Monday, November 14, 2011

Motherfucking Hubris, or, How I Crashed My Bike and Broke my Ass

Not technically my ass, but you can see the break in my clavicle and the break in the rib, third one down.

Good night for a ride, dry, cool, quiet. Nick and I headed out just before midnight last Monday for a quick loop around Lake Union, to downtown and back through Fremont

Had one drink, not that stoned, so, for all intents and purposes, I was stone cold sober.

Hadn't ridden in more than a week, traveled down to Los Angeles to see Cara and spent the time sitting on a beach. Exercise amounted to walking three blocks to the liquor store for another bottle of whiskey to fit in my ass pocket.

Coasting into downtown, just past REI, Nick on my right, I skillfully broke from formation and began gliding across the vacant four-lane. It's a good feeling, kill the engines on a smooth downhill, weaving around traffic turtles, like a spaceship dodging stars.

I started to cut back to the right lane to join Nick. I didn't know that he had pulled out after me, or that he was heading into my intended path – he was behind me, I couldn't see him.

Something moved in the corner of my eye, but it happened fast and couldn't tell how close or fast he was. We collided. Handlebars cranked hard right and bike stopped suddenly. I kept moving.

Then everything went into slow motion.

Concrete rushed toward my face like a baseball. I was flying face first toward earth, but it felt like it was taking forever. The road surface had grooves to gutter away rain water; there, traces of moss growing in a seam between slabs; here, a stain that could have been motor oil or chewing gum.

I had this thought: “I am going to hit my head … I am wearing a helmet.”

At the last second I turned, rolled to my right. I don't know if my bike had tangled beneath me and rotated me as I fell, or I did it as some life-preserving instinct buried deep in human DNA, but when I landed, I landed HARD on my shoulder and ribs, no bouncing or rolling. Something snapped and all the air in my lungs belched out of me.

I tried to stand up – but couldn't stand straight – and lurched my bike to the curb, where I dropped it, then dropped to my hands and knees on the sidewalk, writhed, groaning and trying to catch my breath.
Nick laughed at me, and told some concerned passersby that I was fine and not to worry.

I wanted to thank the people for their concern, and tell Nick to go fuck himself, but I couldn't talk. All I could do was emit a loud, guttural noise that sounded like a masturbating rhinoceros. After a minute or so of writhing – it's hard to tell how long one writhes – I was able to stand straight and tried to walk it off. My entire right torso and shoulder was on fire, with stabbing and pinching pains, and fire, fire, fire.

My first thought was: “There, I paid the piper. Now I don't have to worry, free and clear.”

When I was able to speak I told Nick: “I had that coming.”

Nick, who was not wearing a helmet, emerged with a tender bruise on his hip. I demanded that he start wearing a helmet.

He disregarded my demand. "I have pretty good luck when I crash," he said, and started to say more, but realized what he was saying, and shut up.

His wheels were damaged.

I don't know if my bike was damaged, as I was unable to ride. We caught a bus back to the University District. I went to the ER in the morning.

As payment for my hubris – drunken riding, riding at night without lights, running reds and octagons, downhill bombing in the dark, no hands, ogling women, mouthing off to drivers, bunny hopping – I offered the gods a broken collarbone, a torn AC ligament in my shoulder, a broken rib, many more bruised ribs, and a sprained ankle. Beside that, just scrapes and bumps (And, at this point, no need for surgery).

Healing could take six weeks, it could be nine weeks before I can ride again. The doctor said smoking inhibits healing, and if I don't quit it could take much longer to heal, or may not heal at all.

“No problem,” I said. “I'll just ride my bike a lot, and jog, and stay active so I'm not just sitting around wanting to smoke.”

I will also have to make a financial offering, in the sense that I do not have health insurance. It would have been so much better to be hit by a driver.

Night Riders Union of Seattle leadership has hit a rough patch of road recently, and not a single member of the four-member union leadership team (The FOURlokos) has health insurance (this is not to jinx you, Jeremiah)). It is my hope that my injury will complete the circle of bad luck and we will pedal toward many years of free and easy riding and living.

My neighbors, who are also friends, are the reason I have been able to get through. Nick, Animito, Stevie, and Caleb have cooked for me, cleaned for me, helped me dress, rearranged my apartment to make it more accessible, and have been dependable, understanding, and sympathetic. I am so grateful I have these people in my life. Many, many thanks and lots of kisses but no hugs.

To all other Night Riders who are healthy, wealthy, and wise, a word of caution: The difference between me and you is luck. It is nothing you have done, you haven't earned it and you don't deserve it, and if you allow yourself to give credit to will rather than grace, you are daring the gods to reach down from the skies and thump you in the back of the head.


  1. dude, that sucks. is the ac ligament the only one torn? it looks like a hot mess up in there. i'm sorry you wrecked - another one bites the dust.

    i wish you a speedy recovery!

  2. I don't remember the crash being so poetic. I do remember myself being a total jerk. Sorry about that. I'll cook for you until you recover and then we will ride again.

  3. thanks! and nick, i still love you, and you got me and my bike home, tucked me into bed, and gave me narcotics. that's not the work of a total jerk, that's a nice guy. i don't want to eat your cooking.

  4. Nobody likes Mr. Nice Guy cooking....