‘Nother Bike Wreck?

Three close calls.  That’s the limit, the way I’ve heard it.  These are the kinds of things that “come in threes,” right?  Of course they do.

bike wreckExcept not.  Assumptions like that can lead to eventful days–like yesterday.  Being a warm October day, I thought I’d bike into Durham on the American Tobacco Trail and try out the early voting opportunities there.  A mile from home, I hit something in the leaf litter that threw me onto my front tire.  I was balanced there, like one of those stunt motorcyclists.  I held it together on one wheel for a second and righted myself.  On I went.

Crossing a normally peaceful side street, I was confronted by a hurtling, two-ton vehicle bearing down on me.  Brake hard; take evasive action.  Check.

Later, taking off from a stop at a light, going straight, a driver beside me decided to make a right regardless of my existence in the space toward which he headed his car.  The booming bass and rattling widows gave me an aural picture of what I had to miss.  Sporting of him.  Not even that close.

And we’re riding!  We’re riding! Continue reading

M2NYi30ES – The Next Day

The next day we drove back to VA to retrieve the rest of our stuff and finish cleaning up the house.  The very next day.  After one of the worst days I’ve ever spent I ended up having to endure one of the other worst days I’ve ever spent.  We drove 350 miles to do a little more physical work.  Then, all in one day, we drove that same distance over those same roads back to NYC, to Long Island, actually, to dump off the stuff at my wife’s aunt’s house.  This was 700 miles of driving and plenty of physical work, all in one long, fatigue-filled day.

It was a lonely day for me, too.  My wife’s pattern in the car is to fall asleep and stay that way for the entirety of the trip.  “That’s what I always did when I was little,” she says, by way of justification.  She must have been pretty well rested by the end of all this.  She racked up a lot of hours of sleep while I was driving those roads over and over again.

I don’t remember much of it, really.  I was in endurance/perseverance mode, which for me involves a loss of emotion, a loss of frivolous mental activity.  All I do when e/p mode is called for is focus on the present moment, the task at hand, and how to get the task accomplished with the minimum of suffering. Continue reading

M2NYi30ES – The Impound Lot

This traumatic event engendered an unforeseen delay, and the unforeseen delay delivered us into the hands of those same Fates we had snubbed just hours before.  The Fates usually spin, weave, and snip the thread of our lives.  In NYC, though, the Fates are in cahoots with the local Traffic Enforcement folks.  The Fates take it easy, merely steering the parking police to people’s cars, and the parking police take it from there, guiding the tow truck to the spot and sealing the deal.

As we would learn, traffic patterns near the Queensboro Bridge are much like the tides in the East River–they change drastically with the time of day, and they wait for no man.  The cops saw to it that we were towed tout de suite.  Here beginneth the adventure of retrieving our car from the NYPD impound lot.

If you are towed in Manhattan, your vehicle is deposited in a secure, undisclosed location.  You can ask anybody, though; they all know where they take it–the NYPD impound lot on 12th Ave., near the Jacob Javits Center.  What people might not mention is that you’ll need cash, plenty of it, to retrieve your vehicle, and you’ll have to get there by yourself.  Our building was between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and we should have taken a cab, but if you’re me, and you’re new in town, you decide to drive your rental truck crosstown to the impound lot. Continue reading

M2NYi30ES – Drive and Arrive

The drive to New York went surprisingly well, for a star-crossed journey.  Sure, I only saw my wife behind me on rare occasions, during extremely sharp turns, hidden as she was, three feet off my bumper.  With its bad brakes, the truck took so long to stop that I scarcely considered the possibility that she might rear-end me.  We negotiated the highways and bridges and and tolls and avoided the roadway hazards in near-miraculous fashion.  We had rough directions from my wife’s Long Island relatives, and they served us fairly well…until we actually made it to Manhattan.  Their directions put us on the FDR East River Drive, which is a lovely, fast route for traveling north and south on the east side if you’re in a car.  Trouble is, the city has rather stringent laws against driving trucks on it.

Stringent though they might be, breaking laws such as these does not really attract much notice in a city where the cops are beleaguered, with real crime to deal with.  I mean, if something bad had happened on the FDR, the final disposition of the legal case and the inevitable law suits would have gone against me.  As it was, frankly exhausted from the day of packing, unpacking, loading, unloading…and loading again, and then driving for several hours with brakes that technically didn’t work until just before I was about to crash into the vehicle ahead of me, this little legality seemed like something of which I could plausibly deny knowledge. Continue reading

M2NYi30ES – Moving Day

Moving day arrived in late June.  See, residents and fellows all start July 1.  This is why you don’t want to go to the hospital in early July.  Brad and Brent and Brittany and Betty Sue are all standing around, trying to look competent while their palms sweat, having suddenly become aware that they don’t know anything about medicine, much less the human condition in general.  They know how to sit in class, they know how to read and study, they have cut up dead people, but those skills won’t do you much good with whatever medical condition brought you to them.

The other thing about late June is that it’s hot, and it rains a lot.  Ah, the rain.  Loading our rental truck, unloading said truck, stopping briefly to check whether things had shifted in transit–all of these were occasions for a downpour.  It was uncanny, but again, the uncanniness came from the fact that we didn’t yet fully comprehend the star-crossed nature of this particular expedition.  Had I known what I know now, I would have opened an umbrella each time I reached for the latch on the truck’s back door. Continue reading

M2NYi30ES – Before we could even start

The first step of moving, the joyless drudgery of packing, is usually the worst part.  Although it is not creative or interesting, you still have to think it through and pay attention to what you’re doing or you’ll just have a big mess on your hands.  Packing also takes place far in advance of the move so that it is impossible to feed off the enthusiasm that one might have for new places and new challenges while you’re doing it.

