#1 Song in The Country: Let’s Dance, David Bowie
May 24th 1983
The smell of exhaust re-released at least one sense from my bodily state of shock. That and my brain worked cause I knew I was fucked. I remember I couldn’t believe the scenario had flipped on me like that so quickly. Right by the rocks, I just couldn’t believe it. But it happened, just like that, if I got out of this one I’d always relate to a horrible situation. The exhaust had turned against me, I used to love that smell, it meant the boats were coming into harbor to fill up at their tanks at the Sunoco fueling station right on the dock now it represented hell on earth. I used to kick it down at the marina, I’d walk to the docks, even had a friend in the 1st grade that lived with his family on a houseboat. But it wasn’t like that. They were broke. The Marina was the biggest thing in our quiet old nail maunfacturing town, it was right across the street. The War Marina, they built huge bunkers for the boats maintenance and storage. They even had a cemetery for boats behind the crib. And I’d play back there, on the old boat crates back in the rocks exactly where we were never supposed to be. And my thoughts took me away from the moment. My sister and I drifted around. It was the 70’s, early 80’s pregnant women had barely stopped smoking, supervision was minimal and that sunset crowd at Pinehurst beach our favorite spot, poisoned. The homebroken teenage girls loved to watch me dance then feather my hair.
I’d already split my head open on those rocks I'd now gaze at threw a foggy pupil. I was hanging with two older boys who were exactly whom our dad didn’t want us with. Stepbrothers that lived with the one arm man across the next next to old man Macdonald. They were older and he (my dad) accurately believed they were trouble. I was five, I’d like to think dared but probably at five and five years younger probably told to climb up to the top. They wanted to see me fall. I was younger, faster with a football and had the bigger house.
And fall I did. I fell and split my head on the boat crate with the rat bones in the sand. And the ambulance came, Chris and Paul fearing double trouble told my sister exactly what to say. I was taking to the emergency room and she did. It was the first time she ever lied. And she worried about her little brother. Just a year and a half older it had always been us. I remembered the rocks wish I was back there, in that moment, this was so much worse.
And the big white house where we lived was working double time against me. I was too far away to be heard or seen. We lived with our grandparents. The house had a small frog pond with live frogs. My sister loved this + the Mulberry, magnolia trees, stone walkways, and of course frozen concentrated Orange Juice, joking my grandmother’s prized rose garden. And it was those hand plucked roses that represented the first time I ever sold anything for money. I was hooked and thought I'd never sell anything ever again.
“Flowers for sale, less money, cheap, cheap, cheap!”
The proprietary slogan I coined slanging my grandmothers prized roses curbside on Main Street at her summer house. I got my sister and two female neighbors involved. Later we massacred the Electric Circus, our favorite arcade just up the road. My grandmother aired out her scotch breath on my mother. She had strong opinions regarding proper rearing of children. And I’ll never quite be sure why I had to take that lawnmower out 2 days after my seventh birthday. Maybe because I could maybe I just wanted to corroborate my father’s excitement for his son with results.
“He was born to be successful, he was always ahead of the curve.” They’d one day say.<P>
And I did coming into the final bend I prudently left the compost pile (footnote) across from the mowers quasi garage slash old pick up truck top as the last remaining remnant to be shaved. It reminded me of the 70’s. A metal pole ran vertically parallel ten feet over the compost pile. We had like most creative kids sailor knotted a long rope to the top of that big metal pole. And we’d catapult across it like our favorite Atari game Pitfall. One more step and I would've completed a great feat.
I was so close. I was doing touch up and getting the edges of the mulch pit when the tractors front wheels dropped from the lawns surface. They dropped a few feet into the recycling of our own nature’s trimmings and put the tractor at an angle. I had only one more spot to go and was done. I threw the stick in neutral, I swear to god and hopped off to lift and level level the tires and finish this bitch, gifted child.
It wasn't meant to be for my red Nike canvas sneakers slipped on the dry yellow grass and the mowers blade somehow caught my right knee thus sucking my body underneath the tractor like a Death Star tractor beam. And in one second, the “ah!” caused me to rip my knee away, freeing the blade I now defensively protected my face with my right arm. The mowers blade cut right through my entire right arm and become lodged, still guzzling gas the mower wanted to circle its blade that became stuck against my head. It all happened in five seconds.
I remember yelling “dad” for a long time until it became softer and softer
I remember wooziness
I remember thinking that’s what happened before you died and forever was a mighty long time
I remember learning to sharpen the blades last Saturday
I remember I couldn’t move
I remember thinking Sandy Cunningham, and Sat Tad Poles races
I remember Tina
I remember my dad discovering me 45 minutes later
I remember being over his shoulder saying dad I’m going to die, I'm going to die, I'm going to die
I remember him saying “no you won’t bunky no you won’t”
I remembered those dam boat crates
I remember my tonsils coming out
I remember seeing my bone on his shoulder cut in two like a wishbone.
