Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gawpo's Anatomy: Mierda Pasa

When I was nine, and just prior to being uprooted from California so we could move to Salt Lake where Mr. Gawpo, Sr. would attend the Univeristy of Utah School of Law, he sold the two pharmacies and we took a little trip. No, not along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip. But to Seattle. The World's Fair was happening.

We drove up in the white Plymouth Valliant station wagon and had a ball. But not everything went according to plan. My baby sister, on the cusp of becoming a toddler, cried so relentlessly that my parents decided to take the elevator back down to street level after we had waited for hours to get into the Seattle World's Fair's signature attraction, the Space Needle. The decision was made when it became apparent that little Baby Gawpo was drawing enough attention to indicate that she was vying for first place in the department of signature attraction. I remember being up there just long enough to discern that we were indeed rotating, but not long enough to fill the windows with a completely new view of the beautiful city and the lights out on the Puget Sound.

Yeah, I know. Another story of the Gawpos waiting in another line for hours, just like we would find ourselves doing in a couple months when waiting for J.F.K. to go around the corner on two wheels.

On our way back from Seattle, Mr. Gawpo, Sr. decided to dazzle us with an alternate route back home. So we got on some road that took us to Eastern Washington where we visited friends in Ellensberg. These folks used to live in Turlock, but moved a couple years prior to our 1963 visit. When we got there, one of the sons had jumped from the haystack out in the barn and impaled his knee on a deer antler. To be sure, a ruminant's revenge. The kid's name was Chip. His brothers and some friends had pantsed him in the barn to investigate the severity of the wound. So when they brought him into the house, each arm over the shoulder of a concerned helper, I was wincing along with the tune of his pain. Chip was in so much pain that, when his mother reminded him that he was only in his underwear and the neighbor girl was seeing him like that, he said with a very pained look on his face, "I don't care." Wow. Now that is the definition of pain if ever I'd seen it. A 12 or 13 year old boy not caring that a girl see him in his white jockeys. There they were, out in the barn just trying to have some fun when something else decided to happen.

We left our friends and headed home, down Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon on Hwy 97, and then on whatever highway takes you through Susanville before connecting to Hwy 99. Did I-5 exist back then? I don't recall.

Just a few miles outside Susanville it began to snow. Hard. All I remember before kissing chaos is our father yelling, "Hold on!" He raised his arms and braced himself on the headliner of the Valliant. We left the roadway across the right shoulder after spinning a 360 on the now slick highway. We rolled two times. And then one half time more. All I remember after coming to rest is the huge silver camera case that housed Mr. Gawpo, Sr's 4x5 Poloroid camera setup and its accessories. The camera case seemed to freeze as if in still frame just prior to falling on my legs. We were inverted and all was now a matter of discovering what was at the end of the anti-rainbow. It was eerily quiet. No one cried. My father's muffled voice called out a question about whether we were all right.

The baby got a tiny bump on her forehead. My younger-by-two-years sister got a huge knot on her forehead and a swollen nose when she brilliantly used them to knock out a side window so we could escape. My father had a small scratch on his forehead. My mother had a severe whiplash. She would be flying the flag of her injury, the flesh colored neck brace, for months after the crash.

The next single memory I have after exiting the overturned white vehicle in the field of white snow was that single spinning rear tire. Many years later, I would be keenly reminded of that vision in the film, Fargo. I ran to the roadway and immediately flagged down an eighteen wheeler. My father had told me to flag someone down. So, taking the directive to heart, I stood in the middle of the highway, caring not that I could be further inconvenienced by death and flagged that semi down. My father and oldest younger sister rode with the trucker. Mrs. Gawpo, Sr. and I got to ride in the CHP car along with the baby. I remember the sound of the police radio. And the heater. Already having been hooked similarly by Cheerios, I was here hooked on the goodness of cops.

The mural of the story? Mierda Pasa. Things happen to us that we cannot control. Or maybe it's a case of the Universe spinning us into what appears to us an unintelligible control of its own. See Blue for the explanation on that one.

The baby's cries brought an end to our hopes of eating in the Space Needle. I don't know where we went after landing on the streets of Seattle, but whatever it was, it became what was for us, the next meant-to-be.

Chip was just having some fun, and he wound up perforated, pierced, his arms outstretched across two pairs of shoulders, crucified by happenstance and a luck for which he had not bargained. His perizonium exposed and the usual attendant embarrassment temporarily suspended by the greater grip of his pain.

