TripTrumpet Vs. Himself

Whomp! Whizzit! Plonk! Down I went.

Thus officially began my illustrious career as a human accident-in-waiting. Not that this was the first incident, nor would I ever wait long for repeat offenses. No, for me there'd never be the simple running into walls, or falling down stairs. I saved myself for the good stuff.

The glorious sounds played out above were merely a crowning, official introduction to what had already begun. They'd belatedly represent an opening salvo to a now-fully-realized world of glamorous mishaps, courtesy of a VW Bug - which apparently didn't perform the more important courtesy of slowing down.

That's what it SHOULD have done as it passed the school bus I was leisurely exiting. I caught the fender, or the fender caught me - I'd never get to debate the difference - and down I went. That result, however, came only after a glorious - yet brief - spin. Twas merely a warning shot across my brow, fortunately - I wasn't hurt, only dazed. There'd be more.

The next whacking tarried only a year or two - wreaking havoc to my left eye. That came via one shloppy, sloppy mudball flying through the air. Strangely enough, however, it would keep its full ramifications secret for some twenty-odd years. Talk about a lasting impression.

My (now understood to be lifetime) benefactor's name was Chris, that I remember. He was a friend from my third grade class, someone I'd only know for a short while as military families had a habit of leaving - often. One should wonder about that - him being my friend and all - given what was to come. But I almost immediately forgave and forgot - what WASN'T short term thinking then?

Yes, we were friends enough, the likes of which were all about mudballs that fateful day. It'd just be a freaky, "lucky" thing that his aim proved true in one brief, shining moment. That came when the mudball he threw at me - we were taking turns heaving them at each other - found its mark. Ow! - down I went again.

Such good fortune immediately led to one solid week of a dashing eyepatch. This pirate's likeness would be accompanied, too, by a steady stream of unsightly oozings in ungodly numbers. I'll spare the colorful commentary on THAT. Still, following that mere week of misery, I would think that I was cured - and that was the end of the story.

That couldn't be, of course That wasn't - isn't - the way I roll. Little was I to know, then, that this non-event would be the suspected source of my glaucoma detected around age 30. Damn - that's a long lead time! Found in that same eye, the condition would be (ostensibly) diagnosed as being due to the crud and scarring blocking the eye's drainage passages.

Such information should leave one to pause, no? I could think of things like: "I wonder where that sucker is now!" But I didn't, a position taken equally to disinterest as impossibility. Besides: Chris is probably a lawyer now... or should become one if I ever DID find him. Then I could present him with my years of prescription bills. Sigh.

Meanwhile more blood - or mucous-slimed eye goop - had been drawn. From thence forward I'd be drawn into an increased pace of skirmishes. Indeed, I soon snapped fingers galore - playing football, basketball, volleyball - you name it. Probably picking my nose, even. From such an ensuing litany over my adolescence I'd even begin to wonder: just what brand of popsicle stick were my finger bones actually made of?

For all that mayhem, too, I'd well learn the annoyance of the aluminum splint. I quickly became apprised of that particularly joyful experience of showering with it on, hopelessly trying in the process to keep the finger dry in a plastic baggie. No such luck - like practically ever. I'd also come to experience all too often the more-than-slightly-annoying sound of bone being set. I usually got to relish that without the benefit of local anesthesia.

The capping event to these bone-snapping moments came right in the middle of my face, however. That came when I managed to face-plant myself on some concrete, an inevitable outcome, perhaps, to a mean game of tag in the fourth grade. We were playing full-contact tag, apparently - although I didn't remember that being the object of the soon-to-be bloodsport.

Regardless, I'd never forget the name of my assailant. Even before then we called him The Menace, this Dennis. Such name-calling would do nothing to help, though. My sudden, sample tasting of ground had served to chip my front tooth. That would, in turn, present me with a lifetime reminder of tag's frivolity. Oh, lucky me!

These rash-like breakings of bone like so much bread, meanwhile, were really only a resumption of hostilities. Truth be told, something came even before my date with destiny (or, fair enough, density) and that accursed VW Bug. Indeed, TWO doses of madness had already arrived my way by the venerable age of four. Yeah, four.

By the end of that august age's days, I'd already have a near-drowning and a broken collarbone to my credit. There'd be no Dennis, nor other menace, to blame, either. Of the latter, all I'd remember was fatefully deciding to mount my uncle's parked motorcycle in the garage. I had hoped for - let's say - a bit of a joyride-in-the-stillness kind of experience. It'd be one where I pretended I had a helmet on, then turned the front wheel this way and that. Just like uncle did!

