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Cheating Death, Again, and Again, and Again

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 4, 2015

Got knocked down by a car the other day. It made me think about all those times in my life when, but for one thing, I would have died. As an infant, and later as a two-year old, I had pneumonia. I was saved by penicillin, by science, technology and society, twice. Before penicillin, I would have been dead as an infant.

As a six-year old, I fell into a house under construction. The incomplete basement had no concrete yet, the floor was mud with pools of water. Me, my brother John and Eddie Knight were bringing  the biggest stones we could find and carry, climbing the foundation wall, and dropping them into the pools of water. The object, of course, was to get a huge splash. We dropped in our stones, enjoyed the splash, and set out to find bigger stones. I dropped a nice one in, hit the water nicely, and turned to see Eddie plop the biggest stone I’d seen all morning on the floor level of the foundation, so he could use both hands to climb up. Somehow, I couldn’t help myself. I ran over, grabbed the stone, and dropped it in. I think it made a big splash. I say think, because all I remember is perhaps a sense of movement. Eddie, pissed off as all hell, had come charging at me, I think. The details are vague. Because I was standing by the edge of the hole in the floor we were using (it was for the stairs to come), I must have gone right over. I woke up some time later. Two adults were carrying me through tall weeds in the huge field behind my house. I had cracked my head against one of the stones, maybe even Eddie’s big one. Lying face down in the muddy water, I would have drowned. My brother pulled me out. Eddie, meanwhile had gone for his parents, who were carrying me home. I never saw Eddie again. He never came by. I would guess that he felt guilty, or his parents simply forbade him to play with us again. Life saved by my younger brother, although medical science repaired my cracked skull.

Lutheran Hospital I turned eight years old during my stay at Lutheran Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland (formerly the Hebrew Orphan Asylum). My appendix had ruptured, and I remember being told later that I had peritonitis (literally an inflammation of the stomach lining), although today the term used is blood poisoning, or sepsis. In septic shock, weak, and barely able to shamble, with support from my mother, who drove me to the hospital in a borrowed car, the staff there knew I was in trouble from my blood work. An x-ray did not show cause, so I was taken for exploratory surgery. The appendix was hidden behind an organ, and hadn’t been visible on x-ray. Again, medical science, through surgery and chemistry, had saved my life, although I was hospitalized for four weeks, and convalesced at home for another week. Happy Birthday!

Soon after that I developed bronchial asthma, and survived by using steam and a towel over my head, or a prescription inhaler. Sometimes I simply couldn’t catch my breath at all. I didn’t know where it went or why it was running away. The asthma attacks went away sometime after my 12th birthday.

Of course, not everything I did was life threatening. I slipped trying to repair a leaky roof in a tree house and fell to the ground, breaking my arm. Excruciating pain came with that one, and a cast on my arm, and notoriety at school. It was hard to brag about falling out of a tree. I was just embarrassed.

I must have developed an acute sense of caution, because I didn’t get hurt again until I was an adult. I got creamed by a huge beast of a car as I had been pedaling down a nice hill. It hit me broadside, and dragged the bicycle across the street, but I had been thrown forward by my own momentum. I bounced, and passed out. Passers-by thought I was dead. I heard them say so as I came to. They’d already given up on me and were comforting the driver! I was in shock, didn’t know who I was or what had happened at first. I was thoroughly amazed that I’d survived, because my last thought before the impact had been that I was going to die. Traffic had been thick and heavy, and I could have easily been run over by some other vehicle. As it was, my own momentum had carried me in a high arc straight forward, and the car was so big, a Lincoln Continental Mark III, Lincoln that it had blocked enough of the lane to keep the other drivers away.  Saved by the eighteen-foot car length. Nothing broken this time. I had a major sprain on the top of my left foot, which had been hit by the car. The heavy Schwinn bicycle pedal arm had been bent, back into the spokes.

