In her continuing quest to know EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD, The Princess was watching the NY1 television station last week. She told me about a news clip she’d seen describing the rather nasty mosquito problem folks (including the idiotic son, Andrew) are suffering from on the Lower East Side in New York City. Just guessing here, but I’ll bet that on reading this, Andy will say, “Huh, mosquito problem? Are you nuts! Cops harassing musicians in the subway and undercover cops subjecting pedestrians to illegal searches without showing police ID, those are some problems. But, hey, nice to hear from you, dad.” Ok, well, I was just going to say that the mosquito thing got me to thinking about the mosquito abatement programs of the 1950’s and 60’s as I was growing up.
What I remember were peaceful, summer evenings, the air so still it gave no relief from the heat. And then without warning a truck would come down the street with a gigantic blower in the back that sounded like a helicopter was buzzing the neighborhood. Of course, the noise and wind and impressive white cloud were irresistable enticements to us kids. Outdoor games of “kick the can” and “red light-green light” were immediately suspended as we poured out into the street to follow this Pied Piper spewing poisonous gas. I’m not sure how much DDT I inhaled back in those days, but I gotta say I was relieved when I found out years later that I could still father a child.
Well, this memory got me thinking about all the other times when stuff I did could have killed me, or significantly changed my future. Taking things in chronological order, and I’ve got to rely on the memory of others for this first one, it is alleged that at approximately age two I was found wandering out in the median of a four-lane highway in Westminster, MD. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that there had to have been some serious parental neglect in this case, and/or the idiotic brother encouraged this misadventure. I mean look at this photo of the IB from the era.
Does he look mischievous, or what? And, hey, nice pants, Jim.
A bit later on, remember those machines they used to have in shoe stores. You know, the ones where you’d stand up on a little platform, stick you feet in a slot and then peer in a little window to see how your shoes fit. In a small, eery, green screen you’d see your foot bones in your new pair of shoes. Or, your old shoes, if like us kids you’d just pop in off the sidewalk and take a peek. I’m telling you, minutes at a time of actual x-ray exposure. The only reason to stop peering at your foot bones was some other dude pushing you off the platform to get his dose. It’s a wonder we didn’t fry our feet. Before Gene retired he was heavy into this x-ray business. What do you think, Gene, am I gonna live? Could all this exposure to x-rays be the reason I have ingrown toe nails?
Of course, then there was the seven iron shot to the nose. This was back in the years when I caddied at a local country club. Like so many things, I followed the idiotic brother into this not so lucrative trade. Jim was an “A” caddy, so he got $3.25, plus tip. I was not a hot-shot (some would put another word here)like Jim, so only a “B” caddy. We B’s got only $2.75, plus tip and, because we were only B’s, we didn’t get the pro’s to caddy for. I remember a woman, she took a liking to me, probably because I didn’t ridicule her like others did, but she was deaf. Talk about things that could kill ya. I had to constantly reel that woman in to keep her from getting in harm’s way. I digress a bit, but speaking of getting in harm’s way, I was not a stranger to that either.
On Monday mornings we caddy’s were allowed to golf. I was 14. I’d put my golf bag over my shoulder, climb on my bike and ride over to the country club. We played barefoot, because of the heavy dew early in the morning. I gotta say, sun just up, bare feet in the grass, playing golf with your buddies, that was sweet. One morning, I remember the layout of the hole to this day; it was on the back nine, I think number 15, I got a little too far out in front of one of my friends. He pasted a seven iron shot, and it shot off the toe of the club at about 45 degrees. I just remember turning around and seeing a white blur just before the ball hit me square on the nose. Well after the incident there were comedians who’d say it was my prodigious nose that saved my life. That may well be, because I’d hate to think what the outcome would have been had that thing hit me in the temple. Even though my nose is, well, let’s say generous in size, it’s always been a bit sensitive. Ooo, ooo, I thought of a couple more, a kid hitting me in the nose in the second grade…what the…why did I deserve that? Then, there was the night my folks came home from a party, to find me in my bed, the sheets entirely soaked in blood from a nose bleed. To have blamed this on uncontrolled nose-picking, I think that was entirely unfair. But, of course, once again I digress.
When that ball made contact with my nose I was absolutely stunned, and by golly, you would not believe the eruption of blood all over the 15th hole. My friends gathered round me, and after a time, the blood-letting stopped. I decided not to play on, so walked back to the caddy shack, put the clubs over my shoulder and rode my bike home. Ooowee! When I came in the door and mom saw me, I thought she’d have a heart attack.
I begged her not to take me to the doctor. I remember her sending me in to take a bath in order to clean all the blood off, while she made the call. That the trip to the doctor was worse than getting hit by the ball. He jammed a fork-shaped thing up my nostrils in order to straighten my nose. Quickly he jerked it once to the left and once to the right, “crack, crack.” Oh man, tears were flowing freely then. After that, I didn’t trust my mom, or doctors for a long, long time.
Well shoot, I can see this is getting long, and I’ve got way more things that could have killed me, so we’ll have to save those for another time. So stay tuned for “Stuff That Coulda Killed Me, Part Two.”
Thanks for reading.