That didn't go so well. I soon had the dumbing - not numbing, unfortunately - feeling of slowly, then rapidly, collapsing the whole thing to one side. The motorcycle came down in a sudden whump!, me included and somewhat underneath. This was not a pleasant thing - no doubt a tear or thousand were shed.

For that indiscretion I'd have to wear a kind of immobilizing chest harness, too - no fun. Said apparel would further require me to fall backward onto the bed every night. This went on for a month or so afterward. Well, at least that was that - the bone would heal just fine - but it didn't feel so glibly simple at the time.

As for the (near) drowning, I only beg to be heard out on the right to use the word - seeing that I'm alive (as of this writing) and all. Yes, I know that the dictionary states that one has to DIE to drown, but I was found floating in our community's wading pool. Surely that counts! I submit to the jury, then, that I was pretty much dead - except that I was somehow brought back to this side of the tunnel. Unfortunately, I'd damnably never be allowed a specific memory of that glorious part.

Anyway, my prone position as both flotsam and jetsam came much to the startlement of my siblings. To my everlasting good fortune, they made a point of pointing at me... until an adult came over to fish me out. That might have been my Dad, but even accounts on that vary. You'd think SOMEONE would have that story dialed in, but no. The important part, in any event, would be that I'd remember the process of drowning - a rather awful thing I must say - even if no memories followed for the rest of the incident.

Again, whether I was resuscitated or drop-kicked back to life precisely, I'll never know. But I HAD drowned enough for all concerned, I'd venture to say even now. I'd later hear - here's SOMEthing at least - that it left them all plenty shaken up at the time. So... I'm sticking with the drowning story. As far as I'm concerned, I'm on my second life - thank you very much!

To continue with my sad litany of woe, and evidently finding the breaking of fingers très simple - even I would admit that - I must've decided to up the ante. Yes, I moved on up to snapping an otherwise and previously healthy arm. Well, just the forearm would suffer the event, actually, but that counted plenty enough at the time.

And all of that wouldn't have come about but for an inert piece of earth. One would never figure a wee tiny little pebble, on an otherwise smooth road, would take down a skateboard. But, if said skateboard was frantically eluding an approaching car, one would guess wrong. Sh-wack! I went, only moments after (theoretically) gliding up safely onto a driveway and into the school's playground area. Unfortunately, this wasn't a haven of woodchips or chipped tires' rubber back then - only more rock-hard asphalt.

In any event, the full extent of the bone-breaking outcome of that wipeout wouldn't be realized until some hours after. At the time I just walked away, wondering when the unusual throbbing would stop. Realization would wait a few hours instead, coming when I went to the library later that evening.

By then I was fully in pain, but I was more worried knowing that I had an essay due the next day at school. Said document was a bit unusual, however, something of a punishment that had been meted out earlier in the day. It was a treatise resulting from all of us acting bratty in band class. Oops - didn't Dizzy Gillespie get away with spitballs in Cab Calloway's band to go on to bigger and better things? No matter: the thought of getting kicked out of the school's orchestra weighed more heavily to a band geek, naturally.

Now finally setting myself to the task at hand, I laid my arm down on the desk to write. Hmm, I thought, noticing only then that the pencil was scribbling rather oddly into the air. The paper remained a rather unsmirched white. My arm was kinda green, too. Ack! I panicked. Wah! I ran home.

With my Mom a little out of her league on this one, we shot out to the nearest hospital. Ooh - serious! Minus sirens, though - damn. In the emergency room I'd first receive a pain-freezing shot of painkiller. That HURT! Then it seemed that only more would be on the way, what with the vigorous twisting and crackling of my arm bones. That was WEIRD.

Miraculously, bearing more pain wouldn't be the case at all - and one would think I'd gain an everlasting appreciation for drugs. I was a little clueless then - duh. Meanwhile, that disjointed experience led to the arm's setting and receiving my first cast. Sigh - memories! Then the REAL pain began when the shots wore off. Y-owch!

Enough bones now sufficiently broken for a lifetime, I next would take a slight pause in such cracking festivities. That tack would be abandonned in favor of merely being knocked out cold. The first time this happened it was at a momentous occasion, at least, coming when I had slapped out a double in an intramural university softball game. Woo hoo!, I thought, knowing that I had pushed home a run and could play the hero however modestly - even if only to me.