Bicycles on highways or city streets are accidents waiting to happen, and I had a few more. Once my shoe was simply ripped off my foot. Once I skidded on gravel on a mountain road and slid down a long section of blacktop, taking a lot of skin off my chest and stomach. Ouch. Another time, a car side-swiped me as I pedaled down a city street right on the edge of the road. It appeared as though the car had passed another car on the right, illegally, had not seen me up ahead, and clipped me. The impact left a huge bruise on my ass and thigh muscles. I was stunned at first, and lay on my back, staring unblinkingly into the light rain that was falling. I worried that I was paralyzed. The driver didn’t stop, but someone else did after a few minutes, and an ambulance took me and bicycle to a hospital. Bruised and scraped flesh was all I received then, but it could have been worse. Somehow I had fallen without breaking my neck. Somehow the car hadn’t broken my hip or run over me. Little things.

Given my history, buying a motorcycle was not a very smart thing to do, but at least it put me out into the drive lane at speed, instead of paralleling the other vehicles, riding bicycles in the gutters full of storm-drain grates and broken glass. It didn’t take me long to lay the bike down: the first time taking a corner in the rain, slipping on icy roads, or hitting a crazy dog on a curve. I was never hurt, but I went through a few turns signals and mirrors which stick out to the sides. I learned to anticipate accidents, to always brake the front and rear wheels simultaneously, and even ride on icy or snow-packed streets. I got good. However, as I neared my house one fine day, I decided to pass in front of  a stalled car blocking my lane, and he hit the gas microseconds before I got there. I t-boned him, and sailed over the car hood. The bike was totalled. I was sore and bruised but none the worse for wear after a few weeks. Everyone in the neighborhood said I must have said my prayers. I didn’t pray anymore, so that wasn’t it. Given my moral turpitude at the time, I could have thanked the devil instead, if I’d still believed in such things.

Years passed with my replacement motorcycle. As I was near home again, in a different house with a wife waiting for me this time, I misread a red traffic light. I thought it was still green, but the sun was directly behind it as I topped a hill. I sailed into the large Route 66 intersection at about 40 mph. There was a pickup directly in front of me; I looked up – the light was red. Never even applied the brakes. Totalled that bike too. I was again bruised and scraped up. My arm was a bit sprained, so I wore a sling for a short time. The driver of the pickup told my insurance company that I had bent his truck frame. Really? Well, no matter. I got another bike, number three in a series, and I never wrecked it. Since it was old and leaked oil, and always needed repairs, I finally traded it in.  Success! I had ridden a motorcycle the entire time I had owned it without damaging it or myself. However, the newer bike was not so lucky. Within two weeks I had laid it down, negotiating a turn, I didn’t understand what had happened until it happened again. This time I took it in to a shop. They found a spacer missing from the front axle. Such spacers keep the wheel centered on the axle, but without one, the wheel was sliding to one side as I turned, causing the wheel to lock up.

Of note in all this mayhem is that I paused in June of 2013 to have a minor heart attack. The large descending artery on the right side was partly clogged when I first got to the heart hospital, but within minutes, the clog had moved to completely block the artery (sudden minor pain). Fortunately, I was already hooked up to an IV and heart monitors, and my wrist was prepped for sticking a balloon up to my heart to clean it out and leave a stent behind. They went ahead and did that, and I felt relief immediately. Recovery was rapid and complete. Four months later, I ran a half marathon in three hours exact. A year later I ran it in 2 hours, 46 minutes. Cheating death. Again. Heart before

So, I’ve dodged any motorcycle accident for many years now. I am very aware of my surroundings. I always know where other vehicles are, and I keep a constant eye out on side streets and pedestrians. I hit nothing, and nothing hits me. I have a car now also, and my motorcycle habits have transferred. I have no accidents, because I am always acutely aware of my surroundings. So, it came as a shock last Friday evening to find a moving car pushing against my body, again.

I was crossing a street at a slight angle to reach my car. It was a cold night, and I was worried about an approaching storm, so I had opted out of riding the bike. I was in the southbound part of the street as I saw a car approach the intersection from an eastbound lane. I sped up so I wouldn’t be in its path. It was about 50 feet away, so I had plenty of time to reach my car before it even reached me. Wrong. She had turned wide, and sped up as she straightened out, but not where she should have been. She was squarely in the northbound part of the road. Her right fender was pressing hard against me. I noticed the rest of the car was ahead of me, instead of behind me in the empty southbound lane. She never said what she was doing. Was she just turning wide? She later said she only saw me at the last moment before hitting me. Had she tried to avoid me? swerving around me? She never said much else. Liability issues, I’d guess.

