the streets of Morningside Heights.
Of course, zipping around in NY Shity Traffic on a Motorcycle is overall pretty dangerous Biz, but for the most part I avoided collisions with the Yellow Cabs by being very aggressive, driving faster than ambient traffic and weaving in and out across and between lanes. In short, I was a complete Psycho on the road driving this Bike. LOL.
I finally had the first of my Death Brushes on the Bike on the Park Drive in Central Park, heading for Work in Downtown Manhattan, where I had finagled a Hospital Job in the Cardiology Dept after working briefly as a Research Assistant to the Head of Cardiology, who was basically clueless on Research, though he was a Pioneer in Catheterization techniques.
I was a bit late in getting rolling, and the Park Drive was more crowded than usual, not sure why. It had also drizzled some early, and the road was still wet. The Park Drive was really FUN on a Motorcycle, it had lots of curves to lean back and forth into, unlike the straight line roads of the NY Shity Grid. Sometimes late at night I would go for a cruise around the Park Drive all to myself, or with my Illuminati Spawn Latin-Greek Ancient Studies Polyglot Girlfriend, roaring around at 70 in a 40 zone.
Anyhoooo, all 3 lanes of the PD were well populated with vehicles moving around 40 MPH or so, unlike the 3AM Cruises with the Illuminati Spawn Carpenter's Dream. I was in the Middle Lane on a nice Bend around 80th street if you were outside the park, leaning nicely into the bend when I LOST TRACTION. AKA, the Bike disapearred right from underneath me and went sliding sideways a bit in front of me.
From my Relative Perspective, it was all happenning in SLOW MOTION. The Bike was sliding on its side about the same speed as the traffic, and I was sliding on my ass feet first about the same speed. All Ballistic movement though, and the road was curving so me and the bike went sliding from the Middle Lane through the Right Lane, MIRACULOUSLY in a 10' space BETWEEN 2 Yellow Cabs! The Bike hit the curb first, did a double front flip and came to rest about 20' off the road. I was almost run over by the Cab behind me, but I reached up,rolled over, grabbed the Front Bumper and STOOD UP (briefly) and was sliding backwards on the wet pavement on my feet with my hands on the front bumper of the Cab. I pushed off, tripped backwards over the curb and went into a tuck back roll, four trips round on that. I came to rest about 20 feet downstream of the Bike. I was FINE,except my jeans took a beating. It PAYS to Be an Acrobat! LOL.
The Bike was STILL Running! I hadda kill it before I picked it back up and put it on the wheels! The electric start was busted (just a wire came loose, found that later) I kick started it, got BACK on the road, and was only 10 minutes late for work! LOL.
I had a few other near meetings with the Grim Reaper on the Motorcycles, but its a little redundant and I am getting LOOONG here with much still to cover. So I'll leave them for another day….
Having FUN here Diners with the Details of Daredevil Death Defying Disasters on the Doomstead Diner? The rest of the stories are ready to publish, which I will add if/when the Foxstead Project gets another $100 worth of contributions! So Pony Up $1 or 2 and I'll publish the rest of the stories of Miraculous Survival in the Age of Oil soon as it stacks another $100 digbits!