Such heroics would turn out to offer more than I had bargained for. Fielding the ball out in center field, the outfielder's aimed true as he tried to get me out at second base. He couldn't be to blame, thus, when it duly arrived just after I alighted upon the bag. No, it'd just be for one small detail - that of the second baseman completely missing the ball - then I found myself sitting dazed on the bag a moment later.

I had been clocked in the temple of my head, instantly knocking me out and dropping me like a sack of rocks. Not that I knew it at the time, though: I never saw it coming, so certain that I had safely hit the double. My last memory was of stepping on the bag - until I found myself watching stars encircling my vision. Hey - the stars really DO appear! Oh yes, they do.

In the meantime all the members of both teams completely surrounded me. Everyone simultaneously asked "You alright, man?" "Are you okay?" No, not really, I wasn't - but the lump would go away in some days. Those would duly come after I spent that first night being constantly awakened by my sometime girlfriend every hour or two. Still, it DID beat the longer recovery time of a broken bone - and there'd be a prolonged break in my sticking my neck out for fresh clockings.

Indeed, it would require some years after the softball incident to pass (even as a few more snapped fingers slipped in there, regardless). By then I had moved to the cooler environment of Washington State, softball for the most part relegated completely to my past. Instead, for this significant change in scenery, many mountain bike crashes would be my reward. That'd apparently be what I deserved for taking on the activity ever more seriously.

As one would guess, the wipeouts of taking on a sport afresh would slowly peter out in number. This measurably occurred as I gained in skill - as one would hope! Consequently, the best wipeouts - the endos (as in end-over-end) - would occur only early on in this teething process.

One such was into (or rather partially over, including a full aerial somersault) a snow bank. It made for quite a show to those who had pulled up to stop at the beginning of the snow area behind me. Rule #1: if you're going to wipe out, you sure as crud better make it something for others to enjoy. There IS joy in pain - however oblique the experience proves to be.

There'd be memorable ones, too, where my face narrowly missed being demolished by a big rock mere inches away. Whoa - THAT was close! Of course, I'd only realize the nearness of those impending disasters just after harsh impact, but a couple of the plowings into earth particularly stood out. I believe these memories are called nightmares.

One came when I rounded a corner, an incident where I almost had a head-on collision. Where'd HE come from?, I had no time to question. In the jerked reaction that resulted instead, where we tried to not tangle our bikes, we both went flying into the air. Thus I ate ground instead, narrowly missing a huge, sharp rock on the ground in the process. There'd still be plenty of blood, though, even as the bikes had stopped practically wheel-to-wheel - uninjured.

The other smashing came when I was racing for my life, just narrowly ahead of a friend whom I had passed... and which he was having none of. Shortly thereafter he was consistently on my ass, pushing my speed well beyond my ability. For this, I soon lost my slim margin of traction - which has a way of bringing a bike (and rider) down at times.

In a split instant, I made a facial imprint in a wall of mud - right next to a sharp boulder. My friend exultantly skipped on by, then - somewhat robbed of his glory in overtaking me by my catastrophe - circled back some moments later to take in the carnage. Ouch, THAT didn't look good - but it beat going off the cliff on the other side. At least there was THAT... and more blood, naturally.

The most spectacular display of mountain biking mayhem came much earlier than those two crashes, however. This would be an event that I'd since dub "the helicopter". The titling would be appropriate, too, seeing as I twirled like a horizontal propeller in the air, simultaneously spinning and swooping down an embankment in seemingly slow motion. Down... down... down.

Would I ever land? Good question - and I had time in the air to properly frame it, too. The answer, of course, would be YES - and to only barely miss being speared by a tree which I landed alongside of. Holy shit, I thought, my heart pounding as my hand reached over to touch the pungee-stick-in-waiting. That was the good news. The bad news - as is always the case in mountain biking - was that it wasn't witnessed by anyone. What a waste!

Anyway, my cycle-smashing glory - written indelibly in red - could eventually be considered completed only a few mere years later. That'd be when I came to hold the title "Bleeder" among a group of my fellow mountain-biking friends. The cheerful moniker'd be fair, however, the deserved result of having shown - and amply so by then - a vast capacity to allow blood to flow freely from my body. Called this at an annual event on Tiger Mountain, it would seem that this skill had finally reached its acme - and then I'd practically never wipe out again. Knock on wood. And steel. Rubber, even. This carpet... but true.