The happy family enjoying the rare spectacle of snow, smacked in the face by the rude logic of physics: lack of traction plus velocity plus momentum plus inertia plus what Newton says of gravity: "That nostalgia in things to become spheres." Rolling twice in a car and surviving can round anyone out. This became the only time in my life that I can remember my father calling my sister and me to his side, tenderly beckoning, "Come'ere." We walked to where he sat in that little chair by the door at the cheap Susanville motel, our mother proned out on the bed and unable to move her neck. Then just looking at us in silence for such an uncomfortably long time, I finally had to ask, "What do you want, Dad?" "I just wanted to look at you," he said. I didn't get it then. But now it's all too clear. We were out of control and alive. We had parents. We were still a family. Lesser events have killed many. I am grateful beyond measure for the deepened appreciation that has come with disappointment.

Mierda pasa. And when it does, sometimes you need to pay attention to what happens next. Life can rip the shirt right off your back just as easily as it gave it to you. I have so many more great memories over what happened after something didn't go according to plan than I will ever begin to have over the things that did.

Sometimes, I guess, you just have to wear your pants a little higher, that's all. Come on, cadets are marching. So, as Linda Ellerbee used to say, "...and so it goes."


At Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 10:37:00 PM PDT , Blogger Logophile said...

wow, you were here, right here!
Dumb ole baby Gawpo, spoiling your fun like that, some people's sisters!
I'll take you back any time you like, just say the word.
I posted about Seattle today too, but not about deer antler injuries, that's all you baby.

At Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 10:43:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

PHOGOLILE: Yeah! If I'd had the presence of mind at the time I would have told her to act her IQ, not her age. We raz her to this very day about it. So what does she go and do later in life? Has all the babies, becoming the singular fountain of grandparenthood for Mr. and Mrs. Gawpo. Rub it in, why don'tcha, Sis?

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 5:03:00 AM PDT , Blogger lime said...

ya know april 15 will be a year of the fateful moment when i lost grip on the zipline and mangled my left arm. i've regained most of what i lost though not all there are several scars i will bear forever. but if you'd seen where i landed....well, a few inches to the right and i'd probably either be dead or a vegetable. so i got no complaints. and honestly, better me than one of my kids. i wouldn't have been able to live with myself if it were one of them.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 5:13:00 AM PDT , Blogger Paul said...

Mr. G ... I can call you Mr. G, can't I? ... I know just enough Spanish to know that "Mierda Pasa" doesn't mean "things happen."

While the aborted dinner in the space needle may now be a fun family memory, I read in horror of the white Valliant rolling unrestrained -- with the nice family helpless in their own fate.

I'd rather say, "Vaya con Dios." Yes, so many things are out of our control.

It's tough learning (as one of my high school teachers used to tell the boys): keep your chin, and zipper, up. It was years before I learned that this (roughly) translates into, "control the things you can, and enjoy life."

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 6:54:00 AM PDT , Blogger ARM said...

"we took a little bacon and we took a little beans and we fought the bloody british in the town of new orleans".

Ok, I need to read the rest of your post, now. It's a long'un!

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 7:07:00 AM PDT , Blogger ARM said...

Very good story. I agree - the memories of the unexpected things are learning experiences and shape who we've become and will become.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 9:54:00 AM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

LIMERS: What? No deer antler at the end of the fall? You were lucky.

What a close call! I can't imagine what that tumble could have felt like. I am so happy you survived as intact as you are. That was some serious mierda! Tax day is a celebration of life for you now.

PAULO: You can call me anything, except late for dinner in the Space Needle. I have yet to dine there.

"Cosas pasan" would be "things happen." The plural changes the verb form.

I'm here to tell ya that when I saw that upside down car in Fargo, it brought it all back. Luckily though, no one tried to shoot us. The only defensive wounds we suffered were artifacts of our unconscious efforts to survive unusual attitudes.

Do all high school teachers learn that expression in High School Teaching School? I had a coach who used to say that. He also told me that if I hurt his daughter driving drunk on prom night, he would hunt me down to the four corners of the earth to kill me. After fearing him, I grew to love him. He and his wife even came up to visit me here in Oregon. He is gone now. To this day, though, I have no idea where the earth's four corners are.

Control the things you can. Yes. Learn from the ones you can't. Yes.

