Trent Dilfer was mostly a back-up quarterback in the NFL. His one sparkling moment had to be, leading the Baltimore Ravens to a decisive 34-7 victory over the New York Giants, in Super Bowl XXXV.
Dilfer and I have never met. To my knowledge, we have never been in the same building at the same time nor have I ever bet on a game he participated in. Yet, this man most certainly saved my life.
DILFER HAD MORE DOWNS THAN UPS AS A PLAYER DURING HIS FOOTBALL CAREER, (1994-2007). TODAY, HE IS AN ARTICULATE ANALYST FOR ESPN.
For some reason, way before Mr. Dilfer saved me, I have had several brushes with death...definitely more than the average person. What makes it so odd is, I have never been a commercial fisherman, gone skydiving or worked as a riveter on hundred-story buildings. I have never needed an emergency blood transfusion, been pulled from a wreck by the jaws of life or had a condition that baffled medical science. That means, I am not a daredevil. It's nothing to brag about but I have always taken personal conservatism to extreme heights.
DESPITE TEN TRIPS TO NIAGARA FALLS, I'VE NEVER BEEN TEMPTED TO TAKE THE PLUNGE IN A BARREL. STILL, ALL MY CLOSE CALLS WITH DEATH SEEM TO BE RELATED TO MY OWN POOR JUDGEMENT.
The key to longevity is to limit your intake of fatty foods, avoid taking a bath with your toaster and steer clear of dirty hypodermics and dirty women.
I SAVED MY OWN LIFE WHEN I LIVED ON THE CORNER OF SKIDMARK AND SYRINGE. THAT'S WHEN I DODGED PTOMAINE MARY, a.k.a. NURSE RATCHET AND I MADE THE FORTUITOUS LIFE CHANGE BY SWITCHING TO "HEROIN LITE."
The earliest threat to my longevity took place in the summer of 1959, at the Irvington Hotel, in South Fallsburg New York. UNLESS YOUR PARENTS WERE IMMIGRANTS, IT IS FAR WORSE TO DIE FROM THE EMBARRASSMENT OF WEARING BLACK SOCKS UNDER WHITE, PLASTIC SANDALS...THAN DROWNING.
At the Irvington, I wandered away from my folks and went to the closed swimming pool. I tried to reach a seal-shaped inflatable tube in the deep end and fell in. An anonymous passerby witnessed the incident and pulled me out. Too bad he wasn't around to save me from the brow-beating I received from mom.
YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR KID. SOMETIMES IT'S OKAY TO RISK A CHILD'S DIGNITY AND FUTURE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS WITH A KIDDIE-LEASH.
The next time I tempted fate was in 1974. While canoeing along the border of New York and Pennsylvania, (on the Delaware Water Gap near Skinner's Falls), I was indirectly hit by lightning. Today, I can still feel the surge of electrifying pain that zapped every nerve in my body.
Along the strange path of life, I've been in several car accidents...we all have. I have walked away from every one of mine but on closer examination, it's not hard to imagine how my quality of life could have suffered if not for the grace of a couple of inches.
One of those collisions came outside Vegas' Hilton International Casino, in 1979. Almost at the same time that a red light turned green, I was rear-ended by a guy going fifty. It was just a matter of luck that I had taken my foot off the brake a split second before impact. My little Mazda was pushed through the intersection and I was spared a fiery death when my full gas tank ruptured and didn't explode.
Two months earlier, I was side-swiped near the Sahara Avenue off-ramp on Interstate-15. I lost control, hit a streetlight pole on the right shoulder, did a 180 and wound up facing oncoming traffic in the middle lane. I broke my left hand but lived to a see another day...which was more than I could say about my Ford station wagon.
On New Year's Eve 1979, Hersh Schtiermann, my seventy-year old, Jimmy Hoffa-like casino supervisor, picked a chair up over his head. This seat was so heavy that most of the staff thought it was bolted to the floor. Mr. Hercules swung it like a baseball bat and tried to hit me over the head with it. You may be familiar with this because it appeared in length, in two previous blogs as well as in my short story, "RIDEOUT, WHITE-OUT AND RIGHT OUT."
Schtiermann quit that day. We didn't cross paths again until a year later. At first he was cordial. Then while squeezing the life out of my arm, he angrily whispered, "Kid, I cudda made your life a lot easier. Instead you gotta be a f*****g wise-guy." When I didn't respond, his ridiculous temper exploded. His wife tried to calm him down. She pulled him away from me. After a profanity laced insult fest, he screamed his parting shot, "You have no idea how close you came to the kiss of death!"
Another close call came a year later. That's when a Las Vegas police officer put a gun to my head at a routine traffic stop. In retrospect, I don't think he was being overly cautious. I believe he was a shallow jerk getting his jollies off at my expense while making the point...that I shouldn't have reached so quickly for my credentials in the glove compartment. Whether I was in real danger or not is secondary to the fact that I was lucky my continence held up.
In 1984, I hit a patch of black ice just west of Pecos Texas and flew off the road. On the snowy shoulder, I somehow got enough traction to stop...a foot or so from a jagged mountain wall.
THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN IN MY CHEVY MONTE CARLO, ON INTERSTATE-10, A HALF HOUR BEFORE OUR DATE WITH A MOUNTAINSIDE AND DESTINY.
