Thursday, October 18, 2007

Accidents Will Happen But Only Hit & Run

Chulita, one of my very favorite bloggers has asked me to post about an accident I mentioned in a comment I made on her post about an accident she was in many years ago with her baby daughter. As I was mulling it over I realized that the context of my accident mentioned in the comment, life changing as it was, may have been mistaken as something more recognizably devastating like a car accident.

The thing that struck me most about her post was the way she described that terrifying slow motion, you know you're in trouble, holy shit fuck, please Baby Jesus don't let me die, moments. The ones you have right after the realization that a possibly fatal and certainly bodily injuring mistake has been made, and right before the impact.

The big life changing accident that I had, had none of that. One moment I was standing and the next moment I was face planted in gravel watching tiny red spiders crawling around on my index finger. I began to stand up and dust myself off, but stopped short when I looked over at my friends, who were gaping at me in horror.

When I had this accident I was 19. I remember all of the events of the day very clearly as it began as one of the best days of my young adult life. I was on my first kind-of date with a boy I found intensely fascinating. He was in a band, he wrote short stories, and he wore a leather jacket and a Skinny Puppy t-shirt in exactly the correct way that any private school educated punk boy would in 1987. The first night that I met him, without ever speaking to me he whisper-sang a song in my ear and gave me his phone number. I think I'm still blushing from it. I had never been the object of such forwardness and overt flirtation before and the song was I've Got A Crush On You (Sweetie Pie). I'm a huge Gershwin fan from way back.

I sang back to him "I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?" And so it went. I took his picture that night and I still have it in an old shoebox, along with the mix tape he made for me. I'm fairly certain it was June 19th.

I called him the next day, a Sunday and the first time I had ever called a boy (I was a very shy and a late bloomer), and we made plans to "hang out" that night with a couple of our other friends as young people are often prone to do. I think a real date involving meeting of parents and picking up at the front door would have given me apoplexy (besides, he didn't have a car). My friend Dan J looked upon this as a golden opportunity to "hang out" with his latest crush girl (we'll call her CG), and so me, Dan J, CG, CG's brother, and the Fascinating Boy all went out carousing in downtown Columbus.

Downtown Columbus on any given Sunday in 1987 was a vast teenage wasteland. There was nothing to do because it was, if I remember correctly, the one night of the week that Crazy Mama's was closed (if you lived in Columbus in the 80's, were young and remotely happening you've heard of it). But for that very reason it was a great place to hang out because there was no one there. No grown-ups or cops. We would hang out at what is now called Battelle Riverfront Park where there were paddle boat docks and a long expanse of crumbling concrete river bank to frolic upon and make teen-age merry in our small city goth-punk way. The paddle boats are long gone and have been replaced with a replica of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria.

The crumbling concrete riverbank has been fenced off and is now planted with with many trees and shrubs. Probably because of me. At the time, because of the accessibility and the way the concrete was laid out like a welcome mat, you could very easily climb the rusty ironwork (a ladder really) to the railroad bridge that spans the Olentangy river. It was almost like the city invited you to climb it. So that is exactly what we did, although (oddly enough) we had plans later to go to the Drexel and see The River's Edge.

You may be thinking at this point that the young 19 year old lady was hit by a train. Alas, no. Nothing so exciting as that. The boys, except for the Fascinating Boy (he had common sense too), really did most of the climbing and swinging from the tracks like monkey bars over the water. My accident occurred as we were leaving.

I started to slide on the concrete crumble and I must've braced myself pretty hard because I couldn't imagine falling and making a fool of myself in front of the Fascinating Boy. I braced myself too hard because (here it comes) my leg snapped. It snapped in such a way that the bone was sticking out. A compound fracture. I don't remember the actual fall.
I remember the loud echoing crack. I remember coming to and that my face and hands hurt. I remember my face was bleeding and had gravel stuck in my cheek and that little tiny red spiders living in the gravel started to crawl on my hand. I remember the looks on the faces of my friends and the moment that CG started to scream. I remember laughing and trying to get up and looking down and seeing that the ankle of my jeans looked funny. I remember saying to my friends, "Did you fuckin' hear that? Did you hear me break my leg? I think my leg is broken." I remember the stupid red spiders. I didn't cry.

Fascinating Boy and Dan J ran to the downtown police headquarters, about half a block away from the stupidness that had just occurred on the train bridge and the SWAT team, being the only rescue source currently available came to dig me out of the gravel and take me to the hospital. They put me in one of those basket things on ropes. I remember that young master Fascinating Boy, like a total gentleman, held my hand the entire time.

