30 October 2009


for most of my adult life, i enjoyed the annual parade of children in costume that appeared at my door seeking treats on halloween. all that changed nineteen years ago today. on halloween eve, 1990, i was riding my silver wing on a busy traffic artery in suburban philadelphia, on my way to a job interview, when a little old lady in a big ol' cadillac in the oncoming lane made an illegal left turn, right in front of me. i was boxed in by traffic, and barely had time to hit the brakes before impact.

the collision sent me flying across two lanes of traffic, to land on my back, unconscious, on the sidewalk. when i came to, bystanders were gathered around, the other driver was claiming loudly that she "didn't even see him" (me), and the ambulance crew had just arrived. what followed was a nightmare. i was strapped onto a wooden backboard, my helmet still on, and taken to the nearest ER. every part of my body seemed to hurt, especially my neck, back and left shoulder. i spent the next eight hours on that backboard, without benefit of pain medication, until all x-rays and MRIs had been taken. the board itself became a torture device beyond description, digging into my vertebrae, shoulders and tailbone. after an eternity, blessed morphine.

long story short, i'd suffered a broken clavicle and separated left shoulder. they could find no evidence of damage to my back or neck, though the full-face helmet probably saved my life -- the portion protecting my chin and lower face was cracked in two. i spent many weeks in pain, wearing a sling to immobilize my left shoulder as it healed. i even was successful in landing a different job. and, since the other driver was cited, i eventually won a modest medical settlement.

but i never got to pass out treats that halloween, and each subsequent year has found me experiencing PTSD symptoms as halloween approaches. i associate the holiday with horrific pain. intellectually i understand the connection, emotionally i cannot escape it. so i've sadly become one of those who turn down their lights on the festive night, trying to mentally numb myself through the evening. such a shame.

that was my second near-fatal motorcycle accident, the first having occurred in tucson five years earlier, under nearly identical conditions -- major street, little old lady in a big ol' oldsmobile pulls in front of me. i'm an extremely safe and cautious rider, but the simple facts are that (a) the smaller size of motorcycles and bicycles doesn't fit the search image of "traffic" for most drivers, and (b) many drivers should not be allowed behind the wheel. i've long been an advocate of including both a practical driving test and a written test for EVERY driver EVERY time he/she renews their license. there are too many inept, inattentive, or just plain idiotic people who are allowed to pilot those missiles on wheels that we call cars. and don't even get me started on those who use cell phones or texting behind the wheel.

still, i haven't lost my love for motorcycles. i would love to have another full-dress touring bike, perhaps a BMW. the freedom of a bike is the closest one can come to the sensation of flying without leaving the ground. you're travelling in three dimensions, not two, and all your senses are alive and heightened. just keep me away from little old ladies in big ol' sedans !!


  1. Glad you survived that crash (both)! For one, we wouldn't have your great blog. No wonder you have that picture in your blogcatalog green box "mountainlamma"...I think you have 9 lives.

  2. thank you, john. i'm glad that you are out there, too. nine lives -- hmm, hadn't considered that. between vietnam, motorcycles, kayaking and divorces, i'd be afraid to guess how many i've used up, so discretion is definitely the better part of valor, no? thanks for your comment.