Monday, December 29, 2014

i tried a short-cut to heaven, and failed.

mostly i feel stupid. how could i, of all people, get hit in a crosswalk? and i have a good reason for asking. here's my story. many years ago, i drove a thirty year-old Willy's Station Wagon. once, in Berkeley, i'd parked on college ave.finished with whatever i was doing,  i revved her up and pulled out into the street, to discover i had no brakes. the emergency hadn't worked forever, and the old style master cylinders had one cell. if that gave out, you'd nothing. 

symbolically, it had just started to snow, a rarity in these parts. alas, the coming corner stoplight red, students in droves crossing right before me. i don't know what possessed me (maybe a much younger, more agile guardian angel Sydney grabbed the wheel). i swerved to the right, up over the curb, and into a light pole. i'd been travelling slow, but slightly downhill, and i could have sent half a dozen souls to heaven before me.

the moral of this story: i never, never ever assume a car will stop for me, even in a crosswalk with blazing lights. they could turn from the left, they could turn from the right, and not see me. or, if they did see me, THEY MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO STOP. as i couldn't that time in Berkeley. so how the hell...?

all i can think is, with the power-outage around me, i got a false sense of security from the flashlight i carried, aiming it at the car, which was very far away. ah, not far enough, if a woman is going 35 miles an hour and talking to her kids in the rear-view mirror. for a moment of carelessness, many a life hangs in the  balance. 

of course, now i have to answer that awful question: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? almost four weeks out from it, i feel like i should have an answer. doctor visits, more x-rays, today's visit with a physical therapist, they've flown by. and i keep thinking of Blanche's line at the end of "streetcar named desire", 'i have always depended on the kindness of strangers.'

turns out, if you're going to have a near-death experience, this is a good town in which to have it. the folks cutting off my clothes, cat-scanning every inch of my body, those bringing food to the bedside, they couldn't have been kinder. (and i re-affirm: this is the city of beautiful nurses.) every body's been sterling. oh, i could bring the wrath of heaven down on a lackadaisical social-worker. but then, perfection is not of this world.

okay, i learned even more clearly than leonard cohen, 'the longer i live, the more i realize i'm not in control.' and i've never had to ask for so much help. 'could you wash clothes, drive me to the market, vacuum the floor?' yes, i've learned to ask for help, i hope more graciously, and to say THANK YOU often and really mean it.

in fact, i'm ashamed to admit it, for the first time i've felt love for my friends. i've never really believed in the item, holding with la rochefoucauld, 'basic to all of us is self-interest.' perhaps this is true day to day, yet in extraordinary circumstances there's something else. and i'm here to tell you, if you have a treasure, it's your friends, rarer than gold. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

have you ever felt free, realizing you couldn't make a fortune?

                                                and they cut my red coat off me

yes, the dust is settling after my flight over the hood of a small sedan. friends have been terrific, bringing food, chauffeuring me to doctors and lawyers, washing clothes and vacuuming the floor. i just shaved off my two week beard. ah, ten years younger, not quite the derelict i was yesterday. hallelujah!

sitting outside the lawyer's office, looking up into the green trees and grey skies, i felt liberated. i'm alive, only a fractured ankle to show for this little mid-winter adventure. (i realized my life has simply been one little adventure after another.) 

"so" he said, "you have a choice, get tangled in litigation, maybe lose money, or make a few bucks. or simply do nothing." do nothing? friends had been saying, "maybe you'll get a settlement, twenty or thirty thousand." on the verge of a decrepit old age, that sounded promising. then i got the police report. my heart dropped. an Hispanic woman with three kids, old car, living in the poorer part of town and lousy insurance. 

at that moment i knew my fate was sealed. that said, a tiny grain of greed remained when i got to the office of the law. the lawyer gentle, helpful, fun, not your idea of the evil guy. slowly, going over the papers, he let the truth be known. and once i had made my decision (when in doubt do nothing) i myself felt i'd evaded the clutches of the court.

oddly, i found out people on the lower end of morality try to get hurt, so they can sue. and here's the guy (me) not even on scale who keeps remembering the driver crying over my body, "i'm so sorry. i'm so sorry. i didn't mean to do it." how could i attack the virgin mary when she cried for me in a way no one else ever has. 

goodbye, limousines, trips to the hesperides, nights in the darkest depths of paris depravity. i'm left staring up at blowing branches, thinking, 'i'm alive, how did that happen?'

Young at Heart: Feeling Younger Than Your Actual Age Linked to Lower Mortality

By Kristin J. Kelley
What's the key to living longer? While eating your broccoli and running probably play a role, so might self-perceived age. People who feel younger than their actual age have reduced mortality, according to a research letter in JAMA.
U.K. researchers analyzed data from some 6500 adults aged 52 years and older who were asked, "How old do you feel you are?" Almost 70% of participants reported feeling at least 3 years younger than their actual age, 25% felt close to their actual age, and 5% felt more than a year older than their true age.
During approximately 8 years' follow-up, mortality was lower in participants who felt younger (14%) than in those who felt their actual age (19%) or older (25%). After adjustment for covariates (e.g., age, ethnicity, sex), feeling older than chronological age was a significant independent predictor of mortality. A relationship existed between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death but not cancer death.
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

guardian angel sydney saves me from certain death

after two days in the hospital, lots of ex-rays, cat-scans, being probed, i'm back in my little cottage. plenty of sores, pains, walking with a walker, and only one little chip off my ankle. i don't know how you did it, sydney. i flew over the hood of the car, down the right side, breaking the rear-view mirror, and landing face-down on the pavement. 

after dark, lots of headlights shining on me, me determined not to move a muscle before the medics arrive. poor woman who hit me crying, 'i'm so sorry, i'm so sorry.' she'd been talking with her kids in the rear-view mirror and didn't see me till she hit me (at thirty-five miles an hour). normally i'm super-careful, even in a cross-walk. i wore my fire-engine red coat and a waved a flashlight in my hand. that last gave me a false sense of security.

you know, ambulance rides rough, they seem to hit every little bump. i'd always imagined it would be riding on air. they emt's superb. they kept me talking. the real trembling didn't start till later. even now i have little after-shocks. i'd been sure, hit in my right hip, that bit of elderly anatomy would be crushed. first x-rays  showed no such thing. suddenly, i am sliding back and forth in this tube, back and forth. good heavens, when does this end?

okay, i do have a moment where i wish i'd been hit head-on and dead, all my troubles over, no more effort to be made, the end chosen for me. that passed, me pretty sure i didn't mean it, the only pain i'm feeling in the hip. later, i find the real damage to my left ankle, though that relatively minor, even looking like a bloody, blown-up inner-tube. 

of course, this means sydney saved me so i could save the world. Syd, i've been trying my whole life and never gotten anywhere. someways the situation of human beings better than in 1940, and in other ways worse, ie. we've grown no wiser. i love to walk, and will be very happy to do that again. friends have been spectacular. pays to be aging in a community you know. the hospital folks spectacular. true, i did feel a bit sidelined once they realized they wouldn't have to do anything dramatic. 

fifteen minutes of stardom, the hard way. i'd recommend you run naked through a stadium, if you really need the attention.