Saturday, October 17, 2009

How I Broke my Leg: Part I -- "Messengered"

These are our muratore (literally "wall-makers"), the Brandini brothers, Paulo (far right) and Claudio (middle). We were waiting for the cement truck to arrive so we could pour and hand trowel our concrete floors "American style." More on that later.

Once the cement was curing, I boarded a plane and flew back to New York to work for the month of July on an IMAX movie and a 6-part series for television. After working my butt numb at my desk for two weeks straight--no weekends off, barely leaving the loft--I shut down shop and stepped out onto the street on a bright, temperate, July afternoon. For your amusement, I post what I wrote to a couple of close friends the next morning, who I asked to monitor me for medical reasons. The Anthill is the german position Kirk Douglas and his suicide squad had to take in Kubrik's Paths of Glory, you'll recall.

July 25, 2009

I'm OK. Great, in fact, considering I got slammed by one of those brakeless, stoned, kamikaze bike messengers yesterday in the intersection of Broadway and Canal.

3:00 Friday afternoon. Chinatown. Rush hour. I was on my way to get my hair cut. The light was mine. I was just off the curb (and I swear Mommy I looked both ways!) and I was about to take the next step when he came gunning through the crowded intersection trying to beat the light, the gridlock and the pedestrians. One minute, we are all stepping forward and volunteering to take "The Anthill", then everyone else in the squad is taking a crisp step back. Guess who's left out there holding the target? But not until I hear a strangled cry of, I-don't-know-what actually, something like a cross between a pheasant and a capriolo (Italian barking deer), but Chinese, do I see him coming at me, 2 feet away and closing, eye-to-eye, 12:00 o'clock high. I still can't make out quite what happened next because I was basically facing him. I don't have the appropriate marks on my body for all the bike and body parts that came into such sharp resolve before I lost the horizon. The upshot is I got a free visit from some OK cops, and a bunch of nice firemen in a big red fire truck gave me oxygen as I sat on my ass in the middle of the road backing up Holland Tunnel traffic all the way to Brooklyn ... and then a free ride up to St. Vincent's with the paramedics. The event was positively explosive. And yet, I end up with only staples in the back of my head and a sore blocking shoulder? He ended up with wheels like Salvador Dali watches. Apparently I got thrown about 8 feet and did a back flip and a perfect 1-point landing onto the back of my head--very Mark Morris. Or is it Greg Lougainis? It must have looked amazing. The last thing I saw straight was my feet in the most fluffy beautiful clouds and blue sky. When I could see straight again, I kept waiting for everyone to applaud my routine. Never quite lost consciousness, but I could hear that cuckoo bird that's been mocking me at the Italian property (or is it that mocking bird that's been cucking me?). Anyway, I swear my eyes were revolving in counter-rotating circles like a chameleon's. I know, because I could see both up and down the street without turning my head. Of course, I've been in the ring before I know how to (some would say unwisely) stay on my feet and I take it on the chin. Guess I've got a well-padded brainpan. It was almost fun sitting in the middle of the road cracking jokes nobody seemed to get as half of Chinatown ogled me through a big fisheye lens and spoke in slow motion like the batteries were running down (I swear I heard the words pinhead and geek, with some Allah Akbar! thrown in). A couple of good Samaritans who managed to speak in real time kept telling me to stay put, breath, don't worry, etc.. But they wouldn't let me touch the back of my head (which I wanted badly to do because I couldn't tell if it was still there). The longer I sat there, the more horrified people looked. "What?" I taunted the crowd, "You've never seen I sit down in the middle of the road?" Then I could feel how wet the back of my shirt was getting. "Pish tush," I filliped to reassure them, "scalp wounds always overplay their part." Turns out I'd severed a vessel (they told me in the ER once when they had continuing difficulty staunching the flow). As I sat there on the warm asphalt, grateful it wasn't a hotter day, I kept asking the Samaritans how much of my brain was actually showing. They didn't think that was so funny. Which made me worry a little. Anyway, after several bottles of ice cold water from the satay vendor I had conveniently landed beside, and a tasty dim sum from some stranger I never got to thank, I was whisked away to spend the rest of the afternoon developing hypothermia in the ER, and, finally, being told to hold still while they stapled the back of my head.

For the bike messenger's point of view, you absolutely MUST go to:

This is informative too:

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