July 11, 2005: A Chronology of Near Death

 

July 11, 2010

 

(I’d say, for the sake of estimating, that 90% of the time, when I awake in the morning, I don’t know 1) if I will post anything here before the day is over, 2) if so, what the hell the post will be about.  Such was my predicament this morning.  Being that it’s Sunday and there was a full day ahead, chances were I would scribble something out, maybe profound, likely not, but I would assuredly come up with some swill.  By the afternoon,  I still had no idea about what.  Earlier, I took my son to an area music shop where he was having his guitar worked on.  As the clerk was writing the receipt up he noted it was July 11, and like a slap on the face, I realized I had forgotten!  Today is July 11, 2010.  A pretty memorable date, you see.  It marks the 5-year anniversary of what was likely the genesis of this blog.  And of a new me.   I would not be where I am if it had not been for July 11, 2005.  I don’t know where I might be…that is up for debate.  This blog, everything I write, is owing in part to the events of that day 5 years ago.  Well, that settled it.  I knew what I would write about.  I actually planned on a special post when I was thinking about it a month ago.  My original intention involved fancy pictorial work. But I forgot.  Perhaps it’s telling that such a watershed moment in my life has faded into the fuzzy background, present but slowly fading into obscure un-remembrance as the years march by.  I could go on forever, but I won’t.  I’m going to limit my narrative to the bare facts.  The cold chain of events.  The best  I can remember or as they have been relayed to me second-hand.   This post is a simple narrative of events;  all thoughts and emotions which followed and their influence on my life have been covered, or will be covered, on AUM.)

 

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July 11, 2005

 

I suppose it’s only appropriate that in recounting the events of this date that I go back one year previous.  To July, 2004.  That was when I was essentially single again, after 7 years of marriage.  Separated, I moved into this apartment that summer and embarked on a rampage of bachelor-induced debauchery.  In August, 2004, just a month after moving in, I stopped at the Short Stop, a small darkish bar in Echo Park, down the street from Dodger Stadium.  One month out on my own, I had no one to come home to, no one to answer to, so I got loaded.  With a capital “L.”  I don’t remember much except that I argued with an officer about politics at the booking room in Parker Center.  The police stopped me with a Jack Daniels octane BAL of over 0.25.   I was drunker than hell.  Through the wonderful maze that is the modern DMV/criminal justice bureaucracy, I somehow eluded all DUI charges.  The case was thrown out of court and I had a new lease on life (and my driver’s license).  I proceeded to embark on a year long binge of dissolution and passive self-destruction.  Forget that, self-immolation.

 

It all culminated on July 11, 2005.

 

