When I was little, really little like “Look Who’s Talking” little, I broke my collarbone. I don’t think anyone really knows how I did it…Except me and so I am going to tell you.
Doctors are always saying that no one remembers anything before they are 3 years old. That’s a buncha hogwash. I remember it all. I was totally cognitive. I was born on Halloween and my older brother was in the hospital next to my mom. She was going to town trying to get me outta there quick-like because I had been having these 8 month lounge parties with all of her organs and stomach stuff and the doctors were all under the impression that this was unhealthy. I however, wasn’t budging because my little den had become quite nice and I had Marquee Moon in there and that Gang Of Four record Entertainment! and I was blasting ‘em non-stop. The doctors were listening to the title-track guitar solo off of Marquee since it could penetrate the uterine wall no prob. It just kept looping back and going and going and they were like,
“whew this is gonna be a while, better put a pot of coffee on.”
And my older brother had this Halloween costume, of a skeleton: he looked badass. It’s true I’ve seen the pictures. But no one was going to know how sweet his threads were because he was stuck in this stupid hospital with me and we didn’t know each other yet so we were both kinda nervous. Anyway he started screaming and yelling all sorts of mean ass shit about how he wanted to go trick or treating and all this bologna. I thought that was totally unfair but I was not in a position where I could explain myself, at all.
Up until then, I had been totally content in this little split level studio and it was affordable because of rent control and the neighborhood was pretty good. It gave me space to kick out the jams but the food was sub-par and sort of processed tasting: not much texture to it. Like all prenatal babies, I was under the impression that I was living somewhere in Europe in a kind of post-apocalyptic nudist colony. But something about my brothers screaming and all those doctors talking, and Tom Verlaine’s singing suddenly snapped me out of my euphoria and this tiny switch just flipped on in my mind and I realized where I was. I immediately started dry heaving and then I looked for the bathroom to sort of wash up but there was no time. I located the fire exit and decided to get the hell out of dodge.
Bam! Things were in motion.
En route everything was going really smoothly when all of a sudden I got stuck in this tiny sub-dungeon behind one of the rest stops. It was super freaking dark. I started feeling around on the walls for a light switch or some shit and then out of nowhere there were things crawling all over me and I was like:
But just bubbles came out, cause, ya know, I was underwater/fluid or whatever. I tried to get situated to the surroundings but soon realized that there were freaking scorpions and tarantulas and centipedes and god knows what else all-freaking-over that room. This Asian kid next to me was screaming and I got the impression he was sort of a sidekick of types and we were in this together so, with his encouragement, I reached my hand through a hole I’d located. The bugs were attacking, so I grabbed my umbilical cord and I started whipping those sons of bitches back into line. They all hissed and brandished their little pincers and fangs and just as they were about to attack again my hand finally made contact with some kind of button. I pushed the shit out of that motherfucker and it was like a toilet flushing and we all started moving toward this strobe-like light coming from a great big yawning eye in the distance.
I rode the wave to freedom but time was running out and the door was closing quickly and so I made my body as aerodynamic as possible and sort of luged the rest of the way down the canal. I was screaming pre-birth baby obscenities at all the gigantic insects still tailing me. They were gaining and so I continued whipping them back with my cord and then, just as the door was about to close, I swung myself safely under and was out. But wait! My lucky placenta! And so I reached back in and I grabbed it just as the door was about to slam down. Whew! It was safe and all was well.
Then somebody slapped me like a bitch.
I let rip a slew of wombish baby swears that could shame a cowboy, but alas! My voice didn’t have that musical underwater merman ring to it anymore and nobody understood a freaking word I was saying and I sounded like a total pussy.
Some years later I recounted this same story to my pops and he told me that I had mixed up “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” with my birth story. I told him I was still angry that they had kept my Asian twin brother a secret from me all these years. Where is he living? I remember he cheated at card games.
