Share: Your 5 Closest Calls.
INVULNERABLE. I was going to do another post, but then I got to thinking of all the wonder kids we have here. And I'm curious. How close have you come to meeting the Grim Reaper? Not any more, I tell you, but in the past I used to stare into his eyes all the time, from a very early age. Does it matter? Probably not. But all of you who think the only we time we stare death in the face is when we're wearing the uniform, well, maybe not. Embarrassingly for me, a lot of my own close calls, the ones I remember anyway, are, well, more glamorous than not. Forgotten are all the times I drove too hard, fought too hard, etc, and so on. I may have been in more danger in Ithaca, NY, when some dead drunk biker townies wanted to throw a Cornellian out of a window onto the street two floors below. But you don't tend to think of close calls as situations you manage to talk your way out of. So here's my surviving list:
5. Trip to Ship John Light.
What was I, seventeen? A friend I trusted launched us toward the Delaware Bay lighthouse called Ship John Light in a 12 foot Boston whaler. The water was deep, the currents were treacherous, the boat was small, the distance was long, and I had no idea why we were doing it. Afterwards, my friend told me it was the dumbest thing he had ever done in a long line of dumb things he had done. We could easily have been swept into the bay and out to sea, he said. "We were very lucky." Odd, though. I remember the whole trip. It was fun. We went round the lighthouse and back home. Not even the video above, in its much larger boat, did that.
4. Grand Corniche.
Maybe Ship John didn't scare me as it should have because I'd already done the Grand Corniche. My dad was a WWII fighter pilot. I was 10. Didn't realize he was afraid. He just seemed grim. Nine hours of driving through the Alps on barely two lane roads with gaping holes in the ancient Roman walls on the fall-to-your-death side, while crazy Frenchmen and Italians insisted on passing on blind corners. It looks idyllic in the tourist literature. In reality, when we reached Menton, my Dad couldn't straighten his fingers, He'd been absolutely certain he was going to kill jis wife and two children, hour after hour after hour. No wonder we nearly missed boarding our ship for home. And, oh yeah, I was scared the whole time too. When you look to your right, there's nothing but water, a mile below.
3. XKE flip.
Sometimes close calls happen in an instant. That's this one. Eighteen this time. We went to Somers Point, NJ, in a Jaguar XKE roadster. We enjoyed ourselves and came home. Good night, eh? Not so fast. We got all the way to the quarter-mile long driveway we'd always used as a kind of salt flats when he nodded off. The XKE slewed left and suddenly we were mired in a ploughed field. The state police were on the scene so quickly I still don't know how they managed it. My friend, the driver, somehow beat the breathalyzer, but it wasn't until the next day that the, er, forensics brought us both up short. The tracks where the XKE went off the road were evident. They led into a tilled but unplanted field. Then there were the tracks where it landed. A hundred feet away. On all fours. The goddam car flipped in midair, flying, flying, with no top, just two dumb shitheads inside, and deposited us safely upright in dirt. The bonnet was entirely ripped off. Landed somewhere between takeoff and landing point. Happened so fast we never had any sense of the flip. But we were young and dumb in those days.
2. Leonardo da Vinci
Can't remember if I've ever mentioned this one. Nearly died in a hurricane at sea. Sister ship of the Andrea Doria, which did sink. Not going to blow it out of proportion. No need. It was very very close. I was ten. All the glassware was destroyed. All the passengers were disgustingly seasick. The sick was everywhere. The name of the hurricane was Beulah. Look it up.
1. Easter Sunday, 1972.
The worst. The most frightened I've ever been. I defied the Harvard final club tradition of visiting rooms and polite separation. I made it my business to see the inside of every final club enclave on campus. I would climb any height to do it. Upper windows are rarely locked. In this fashion, I saw the interior of the Fox, the Fly, the Delphic, the Spee, the Owl, and even the Lampoon. Then came the Easter morning when I found myself standing on a fifth floor railing of the Porcellian Club. I had to stand on tiptoe to squirm through the window into what amounted to another locked room. Never saw the interior of the Porcellian. After which I retired from cat burglar work. Never penetrated the AD either. Now that I'm old, I'm just glad I didn't die from being dumb.
Yeah, I've nearly creamed myself a bunch of times in cars and motorcycles over the years, but these are the things that stand out. Hope you understand.