Someone hook me up with a god damn nice field coat. Really.
Writing articles, thinking of my new field coat, waiting for the winter to set in and bring some quiet to this place. Electronic music always seems to mimic the erratic and yet rhythmic falling of snow.
For a time, we were indoctrinated into the cult of the rucksack.
Cult of many faces held in fading winter light, that seemed to recede out to sea with the sun. That was where we wished to go- to follow that horizon by way of the canvas sails a Rhodes 19.
We were in the society of worn rubber boots, borrowed fleece sweaters, and miss-matched gloves stolen from our parents- walkers between bare laden trees and drinkers of warm bitterness from paper cups.
I began to fall in love with the shortness of winter days by the ocean, and the growing chill in fall. That was when I wrote for the first time about walking along the seawall and the marshland where one man of his own accord, built a series of wooden footbridges bridges barely wide enough for one, across a maze of frozen mosquito ditches.
That was when the legend of Woods Hole was written in me. Etched from coffee dates with friends, perpetually dry skin, and chapped lips. The mystic seemed everywhere- an empty town for us- for the children of Falmouth. We were mad cultists bearing book bags, and an affinity for the daring in the summer time.
It’s been years now, since we took the steamship bus from school down Woods Hole Road. Back when my friends would crowd the backseats. The town bears the same resemblance, but I can now see when I’ll be too old for its mischief- its winter-locked trespassers will become memories of who we used to be, shadows of the old times, like rusting Clyde Puffers in dry-docks on the West Coast of Scotland- the Vital Spark gone out.
I come back to notebooks I kept back then, like moss-covered rune stones lost in a bog of unfolded clothes and dust under the bed in my parent’s house where I used to sleep. I come back to old photographs and the blonde hair of an old friend whose heart would stop working the next year. The last time I saw her alive was in the warm lit kitchen of Isabelle’s house. A place with its own legend, of candles held in mason jars from tree branches, and the broken handle of a painted tea kettle. Years before then, my class had watched clouds cast deep cuts in the moonlight carried by the roaring November wind, while drinking stolen vodka from water bottles.
The lights are still the same in winter when I come home for a few weeks at a time. The ferry still rings out a call low across the Sound, past the hole, where the current rips and pulls at the buoys. I can retrace my steps on the side streets, past the abandoned gated communities and the painted fire hydrant. Past those last photos I took on the rocks at Parkstreet, and by the glow of a lighter in the recesses of a beach hut. All paths in one way or another, seem to end on the hill at Nobska light, where I once endured a cold summer evening with a friend atop a rock and called out obscenities to the crash of waves and my battered sense or romance.
I still have a membership badge to that grand company of adventurers that would embark from the warm kitchen lights, and walk half a mile to the rolling golf course dunes to look at stars. Our Sahara was not as brilliant as the real one, there were fewer stars, the wrecked airframe of the Lady Be Good is still confined to the Libyan Desert since it crashed seventy years ago. Yet I still feared being lost atop the hills after leaving my parachute, caught in the torrent of time passing by with the subtly of a sandstorm, before it too would all fade away, and I might find myself in a dimly lit kitchen with you. Years later perhaps, some oil surveyor might discover my body. I fear he might read from my notebooks, only to find no meaning to my story: Instead, puzzled by a meaningless affinity of words:
Cult of the rucksack,
Stitched into the dry canvas of my withered sleeves.
About two years ago during my end of my junior year of high school, I suffered a brain hemorrhage (ie. A stroke) due to an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the right side of my brain. An AVM is an abnormal cluster of blood vessels that are prone to hemorrhaging. Anyone can be born with one and there is no known reason as to why. After mine decided to burst, I had 2cm of blood sitting in the right side of my head (thats a lot), which resulted in an extreme headache and a sudden vision change. I managed to function for about 20 hours, during which I thought it might be a migraine. When the pain prevented me from sleeping, and I began to cry it hurt so badly, my dad drove me to the local hospital at 5:30 in the morning, whereupon a CT scan revealed that I was in deep shit.
