Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Green Goblin

Mile Marker 3430:

What is the Heisman Trophy doing at a car dealership?

I have no idea.  But the salesman insists on taking a photo of us with it.

At Mile Marker 3430, I am shopping for a new car.   Dad is along for the ride.

The salesman, John, is a South Philly guy.  I like him immediately.  When he asks if I'll be trading in my old car, I tell him I'm not sure.

"I'm driving a very valuable 1998 Honda Civic," I say.  "Runs like new."

He agrees it's a great car.  But I already know that.  I've been driving the "Green Goblin" for a very long time!

"If you could assure me it'll go to a good home, I'd be more likely to trade it in,"  I tell him.  "And if you'd let me interview the new owners, that would seal the deal."

He chuckles.  We don't seal the deal.  Not today anyway.

If you haven't figured it out, giving up the Green Goblin is a little like giving up a piece of myself.  Over the years, she's become an extension of me.  When she gets a flat tire, it's a sure sign that I'm on the brink too.   She even predicted the downfall of my Genium last spring!

It makes sense.  Seventeen years hold a lot of history:  5:00 a.m. commutes, South Philly street parking, dirt roads of Vermont.  Trunk-fuls of biking and skating equipment.  Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and books on tape.   (The tape deck still works, by the way!)

Gotta love the 90's :)

She got me through some tough times too.  While I was in the hospital, the Green Goblin waited patiently in my parents' snow-covered driveway.  And when I finally started moving again, she escorted me and my brand new prosthetic leg on our first SOLO journey -- a nerve-racking, white-knuckle trip to Trader Joe's.

"I drive a 17-year-old Honda," I tell people proudly.  She takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.  It's a point of pride for both of us.

Maybe it sounds strange to focus on wheels when this blog is all about walking.  But as many amputees know, not all days are walkable.  My Honda and I have grown closer over the past 5 years.  I depend on her now more than ever.  (See #4 in The New Normal for details.)

So why replace her?

Still looks like new after a car wash!
She's getting up there in car years.  This year in particular has brought adventures above and beyond the typical flat tire.  She's got rust spots on the roof.  Oil and radiator leaks under the hood.  Her dashboard lights have dimmed so much that at night I adjust the radio and heat by touch only.

My brother Mark thinks I should get a car that's more reliable.  My mom says, "Call me when you get home."  My dad sends me e-mails about 2016 models.

And perhaps most convincingly, my friend and long time mechanic Jim agrees.  He's known my Honda since the very beginning.  He even named her the Green Goblin!  And he says it's time for a change now too.

They're right, of course.  But as usual, I have trouble letting go.

Mile Marker 3438:

On a sunny morning, the Green Goblin and I go from the rehab gym to a doctor's appointment.  We glide effortlessly into a parking spot at 17th and Walnut.  No shortage of parking karma here!

I get out to pay the meter.  Then, all of a sudden, BOOM!


I watch in horror as smoke whooshes out from under her hood.  She looks like a smoldering dragon.

Within seconds the smoke dissipates, and I realize it's not truly smoke but steam instead.  Still.  This is a problem.

Chest pounding, hands shaking, I dial AAA.  An hour later, a flatbed tow truck arrives.

"You probably have a busted hose," says Derrick, the kind tow truck driver.  He lifts the Green Goblin's hood and peers inside. "Yep, there it is."

I'm no car expert, but EVEN I can see the problem!

The radiator hose has split along a 6-inch seam, and fluorescent green antifreeze has spewed everywhere.

On the city street, Derrick can only pull his truck about 100 feet from my car.   So he tells me I'll have to start it up, busted hose and all.   He stands next to my car to block traffic.

"Come on," I whisper to the Green Goblin.  "You can do it."

She starts.  We drive up behind the flatbed.  I cut the engine off.  Quick.

Derrick hooks up chains and pulleys, and the Green Goblin gets her FIRST EVER tow truck ride!   So do I.

We arrive at the South Philly Pep Boys in minutes.

Mechanic Jim, if not completely overjoyed to see us, takes the Green Goblin into his capable, familiar hands.  He knows what's wrong and how to fix her.

She'll be good to go in a few hours.

I start up the sidewalk toward home past fiery roses, and gold leaves, and newly bared branches.  Layer upon layer of seasons.

It's beautiful, but rattling.  Change is uncomfortable.

With the Green Goblin in peril, I wonder what's next.  In the past, mechanical problems in my car have set the stage for mechanical problems in my body.  I think about Mile 553, when brake problems led to abdominal surgery.

But then I start thinking -- and hoping -- a different kind of change is in store....

Maybe the Green Goblin is just doing her part to make car shopping smoother for both of us.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like the Goblin is trying to send you a message. It's time. I vote new car.
    You realize that when you bought that car, cell phones were the size of a brick and often required a bag and a cord. Time to upgrade. Maybe you can keep the sentimental side going by simply keeping the original steering wheel, or hanging the rear view mirror in your bathroom.
    Moving forward doesn't mean never looking back, but sometimes it does require letting go.