Two miles from home in 1990, me and my Chevy Corsica survived another bout with an icy road. I was doing about forty and went into a skid. My car veered directly towards a telephone pole. In panic-mode, I jammed on the brakes, turned the wheel hard to the left, closed my eyes and prepared to kiss my ass good-bye. At the last second, my car jerked to the left. It made a seemingly impossible 90 degree turn, crossed the road, drove through a hedge and came to a stop on some one's front lawn.
My most narrow escape from the grim reaper occurred when we first moved to New Jersey in 1985. In a perfect storm of ignorance and stupidity as well as my first experience with a fireplace, I bought one of those romantic, ninety-nine cent, easy-light Dura-Flame logs. When the embers started fading and the mood struck us, I shut the flue before adjourning to the boudoir. Later, kismet led me to the kitchen for a snack. To my shock, when I opened the door, the living room was filled with thick black smoke...I guess you can say the lure of Entemann's saved us from being asphyxiated in our sleep.
AFTER DUNKING MY CHOCOLATE DOUGHNUT IN SKIM MILK, I TOLD THE REAPER WHAT HE COULD DO WITH HIS EVIL SCYTHE AND ADDED, "I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOU OR YOUR BONY BUTT FOR AT LEAST 50 YEARS."
A far more gruesome close call came from the always reliable, drunken boating incident. In 1980, under the influence, I fell out of the back of a rented speedboat. The idiot driver, who was a moron even when he was sober, made a u-turn to rescue me. Like a beached whale, three friends hauled me back in the boat, unscathed. Later, I was still laughing when I was informed that the genius steered directly over where I fell in, BEFORE cutting the motor.
TO QUOTE MY BUDDY STUW, "A BEER AT THE BEACH IS WORTH TWO IN THE HOUSE." ON WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY LAST DAY IN ONE PIECE, IT WAS 112 DEGREES ON LAKE MEADE. WE WERE DRINKING ICY GIN AND LEMONADE...IN THE BROILING SUN. IT WENT DOWN LIKE CANDY BUT PACKED A POWERFUL WALLOP. THAT'S WHEN A MENTAL MIDGET FROM NEBRASKA NAMED TIGHE, NEARLY SLICED AND DICED ME TO SHREDS.
My last brush with death occurred on Sunday January 28, 2001, in the adjoining town of Smithville. With a little research, I could tell you the exact second I almost met my demise...or at least got permanently demobilized by brain damage. Please bear in mind, the names have been changed to protect the GUILTY!
A friend and his wife invited my son Andrew and I to a lavish Super Bowl party in their custom home. This event included a birthday party downstairs for one of their kids so I would estimate that there were a hundred guests. While mingling, I counted six separate TV's as I took a self-guided tour of the cool nooks and crannies of this unique home.
This game pitted the New York Giants versus the virtually unknown, Baltimore Ravens. Ninety-eight percent of the gathering had either bet on the Giants or were rooting them. That left me and some sloppy drunk, forty-something, valley-girl from Timonium Maryland as the only folks pulling for the Ravens.
In a combination of getting away from the hostile, pro-Giants crowd and finding a seat, I wandered into a two-story atrium-like alcove off the dining room. It was a cozy spot highlighted by a southwestern/greenhouse theme. In front of a little TV, surrounded by plants and flowers, I plopped down on the only chair in the room. To make my Eden-like situation even better, during the early part of the game, I had private access to a banquet table full of delicacies. Even when others discovered my hide-away, they were forced to stand or sit on the spiral staircase that led to a bedroom loft area.
The game was still scoreless when our tipsy hostess, inexplicably decided to water these plants. She probably would have gone unnoticed if she hadn't unearthed the couple sitting on the steps of the winding staircase. On her way up, we all lost focus on the game when she misstepped and almost fell.
A few minutes later, I stood up to get a food refill as Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer dropped back to throw. He arched a long bomb and I stopped to watch. When the receiver caught the touchdown pass, I cheered and took an instinctual step, closer to the TV. While celebrating, I felt a breeze on the back of my neck and heard a nearly simultaneous crash. In the exact spot I had vacated, a huge barrel cactus and what was left of the heavy, earthenware pot it was in, lay splattered on the terracotta, ceramic floor.
AN EARLY NATIVE AMERICAN MISSILE. WHEN THIS AERIAL WEAPON IS DROPPED FROM ABOVE...WITH OR WITHOUT A STOUT BARREL CACTUS INSIDE, IT CAN BE LETHAL.
Curiosity seekers flooded into the room. I looked up and saw the hostess. She had a watering can in one hand and the other was over her mouth. I was in shock and couldn't figure out if she was embarrassed or laughing. Finally she said, "I was watering...and...oops...and...are you okay?"
People were tending the mess as she came down. At ground-zero, the ceramic tile was smashed with countless spider cracks going in every direction. My friend's wife ignored me as she was surrounded by her supportive lady friends. When the valley-girl handed her a can of Heineken, the hostess never looked my way again. She was then ushered away. On her way out of the room, the hostess picked out a large pottery shard from the trash and announced to her cronies, "I bought this at the Hopi reservation in Arizona."
I never got a sincere apology. The hostess was so blitzed that she probably forgot about me ten seconds after she came down from the loft. So I have to put that drunk out of my mind and concentrate on the fact that Trent Dilfer saved my life. Hopefully, my savior will validate my feelings and acknowledge my appreciation when the Google Alert leads him to reading this blog.