Fortunately she did see me plastered against her grille, and stopped. I was thrown forward and hard onto the asphalt. It hurt. So, there I was again, lying in the street again, wondering how the hell I’d misjudged that situation. How the hell had she caught me? I hurt all over it seemed, but I thought I should get up. My right hip area had impacted the street, and it was in considerable pain, but after a few minutes, the pain went away. We exchanged information. She is an artist with the gallery whose open house I’d just left.

I went home, took two Advil Liquid capsules, applied some Blue Emu cream, ate a late dinner with some chokecherry wine, and got some sleep. The pain was back next day, but so far, so good. The hip only hurts to the touch. “So don’t touch it!” I know, I know, but sometimes ya gotta roll over in bed, or ya bump against the side of a chair. It’ll heal. There’s skin scraped off again, but no bruising. The pain seems to be deep, and just behind the hip bone that juts out there. Worked hard yesterday, did a lot of heavy lifting and shoving at the winery, with no pain, so I think I’m OK.

Again.

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Posted in humor, Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

QUE PASO?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 29, 2010

When I was a very young man
I asked my father to please tell me
Will I get lucky Will I get laid
Here’s what he said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked each lover what lies ahead
Will there be love and sex every day
Here’s what my lovers said

Que sera, sera
What will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

When I was just an old man
I asked my shrink what should I try
Could I fall in love again or fucking give up
This was his wise reply

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

What will be, will be
Que sera, sera.

Posted in humor, Life, love, madness, marriage, misanthropy, My Life, poem, poetry, relationships, sex | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Picklement

