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Barry Crimmins

words to live near


Spleendid Sunday, November 6, 2011

By Barry Crimmins

I planned to hit the road in November but not quite so early and certainly not so hard.

My premature travel commenced late last Tuesday afternoon when Lettie and Lu the Dogs and I scurried outside for a stroll before Daylight Shavings Time could drop both winter temperatures and a curtain of darkness upon us. I had the hounds on retractable leashes because it's now bow season and the National Wounders Association is out in full, deadly force in our neighborhood.

We got about five hundred feet up the road when our beloved Karen pulled up, having hustled home from work in hopes of trail-bossing the late afternoon walk, leaving me free to continue to prepare for my upcoming tour. L and L rejoiced upon ID'ing the momobile since the girls' weekday highlight is Karen's evening return from her toils at the local branch of Enormo Corp. She always makes sure to do something special with her sweethearts, whether it be allow them to hang and play in the yard while she works on the gardens, provide soothing and loving grooming that transforms squirmy ragamuffins into willing beauty salon devotees, take them in the car for a swim or a run at one of several  perfect spots she has found through relentless trial and error or just feed them healthy treats she can't foist on me, such as raw carrots. No matter what they do it's a joy to observe.

But Tuesday was an exception to the rule.

As Karen approached, I must have looked put-upon because I knew my plans for a two or three-mile walk were over once the girls eyeballed her. She slowed, stopped, zoomed down her window, saw me scowl and saw the girls dance and yip with happiness. She quickly assessed the situation and said, "Oops! I'd better just get out of here." She then drove off in an attempt to minimize the mania her arrival had brought on. Had I not been a sulky dope, I'd have said something. Something like "NOOOO!" because I knew there was nothing that could keep the doggy daughters from doing whatever it took to joyfully greet their Karen. Disappointed that the walk I'd planned was doomed to become a quick jaunt up to the road, followed by a ride home with the entire family, I emitted vibes that made Karen wisely step on the accelerator.

My comeuppance arrived quickly.

Disasters are fueled by precise coincidences of misfortune and poor planning. Consider what happened (and is still happening) in Japan because an earthquake, tsunami, flood, topography and rickety nuclear waste production facilities crossed one another's faulty and fatal lines. In my case it was hunting season, two retractable leashes, two very strong dogs brimming with love, a grouchy man who had his mind set on a bracing stroll all calamitously conspiring to create slapstick that, had he witnessed it, would have had Buster Keaton laughing like Ed Wynn.

When Karen sped away of course Lettie and Lu sprinted after her. This would have never happened had I simply spoken up and put the dogs in the car and then resumed our perambulation after the homecoming festivities. Instead, I found myself facing in the exact opposite direction of the dogged pursuit. Unfortunately I was tethered by the two retractable leashes to this motherlode of canine energy. I pivoted around to face in the direction of the chase and had one foot on the dirt road just as the both dogs ran out of leash. That was one more foot than I had on the road for long. And by long I mean a nanosecond because in less than one of them I was airborne for a short eternity, during which I fluttered through my entire mind in hopes of finding the antidote to gravity. Damn that Isaac Newton! This was followed by a slightly longer period during which I knew I was doomed to an unbroken fall, at maximum dog-velocity, no less. To my credit/blame, I clung to the leashes for dear life, still hoping to at least keep the girls safe. I flew through the air, my arms spread Superman-style Look! Falling down from the sky, it's a bird! It's a birdbrain! It's Stupidman! I soon collided with the road so hard that I actually bounced. During the carom my hands involuntarily released the leashes, allowing me to skid to a stop.

I hit mostly on the left side of my chest and the front of my left elbow. I believe I briefly lost consciousness but can't say for sure since I was passed out at the time. Not to discount my urgent gasping for air, but I think it was the pain that brought me around. I was unable to move at all for a few seconds. It was half a minute before I could lift my head. I never lost my ability to moan, but then, I'm pretty tough. When I finally looked up, Karen had captured the stampeding sisters, turned her car around and was slowly creeping towards me. I tried to let her know I was OK by saying "UUUUUUUHHHH!" but I am quoting loosely. After a few minutes, I was able to get to my hands and knees, a major accomplishment. This helped me become more articulate. To commemorate this progress, I summarized my circumstances by adding a few consonants to my complaint. "BLUUUUUUUHHHH!" I proclaimed. And I wasn't kidding.

I could breath shallowly so the wind hadn't been completely knocked out of me leading me to wonder if the pain and compression in my chest meant I'd taken a serious blow to the heart. And not metaphorically.

My next thought, I swear, was "Damn it, no video." If I was going to take a shot like that, the least I could do was go viral. My next thought did not concern YouTube. Fearing a massive blood clot headed brainward I wondered, "Am I  going to die?" So far, so good on that one. As I got to my feet and began doing my best Fred Sanford chest-clutching stagger, Karen pulled slowly past, made a U-turn, drove back to me and insisted I get in the car. Lettie and Lu were in the back seat, euphoric over their successful hunt. They looked at me, tails thumping, as if to say, "Wanna go again?"

I waved "no thanks" to the ride. I ignored the assassins. I wasn't yet physically capable of climbing in and out of a car. Karen drove along next to me until I asked her to drive ahead so as to spare me the exhaust fumes. She did and this freed me up to concentrate on my whimpering.