Anyway, after birth some blank time passed and then I was older and I was crawling in the living room by myself and it was the eighties and so my mom was probably just kind of doing whatever. She had that Baby Beluga album on the Hi-Fi and I was sort of bouncing around doing that baby head bounce thing. I dug the Raffi, he’s kind of the Springsteen of baby songs: epic, likable, down to earth. He spun these provocative character driven yarns that still retain a mass hook. “Geoffrey the Giraffe” remains to be one of the catchiest pop songs I have ever heard. But lets not get me started on Raffi, I could go all night. The problem was that my moms had made the mistake of putting on Stop Making Sense right before the Raffi album, just as I was becoming conscious from my nap, and so I had this vague auditory imprint of “Burning Down the House” stuck in my head and needed to get it out of my system to retain any sanity. Even then I knew that Raffi had a time and place. Post naptime was not it.
Post naptime was for rocking and then a snack.
Stop Making Sense was right underneath the Raffi record sleeve, next to the Hi-Fi, on the top shelf of our entertainment center. I was currently in a short period of no supervision. If I climbed up straight-shot to the top, I could probably get to the record player in time to switch that shit off before mi madre figured out what’s what. It was a tight frame to work in and so I moved fast.
My appendages in infancy were never doing exactly what I wanted them to do. It was a strange and sometimes infuriating phenomenon. I would reach for something: my hand would move in the wrong direction. I would try to do a Mick Jagger leg kick: I would fall forward on my face. Someone would show their face to me: then they would cover their face with their hands and completely disappear. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally got the hang of all this stuff and even now it’s questionable. Needless to say, the climb up our oak entertainment center was harder than expected. My legs didn’t seem to want to move in the way I needed them to, I felt like crying but I couldn’t because then ma mere would be all up in this lightning-quick.
I felt gassy.
I needed to poop.
I pooped a little.
My consternation made me feel determined.
Suddenly I had new energy. Even with the slightly heavier load (or was it exactly the same amount of load, just shifted in location?) I got my bearings and suddenly was swinging up to the top of the structure with sloth like agility. As it was happening, my mind was having trouble comprehending that my body could so seamlessly execute the plan. It was robotic in efficiency. I was watching my hands take the needle off of the Beluga record, but who was directing them? God was. Or Rockstradamus.
It was probably Rockstradamus.
Soon I was lifting the disc off the pad, carefully sliding it back into the sleeve. It was like a film, I was Steve McQueen. The sleeve covered my whole body, it was massive. Taking the Stop Making Sense record out of its case, I was soon placing it in the player. I didn’t have time to look at what track it was, but I knew it was side one and I knew the track was a middle child. I dropped the needle somewhere toward the center but in the blank space between grooves. It started playing. For a moment I thought I had done something wrong but then…It began….It was right!
The ethereal space sounds at the beginning of “Burning” began to wag into my eardrums. I suddenly returned to a state of reality. I realized I had reached my goal…I felt like Bo Jackson. Steam was rising from my diaper and I became aware of the smell. I became aware of how high up the top of our entertainment center was. It was dizzying to be so happy…Then that intro drum roll kicked in and I started to fall.
The fall from grace for me, is difficult to describe. I felt as if my spirit rose up out of my body and I watched from the ceiling as my tiny form tumbled toward carpet. It all happened very slow but I still retained a serene feeling mid-air. Right before I hit my neck-cracked the collarbone-and started screaming-I sang the opener along with the band in a state of almost ecstatic infant joyful innocence,
“Watch Out!” Bem bum, “You might get what you’re after!” Then black.
Totally worth it.
*Ending things: I would like to note that I carried that war wound of a broken collarbone like a champ. My parents didn’t know what to think and although I was crawling with a limp, I didn’t go to the doctor until three weeks later. By then it was already healed enough that there was nothing anyone could do. I just rode it out. Like some crazy foreshadowing device to my future bone breaks sans insurance, I was teaching myself how to deal with things that don’t work.