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 16, 2010

The boy’s nickname was Terry. He didn’t particularly like his name, because a lot of girls had the same one, and it sounded like a child’s name anyway.  He’d started out with Terrance, but in 1st grade the other boys called him Clarence instead.  It always got a laugh, but not from Terry.  It sounded like the name of a clown, or some snooty rich kid in a story.
After grade school, he changed his name to Bob, although Bob didn’t have much of a ring to it.  Still, it seemed a nice unambiguously masculine name, and much more adult sounding than Terry, or Terrance.
Bob, as a name, worked fairly well for Terry.  People didn’t stumble all over it, like they did with Terry, confusing his name with Gerry,  Perry, Harry, but most often, oddly enough, with Larry.  He wondered if it had to do with Larry, Moe and Curly,  since the most common misunderstanding of his name was always Larry.  He tried emphasizing the T whenever he said Terry, but it didn’t help.  People just don’t get Terry usually until the third try.  It made introductions tedious, even though people always smiled, and often apologized.
Terry went by Bob all through high school.  He liked it.  People seemed to respond better.  He was older than he’d been of course, but high school boys are not generally known for their maturity, and Terry, or even Terrance could still have been disastrous.  If there was one thing Terry hated more than anything else, it was being teased.  Still, boys will use just about anything to tease another boy.  The school insisted that everyone wear ties.
Terry had a hard time waking up in the mornings, and taking the time to tie a perfect Windsor knot every day had gotten old fast.  Terry discovered the clip-on tie: perfect knot, perfect length, and impossible to discern.  Somehow, one day, a classmate noticed, and snatched it from him.   He chased after the perp, grabbing the tie and pushing the perp onto the ground.  Generally, Terry had always been very easy-going.  His father often said Terry would let someone take the shirt off his back, but that was what “turning the other cheek” meant in the real world.  In the religious world, “turning the other cheek” meant martyrdom, and martyrdom was preferred to violence.  However, just ignoring all the  jibes and taunts was not easy, and that one time, Terry ran his attacker down and won his self-respect. Or so he thought.
Instead of congratulating him on standing up for himself, his other classmates made light of it, pointing out that the other boy, although the same age, was shorter.  This made Terry into little more than a cowardly bully.  “But, what was I to do?” he asked, “let him take it?”  No one answered that.  Whining was not allowed.  However, this incident provided the catalyst for another far more embarrassing one, since the real bullies felt Terry was an easy mark, and could only defend himself against smaller adversaries.
Terry’s family didn’t have a lot of money, and clothes were patched, sewn and worn until they fell apart.  It so happened one day, as Terry bent over to pick up a fork he dropped in the school cafeteria, that his pants split.  He was mortified, but no one had seemed to notice.  The pants were brown corduroys, with lots of vertical lines, and baggy enough that Terry thought it would pass unnoticed if he walked slowly and kept his butt cheeks pinched together.  He sat down opposite his peers, and relaxed.  He made it through lunch without a single comment.  In fact, he relaxed too much, because as he stood, the gap widened enough for someone to see.  Ellis, agent provocateur, class clown, and always an outlaw, took it upon himself to take full advantage of the situation.  He grabbed a slice of pickle off his lunch tray  and ran up to Terry, dropping the pickle in the rip as Terry stood up.  The indignity of this was just too much.
That someone would see the tear no longer mattered.  Ellis was going down.  Terry lunged for him, and Ellis, cowardly as most bullies are, took off running.  Ellis laughed at Terry,  sidestepping and ducking through the cafeteria.  Terry chased him into the hallway.  Lunch break was not yet over, so there was no one in the hallway.  Terry chased him, gaining on him, running full tilt down the hallway.  Of course, yelling and running past the principal’s office, in a school  that prided itself on self-discipline, was not a particularly bright thing to do.  They were caught.
Now, Terry was in the equally uncomfortable position of trying to explain that someone had put a pickle in his pants.  Fortunately, it had been the principal who’d caught them.  The vice-principal was in charge of discipline, and he would have come down hard on them.  As it was, the principal referred Terry to Student Court, a disciplinary board wholly run by the students.
Terry explained the pickle incident, (picklement?) and the court, laughing behind their hands, let it go.  To add to Terry’s shame, all decisions by the Student Court were published in the school paper, although the rip in someone’s pants became a rip in someone’s shirt.  In 1965, no newspaper would dare even allude to something sexual , much less the innuendo of a pickle in someone’s pants.  It wasn’t journalistic integrity, but everyone knew the real story anyway.
Terry could see, by now, that the name didn’t make any difference.  He was kind of an oddball, it seemed, and names were nowhere near as important as he’d always believed.  After high school, he kept using Bob, although his employer and coworkers were not the types to care about a name one way or the other.   By now, however, Terry noticed that Bob was an extremely common name.  In every room, it seemed, there was a Bob. In a restaurant, in a garage, on the street, or at work, Bob was as ubiquitous as Tom, Dick and Harry.  Terry, realizing that, as an adult, he could have his name changed legally, thought about changing his name to Bilbo Baggins.  It was not a bad name, far out of the ordinary.  That would have been alright, but he knew his family wouldn’t like his dropping the surname. But, what would Bilbo be without a Baggins to go with it?  He thought about just using Frodo,  but few people had read the half a million word sequel to The Hobbit, so he would have had to spend a lot of time explaining the Lord of the Rings character to every person he met.
Of course, changing one’s name is a very superfluous thing to do anyway, as Terry had found out.  And now there were far more important things to worry about in the world, like sex and war, and getting to work on time.  He took night classes at the University where he worked, but he really wanted to go to school full time.  He applied for, and was accepted at another University a few years later, still calling himself Bob.  He kept his job on a part-time basis, as a sort of contract employee.  However, those aforementioned things, sex and war, took over most of his thoughts, as he sought one but wanted to avoid the other.  That took him to rallies and demonstrations, as well as into drug and sexual experimentation, and his studies suffered.  His thoughts were always elsewhere.  Dismissed from school on probation for a year, he decided to travel.
After a few years of odd jobs and traveling, he took a job one day in a small foundry in Arizona.  The foreman must also have thought Terry an oddball when he asked him his name, because  Terry paused.  It was a normal question, but suddenly, and without having given it any thought in years, he told the foreman his name: Terry.  It was, after all, how his family had known and still knew him.  No one he had ever met was as important as family, and he never changed his name again, even though he rarely got through another introduction without having to say his name at least three times.

Posted in 1960s, family, humor, Life, My Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MORE PANCAKES PLEASE

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 11, 2010

Some people eat beans every day
some people have bread every meal
some eat anything any old way
We had potatoes, hey, what’s the deal?