I had to drop out of college (summer classes had just started) and spent the rest of my summer confined in my parents home (it was my home too, although I never felt like it), in my bed and on crutches. This was also the summer I started chain smoking. I would crutch to the pantry and steal my mothers cigarettes when she was at work and spend my afternoons smoking and reading library books.

I spent the rest of my life, until a few years ago, in pain. When I dropped out of school I also got dropped from my parents insurance and any sad job I had after that wouldn't insure me. Pre-existing condition. So the 7 pins and plate implanted in my leg that were supposed to be removed the next year, never were. They remained semi-visible under my skin holding my leg together until about 1997 when I finally was insured properly and could afford to get treatment for the arthritis that had set in and eventually wore away every stitch of cartilage left in that stupid joint.

The ankle has since been fused and I am relatively pain free. It's a fucking blessing beyond description to be able to walk across a room. I could make a joke here about my vanity (I'm overloaded with it) and how tragic it is to never be able to wear gorgeous high heels. But somehow, it just ain't funny.

What about the Boy? What about him indeed. We remained friends but whatever spark occurred that night by the paddle boats probably fizzled out the minute he met my scary over protective dad at the ER. We lost touch but I would hear about him thru the Crazy Mama's grapevine. He remained talented, amazing and fascinating, moved to Minneapolis where he was in a band of some renowned (ethereal, synthesizer stuff), and got married.

Sadly and eerily about a year or so ago I stumbled across
this review of his bands last release, dated October 18th 2004 that said that he had died of brain cancer earlier that year.

The accidental reading of the review and the coincidence of my being asked to write this post on Oct. 18th is just plain spooky.

At the top the page is the only picture I could find with Google Images of the park and bridge, with a circle around the spot where the incident occurred. It looks so different now.

I have titled this post with a song lyric just like Churlita always does so appropriately.


Anonymous said...

I am having so many feelings after that post. I had feelings of giddiness as you recalled this boy you were smitten with. I cringed when you described the snapping of your leg but I'm happy for you that you're leg is much better now. But I ended with a bit of sadness that a guy you remembered as being such a nice boy has left this world.

Anonymous said...

I looked at that review you linked to and I also found this:

William "Carty" Fox III
Fox William "Carty" Fox III Musician, Poet, Dreamer Toledo area native William "Carty"Fox III, 35 years old, left this life on January 11, 2004 after fighting a fierce and prolonged battle with cancer. He passed away at the San Diego Hospice and Palliative Care Center, San Diego, CA. Born May 20, 1968, Carty was the son of William C. Fox II (deceased) and Mary Lou Fox of Perrysburg, OH and La Jolla, CA. In addition to his adoring mother, he is survived by his loving wife, April Sammons Fox of Minneapolis, and sisters, Myra and Gina Foely of Perrysburg, nephews, Todd Underwood and Adam Pfleghaar, and niece Amanda Winiarski, also of Perrysburg. Carty attended Maumee Valley Country Day School and graduated from St. John's Jesuit High School in 1986. At St. John's he began to cultivate his lifelong passion for music, literature and the new media technologies that would eventually integrate the arts, enabling their distribution to the widest of publics. Carty received his BA from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where he continued to develop his unique instincts for combining his poetic writing style with his musical sensibilities. This led to his co-creation of the critically acclaimed music group, Pleasant Stitch, which enjoyed many years playing to an enthusiastic Minneapolis fan base. His most recent production is a CD entitled AMREI (MRI) a musical interpretation of his five-year journey through his ethereal hopes for positive treatment outcomes and the cruel damnation of the of the brain cancer that would eventually take his life. Carty will be interred at the Ft. Meigs Memorial Cemetery during a private graveside service. Friends wishing to honor his short life and to pay tribute to his unique sensitivity for grace and beauty may do so by contributing to the Carty Fox Spirit of the Arts Scholarship Program, St. John's Jesuit High School, 5901 Airport Hwy, Toledo, OH 43615.
Thought it might be nice to post the address to the scholarship program in his memory. Who doesn't love the arts?
Of course, if you think it improper to post this, please delete. I do not want to step on toes.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

I'm tearing up a little. I read that too when I found out. Carty was a really amazing guy and I'm lucky to have swirled around in his orbit even for a little while. I certainly never forgot him.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

Wow. I was clenching my teeth reading this. I am glad you are alright now, but what a trying amount of years dealoing with that, since you were 19!! And sad about the boy. I dated someone briefly who I stumbled across an article about his death as well a few years ago. This was SO well written. You should submit it somewhere and get paid for it!

