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Posts Tagged ‘Injury’

‘The Woods’ Part One

In The 70's on August 24, 2020 at 7:58 pm

…and to a Castle I will take you….

“The Woods’, (with a capital ‘W’) were diagonally across the street from my house. There were three or four acres of woods, and if you walked straight through them, you’d come out to a stream, and after a minute, you’d be behind Carroll’s Restaurant, and the Car Wash. Next to that was the Sunoco Gas station on the main drag, where we could sometimes cop cigarettes for fifty-five cents a pack.

But we rarely walked all the way through, because the jewel of “The Woods’ was smack dab in the middle, where we had collectively ‘built’ a sweet little hangout, a place we went to drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and if we were lucky, smoke pot. It was in a small dirt clearing,  created by dragging pieces of fallen trees and logs over, placing them in a wide circle, then adding a little fire-pit in the dirt, with round rocks to form a circle, and over the years, it really came into its own as a cool little place to gather, away from the prying eyes of parents and siblings and, of course, ‘The Man’. It was understood to be a privilege to spend time there, something you earned. There was no littering,  you had to leave with everything  you came in with, and it was a secret: not everybody was welcomed in. There were about ten of us who claimed the land, like a 1970’s version of stoner pilgrims, and we didn’t even have to throw a ‘fake-nice’ holiday to thank the people we’d stolen it from. We had no idea who actually owned the place, and just assumed it to be part of the town’s stash of land. We had no right to keep people out, and yet we did….we figured that since we lived the closest to it physically- that it was ours to rule. Like douchebag surfers at a beach with big waves.

But there were ways around the rules. You could bring a joint- or even better, a nickel bag along, and invitations ensued. Ditto a six-pack or extra cigarettes. In desperate times a lighter might gain you entry. You could be super-cute and  get a carte- blanche, all access pass. You might have a nice car, or know someone who knew someone who’s ‘in’- so it wasn’t that hard to be a part of it, but it wasn’t just ‘out there’ and all public either, like a park, or behind a school. The best part was: no kids on swings or security guards.

I was thirteen when I started hanging out in The Woods. Not surprisingly, Lance was one of the ‘woods guys’, as well as Michael and his brothers, who lived across the street from me-and a crowd of guys who were a little older who lived in the neighborhood. Most of them had long hair, wore pukka shell necklaces with T-Rex or Zeppelin band shirts , faded jeans and tan with red-laces work boots. They had bone-stones and wooden pipes with abalone inlays and carried boom-boxes with the best tunes blasting out of them. “Cities On Flame With Rock’n’Roll’ by Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’, and  ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ all howled out of those woods-just to name a few. I was so drawn to this music, and to the people who also loved this music, I felt I was finding my place somehow. The middle of the woods often felt more like home than my house.

Sometimes, I was the only girl at the hang-out, surrounded by rocker boys, but I always felt completely safe -in fact, I never considered safety at all, it was just (rightly) assumed. Had my Dad known I was in there and with who- he would have thought the worst. (and smoking marijuana wasn’t even the ‘worst’ he’d be thinking) But these guys, with their long hair and their loud music  had certain lines they didn’t cross and laws they didn’t break.  A big one was most definitely the jail-bait law. And though, like everyone else in my world, they hemmed and hawed and ‘no way’d their way around believing I was only 13- they also knew I wasn’t a liar, because who would lie they were younger in the days when we all wished we were older? They also knew what grade I was in, and could see how ‘green’ I was.  Not that I’m implying I was so god-damned irresistible, or anything of the sort, but we all know what people think (and say) about one girl in the woods with boys!  These guys had their eyes on older, hipper, more awesome girls anyway. I  fancied myself their ‘cool’ younger sister.

There wasn’t always pot and beer involved-how could there be? We weren’t privy to endless supplies or much money. Oftentimes we’d just sit around and rap about everything under the sun.  I remember what my Dad used to say to me when I was young and bored out of my mind, hovering around him like a hummingbird while he tried to relax and read the paper. “Oh, for God’s sake Annie, go do something!” to which I’d say, ‘there’s nothing to do!”– and exasperated, he’d huff “Oh, for Chrissakes – go sit on a log!”-and here I was, all these years later, in the woods, sitting on a log!

