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Started as a blog, this site now is home to an ever-growing archive of stories. Most have been published somewhere, a few haven't. Personal blogs entries might still happen occasionally but it's not very likely.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blog | Falling Is Like This

August 20, 2006

             I’ve been a slacker and haven’t posted on this site in quite a while. This was pointed out to me frequently this past weekend as Christie and I celebrated the end of the home remodeling with a big (for us) party. We invited many friends to “help us celebrate and get hammered.” Many people responded, some traveling fairly impressive distances to spend time with us. Four folks (Ben & Wanda, Rania and Jennifer) came up from Atlanta, two more came in from Greenville, SC. My good friend Susan even flew down from the D.C. area (the nation’s capitol, not where they make the comics) just for the party, so she gets the award for longest distance traveled. Unfortunately, that prize was just a leftover FOX61 antenna ball.
Anyway, much food was eaten and enormous quantities of alcohol were consumed. There was even big-screen karaoke. I’m not sure exactly why there was big-screen karaoke but there was.
After the first song (who knew that Tim McGraw had even covered “Tiny Dancer” and, if you’re going to have that song on the Karaoke thing, why wouldn’t you have it “in the style of” Elton John instead of some country doofus? But I digress so let me get out of this parenthetical and return you to the thought in progress, which, in case you’ve forgotten began: “After the first song…”) I escaped from the “media lounge” to the newly-covered patio area out back to converse with the rest of the non-singers. Although, to be accurate, there were certainly a truckload of non-singers participating in the karakoing.
So, anyway… I was sitting out back, talking to friends and Susan pointed out that I should be careful as the back of my chair was only inches from the edge of the patio and a very steep drop down the hill in our backyard. That lead to me telling the story of the bushes.
Wait? You don’t know the story of the bushes? I know it was almost four years ago but everyone has heard this story. No? Okay….
In September of aught-two, I was still living in my little house on Weaver Street in East Ridge. I had been working for Mike & Jinger for less than two months and I had yet to meet Christie. At that point in my life, things were mostly pretty good. I loved my job and, except for being chronically broke and only about a month from having to move on very short notice, things were pretty damned fine in my world.
Furthermore, on that particular day (the tenth, I think it was), I had experienced a rather good day at work followed by a very pleasant dinner with my old friends Janet and Mike at Provino's, my favorite restaurant at the time. They even paid formy meal. By the time I got home, I was relaxed and happy. But I was still fat.
I had planned to meet another friend--Ted Draper--at the YMCA at 7:30 for a workout but, as is so often the case, I was running a little late. I went quickly into my house, fed the five critters (I had just gotten a new dog whose stay with me would be ended by my sudden change of residence) and changed into my workout clothes. The workout clothes consisted of black sweatpants and a tee shirt. I was wearing black socks because, as I’ve said, I had not yet met Christie and, therefore, not had the complete wardrobe makeover that people so often comment on.
So I decided not to waste time changing the socks. I figured that, with long, black sweatpants and semi-hightop cross-trainers, no one would see my socks anyway. So I sat down to put on the shoes. My two dogs and at least one of the cats took this as an invitation to play. My shoestrings immediately the center of everyone’s attention and, clearly, there were not going to get tied.
I decided that, in the interest of time, it might be best if I went out onto the front porch to finish the process of dressing for the gym (from the ankles down, anyway).
For those of you who never saw my house, let me take a moment to explain the setup to you. My front porch was about three feet above the lawn and ran about half the length of my house (or is that the width?). The front of the porch was edged by a fairly thick wall of bushes, with only two-foot wide gap providing access to the three steps that led down to the walkway. The hedge-like-thing (“We’ll call it Steve!”) was actually made up of six large bushes--three on each side of the stairs. I have no idea what kind of bushes they were but they were but they were thick and healthy and effectively hid most porch-related activities from my neighbors (thus the rise in popularity of Nude Grilling).