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Stepping - Really? Wow. That would please my husband no end - I'm working on 5 months of not working.

Family Adventure said...

Thank you for sharing this.

It was, as stepping said, really well written. I felt like I was there with you. The red spiders. Ouch.

And so tragic about your friend who only lived to 35.

- Heidi

The Guv'ner said...

Oh man. That is so sad and unfair. At least your memories of your friend were good ones (well apart from the leg stuff)

I had a similar accident when I was ten. Smashed the arch bone of my right foot (the one that takes all your weight) falling off a ten foot wall. I landed with the top side of my foot bent under me. There's all sorts of crap in there holding it together and it's damn painful at times still. I too did the year on wheelchairs and crutches etc. so I know what you mean!

I'm really sorry about your friend.You wrote about it so beautifully. :(

Superstar said...

your post had made me think about all the people that were a BIG part of my life (non-relatives) and where are they now...Spooky is RIGHT!!!

WOW great thoughts...I have too much to say and don't want to take up a whole comment area.

I do promise to post and cite you!!! Thank you.

Why are the "boys" in the band hot even when they are not!?!?!?!
~rolls eyes~

Anonymous said...

Also, I woke up singing Elvis Costello today and I blame you. That is all. :)

minijonb said...

that was quite a story.

it reminded me of all my wild days of youth running around chilling out to Skinny Puppy (i still own the vinyl and CDs to prove it) and at the same time understanding that our time here is limited so we need to take every opportunity we can and make the most of it.


Tara said...

To say "ouch" in response to your accident would be an understatement, but seriously. OUCH! Do you still have the scar from it?

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Tara - dude my nickname for my leg is "Frankenfoot"
I've got all kinds of fun new scars from the fusion surgery. But I'm so dang happy to be walking I really could care less about ugly scars.

Minijonb- yep it's all chaos and (to me) never makes sense) so we have to get the most out of whatever time we've got here. Skinny Puppy... ah the good old days.

Guv - at least it's a good song you've got stuck in your head (to me anyway) and not like, I dunno, Safety Dance or something.
Boop boop beep ba ba ba ba ba beep ba ba.

Churlita said...

Thank you so much for obliging me. This was an excellent post. There was nothing sexier than a cute boy in a Skinny Puppy t-shirt in 1987.

Dan said...

Jesus. I remember you talking about Carty but I never knew that he had died. That sucks.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Hey Dan - thanks for stopping by. I found out only recently myself.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Churlita - thanks for giving me the inspiration -I think I really needed to write about it. It felt really good when I was done.

It could just as easily have been a Misfits or Swans shirt.

This boy was special and we all knew it.

Chris the Hippie said...

Wow. I'm not sure what to say... This post is really well-written.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Hi Chris - this is like jumping in a time machine - thanks for the compliment. I wish that I had more time to devote to writing like I did when I wasn't working.

Anonymous said...

hi- i came across your post while trying to track down carty's mom's name- i thought i'd see how she and april were, long overdue. anyway, this was touching and unexpected. i played music with carty in minneapolis-- after we went different ways, we ended up reconnecting in los angeles where he was seeking treatment/preparing for hospice. his humility and maturity were humbling- he was love, grace and light. i miss him.

Kathy said...

And now you've gone and made me cry.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Carty in person, but his and my paths crossed due to a shared tragedy.

My niece was diagnosed in 1994 with an inoperable brain tumor on her brainstem while I was 7 months pregnant with my first child.

She was 3 and she fought hard and for a while we all thought she had a chance of making it but in 1996 when she was 4 1/2, she died.

I joined an online group for people with brain tumors and Carty showed up there when he was diagnosed.

Such a gentle and graceful soul, he maintained a great website ( with details of his then cutting-edge treatments and MRI images, he was a source of encouragement to many.

In September 2003, my son was diagnosed with a different sort of brain tumor, operable. He had surgery in San Diego, then we left in a tizzy with about 2 days notice for St. Jude hospital in Memphis.

I knew of Carty's recurrence and had written, but in the craziness of suddenly facing the possible death of my then 9-year old son, everything else fell by the wayside.