ARM: We fired our guns, but the British kept a comin'; there wasn't not as many as there was a while ago...

ARM: As Gold Member would say, "Yah. Iszhint dat veerd?"

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 10:02:00 AM PDT , Blogger Diesel said...

I have no idea if I-5 existed back then. They keep talking about making 99 an interstate. Maybe in another 10 years.

Gawpo - Come play in my caption contest!

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 10:24:00 AM PDT , Blogger vicci said...

Do things happen for a reason????? This is a GOOD story Gawpo...Do we ever really know the reasons???? We can always look back and see the events leading up to "an incident"....most times we can see how really lucky we were....
Loved the story...now...it's got me thinking about all kinds of things...(this could be dangerous). :-)

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 10:42:00 AM PDT , Blogger Paul said...

Mr. G,

The other common phrase from the male teachers to the male students in my high school was "Keep your peckers in your pants." I always thought that one was kinda silly when I was standing at a urinal.

- P

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 10:55:00 AM PDT , Anonymous quilly said...

Gawpo -- that part where your dad just wanted to look at you brought tears to my eyes.

And that part where the car was suddenly out of control? That brought back a memory of a mountain logging road, too much snow and a very high cliff -- I am alive only because the boulder that took out the oil pan, stopped the car from crashing into the ravine. Mixed blessings.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 12:12:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

DIESEL: Thanks for the invite. Hope you enjoy my savory submission.

I-NinerNiner. Sounds good to me.

VICCI: It goes like this, I think: We bring the meaning to the party. BYOM. I hope you "break a leg" with how dangerous you feel! Go for it, Vic!!!!

PAUL: Ha! Doesn't make much sense, does it. I will try to think of some others. Do you too, please.

QUILLY: Believe it or not, I cried when I wrote it.

You and Lime. Sheesh. We talk about the near death experiences because they are so obvious. The near life ones escape notice sometimes, I think.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 2:03:00 PM PDT , Blogger Candace said...

Strange, Gawpo. I was just pondering the whole "things happen for a reason" dealy-bopper last night, and wondering if it applied to my mangled ankle. Perhaps the cosmos is trying to tell me something.

Was that guy's name seriously Gandalf?

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 3:09:00 PM PDT , Blogger somewhere joe said...

What a wonderful and dramatically lighted memory you have, Po. We think of childhood as a place that should be ideally sequestered from life's rude shocks, but the fact is that we start having some pretty harrowing tumbles, and learning tough lessons, from day one. Our bodies and souls, scarred and redeemed, are roadmaps and narratives.

Thanks for sharing this riff, and showing us how their chords can progress and resonate, in a number of keys, "with deepened appreciation that has come with disappointment" all our lives long.

"I just wanted to look at you," he said. That got to me too. As did "the end of the anti-rainbow," and "the overturned white vehicle in the field of white snow" and its "single spinning rear tire" and much, much, more.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 4:24:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

CANDACIA: You pondering the whole things happen for a reason dealy-bopper and the posting of my harmonic sine to your wave, well, that musta happened for a reason.

Ray Gandolf was kind of like your huggable grandfatherly type news guy. Not unlike Charles Kuralt (On The Road) and Charles Osgood (The Osgood Files)....

"(CBS) Osgood, dubbed CBS News' poet-in-residence, has been anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning since 1994.

He also anchors and writes The Osgood File, his daily news commentary broadcast on the CBS Radio Network. His commentaries have drawn one of the largest audiences of any network radio feature. Osgood was called 'one of the last great broadcast writers' by his predecessor on Sunday Morning, Charles Kuralt."

Ray Gandolf had that same hearty, friendly, Santa Clause-y voice.

SOMEWHERE GIUSEPPE: I don't know where you got it, Joe, but you have an incredibly refreshing appreciation of the dual nature; of both flesh and spirit. Your soteriological outlook snaps my head back sometimes. You see the through, and then the through. You see that our best attempts sometimes squander us, but that we are eventually sopped up in the buy-back portion of the plan.

"Our bodies and souls, scarred and redeemed, are roadmaps and narratives." Can you even believe that you wrote that? Where does that stuff come from? I have this notion that your writing reflects your you; you are prizing at every turn and I am humbled yet ever gladdened. Thanks for knowing me.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 6:19:00 PM PDT , Blogger Candace said...