One of my favorite guys was Michael. The oldest in his family of five boys, he was the big brother I didn’t have. He was always around after school- working on his car, which he couldn’t even yet drive at fifteen- or hanging out at the end of his dirt driveway (the corner) with me and whoever else meandered by. We’d stand around, shooting the breeze as the cars zoomed by, flying down the hill on Wolfpit Avenue, horns honking, motorcycles rumbling, muscle cars wailing, leaving behind bits and pieces of  songs like instant snapshots as they sped away.  We either loved or hated the tunes, and many a sweet hot rod was rendered less than, as a crappy pop song slapped us in the face, while an occasional piece of junk was elevated to the sought-after thumbs up status from all of us should we hear ‘Houses of The Holy’ banging out its thudding speakers. We could spend hours at the corner, especially in the summer, doing nothing and everything all at once, heading indoors after dark, happy and spent.

Michael was  tall, and blonde headed, from an Irish family who moved to Connecticut from the Bronx. He had a cool New York accent, and a ‘cut-the-bullshit’ New York attitude I loved and respected. His opinions were cut and dry- but he was never mean, or arrogant-and if we disagreed on something- a book, a tv show, an eight-track purchase- he’d just gently tease me about it, or attribute it to me ‘being a girl’, to which I’d shoot back that his bad taste was on account of his ‘being a guy’. I’m sure it was in part because of his looking after me that I had a position of respect in the neighborhood.

One day, a group of us were sitting around, shooting the shit and taking tokes of good Hawaiian weed from a small glass pipe Lance had brought along. The woods were quiet, as we were sans boom-box and tunes, and the pot so strong it clubbed me over the head. I sat on my log, twisting my Mood Ring around on my finger (my ring was always black- with an occasional muddy brown) It was an overcast summer day in late June, summer vacation. The woods were still damp from the morning rain, and the smell of wet dirt hung heavy. I began focusing in on a bright green leaf, sprouting from a nearby bush (isn’t nature amazing? look at those water drops! What a cool pattern! I should draw that!) when all of a sudden a deep, booming voice shouted: “Hands Up! POLICE!”

There were seven of us in the circle, and we froze. We heard footsteps crushing twigs and  leaves along the path, foliage ruffling and then more shouting: ‘I  SAID “POLICE!” HANDS UP!!!” Suddenly, Lance jumped up, and high tailed it towards the back of the woods. A thousandth of a second later we all jumped up, and began scrambling after him. I ran as fast as I could, but it wasn’t easy, as I was wearing cheap, gold , Caldor issued, ‘jewel’ encrusted sandals, so Michael quickly circled back, grabbed my wrist, and pulled me at his much faster pace. We were hurdling over tree stumps, logs, boulders, and avoiding the  giant trees in our path at the very last second. When we hit the clearing alongside the creek, we were impeded by a cluster of wet, moss covered logs, several feet high, from a big felled tree. Once we scaled those, we’d be ‘home free’, and able to run the rest of the dirt corridor unobstructed. The other guys were so far ahead of us, they looked to be an inch tall, running and leaping like gazelles.

Michael let go of my wrist, and shouted ‘C’mon! Jump’ as he flew over the first log, using his hands as a springboard,  like he was part frog, or something. I followed behind, panting and giving it my all, but the stump was higher than I thought, and slippery with the moss. The 6 Million Dollar Man music began to play in my head- then the sound of a record abruptly scratching. I made it most of the way over, but my left foot caught on the stump. I felt a sickening crunch, and a lightning bolt of pain as my big toe smashed into the wood. I stumbled forward and crumpled to the ground, between two of the monstrous logs.

T-Rex and -wait!- is that Michael?!

Michael glanced back, and seeing me go down, he immediately veered off into the woods to his left. He tracked back, staying out of sight, and emerged right where I lay.  I was flat on my back on the dirty ground, which meant the the cops couldn’t see me from a distance, but if they pursued us, I was a dead duck. There was no way I could run, or possibly even walk. My toe throbbed, and I writhed in pain. 

Looking up and down the path, and determining the coast was clear, Michael hunched down, hopped over (again, frog-like!) and crept over to me. He peered over the top of the log, scanning the whole while for the cops, and then pulled me up into a sitting position. I could feel damp dirt, twigs and pebbles embedded in my back, as I was wearing -as usual- a halter top.  Michael pulled some dead leaves and stems out of my hair. I had tears in my eyes from the pain in my foot. 

“Are you okay?’ he asked.

“My toe!” I moaned. I still hadn’t looked at it. Michael picked my foot up by the ankle, to peer below my denim bell-bottom cuffs and told me later he almost dropped it from the shock of what he saw. To his credit, he managed to put my leg down gently, then wiped his hands on his own jeans. 

“Oh, Geez!” he said, sounding alarmed, his face going pale. “Fuck!!!… You need to get to a Doctor!” He sounded panicked. Which panicked me. 