We were back in San Diego for a few weeks between my son's radiation and chemo, and unbeknownst to me Carty was really close by in hospice.

We returned to San Diego for good in May 2004 and I tried to look up Carty and I saw that he'd died.

I wish I'd known he was here, I would have tried to see him when he was so close by.

Sometimes life makes my heart hurt.

Anonymous said...

Very touching, when we were in high school we hung out for a while. I often wondered what happened to Carty after graduation and we all went separate ways. I remember seances at his house and played bass in his garage. I'm glad he touched so many lives.

Anonymous said...

Carty's soul is fierce. He was while most of us pass. Mama's, Control, Bruce Nutt In My Head, White Castle's, bad acid. We stood and stared at a Swan's show in Cinci once and, well, gaped. The fucking Swans.

Unknown said...

It is moving to read all of this. Carty and I were room mates for a while in 2004 in St Paul. We also played music together. In fact, I played bass through effects loops behind him sometimes while he did poetry readings. It was REALLY cool stuff. He was a talented cat. He was also instrumental in helping me stay sober when I was kicking crystal meth and alcohol. I've been clean ever since. I too re-connected with him in Los Angeles at Cedars while he was here to have a tumor removed. It was a dangerous operation, but he came through well and I watched as he regained his faculties. We lost touch after that and I was just thinking about him and thought to look him up. I am sad that he has passed, but blessed to have met him. I will be forever grateful for his influence in my life, for his humility and insight and the patience and love that showed me when I was newly sober and terrified.

Unknown said...

... I made a mistake there, we were room mates in 1994. Sorry. I'm older than I think.

crateking said...

I just found out today that Carty Fox died. We went to camp together as campers and counselors for many years and he's one of the best friends I ever had. We were inseparable for 2 months of the year for a lot of summers. We lost touch more than 20 years ago, and I always regretted it. Couldn't just facebook or google people back then. We had a lot of fun together. I really loved him. He was one of those people you hope you'll get the chance to meet again. I was shocked to find out I won't get the chance. I found out that my old friend had to battle brain cancer for so long, and died so young. Today sucked. But... then I read as much as I could find. I read about his music and his life and that led here. Your story, about a friend I've wanted to find again for so long, really touched me and brought a smile. I can see him doing all of those things so clearly. I'm proud of my old friend for being a gentleman and holding your hand on the way to the hospital. He was a fascinating guy. Like a human bug light that sucks you in but you never get zapped! I wish I had been able to share in more of his life, but you just gave me an extra slice that i didn't expect to get. I'm very lucky. Thanks so much for sharing your story for those who knew him, and for making him into such a cool character in the story. He would have liked it. I wish you all the best with your ankle, glad you're happy with the fusion. Take it easy.

deenie1969 said...

I found this post via a facebook camp group...
First off I feel like I'm reading a story about myself and my life altering moment.
I went to Camp Kingsmont in 1985, that summer was filled with so much fun. I met Carty Fox, and dated him for a brief time that summer. He was romantic and sweet. All the girls loved him. Our relationship was short but we remained good friends throughout the summer.
Now comes the life altering moment.
At the end of the summer we had color war. A big thing at camp, and during a relay race, I fell down and broke my femur in half. The sound of my femur breaking sounded just like a log snapping... I was rushed to the hospital near camp where they had to drill a metal rod just below my knee to put me in traction. While I was awake, and no narcotics were given to me at the time because I was under 18 and they couldn't get in touch with my mother for approval.. The pain was unbearable. The next day I was transported back to my home town so they could perform surgery. I think I screamed the whole ambulance ride.
I spent almost a year recovering, and am happy to say I have no pain at all from my injury....
I'm just in shock that I found this article.
I will always remeber my summer and the time I shared with Carty...

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Dawn said...

I just found this when I was looking for Carty trying to remember the name of one of his Columbus bands. It's a beautiful tribute -- thank you for writing it!

no said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
no said...

hi- i found this searching for carty fox to get April's name/reach out to her. Carty and I played in band together in Minneapolis, lost touch for some years, and reacquainted when he and I were both living in Los Angeles- i'd moved here with my then husband, and he'd moved out here with his wife for treatment and then hospice. feel free to email me/i'd be happy to send you a copy of his MRI CD (i know i'm spelling that wrong). he was/is a loving spirit, and i say that about no one/i'm pretty grouchy. even when dying, he was curious about life and others. i really wish he were still here. my email