crash
10/3/99 02:08:25 PM
callan williams copyright 1999


If I hadn't swerved, would I have broadsided the car and killed him?

Did I really save a life, that day, and maybe even my own body?


On September 30, 1999, at approximately 3:05 PM, I was traveling eastward on Crescent -Vischers Ferry Road in the town of Crescent, NY. I had come off the Adirondack Northway (I-87) at exit 8, stopped in a Hess Express to fill up my 44 oz soda cup -- this time, the woman had charged me 59 cents plus tax, rather than the 49 cents written on the cup, which I only get about one time in five, and then continued on.

I was heading back to my parent's house, one they took when they returned from Detroit, a tall thin house surreptitiously connected to the one next door by a low wall, semi-attached, which allowed narrower lots in this new community. You could just glimpse the Mohawk River from their back porch, only about 4 miles from where it joined the Hudson at Cohoes Falls, the key turn in a water level route to the interior that made New York rich.


An open cup with 44 ounces of Coke
can soak everything as it flies though a car.

I even tried to clean off my glasses in a puddle of standing water.


It had been a tough day, pulled in at the last moment to do a crappy job of transferring a real video clip to VHS tape via what we used to call "scan conversion," just pointing a camera at a TV screen. Icky, but with no time, what could I do -- my father was leaving the next morning to give a presentation I had rewritten several times for him, a presentation he would rattle off without connecting to people.

Nicholas is a natterer, ready to talk about the technical thoughts that fill his mind, but not ready to actually communicate about them. We have style, developed over 20 years, that lets me edit his technical papers, the ravings and rantings of a crackpot engineer, seeded with brilliance and wrapped in incomprehensible text.

I had gone out to look for hardware that could directly create a video source from the computer -- hardware, it turned out later, my brother had on his computer, five miles north of where we are.


What are the signs of an untenable life?


I had been with my parents a few times in the last week -- a dinner for "my birthday" at 5PM in a far away restaurant, another dinner at Pizzeria Uno, and more -- and I have been suffering a nasty hangover, feeling erased and angry. Too much time with them and I come up against their limited view and expectations of who I am -- a big, smart, scary guy. I felt it the way I always felt it, hitting my own head out of anger, a behavior I haven't done in years.

Parents often make people feel like a kid, and mine play the same role -- they have heard about me, but they see their own issues, like they did when I was a kid, adultified early -- the drama of the gifted child.


JoAnn Roberts tells about a cab crash she was in one night --
her wig thrown off, her breast forms (water filled baggies) exploded.
She talks about showing ID, the trip to the hospital with her friends,
how she was thankful it was nighttime in NYC, where everything had been seen before.


In the past five years:


"You have a real curse with cars,"
said the guy who runs the corrosion machinery business next door

"I was behind the old guy at the stop sign.
He stopped and then pulled right out in front of the oncoming Taurus,"
said the Bell Atlantic Installer in his van

"I heard the crash, and looked up and saw your smashed up car coming for the window in front of me. It was amazing -- you avoided the tree and the sign and the other cars, and as I watched I saw the airbag inflate in slow motion in front of you,"
said the woman behind the desk in the converted gas station now housing Mr. Windshield.


I remember thinking Oh shit, I can't avoid, I'm gonna crash, and then looking out and seeing the guy pointed the other way, trying to drive off. I worked to swerve, and then to handle the car into a safe space and I look and he's trying to drive off.

I slammed the door, which had been stuck with compressed metal, open, injuring my hand.

I ran across the street, across Grays Corners to the cheap rusty 1985 Chevy Cavalier now trying to go south on Dunsbach Road.

"Hello?" I said to him as he creept along in his busted car.

"Why don't you pull over and wait for the police?"


The people were very nice -- the people in Mr. Windshield who helped push my car out of the way and leave it there for a bit, the witness, the officer.

I tried to call my parents, all of three miles away, but their line was busy for an hour. The phone had been off the hook since the computer was jostled trying to get more mouse cable for our attempt to video.