I shook my head, and bit the bullet. I pulled up my pant leg and I looked down at my toe, now undulating with unbearable pain. My big toenail looked as though it had cracked all the way down the middle, vertically- then exploded. The nail was spread open like a double-door closet, presenting utter gore as it’s contents. Blood gushed out, pulsating in rivulets down my foot, and around my ankle, where it then dripped into the dirt. My golden, bejeweled sandal, dripping with shockingly red blood, as well as with caked blackish stains suggested some sort of bizarre royal massacre, the red and blue gems tainted and fouled (“My God! They’ve killed the Queen!”) I got woozy from the sight of it. So did Michael.

I wore the Caldor version of these…

 

“We gotta get you home!” said Micheal “Is someone there to take you to the Emergency Room?”

Right then we jumped as someone yelled “FREEZE!”  above our heads. We both gasped and looked up to see- Dack! standing above us on the other side of the log.  We were confused. 

Michael immediately asked: “Are the cops still back there? Did you see them?”

Dack started laughing. “COPS? YOU DUMMIES! I’M THE COPS!”….

Ha Ha f**ckin Ha!” went Dack….

There was a stunned silence as we put it all together. Dack had been fooling around, and knowing we were gathered together in the woods he had decided to trick us. There had been NO cops!!  Dack was just being a dick! If I had been able to stand I would’ve punched him in the gut with all of my strength.

“Really funny, Dack!” said Michael “Come and see what happened to Lisa coz of your little joke!”

 

Dack, still smiling, stepped around the log. I saw the color drain from his face as he looked at my mangled toe and bloody foot. “Oh, shit!!” he said, then “Oh My God!” Now I was getting really scared. I was completely straight as well. It was as if my buzz had taken off with the rest of the guys.

“Help me get her up, Dick!” hissed Michael. Tears were actually streaming out of my eyes at this point, and the pain was getting even worse. The guys lifted me to a standing position, and I draped my arms around each of them. I purposely leaned towards Michael, but there’s no easy way to accept someone’s help to walk, without getting up close and personal. I hated Dack at that moment, but needed him.

It took us awhile to get through the woods and across Wolfpit, then up my driveway. I was hopping, and trying to walk by using my heel. No one was home at my house- my parents were at work, and my brothers probably off with friends. As soon as we got to my front door, I told Dack to take off. He tried apologizing, but I wasn’t in the mood to hash it out. “Just GO!” I shouted.

Michael helped me up the stairs, and went into the hall bathroom to run some warm water in the tub. He grabbed a towel and a washcloth out of the cabinet, and started looking through the medicine chest for some antibiotic ointment. 

 

“Put your foot in the water, Lis…” he told me. Just looking at the heavy flow spilling into the tub made my toe ache even harder.

“I can’t” I sniffed.

“Yes you CAN! You gotta!…I think” Michael insisted.

I leaned against the wall by the tub and lifted up my injured foot. 

“Turn off the thingy!” I whined. There was no way I was going near that water.

“Okay, Okaaay!” Michael said, twisting the water off. Neither Michael nor I had any first aid smarts whatsoever.

“Just help me to my room!!” I cried, angrily. He held me by the waist while I hopped across the hall. I got to my rose print covered canopy bed, and sat, holding my damaged foot up. Michael handed me a wet washcloth, and I cleaned off as much blood as possible without actually touching anything. The toenail was no longer bleeding out, but it was a clotty mess. Michael went to the kitchen and brought me a Flinstone jelly jar glass of water and two Excedrins. It made me laugh. After I took them I said- “What now? Do I call you in the morning?”  

“Har, har!” Michael answered. “Lisa- for real! – have your Mom bring you to the hospital when she gets home. That looks bad!”

“I will-a!” I insisted, tired of hearing it.

We spent a few minutes talking about Dack, and how he was a major jack-ass. He also commented on how my room was so ‘girlie’ and that he knew it would be. I gave him the finger, and he laughed. Michael said he was calling me tonight to check on my progress. I thanked him, and he positioned the towel across the  lower half of my bedspread, so I could place my blood-stained foot up there. It struck me that the red roses on my bedspread and canopy looked exactly  like what I imagined the bloody toe print from my injury might be, if I would ever have the nerve to make contact.  But, at least it would coordinate. I shivered at the thought.

Mine was white with red roses, but it was very ‘girlie’ for sure!

After Michael left, I lay back and tried to figure out how to explain this whole thing to my parents. Obviously, the entire story had to be tweaked. “Well, Mom and Dad- I was smoking a bowl in the woods with a bunch of guys, and heard someone yell ‘cops!’, so what else could I do but run?” wasn’t gonna fly. It was an infraction factory! I racked my brain so hard for something believable, that I fell asleep, and didn’t come to until an hour later when I was awakened by my mother, keys jangling and pocketbook in hand- hovering above my face with her Jackie O sunglasses, demanding “Lee Lee?! MY GOD! WHAT DID YOU DO?”

