|I did do one good thing . . . I think.
||[Mar. 27th, 2016|01:59 am]
Phrembah (a potato-like mystery)
I used to think I was a "good" person. but then I got to thinking: "What makes me think so?" I used to give a fair amount of money to charity, enough for it to be a sizable itemized deduction. I don't anymore because my monthly income decreased by 75% when I retired. I am now my favorite and only charity. I still give a pittance to the symphony and I bought some stickers from Bernie to do my part. I used to go watch 60 Minutes with my grandmother when she was in the hospital and I took her out to dinner once a week if my parents were out of town. All in all, though, I haven't been real impressed with myself, so far.
I did do one thing that involved actually physically helping someone who really needed my help who I was not required to help, but you have to wade through this story to hear that story:
When I was seventeen and living in Denver, I played guitar in two bands for a while. I used to drive myself back and forth to band practice in a Karman Ghia that was technically my dad's, but I drove it so much that everyone referred to it as mine. That summer it rained 23 days in a row which was some sort of record. To get to one of my band practices, I was in the habit of driving across a large undeveloped expanse between Denver and Littleton to save a few minutes. This was just a huge open space, maybe a square mile or so, that had been a cow pasture, but was no longer fenced off. I would just take off across this huge field and go "as the crow flies" to the house where band practice was in a subdivision on the opposite side. This worked fine most of the time because it was nothing if it was not flat. From the east side of Denver to Kentucky there's nothing that sticks up more than about a foot above the terrain.
What I hadn't counted on was that 23 days of rain had left the normally solid ground the consistency of pudding. As I headed across a patch devoid of grass and weeds the car just sank. I tried to rock the car forward and back using first gear and reverse and just caused it to sink deeper into the ooze. When I got out to see how bad it was, I could barely walk in the mud, it was so loose and deep. It was one of those moments where I had no friggin' idea what to do, but I knew I couldn't fail to get the car unstuck---for a number of reasons. I tried digging the mud out from in front of the wheels, but it just oozed back when I tried to put the car in gear. I finally found some sturdy boards where some kids had been making an underground fort before the rains. I was able to dig the mud out from in front of each tire and wedge a piece of wood down in front of it like a short ramp. By the time I did this, both bumpers were under the mud. No shit. It's one of those things I know I did because I was there, but I don't really know how. It did take a couple of hours, for whatever that's worth.
Anyway, when I started the car back up with the boards under the the wheels and the mud temporarily dug out from in front of the car and away from the tail pipe, I was able to drive the car back up onto the surface of the mud. I had the presence of mind to realize that if I slowed down at all, for even a second, I would just sink again. So I took off as fast as I could, heading for the nearest clump of weeds. I knew that if I could find weeds and grass to drive on, I could keep going. I picked out the weediest route I could see back to the end of a paved street and drove like hell.
Band practice was close to over by then and I was covered head to toe in brown mud, so I just headed home. My dad thought I was exaggerating the details of the story, but he and my brother worked with me for another couple of hours to clean all of the mud off the inside and outside of the car. The bumpers were hollow channels with a space between the bumper and the car. When my dad got to squirting the car down with a garden hose, great gobs of mud came falling out of the bumpers. "Jesus H. Christ, how in the hell did you get mud up inside the bumpers?" I told him I wasn't kidding, the car had really for real sunk past the bumpers into the mud. The three of us worked till dinner time then some the next day to get all the mud off and even then he would needle me for weeks about having found some more mud somewhere on the Karman Ghia where it should have been impossible to get mud.
The entire diatribe above is to establish my credentials as a stuck car unsticker. A couple of years later, in Albuquerque, where I would often walk for hours on the then barren wasteland of the "east mesa," I came across" a kid three or four years younger than me, probably fifteen, because I'll bet part of the problem was that he had no driver's license and had taken the car joy riding without permission. He was in tears, literally. His car, a little Toyota sedan of some sort, was stuck in the sand at the base of one of these water canyons where great gobs of sand would be washed out onto the mesa after a storm. The sand was dry this particular day and loose---very, very loose, and the rear end of the car was buried up to the bumper, but not past it, in the sand. The front wheels were still on top of the sand. He'd been trying for however long to get the car unstuck and it was just getting worse and, like I said, he was sobbing.
I told him things could be worse, but I don't think he believed me. I said we had to find something besides sand to put under the rear tires (all cars except Oldsmobile Toronados were rear-wheel-drive in those days). There wasn't much around, but we finally found some carpet somebody had dumped out there. It was not uncommon for people to just go throw large garbage items (sofas, tables, carpets) out on the mesa in those days. You could get a ticket and later, as environmental consciousness grew, even arrested for doing so, but where were the cops at four in the morning? Anyway, this carpet was rotten enough that we could tear it into foot-wide strips with our hands. We dug the sand out from in front of the back wheels and wedged strips of carpet down in front of both rear tires. Then I explained to him that, if it worked and he was able to drive up out of the sand, he had to keep going like mad till he got some packed dirt under him---don't slow down for half o' second or you'll sink again.
He got in the car, put it in gear and drove like a mad man, not just off the sand, but completely out of sight. I don't remember if he thanked me before he got in the car, given his distress level, I kind of doubt it, and he didn't stop to thank me later and I didn't want him to. He really needed to just get the fuck out of there, probably for more reasons than I was completely aware of. Because he had been so upset, I imagined he was pretty damn grateful for the help whether he said so or not.
So I did do one good thing, one good thing that I was uniquely qualified to help with. Read A Prayer for Owen Meany sometime. I'm a miniature Owen Meany. And it didn't cost me anything. Not like Owen.