It was a Monday and I had the day off from work.  As was becoming increasingly common, my vacation days merely deteriorated into 12-hour drunkathons which normally climaxed when I passed out in a most inadvertent position and/or location.  If I was lucky, nothing would be broken or harmed, including myself.  Waking up from such a binge was always frightening.  First the awareness, then Fear.  Did I injure myself?  Did I lose anything valuable?  Did I fuck the car up?  Run to the window, make sure the car’s there, make sure there are no large dents or missing body parts, and especially that there is no human hair or blood dangling from a bumper.  This is the kind of horrible shit you worry about during crazed bouts of pathological alcohol abuse.  So that bright Monday morning I woke up, went for my normal morning walk.  I think I might have somehow weaseled out of watching my own son even though I had the day off.  As  I was walking, I saw my mom drive by with my son in the backseat and they waved at me.  Later in the morning I went to a Coffee Bean in Alhambra near the Renaissance Theater at Garfield and Atlantic.  Funny, I remember the oddest things…there was a small puddle of vomit in the parking structure, and because of my vomit aversion, I walked all the way around in order to avoid it.  A little while later I apparently returned a DVD to Hollywood Video at Beverly and Wilcox in Montebello.  I learned this later because I found a couple of credit card receipts sitting in an old shoe box.  The other receipt also told me that I went to an Applebee’s at the corner of Rosemead and Las Tunas in Temple City.  I believe that is where I began the day’s drinking.   I vaguely remember beer, a mug, or mugs.  And eating something.  I must have come straight home from there.  It would have been 1 or 2 in the afternoon.  No doubt feeling the slight daytime buzz of freedom, I probably bought some more beer or vodka and drank here at home.  I have photographs I took of myself in the bathroom with a big lecherous and drunken grin;  there are also photographs I took that morning of my 2003 Subaru WRX.  I took photos of the engine compartment and various front and rear shots as well.  I don’t remember exactly how the afternoon played out while I killed time, but I found old emails from that afternoon in which I coordinated to meet some buddies later in the evening for a continuation of my festivities.  If history was any indication, my guess is that I probably was drinking beer and vodka straight and slowly unraveling here amidst the specter of my sober self while I had a small solitary party.   Slowly disassembling here in my own privacy.  One of the photos I tookd shows me laughing and my tongue darting out Gene Simmons-syle.  My eyes, glazed over.  Anyways, the emails explained that I had arranged to meet my friend Jon at Weiland Brewery just outside of Little Tokyo in downtown.  I discovered Weiland’s the previous year and I liked dropping in there to check out the downtown white collar / artsy loft-dwelling scene.  I enjoyed their vodka martinis.  Vodka martinis were my poison, and depending on my level of inebriation, potentially my wallet-breaker as well.  Since I was probably wasted by the time I got to Weiland’s that Monday afternoon (I’m guessing about 4 or 5), I probably went for the pricier crap, maybe Grey Goose or Belvedere.  Vodka martini up, with a lemon twist.  My standard order.  I could throw those back in no time flat.  They are medicinal-tasting power houses which pack a pure punch, straight to the arteries man, it’s like shooting up alcohol.  Your liver is never given a chance to make a stand.   I was prone to pounding those and tumbling into a borderline state of coherence in which it was only by pure bodily exertion that I was able to maintain an upright posture and shuffle about without dragging everything in my path down with me.  So I arrived at Weiland’s and patiently waited for Jon while I undoubtedly inhaled several vodka martinis.  I remember nothing.  Except…I vaguely recall Jon showing up and looking at me, I remember him bending his neck, not sure if it was because I was slumping…and mentioning disappointedly that the place was dead.  Which it probably was.  Weiland’s was hit and miss.  My recent trip there had been a hit and I told Jon this and being that that Monday night was shaping up to be a big miss, he wanted to bail.  So we did.  We decided to hit King Taco, an East L.A. landmark which draws people from far and wide for basic simple Mexican food which can be had anywhere, really.  It’s one of those situations where the social appeal of a restaurant overshadows the menu.  I’m not sure what the plan was after King Taco, but in any case, Jon went to his car and I somehow found mine.  I somehow started it.  I somehow made it to the freeway, Jon and I tagging along after each other.  It must have been late, for the CHP dispatch report later showed that it was about 8:30 or 9 when the incident was first called in.  Jon later told me that as we were on the eastbound Pomona Freeway, headed to the Downey Road exit, he was following me and that I suddenly punched it and sped away down the freeway.  A witness later told the CHP officers that I exited at Downey by darting across the full width of the freeway, starting in the fast lane.  Another witness told the police that she was behind me and saw this same dangerous maneuver as well.  I have no idea how fast I was travelling when I exited at Downey, but it’s a tricky offramp even when sober. Here is a Google Earth image of the exit.  As it initially splits from the freeway, it continues in a calm, straight manner, but about a third of the way down, it throws a little sneaky bend.  If you’re unfamiliar with the road and not paying attention or drunk, it can sneak up on you and require a little more steering effort than you’d comfortably expect.

 

 

Well on the night of July 11, 2005, I was in no shape to be maneuvering or steering my way out of anything tricky.  I have no doubt I took that exit in excess of 60 mph.  I failed to follow the road’s path and evidently I sped off the freeway (the area as indicated in the green box) and headed toward a row of houses at the foot of an embankment.  I would have flown into these houses if it had not been for a tree which gladly welcomed my WRX in its steady embrace.  There were no skidmarks where I left the road.

 

Absolutely unconscious, my friend quickly dialed my mom and told her I’d been in an accident.  The fire department responded and needed the jaws of life to extricate me.  The first CHP officers on the scene testified to the strong odor of alcohol in the car.  Blood tests at the LA County General Hospital’s trauma ward later showed that once again my BAL was in excess of 0.25.  I remained in a coma for about 3 days and I was released from the hospital about a week later.

 

My list of injuries reads like a tragedy of errors:

 

-Subdural hematoma

 

-Broken ribs

 

-A 6″ laceration across the back of my skull

 

-A fracture of my C2 vertebrae

 

-Lacerated spleen, kidney and liver

 

In addition, this kind of traumatic accident leaves all sorts of injuries that are not officially noted:  both my feet were sore and ached for months; my left hand was injured as well, probably from bracing myself during the crash; my left shoulder hurt like hell for a while and I couldn’t sleep on my left side; the organ injuries did not mix with spicy food as I found out after spending a full night in the throes of agony.

 

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There.  The bare essentials.

 

Just the facts m’am.  Nothing but the facts.

 

Right now it is 6:45 pm, PDT.  Five years ago I was dissolving into a chair at the bar in Weiland’s Brewery.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve won or lost.