I was running on batteries. I was nice to everyone, even as my hand swelled up like a balloon and the scrapes on my head filled with blood. Batteries

An hour.


What happens with a non-femaled tranny born male in an accident?

The best possibility is that any pretense of gender goes away,
and sir becomes a crossdresser dealing with lots of people.

The worst possibilities are much worse.
Tyra Hunter comes to mind, paramedics laughing and stopping treatment when they found her penis.


The guy was an old type who had probably lived in this area all his life. This place has sure changed from 1920, when there was no Northway, no commerce pushing north to create a mini-megaplex. Things go faster now.

He was coming up Dunsbach Road, which came from Clamsteam Road and then Canal Road, just across the Mohawk from Dunsbach Ferry, made obsolete in 1964 when the twin crescent bridges on the Northway were build across that narrowed crossing.

"He stopped, but then he just pulled out. You couldn't have avoided him," the Bell Atlantic guy said to me. I used his cellphone to call my parents, but it was busy.

The old guy is insured though the Grange Insurance Company in Lebanon New Hampshire. Farmer incarnate.


"You seem to have a curse about cars."


The owner of Mr. Windshield had Roger run me home in the mini-van. My father was cleaning out the car in the driveway for his trip to Detroit when I pulled up.

"What happened?"

"A guy pulled out in front of me. My car is totaled."

I went in the house to get the ice the paramedic suggested for my hand -- probably just a sprain, but if it got worse, go to the doctors and get pictures taken. I was nice to him, even knowing the word sphignomometer. Running on the charming batteries, when the beast inside of me -- the woman inside of me -- just wanted to fall apart.

The car it took so long to find, the new tires, the full tank of gas, the time, the effort, the pittance I would get from totaling a 1992 Taurus. The anger and the rage that I felt for what came into my path and destroyed what I needed. The imposition, the money, the isolation.

The practical issues flooded my mind: insurance, transport, getting the old car wrecked after having it estimated, all this and more.

I grabbed some ice and sat. My mother asked me what happened. My father ran though checking phones to see what was off the hook. As he ran upstairs, he asked what happened.

"Do you want to check the phones or listen to me?" I asked. This was a family where my brother-in-law had found me telling a story to an empty room because everyone had left in the middle, and I decide to continue for myself.

They listened, worried, though not about me. They are 75 this year, not much younger than the old guy who hit me. On the ride to Pizzeria Uno two days before, my father had switched lanes to follow my sister without looking, and I saw the guy who had to avoid getting hit.

"Thank God you could both walk away," my mother said, and I agreed. My father went downstairs to continue his taping, expecting me to help.


I went upstairs to lie down on a sofa, and started sobbing. My mother came in the room, tried to sit on the couch with me, and say positive things about money and such, but completely breaking my safety in just letting out the emotion. Batteries back up, be nice and charming and doing, sit up and be good, the moment for my own emotion vanquished by the discomfort of my parents and their attempts to fix it so they didn't feel bad.

I helped my father with the video. My brother and his family came over, dropping off my father's minivan they have had for six months, because theirs didn't have A/C, forced to give it up to me. A minivan when I was already worried about gas costs.

They didn't mention the crash. Nothing at all, no questions, no sympathetic words. So odd. The subject came up when I brought it up, but they soon headed to Cracker Barrel. My mother offered for me to come, even to the point of offering another restaurant because she knows of Cracker Barrel's history of discrimination against gays & lesbians.

My brother later called my sister to find out how I was, because "he didn't have my number." He used his cell phone on the sidelines of Matthew's soccer game, and the call was punctuated with him screaming "Go Matt Go!", or so my sister tells me.


I drove away in the Minivan, stopping to clean out my car on the way.

When they got home fron dinner, my mother called to check in.

I was having a shivering fit when my father called. He nattered on about his presentation for 20 minutes.


I played one game of SNOOD on the computer, and got a high score, something I haven't done for months. The name I last used, the name SNOOD offered me to put on the board?