I had an old lawn chair on my front porch and, since the hedge blocked the view of the street, the chair was facing back toward the door. The chair was one of those kind with the bands of plastic woven together in such a manner as to imprint your ass and back with red and white plaid (the plaid may, of course, appear differently depending upon your skin color). The chair had normal front legs but the back legs were the kind that are joined by a bar across the bottom, forming a U-shaped support. In theory, this should be pretty sturdy.
I sat in this chair (where, it’s entirely possible, I had never sat before) and began the act of putting shoes on my feet over the aforementioned black socks. Perhaps, if I had unlaced the shoes rather than trying to cram them on still tied, this whole incident (which I am about to describe) might have been averted. But, as my father often said, “If a frog had wings, he’d be a fly and then he’d have to eat himself.” Or something like that. I really stopped listening once he started talking about flying frogs. I mean, how fucked up is that?
Anyway… I tugged on the back of the first shoe (probably the right one as I always seem to start there) to get it over my heel and ankle. As I did this, I leaned backward in the chair--for leverage maybe? At that point, the single-piece back leg thing slipped over the front lip of the porch (there were no rails) and, with no chance to flail, grab, bellow or even gasp, I followed the chair over into the bushes.
Had the bushes not been there, I might very well have snapped my neck or broken a water main with my giant cranium (as you know, I have a giant head--thus the nickname “Buckethead”). The bushes were there, though... And they caught me. Like some giant, lazy but extremely carnivorous plant, they caught me. And held me there,flat on my back in a folding lawn chair with my black-socked feet in the air, soles to the clouds.
The rush of panic faded, replaced by thankfulness that I wasn’t seriously injured. The latter feeling was fleeting, however, as I realized that I was still at least a foot or more off the ground. The bushes had obviously been there for a long time and the lower trunks were quite sturdy. I had come to rest in the heart of the middle bush on the left side (if you were facing the house) and was being held aloft like… Like… Uh… Like some thing that's held aloft… Maybe as in Ancient Greece or someplace like that where the liked to hold things aloft and deliver soliloquies. “Alas, poor Buckethead…”
So I was on my back but not on the ground. I looked to my left and saw bushes. I looked to my right and saw bushes. Ahead of me was only sky. Above me were the oddly inverted homes of the two old ladies who lived across the street from me. None of the limbs of the bushes (except the ones I was lying on) seemed suitable for pulling a 270
pound (Okay, 290 pounds but I was on my way to the gym so leave me alone!) body up out of the embarrassing predicament.
It was at about this point that I began to laugh. I continued to laugh for several seconds before it occurred to me that I should attempt a… What would you call it? Dismount? Extrication? Escape? Whatever you call it, I knew that I had to do it before one of the neighbor ladies saw me there.
Of course, my luck does not work that way. They had seen. And were, I found out later, discussing my situation.
Neighbor Lady #1 had been watering her lawn when Neighbor Lady #2 came over from next door and said, "I think Lee's fell.”
NL1 said, “No. He’s just probably moving that big cabinet off his porch… Finally. Or maybe he’s just dropped something back behind there and he’s trying to get it.”
NL2 said, “No! I thought at first that he was just down there behind the bushes but then I saw his feet. They was in the air!"
They decided that someone needed to check on me so NL2 came into my yard, saw me lying in the bushes and said, “Lee… Did you fall?”
I had a Terminator moment where various possible answers flashed across my internal response screen. I went with, "No! I just like relaxing in the bushes!"
I guess she thought, “Well he is pretty fucking weird. Maybe he does like relaxing in the bushes so she went back over to hang out with NL1.”
They both kept watching my house where, to use NL1's words, "The bushes was just a'shakin'! It looked like a tornado was goin' through the middle of them." Then, without warning, the bushes spat me forth like Jonah from the belly of the great fish.
The only method I could discern to extricate myself was to was to execute a backflip and dump myself headfirst onto the ground. I managed this with roughly the grace of a stoned elephant rollerblading during an earthquake.
I quickly dusted myself off, threw my shoes in the car and promptly got the hell out of there because I was convinced that I could outrun the embarrassment.
I was, as you might expect, wrong.