I wonder if my wondering about the things happening for a reason dealh-bopper happened for -- oh never mind. ^_^

Yeah, like Elsewhere Jose, I was captivated by the spinning tire. That was quite an image.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 6:39:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

CANDACE: You do realize don't you, that if you had finished that sentence, I would have kept it going. Like a spinning tire after a wreck.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 9:35:00 PM PDT , Blogger Claire said...

Well done. I frequently ponder things like this. It took me a long time to figure out how to learn from mishaps and not be bitter about trauma in the past.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 at 9:40:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

CLAIRE: Like I always say, "I wouldn't mind the pain if it just didn't hurt so much." Confusion, in Latin, is "confundere," poured together. Learning is all about the blend.

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 5:13:00 AM PDT , Blogger Blue the Spa Girl said...

I was touched as a parent to read this, knowing all too well what that look was Gawpo Sr. gave to you kids. I have stopped to look, many many times. This one stuck with you, it stood out. But I don't doubt there were many times your parents revered their glorious brood.
I cringed reading that you flagged down a semi, by standing in the road.
I read that and in my mind put you in a safe place; not wanting anything awful to happen. Although the fact that you lived to write your blog was and is a huge indicator of your surviving.
You would have planted many seeds of goodness that grew and grew, from sitting in the car with your DAD and having a newly formed reverence for the "goodness of cops", to Gawpo the NOW; Blogger EXtrordinaire, and crime fighting deputy.
The Universe Knighted you, my friend. Sir Po~ you are awesome. I wish I had a tenth of your childhood memories. I remember not too much. xoxo

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 10:49:00 AM PDT , Anonymous Cameron said...

I can really relate to your accident story. On July 4, 2005, James and I were towing our Airstream trailer with a Chevy Suburban. A semi roared by just as we were cresting a hill. The trailer started fish-tailing and James couldn't pull it out, because precisely at that moment, a severe cross-wind blew by. These three factors converged to create the accident.

James managed to slow us down to 35 mph before we rolled, twice. I think this saved our lives.

Luckily, another semi driver behind us saw what was happening and kept the traffic from getting close.

Like your family, James and I emerged from the accident intact.

It wasn't our time to "go", I guess.

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 1:06:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Brooke said...

What a bittersweet story. A sad event bu what love and concern for his family your father showed. And by the way, if it makes you feel any better, I lived about a 4 to 6 hour drive from Seattle most of my life and have never eaten at the restaurant at the Space Needle, either.

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 2:10:00 PM PDT , Blogger Paul said...

Mr. P,

I meant to ask ...
The video clip about "you'll just have to wear your pants a little higher / come on the cadets are marching" is priceless. How did you find it? Were you aware of it from s"Remember what the chaplain said ..."

That clip is one of the best stories of "look at the good side" I think I've ever seen.

Isn't it amazing what's out there on YouTube? And to think it didn't exist a few years ago!

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 4:11:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Jackie said...

That's a great 'recounting', Gawpo. A little sad, but sweet. Life!

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 7:06:00 PM PDT , Blogger Gawpo said...

BLUE TSG: You KNOW that I am ticklish and yet you go for the underarms and belly every time! Pinchable cheeks forming dimples...

CAMERON: Oh my GOODNESS. James sounds like he had more presence of mind than most. Good for him. And good for you that you have him. I just have to throw this aside in here: YOU GUYS HAVE AN AIRSTREAM!!!! I have always wanted one. Okay, back to the substance...James did the absolute correct thing: bled off as much speed as he possibly could before facing total loss of control. I am sure you both appreciated each other another notch up on the appreciation ladder to total appreciation. That first semi must have produced vortices which, combined with the high crosswinds conspired to rock your world. Crap. That must have sucked. But look what it gave you. Not to mention the fact that it gave the second semi driver an opportunity to shine. Bless his heart. Thanks for the ponder, Cameron.

BWOOKIE: Let's go!!!! When you move back, we will grab Cindra and whoever else, dress to the 10s (because it's so high up, you see) and we'll just go!

PAUL: Funny thing is, I happened upon it totally by accident and it inspired the entire post. And I wasn't even on an inspiration hunt. But when I saw that one clip, I was bowled over. Like you. I couldn't tell you what it's from. But I played it over and over and over. I just can't get over that: Wear your pants a little bit higher. Problem solved. And that chaplain part---wow.

JACKIE: Sad and happy, yes. I talked to my mother today and she didn't remember the thing with the deer antler. Funny too what we remember.

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