It took me about five minutes to get back to the house. I was covered in dirt from the road. (No joke, I left a small dent in it.) I was none-too-talkative mostly due to pain but partly from having been chastened with maximum impact. I  managed to squeak out a request for Karen to walk the girls since they had not had a chance to decorate the cake on our doomed sojourn.

While Karen and Co. were outside I called my pal John Joslin in Detroit to incoherently convey the events of a few minutes earlier. Negotiations to secure his silence concerning the conversation are still in the informal stage.

By the time Karen and the girls got back, I was tasting blood and felt there was no choice but to surrender to medical authorities. Karen insisted on driving me but I was pretty sure I could make it and saw no reason to abandon the girls for several hours. She later came down and visited me in the triage area where I waited for several hours for a dog accident-necessitated Cat-scan.

The first indication that I was regaining my wits came when I thought to bring along my copy of James Wolcott's vivid black and white memoir Lucking Out in which he details his trek from the Village Voice mailroom to prominence as a critic in the Voice and glossier publications. It's such a good read that I found myself glad when the ER-administered painkillers wore off a bit so that I could better focus on his tales of the Naked City during its nudest years - the Seventies. However, the narcotic haze furnished almost the perfect mental ambiance when I got to the sizable chapter concerning the punk scene he chronicled from a rickety barstool in CBGB's. Terrific stuff. Next time you break a bone, have the ambulance driver swing by your local independent bookseller so you're sure to have a copy before you are left with unimaginable amounts of time to worry about what else the examination may reveal.
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The hospital admitted me and James' book with no problems. I recounted my own memoir from earlier that day to the nursing staff when I wasn't devouring Wolcott's. Each retelling engendered laughter from nurses. Each time the nurses needlessly apologized  for chortling - I didn't, after all, bemoan the lack of video because I wanted serious documentation of my getting spiked into the road. I run on laughs (or limp, as the case may be.)

Judging by my wincing and yelping when prodded just so, the physician's assistant who examined me grew relatively certain my problem was my spleen. This got my attention because I need my spleen so that I can vent it on stage. Suddenly I was a pitcher with a bad throwing arm.

The hospital staff was gracious and kind, watching me carefully for signs of discomfort and distress - perhaps in part because I seemed to be the one sober patient in the ER. For some time only a worn curtain separated me from a woman who delicately explained to the nurse that she had realized she'd better bring in her husband, "when his head turned red and he shit himself." She also promised he hadn't "dranked more than a six-pack," before allowing, "Well, maybe an eight-pack." For his part the patient in question seemed fluent in the language I speak after simulating parachute failure on a dirt road.

My only complaint with my treatment was the nurses couldn't seem to get a needle in me for a blood sample or the IV that would be used to inject fentanyl (ahh!) and dye for the Cat-scan. They put close to a dozen holes in my arms, each time saying "Whoops! That isn't going to work." or similarly unnerving exclamations. They did make sure I knew it wasn't my fault. I agreed, reasoning that my only crime was to lay on a gurney while having veins. Five days later my arms remain festooned with angry bruises. I look as if I've received the hospital version of prison tattoos.
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After about 110 pages of Lucking Out, I did just that when they finally took me in for pictures. A wonderful tech x-rayed my elbow and scanned me from collarbone to pelvis. Sure enough, I had bruised ribs and a severely bruised spleen. My elbow had a red, black and green goose egg on it but wasn't broken. I would live -  a not-so-wonderful prospect for the next few days. Fortunately they provided me with an adequate supply of goofballs. I have remained intermittently hopped up on them ever since.

I still can't do much physically but I'm sure I'll be able to drive to Massachusetts for a visit to OccupyBoston on Wednesday afternoon. That November Ninth night I'll be roasted and toasted at the Charles Playhouse Lounge as part of the Boston Comedy Festival. On Friday, Nov 11 it's down to the Big Apple and a performance at a private gathering with noted political impressionist/ satirist and rabble-rouser extraordinaire, Randy Credico.

On Saturday, November 12, I'm back in Boston at the New England Folk Archives Gallery at Arts @ the Armory in Somerville. This will be my first full length set in New England in a year. Joining me will be Rev. Billy Bob Neck and the Muse aka/Tim Mason.

On Wednesday, November 16 watch for a very special show at a teensy venue but that's a surprise. Stay tuned.

On Thursday, November 17 it's my great honor to join a truly all-star lineup including: David Johansen, Patty Larkin, Shawn Colvin, John Gorka, Peter Case, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Keane, Fred Koller, Pete Nelson, and Mark Erelli  and hosts Cliff Eberhardt and David Dye  as we pay tribute to friend, mentor, and fellow artist Bill Morrissey who passed away from heart failure on July 23rd. Details here. Tickets are going fast!

Finally, on  Saturday, November 19th Satire For Sanity Returns to NYC @ Percy's Tavern as we reprise the show we did at Rocky Sullivan's from 2004-2006. I will be headline/ hosting. More on that and everything else as the shows grow closer.

The success of all these shows depends on you. Please buy tickets early and often. If you can't make it, please help spread the word. Don't make me hit the road again for nothing.

updated: 11 years ago