In any event, who needed bicycles when snowboarding was claiming me twice in the interim? Evidently a tragedy-in-the-making for all seasons, I took to managing wipeouts not only in summer but winter, too! It'd earning another descriptive word as well, coming when things got rolling with a spectacular crash most un-helicopterlike. Think, instead, of that childhood toy - the slinky. Yeah! - the stinky slinky!

This bit of fun began when I face-planted after catching an edge, not an uncommon event for a new 'boarder. In an instant - things generally happen FAST on skis and snowboards - I'd make my notable contribution of a crash test dummy in action. Fer-thunk!

Mouth tasted snow only ever so briefly, though. It'd only prove a motion destined for hesitating, a recoil-building thing with no choice but resumption. That came, then, when the rest of my body followed in a flipping motion - one that only could remind an onlooker of a slinky's herky-jerky action, one end tumbling over another with snapping precision. Whoa!

Somehow I had gone from having my head fully under the snow to a standing position again atop my snowboard. I was completely white with the fluff covering every inch of my body. In the transformation, only a few seconds - it seemed minutes - had transpired. Then my head plowed back down for an encore.

My friend, watching nearby, could only ashenly whisper "Wow." I believe that happened more than once - with time to reconsider in between. Soon as I could see straight, meanwhile, I more or less would think the same thing. Wow. Ow. My back. My head! I'd shortly call it a day, thus - and once again only wishing that it had been caught on video for posterity.

Another snowboard incident involved being similarly spied in the act. Or just afterward, anyway. This one came when I had caught up with some friends snowboarding up at Whistler, that largest of North American ski resorts in British Columbia, Canada. They had already been up there for the day; I'd be joining them in only a few final runs.. So it went to script, too, all of us deciding to head off the mountain not long after I had arrived...

...until I didn't quite make it. Somehow, on the way out from this brief frolic in the snow, I was found flat on my back by one of my friends. (Thanks again, Sue!) My eyes were rolled back white; my feet lay uphill from my head as the rest of my body rested on my back... and I was out like a light. My friend crossed her skis in warning to others coming down the hill; the rescue folks were shortly on their way.

So I'd hear later. For my part, I'd actually have no memory of that icy day's actual event. That would be particularly humbling, too, mainly because it was on a green (easy) run that I was found. (Why couldn't it have been a quadruple black diamond?!?) Naturally I would've preferred to have been taken out by a malicious skier like in a James Bond scene, probably involving biathletes with rifles. Still, it'd likely be a most fortunate thing in this case that neither I nor ANYONE would ever know.

What I would have sufficient flashback memories of, though, would be coming down the hill in a rescue sled. This came only after regaining some small amount of consciousness, a coming-to beyond the first wave where I'd be told later that I was incoherent. For this dawning awareness, however, I'd only suffer the indignity of a variety of snow sprays. Each one successively splatted on my face from many a passer by who drew near to the descending sled. Thanks, all!

Sadly, too, I'd miss out on what I'd be told was the highlight of the experience - if I'd only have known it. That apparently came in the form of the Australian girl who tended to me first. My savior was evidently of no small beauty, but this would (sadly) not involve any mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Whatever - oh cruel world! And so it'd go yet again. I did suffer for my cause, did I not? If there was one, anyway?

All of these travails, regardless, bring this essay to a point. Oh - THAT. Yes, all this bludgeoning by mine own hand DID have a point. And here it'd be, as best I can figure it: it was all but a preamble! Yes, like the movie where the protagonist wakes up - only to realize it all was just a dream - all of these miseries would never never never serve as the real thing.

Indeed not - little was I to know at all. It'd turn out like this, instead: however much my sport shortcomings might render me physically hapless, nature could infinitely improve upon my woeful tidings. It's true: next it'd be the critters of all sizes and shapes that were after my blood. Couldn't I catch a break?

Hardly. No, now it'd be TripTrumpet vs. Mother Nature's Minions, as the milieu of my catastrophes moved inexorably to the great outdoors with each passing year. But to this I say so be it. Is it not the case that when one water calms, it only seems fitting that the rapids merely move elsewhere?

In any event, Pt. 1 of my (mostly) self-inflicted tales of mishap must end. The time now comes, in its place, for a setting down the path of a different, yet oddly similar bricked road. Stingrays and orcas and leeches - oh my!

[Epilogue on the crevassed slopes of Aasgard Pass to come - the nearest of the near-death experiences yet, in Summer 2010.]

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