Mia Princess


I drove scared. This is a world where idiots happen, where people leap out and cause problems, their responsibility gone.

I didn't drive the next day.


Saturday, I went to buy a brace for my wrist. K-mart, CVS, Price-Chopper, Rite-Aid, another Eckerd (who did have the left hand) Hannaford and back to K-mart, to buy the cheapest one I saw.

I drove myself, of course. Driving myself is what I have learned to do.

I could barely get socks on with my sprained left hand, let alone tights. "Don't tell me about it," said my friend Jeanette, whose hand was blown up in the Marines. "I couldn't dress myself and had to move back in with my parents."

Injuries focus the mind, making us see what is vital. Ask Reynolds Price, who wrote "A Whole New Life" after losing the use of his lower body to cancer. He's more creative now, according to him.

Today, the abrasion from the seam on the tender & swollen pad at the base of my thumb has made me leave the sock aside.


"You have good reactions," my sister says.

"I believe your reactions saved his life."


I turn on the radio to find Garrison Keilor on the first live show of the Prairie Home Companion's 25th season and all I can find is Country Gospel.

"Bigotry against Christians is the last acceptable bigotry," some nabob from Moon's Washington Times intones on "The McLaughlin Group," another oppressor culture wrapping themselves in the robes of the oppressed because one artist made a painting of the Virgin Mary with elephant turds on it. Nobody mentions the painting of Malcolm X with the same turds, just public money funding vicious attacks on all that's holy and sacred.

I have felt called to go to church recently, some 7AM mass in the little stone Anglican church down the street that once was used as a barracks for troops in the Revolution. They have new pastor who served in New Orleans, who reached out to marginalized communities. I should qualify.

But I don't go. All that baggage, from church, from fools who belong to churches and run stop signs.


"Isn't it just a pisser that because we are big and smart and intense,
we always have to be the grown up, negotiate other people's fears?" Karen asked.

I agreed.


I prayed when I drove home

"Mom, I am ready to see this as a miracle, as a lesson to be learned.

"Well, anyway, I'm almost ready.

"Please turn this into a miracle and help me see how I can look at this in a positive way that helps my growth.

"Thanks."


Possible Lessons

1) Get a job, get money coming in, reenter life. Don't let people have a chance to say "get a haircut" to your back, as they did as I exited a hip convenience store on Friday. Get normal and act.

2) Get out of this life that is making you cranky, pushing you around. Get big and serious, away from the whole and doing things that smoke your gullet.

3) Give up because idiots happen.

4) Find Christ.

5) I dunno.


Subj: Re: crash
Date: 10/3/99 09:45:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: LolaMay
To: TheCallan

Ah dear Callan,

i suspect that somewhere in those speeding seconds you were confronted with mortality. [Just as I was when I faced my heart bypass operation this summer.]

Whether you were conscious of it or not, it's quite likely you experienced that biological reaction that visits us when our lives, or our loved ones' lives are threatened. '

It is so disturbing, not just because it is so huge and packed into a tiny moment, but because, having survived.. we are compelled to seriously consider how we are conducting that life. In my case, much of that consideration was done subconsciously…

I knew I was disturbed, but I didn't quite know why. It has only recently come clear to me what that vague, dis-ease was all about… And though I don't necessarily have answers, I do have new questions… about the course my life has taken… and what is truly important and meaningful.

It is becoming important to me that I spend as much of my time dealing with those meaningful things as possible… that I not let my life drain away from me… that I determine to be present in more of my moments and not become oblivious while distracted and absorbed in the business of making a living. Perhaps it is time to start making a different living… simpler, with fewer demands, trusting in life more than dollars.

The debate continues, but I realize I can no longer afford to emulate Scarlet and 'think about that tomorrow'.

So, Callan… you've come out alive… and now you have to figure out what to do about it.

I wish you well.

Love, Lola


Do near-death experiences that happen in a moment teach us to value life?

Or do they teach us to play safe and hidden?