 

 

THE WOODS: Part 4

In The 70's on August 21, 2020 at 10:49 pm

I certainly had a lot of other things going on-or hoped to. It was the beginning of summer, and now my foot injury was taking precedence over everything else. At first, the random change of plans had seemed kind of exciting- like when a big storm is heading your way-until it actually gets there, and the power goes off, the food goes bad, and you realize the magnitude of things we take for granted (electricity, fresh food, water, manners, civility) and that we are  (pathetically) ill-equipped to deal with life in ‘survival-mode’. That’s when it hits you, this isn’t ‘fun’ at all. The same could be said about  the ability to freely walk without thinking about it.

“This is going to be so fun!’

This was my summer, so far: Kicking back in my canopy bed, propped up on pillows, flipping through Sixteen ,reading Jacqueline Susann’s “Once Is Not Enough’ (written, by the way, on her deathbed), listening to “Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Angie’ ad nauseum on the FM radio-because getting up to change an 8 track after it ran its course was a pain, and there was almost always a song I didn’t like creeping up. At least the radio might surprise me. I was occasionally making complicated forays into the living room as well to watch daytime t.v.,  desperately trying to avoid the boring Watergate hearings. My new ‘routine’  got old quick. 

My doctor’s appointment was three days after my Emergency room visit, but felt like weeks. Of course, I talked on the phone for seven or eight hours a day, which kept me busy, and up-to-date on all of my friend’s comings and goings. It was mostly routine stuff: Trey fighting, or wanting to fight, or having fought someone, Toni in love with, thinking of breaking up with, or planning to marry John, and Cheryl’s updates on what the crew in her neck of the woods (technically four streets over, but another country as far as neighborhoods went) was up to. Compelling stuff. But at least I could enjoy this form of socializing from my bed. Because moving about was no easy deal.

“I’m not a crook! Yet I’ve stolen every channel for coverage!”

But it was trying to sleep that was the worst! I was a side-sleeper, and though I propped my foot up on several pillows, letting it dangle off, clear of obstruction, I would twist and turn in my sleep and be startled awake- shrieking in pain as my toe touched down on the mattress, feeling as though I’d been struck by the Hammer of the Gods. 

Keeping clean was a major problem as well. There was no way I could submerge my foot into a bathtub full of water, and the thought of a shower-with the water pelting down onto my open toe, was unbearable. So I had to take bird baths, and wash my long hair in the kitchen sink, which took forever. It brought a whole new meaning to my least favorite description of my hair color as well: dishwater blonde.

As I leaned into the sink, and clumsily tried to wet my hair under the faucet, I couldn’t shake the vision of my long locks being pulled down deep into the drain, where god knows what black-hole, skeeviness lived. I couldn’t use the stopper either, as my hair would immediately become entangled in it, like an octopus about to spray ink. In fact on day one, with my Mom safely at work, I spent several minutes lurching about the kitchen, head soaking wet and upside down, searching for my towel, the captive metal strainer swaying to and fro like a pendulum. I dealt with all of this while trying to avoid hitting my wounded toe on any hard surface, such as the kitchen cabinets, against which I had to stand to reach the sink in the first place. It was a long, exhausting production. And I had to do it three whole times. It was murder on my thirteen year old psyche. (Not washing my hair was out of the question. What if someone saw me?)

Birdbaths: A barrel of fun….like to see you try it, peckerneck!

 ‘D’ (-as in ‘doctor’) Day eventually came, and after I went through my bird bath/ shampoo drama, which proved especially heart-stopping with my mother- who was off from work to take me to my appointment, continually  cutting it way too close to my exposed foot, fetching her coffee and flitting about unpredictably, as if we were all sporting ‘regular’ toes. I was becoming very resentful of the ‘foot freedom’ everyone else took for granted. A commercial or print ad for shoes, socks, nail polish, even corn remover, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I wanted to, once again, walk amongst the healthy and not have to think about my every move.

It occurred to me that I would never be one of those inspiring handicapped people, who never let their physical limitations hold them back. Like the legless man who won marathons, or the paralyzed woman who climbed the highest mountains. Instead, I would be overflowing with self-pity and complaints, and probably drive everyone close to me away, if this minor foot injury was in any way an indication. Chances are, it would end when I was mysteriously served arsenic in my tea. There would be no investigation. 