I survived the stroke, and received conclusive treatment for my AVM a month later. Between my two visits to the intensive care unit of Boston Children’s Hospital, I spent a week there post stroke and a week post surgery. I cannot speak more highly of the nurses and other hospital workers who cared for me while in the ICU, and of my neurovascular surgeon. All of these people not only saved my life, but also were so unbelievably kind to me and helped me through the most difficult time of my life. There is nothing I can ever do to repay them.
Today all I have to show from the stroke is some extreme anxiety issues, a scar hidden beneath my hair, and a vision cut to the peripheral vision of my left eye. To give you an idea of what the vision cut is like, think of your field of view divided it into quadrants. I am missing quadrant two. Despite this I suffer no restriction on my physical activities (minus occasionally hitting my head on open cabinets), and am now happily studying English at a liberal arts college in the North East.
Tonight on a whim I searched up some statistics regarding my stroke, and subsequent craniotomy (a procedure where your skull is cracked open for a brain operation. Mine took about 11 hours). These were my findings and thoughts:
Of the general population, less than 1% have AVMs. The exact number is unclear as often they go undiscovered unless they burst.
For all stroke victims, the survival rate is about 50%
The survival rate for a craniotomy is 95%
So here’s the really big one though. Of stroke survivors, 58% have some neurological disability as a result of their stoke. 36% of those disabilities are classified as either moderate, severe, or very severe. 22% are described as hiving a mild disability. The remaining 42% are described as independent. I don’t think my vision cut could be counted as a disability. It doesn’t really affect me in my day to day life, and I need no outside assistance because of it. I guess then that I’m in that lucky 42% who made it out alright. I was discharged from the hospital a week after my aneurysm. No rehab or physical therapy. I was back to school two weeks post stroke. The chances of me being able to do that are ridiculous.
All in all, what I find most insane though, is that statistically speaking, I should not be here. I should not be completely functional almost as if nothing had ever happened to me. Statistically, it was more likely that I would have a mental disability in some way. My survival from the stroke alone was the same as a coin flip. THE SAME AS A FUCKING COIN FLIP! I can’t explain to you how insane that is. Brain surgery has a 5% death rate and that is considered high!!!
For shits and giggles I decided to combine some of these statistics to see what my overall survival rate would be (I’m a little morbid, but it kind of helps me deal with this). The percentage of my survival of the stroke, survival of the surgery, and emerging without a disability was about 20%. (.5 x .95 x .42) I mean thats offset by the insanely high disability statistic, but if I just factor in the survival statistics, its a 47.5% survival rate. I’m absolutely blown away by all of this. Its 2:44 AM, my girlfriend is asleep behind me, and I’m writing this. I just can’t believe I am here.
I guess what I’m taking away from this is how lucky I am to be alive, and still be enjoying the quality of life I am now. I’ve done a lot of searching around the internet about AVM survival stories, especially in kids in their late teens. Honestly, its not pretty. Of those of us who have or have had AVMs, 73% of those AVMs are located deep within the brain, meaning they are either completely inoperable or only treatable with blocking methods meant to isolate the AVM, which can come loose at any time and re-bleed. Mine was luckily in an operable position, and I have no stroke risk due to my past AVM. I am so lucky to be alive, to have this quality of life, to no longer have to worry about my AVM. All of that… the fact that I am here to type this up on the early hours of a Monday… its unreal.
So if you made it this far into reading this, thanks. I just felt compelled to share my story after I read all these statistics, and realized quantitatively the risks I was facing as a scared 17 year old who had never even broken a bone, let alone suffered the second leading cause of death worldwide
I guess, take away from this what you will. Just enjoy life, its very short and even more precious.
Also, here’s the websites where my statistics came from if you feel inclined to fact check me, or do some more reading on this stuff.
Some days the air seems to come from another place- another time’s wind. Stolen from them and given to us.
It’s mid-autum, and the wind feels warm. Back then. I’d just finished my exams - my hair was wild and unkept; we are were under our parents roofs.
I can feel your face in old photographs and in the movement of the air against my body while I walk in the subdued sounds of Sunday morning. I spent sleepy summer afternoons in a musty old bedroom. The glass of my windows distorted the light in such a way that it seemed like time was for a while no longer against us. From my bed I learned the way the light faded from my ceiling.