Ate a lot of them growing up
with potatoes in the garden
and meat vegetable potatoes
every night for dinner

Mashed potatoes Scalloped potatoes
Boiled potatoes Baked potatoes
Home-fried potatoes
French-fried potatoes

Potatoes au gratin
Potatoes and ham
Bacon potato salad
Sweet potato pie

Potatoes in the stews
potatoes in the soups
potatoes as main course
potatoes on the side

But, ah! potato pancakes
smothered in applesauce
Couldn’t get enough
More pancakes please.

Posted in family, My Life, poem, poetry, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Comedy Duo

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 29, 2007

abbottcostello.jpg You think of comedy duos, you think of Abbott and Costello, Laurel & Hardy, laurelhardy.jpg Cheech and Chong, cheechchong.jpg or maybe Burns and Allen, burnsallen.jpg depending on your age. However, I think my parents were one of the best comedy acts I’ve ever seen. The driving trip was their specialty.

Somehow, they always thought, first off, that waking up three, four, or all seven kids hours before we usually got up was a good idea. Sure, they’d warn the older ones we would all have to get up early, and there was always a strict deadline to be on the road, like 5:00 am sharp. Of course, that never worked, but it never deterred them in the slightest. They’d drag us all out of our dreams and make sure we dressed, or were dressed. My mom went on to make the sandwiches and boiled eggs, while my dad was doing things to the car. There was barely enough light to see when we all finally stumbled out to the car, and fell back asleep, but not before we were told to pee now or forever hold our pees. That rarely worked either. Somebody always had to pee, of course, before we’d gone a mile or two. That was easy enough when we stopped for gas. I never saw us go anywhere without having to stop and put in a whole two dollars worth of gas.

family.jpg However, on the return trip, all of the younger kids were asleep, and we were not allowed to stop for any reason. Me and my brother John were usually awake or woke up on the way back, and we always had to pee. My mom was prepared for this after a few such trips. She carried a mason jar with her, and she’d pass it back to us when we had to go. canning-jar.jpg We’d fill it up, and she’d open her door just enough to pour it out onto the road. Woe onto any of us if we lost time or gas mileage because we had to stop. It’s pretty embarrassing to pee with your parents listening a foot away, but having to pass that jar of hot piss to your mom just seemed really odd. We handled it carefully too, since the thought of spilling any in the car seemed terrifying. stationwagon.jpg

Going or coming, my parents were always fun to watch. If my mother was driving, my dad was always reaching over to grab the steering wheel – to straighten out the car, he said. He was nervous watching someone else drive, and couldn’t stand to see her not drive straight down the center of the lane squarely between the lines. Eventually they would teach me to line up the edge of the hood with the highway stripes, and that would put me dead center. I don’t know why it was so vitally important. Of course, since we couldn’t stop, sometimes the driver would fall asleep, and start to drift, so I can understand how grabbing the steering wheel came about. If my father was driving, he rolled the window all the way down, even on a cold night, to help keep himself awake, and we’d freeze our nuts off in the back seat. Even with that, I remember waking up when the car went off the road onto the shoulder. That was nerve-wracking, since the shoulders often sloped down away from the highway, and the car could roll over. My parents always managed to straighten the car. I learned from that that you don’t panic, you keep going, and gradually slow, until you can pull back on the road smoothly. Worked for me one time, but I never went off the road again after that. Nowadays I stop as soon after dark as I can, eat dinner and hit the sack. steering_wheel.jpg

By far the best part of the whole routine was watching them trade drivers. Remember, they couldn’t stop the car, even to pee, so stopping to switch drivers appeared to be out of the question too. One of them would suddenly say, “Grab the wheel,” and the other would do it. Then would begin the incredible acrobatics, as one person slipped under as the other climbed over, all while one person held the wheel and the other kept a foot on the accelerator. Keeping the car straight always seemed to work OK; the hard part was transferring power to the pedal. “Get the accelerator!” “I can’t, your foot’s in the way.” “Well, I can’t let go.” “Well let go now, damn it.” And suddenly, they’d be completely on their own part of the seat, and I’d relax. It was the best show I ever watched, and it played a couple times each trip, each and every time. Loved it.

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