I got dressed in a denim halter top and bell bottom jeans (one bell rolled up past my knee to prevent contact) and one hot pink Bradlees brand rubber flip flop for my foot. We drove  downtown, parked behind the movie theater, and proceeded to walk ( and hobble, respectively) to my foot doctor’s office, which was located above a barber shop, and ironically, required navigating a steep staircase to get to. Like a doctor having bad handwriting, this could be thought of as funny, but really wasn’t at all. By the time we made it to the waiting room, I felt as if I’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and I was less than pleased.

My mother filled out the paperwork given to her by the perky, red-headed medical assistant at the front desk, while I stared at the wall, occasionally glancing around. There was only one other person in the waiting room, a man with a cast, crutches leaning up against the wall near where he sat, reading Field and Stream. He must have had a ball walking up the steps! I wondered if I would end up with crutches and/or a cast. I liked the idea of a cast because it would protect my wound like a shell, plus: cool autographs, Toni. But I really hoped that somehow I could just be back to my normal, sock and shoe-wearing self by the time I left the office. 

I hoped my foot would look like this, by the time I left the Doctor’s office…..

After a good 20 minute wait, a nurse holding a clipboard finally opened the door to the waiting room and called my name. My mother escorted me into the back to meet the doctor, and discuss the treatment plan. If I could have left my body like a ghost, floated away and returned when it was over, I would have been thrilled. The thought of anybody anywhere near my foot made me cringe!

Before we got into the examining room, a huge man, sweating profusely, came barreling down  the hallway, his girth spanning it’s entire width. He was heading towards us at a fast clip, and I moved as best I could towards the right side, hoping to use my mother as a shield should we collide. I’d never played ‘chicken’ on foot, but like the car-version, I wasn’t enjoying it in the least. Luckily, the nurse led us into a room off to the right, before our paths crossed.

I was eased into a brown leather chair that looked similar to a dentist’s. I climbed in, and the nurse then began hitting buttons for different lights and gadgets- one of which raised my leg up vertically, until my mangled toenail was framed in fluorescent light, in a dramatic, circle- of- life- lion-cub- over-a-cliff kind of way, center stage. It looked especially disgusting at this point, like a pool of blood with glass shards jutting out.

The larger-than-life guy then entered the room, smiling and shaking my mom’s hand, while I focused in on the nurse, who was gathering up dangerous looking picks and scalpels that I assumed would be used on me. It made me sick to my stomach, and I had the urge to somehow call the whole thing off, but it was too late. I was jarred out of my trance by the big man himself- who extended his hand for me to shake (back in the seventies, you could shake hands in a medical setting without fear of a medical plague, or a bottle of anti- bacterial gel) and it suddenly hit me: this was not an orderly, or an office assistant, this was my actual doctor!

He was a giant man- six-three, or so, and I estimated his weight at about 350. He had long brown, somewhat stringy hair, reaching  halfway to his elbows. It wasn’t even tied back. He had a pleasant face, green eyes and a friendly smile, but certainly did not fit the image of any doctor, anywhere, ever. (The singer, Meatloaf, maybe) As soon as he was done introducing himself (“Dr. Granger, but you can call me Dr. Rick”) I began urgently trying to communicate telepathically with my mother, to convey to her silently “What in God’s name is this?” along with the much more important: ” Help! Get me out of here!!” She steadfastly refused to meet my glare, and yet I could tell by the way she was fiddling with her hair that she was just as freaked out as I was.  It was shocking to realize she wasn’t going to abort the plan, and I knew that’s why she couldn’t look me in the eye! I promised myself that later on I would go off on her- if of course, I survived, after going under the knife with this-this person- at the helm.

The next thing I knew, my mother was blowing me an air- kiss, though still not meeting my gaze- and saying “Lee-lee- I’ll be back in an hour or so, I’m going to just run a few errands while the doctor treats you”…and off she went, yapping to deflect concern, my imaginary hands gripped around her neck. Perhaps she was heading off to the five-and-ten (as she still called any store with a counter) for a slice of custard pie and some coffee, maybe to peruse some magazines, have a smoke, pick up some doo-dads. How nice for her. 

I imagined a scenario wherein I would actually die while she was gone. Would she look back at these last moments and wish she’d called the whole thing off? ‘I should have gone with my instincts’ she’d say. Or: ‘I knew something was off, and poor LeeLee- trying to signal me with those puppy-dog eyes! Why, oh why!-didn’t I listen?’ Or, would she be so guilt filled that her brain would block it all out as she went forward with a substantial lawsuit that would afford her an early retirement and a chance to travel the world in style after a short, but acceptable grieving period?

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