Before that it was cold much of the year- snow fell on my face and soaked through my new thin mac coat. Ya, we braved storms. Holding tightly to young life, clinging to the forward mastheads of steamers in old photographs at the turn of the last century, watching the new world seemingly come at us without fear of what metal might lurk in the waters.
The ill fated lives of friends and the second explosion that would in a year tear through the bulkheads and drown passengers in the first class elevators and collapse dreams of a time before then. We came to the green to escape ourselves, but when it rained we came inside the old haunt. I saw you in stark lighting that came in through the windows while rain made its way down the glass. I thought you looked beautiful in that light. Always one to think too much and find hidden cyphers where no code exists.
Were I able to do it all over, I don’t think I would change a thing.
Just to take to the days again then let them crash like the monoplane and feel the hurt of the disintegrated fuselage so as to remember that it mattered. Rain falling and the faces of old friends in celluloid- it comes to me sometimes, and jerks my hands about, leaving pages with manifestations of the air that I breathed in from another time.
To all my followers (assorted friends and other cool people) I have a radio show on 91.1 WSPN Skidmore college radio from 9-10AM every thursday!
Its an hour of really awesome indie folk and acoustic music from my vinyl collection. Its good stuff that I bet you haven’t heard before! Give it a listen! I give you my word as a gentleman you won’t regret it.
Click the link to tune in if you are without an FM transmitter!
I used to shoot pictures on this crappy little Russian made camera. It was CVS film. Low res scans, poor zone focusing, too much grain. But something in the emulsion of those years speaks to me now- taking pictures with a sensor that cost me a grand, and looking to the lights that shine at night for guidance.
You might remember the lens that I took with me everywhere. It was my notebook then. Documenting my friends and our gatherings as they would only exist then and would never exist again. Beat up Bean Boots and coffee after school- the Alabama Slingshot christened on a highway just south of Boston in a six speed Jeep.
I want to light a kerosene lantern and sit on the dock and watch the reflections on the water in late summer, where the air is just cool enough that we can one again dawn our flannel shirts that hang off us like armor with uneven and folded collars.
Take the fog rolling in around the ferry to mean what you will, but I’m not fading out here in this pea soup.
Take to the island-
Take to the old ground and take photographs of how the vines up the brick walls haven’t changed. Fill your head with images of a timeless past.
Photo albums and a piece of carelessly assembled Russian glass.
Maybe its fitting that camera broke last winter.
Because the kitchen lights have grown dim and no one really gathers there anymore except in the memory of how things were. Telling the same old stories round a fire. Woods Hole is filled with kids I don’t know any more, and maybe to them I’m no longer a kid. I come back just to walk through now. To pull from my coat pocket an old mechanism with some glass and intention. Focus and adjusting dials, holding my breath and seeing where my friends once gathered through the viewfinder. With this I might try to prove to myself the validity of years.
Some days I want to travel on my own. Hoist a rucksack and make my way toward the Norther European countries. Practice my Norse in the mirror of train station bathrooms- carry with me a recording device and some clothes.
Some days I want to miss my friends back home. Make up with the ones I’ve fallen away from. Take to the well loved streets- go where everyone knows your name.
I am a drinker of tea in a friends kitchen.
I am bathed in the light of the closed laboratories of MBL street, and I’ll take photos of you as you wander ahead of me in the yellowing lights of the town. I’ll share a beer with some friends on the green and bike home by way of the rattling headlight attached to the tarnished steel frame by way of string.
By way of string-
I guess thats how I’ve made my way here isn’t it?
Rattling along the costal bike path, over the bumps where the tree roots have pushed up through the pavement, like your arms against the sheets when we wake up in my bed at two in the afternoon.
By way of the winding roads and the faint connections between friends I met in the pews of HighField theatre. By way of postcards written on the bullet train and sent from France. By way of an infected spider bite. By way of blood and grey matter. By way of the scars my younger brother and I can feel beneath our hairlines.
By way of how we are both half blind in one eye.
By way of string I rode under the moonlit canopy I made the ten miles home from the seaside. The path between the branches was filled with a million twinkling cobblestones. The air was cool and felt like autumn two months early.
By way of string-
To follow when looking to the true road in the rattling beam of light.