In this case, we would leave a three-bedroom house with a full basement and move into a 700-square-foot apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  We figured that only about one-third of our possessions would fit into the apartment, so we had some serious choices to make.  We had to determine which third of our accumulated stuff would make the move, and what would happen to the other two-thirds.  These intense negotiations required much forethought, along with a few Faustian bargains, Hobson’s choices, and even a little of the wisdom of Solomon one hears so much about.

We at least had a free option for storage–my mother-in-law’s garage in Charlotte, NC.  Of course, that was 275 miles away from Charlottesville.  So, first we had to figure out what we needed to store, boxed-up non-essentials and furniture mostly, and then get it to Charlotte where it would lie in state, gathering dust, cat hair, and other filth for three years.

This trip to Charlotte was the first indication of just how badly things would go with this move.  We rented a truck for the trip, loaded it up, and ignorant of the way the stars had aligned against us, we took off.

My wife has a tendency to tailgate.  I saw her doing it just this morning on the way to work.  She says she doesn’t tailgate, so I’m guessing it’s a definitional thing for her.  She doesn’t actually tap the bumper of the car in front of her–that would be just plain rude–so she thinks she’s doing fine.  Well, as she followed me to Charlotte, she was “saving gas,” allowing herself to be sucked along in my draft.  That worked out OK until we found ourselves in Danville, VA, right on the North Carolina border.  I saw something in the road ahead, something metal and spiky, like those things they use to hold tent poles when they set them up on pavement.

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M2NYi30ES – Background

The idea of moving is generally unattractive.  And that’s for normal people.  For me, any move is just another in a long series of moves.  People ask if I am an “Army brat” if I absentmindedly reveal that I attended seven different elementary schools.  I wasn’t an Army brat.  That status would have offered a measure of comfort by contrast to the vagaries of my childhood since military life imparts a sense of stability.  Olive drab is, after all, olive drab, the world around.

Instead, for me each move was just another jarring adjustment.  Finding myself always “the new kid” got easier after the first few moves because I knew I’d have to fight somebody and stopped trying to avoid it.  I just got it over with in the first day or two.  (A guy has to make friends somehow, doesn’t he?)  But after these childhood experiences, and after getting out of my parents’ house and off to college, I really grew fond of having some sameness in my life from year to year.

Then I married a woman who decided she wanted to become a doctor.  Medical training, by its nature, requires regular uprootings.  The first step, medical school at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, was “on her.”  She would be only 90 minutes away, and Greenville’s many seductive charms were just not sufficient to entice me to leave a stable job.  I visited on weekends, to “be there for her” while she slept and studied.  Four rather dull years later it was time for the first move I couldn’t get out of–from the Research Triangle of North Carolina to Charlottesville, VA. where my wife “matched” for her residency program in Neurology at UVA Hospitals.

This was a significant life event for me.  I had lived in and around Chapel Hill for 25 years and had expected to stay there indefinitely, but this move actually was attractive for one main reason.  My previous wife had taken my son to Charlottesville about a decade earlier, and by now he was into his adolescence.  The idea of spending more time with him was attractive, and it seemed like a good time for a boy to have his Dad around, so I tried to be positive.  I also thought that, being an experienced teacher with credentials in several subject areas, I could get a job just about anywhere.

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How to Move to New York in 30 Easy Steps

In the spirit of the memoir, as I have found myself lately, I am tasking myself with telling the story of the time my wife and I moved from Charlottesville, VA, to New York City–the Upper East Side of Manhattan, actually–back in the late 1990s.

The tragic elements of the story, of which there are many, are admittedly a little hard to believe.  Readers would certainly and logically assume this to be an exaggerated version of events, the result of the author’s proclivity to engage, upon occasion, in more than a modicum of hyperbole.  He is known to do this, if not for the audience’s entertainment, then perhaps for his own.  I must be forthright in asserting, however, that each detail I am about to impart to you is true, and if anything, reflective of a disembelished version of events.

Sometimes one need not embellish.  Sometimes the unvarnished truth is hard enough to believe.

“Hardly an epiphany”

The title is a quote from the article, in the author’s own words.  It is not meant in disparagement, not at all.


I think it is great that Bob Cesca of the Huffingtom Post wrote the article.  I am just surprised that the article makes a point worth making, at least at this stage of history.  The statement it makes has been obvious for many months now–since the Tea Party movement’s inception, actually.  As evidence, all anyone needs to do is look–vainly–for black faces in the audience for Sarah Palin’s address.


And here we are, trying to get all these cats herded toward something like universal health care.  These are people who believe, literally, in the account of creation in Genesis, who believe a failure to believe in that account is a serious moral flaw.  Thus, everyone they know well believes just as they do. Continue reading

Sarah H. Foxwell, Age 11, Murdered

This was a Christmas headline nobody wanted to read.  The news story unfolded all too predictably, but despite that predictability–maybe because of it–the story caused a strong reaction in anyone who read it.

Except me.  I was characteristically unmoved, able to maintain my objectivity and intellectual distance; that is, until the news story revealed a single salient detail.  The girl’s toothbrush was found in the suspect’s car.

Of course, this fact probably was included as damning circumstantial evidence against the accused, but for me, this mundane detail somehow broke through my customary emotional distance.  It brought me into that house on that night.  It increased the immediacy of the victimization involved in the crime, the level of violence of the young girl’s abduction and murder.

If she had simply been overpowered and dragged from her bedroom, as I initially had believed, it would have been bad enough.  The detail of the toothbrush, however, leads to a different vision of the crime.  Rather than an act of savage, unreasoning violence, the kidnapping obviously unfolded at leisure, with ample forethought and scheming.  As part of this pattern, the perpetrator created the illusion of concern for the girl’s welfare.  He allowed her to retrieve her toothbrush. Continue reading