I remember feeling bad for myself
I remember praying to Jesus
I remember the cops pulled us over and then led the way I woke up a two surgeries and a day later in intensive care. I remember a young doctor named Mark I remember 150 staples I remember at the beg shots every five minutes
“Shots?” Shots as a kid were my biggest fear besides snakes and how long is forever when you die. I’d never thought about it before this accident but it would effect me deeply in both the best and worst possible ways. “It’s OK Carl I’m here.” “It’ll be OK Matt.” She was cute (the nurse) I’d say to myself wanting to please. “How often do you have to do this?” “Once every hour” “Really?” It was quickly becoming the only thing I could say. My mother later that night would catch a 2AM medical order that came to my room. She was always on alert five with me like that, good thing. The slip was an order for a blood transfusion. This was 1983 and my mom blocked it.
I remember my toe hurt me the most
I remember my 8 year old roommate was paralyzed from the waist up.
I remember thinking it could be worse *
I remember my Uncle Clay sending me all hundred die cast smurfs
I remember Larry Bird visited. So didn’t Doug Flutie and Herschal Walker, USFL.
Intensive care, yikes. It was the scent, that neurotic smell of intensive sanitation after a while scared me. The needles had slowly reduced their regularity of snake biting me on the fly but still this was no lunch ay Legal’s. I was released from intensive care at Boston’s Children’s Hospital exactly two weeks after my accident. I was so happy I was leaving. My mother, whom never left my side the entire time prayed religiously. I had a roommate. I left him paralyzed and would never see or hear another word about him the rest of my life. I was very thankful to return to life and eager to block out the rehabilitation. My roommate was hit on his way home from 2nd grade soccer practice on his BMX by a motor vehicle that drove away. An accidental hit and run. He was a year older than I was. We had two clickers, and one TV and since we had two clickers we never watched a thing.
I never forgot that shit.
Coming home from Children’s was a big thing. I learned very quickly not to be hyper. My right arm was stapled not stitched together, barely. I hit it a few times in the first couple days and it sent shivers from the top of my head through the tips of my toes. I had to be careful when alls I wanted to do was spaz. My right arm was casted for a year. My knee was bandaged, my toe killed as much as my ass. The gaping centerpiece required a skin transplant squarely cut from the right side of my buttocks to contain my uninsured blood spillage.
The right portion of my ass would grow back and that first night home out of intensive care I’d learn to sleep on my stomach, all summer long. Away from the hospitals full time care I’d roll over time and again that first week. The skin graph was still far away from even being a ¼ of the way grown back, and if I rolled over in my sleep I’d wake instantly “OW!” I slept on my stomach every night that first year. I prayed allot. I ate lefty. My left was now my right. I’d revisit the site of the accident and cry when I saw hair blades of green grass red. My uncle Clayt helped me going. I knew as long as he was my Godfather I’d always be OK. I’d seen first hand at four, five and six years of age how he rolled in a magical place I wouldn’t soon forget called Manhattan.
I remember Pinehurst beach in Wareham MA that summer, it was the first week of June 1986. I remember the sunset crowd. The kids that smoked and the nine-year old girls with hairspray, I was just happy to be there.
And for that entire summers sun I couldn’t go in the water because of my cast. Finally in the fall I went back to elementary school on time and with everyone else, the second grade was in full effect. Not for me though a couple weeks into it I was told we were leaving. We were moving to Lexington. I had driven there the Christmas before my accident and I remembered my grandmother’s house, the house my dad grew up in, the snow and the hidden stairwells. I remember marveling at the tall buildings in Boston en route. I was in the second grade and hadn’t told anyone I was moving.
A year later legislation was passed into law requiring all tractor lawnmowers sold in the United States have a default that cut the engine off anytime your weight was lifted off the drivers seat.
“I saved Latin what have you ever done.” Rushmore.
Driving into Astori casted up, I was in awe of the town’s athletic facilities. My mother scoped out a local recreation center, Hayden. It would serve as the grounds where my on going hand and arm rehabilitation would occur. I had a story coming to Astori my very first day. My dad would tell me urban legend stories about the boy’s varsity basketball team in Astori and their mythical coach people called The Big Guy. My father had watched in the seventies Astori win back too back division one state titles. One player made it to the NBA. They had won at the time of our arrival five straight league titles. My mother told me Coach Farias ran a basketball camp two separate weeks out of the summer at Hayden. I asked her to sign me up. My father inspired by the talk soon took me to my first Astori home game. I watched the famed “buzz” Middleton lead the Minuteman to yet another victory in front of the most hyper group of people I’d ever seen. The crowd was crazy. I was hooked. I wanted people to cheer for me like that someday. And that’s all it was despite so many moving parts. And because of my limitations with my own hand and wrist, there’d be obstacles. I’d never think about that. If I faked it I didn’t have it. What About Bob? 101 and it applied to this early and critical situation. AHS Hoops was like every other boy in town at the time, a long roll call, a calling.