So that’s the story I told at the party. Ben followed with a pair of spectacular bike crash stories (the bikes weren’t spectacular but the stories and crashes were). Susan told her story about falling down a poorly-paved hill at a barn party and the one about falling down the hill at her old apartment. Mike told of building up speed while stumbling down a hill in Ecuador and charging like a rhino into the bus. Jinger told us about when she fell through the floor of the attic and her leg was dangling two stories above the floor of their foyer. We finished the falling stories with my tale of how my mom fell on the ice and…
What? You haven’t heard that one? Well…
A long time ago, in a Rossville far, far away… My mother got up at about five in the morning to make breakfast for my dad and pack a lunch for him. The previous night had been bitterly cold and that morning wasn’t much better. But, looking outside into the pre-dawn murk, they didn’t see any snow on the road. That’s because you can’t see black ice.
My dad got into his old ’62 Ford pickup and started down the very steep hill in front of our house. Almost immediately, he began to slide across the road.
Across from our driveway and down just a bit was a huge dip. We never liked him. But, anyway, the dip’s house sat at the bottom of a very steep hill that began its descent at the edge of the road. And Dad’s truck was headed right for it.
He floored the brake. He put on the emergency brake. He prayed to Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha and that Indian god with all the arms. The truck came to rest with one of its front wheels up on the curb of the precipice. As long as he kept his foot on the brake, it was okay but, every time he eased up, the truck shifted closer to the plunge.
Dad honked his horn and, Mom, being the only one awake in the neighborhood, went to see what was going on. Dad rolled down his window and yelled, “Bring me a brick to put under the tire!”
Now, a word about my father and bricks. He’s one of those old school guys who never really trusted brakes on cars but used bricks under the tires religiously. I don’t remember a time when his truck was parked in our driveway (which was on a hill) that there wasn’t a brick or two chocking the tires. Sadly, my generation never fully appreciated the miraculous chocking power of the common red brick.
Mom, sensing the danger, rushed outside. She was wearing only her slippers and one of those long, nylon nightgowns that mothers wore back when I was a kid.
On a side note, it kind of creeps me out to know that my mother wasn’t wearing anything under there but it makes the story funnier. So…
Mom grabbed the tire brick and rushed out onto the street. Onto the black ice.
As she neared the truck, she got a good, close-up look at all ten of her toenails. Her nightgown billowed up and she landed bare ass to black ice. Her left hand went down to break the fall and the other went to her head--to protect it, I guess. The problem was that the other hand still held the brick.
So Mom, bare-assed on the ice, whacked the purple bejesus out of the right side of her head then, thoroughly dazed, slid right past dad and on down the street. Dad, his foot jammed onto the brake pedal, could only watch her slide past.
Mom’s ice-enhanced momentum petered out several feet past Dad’s truck so she had to crawl back up the hill and jam the miracle brick under the tire before he could even get out of the truck and help her back into the house, where, ironically, they put ice on her multiple bruises.
So this story was told as well. In general, the falling stories were fantastic. We laughed, we cried, we ached empathetically.
It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that the great unifying force in the world isn’t love or compassion or even a shared love/hate relationship with that “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard” song. It’s clumsiness that binds us.  We’ve all fallen. And we’ve all fallen often enough that, at least once, the act of falling was really fucking funny and makes a hell of a good story for parties.
That made me think of Ani Difranco. Not because she’s particularly clumsy or has a falling story that I’ve heard (though I’m sure she has one). But it made think of her song “Falling Is Like This”. (Christie put that on a mix disc for me once and I think it was even on our wedding mix.) Love really is like falling. It’s not always graceful, it’s not always pleasant and it’s never planned but, if you survive it, it makes a hell of a good story.

1 comment:

  1. I read the story about your mom falling for about the 50th time and it still makes me laugh as hard as it did the first time.

    In the movie screen in my head that runs whenever I read something, in that story I picture your parents looking exactly like the parents from "A Christmas Story". Your dad yelling "Bring me a brick!" has a total Darren McGavin feel to it, you know?

    Does that make you Ralphie? Is Ben Flick? Who am I? I guess I'm that other kid that hung out with them but I can't remember his name. Whee!

    Post something new!