Last week I proposed we should question the widely held assumption that we cannot kill the entire planet. This week I wish to start down the path of explaining my reasons for believing we can do, and , in fact, are doing, exactly that:
To make my points best, though, I think I should tell you a bit more of the history of Pann and I. The time we were wanting for water wasn’t the only story I have of Pann and I on interesting adventures. In fact, over the years we’d developed a kind of running joke about my trying to kill him in a variety of ways. The thirst thing was only the most serious effort. But, in the end, he was to succeed all by himself. But, again, that story in due time.
While still in college we both rode motorcycles, I a Yamaha 650 and he a smaller Honda 250. One of our first adventures together revolved around a planned week long bike trip down California’s Central Valley from Davis and back up the coast home.
I’ve always been a bit of a paranoid type, and the few months just prior to our ride had fed directly into my pattern of self-induced fear of ways things might go wrong: For several months in the year before the trip there had been a serial rapist breaking into houses in the Davis/Sacramento area and attacking the residents. Only a few weeks before our outing someone had shot and killed a couple in their sleeping bags while camping along the California coast. I owned a snub-nosed 38 special and routinely carried it with me when camping out, which was our plan. Better prepared than a headline in tomorrow’s news, I figured. So I brought the gun along.I shared this fact with Pann as we unrolled our bags that first night, but I’m not sure he was reassured. He always said later that he never went to the bathroom for fear of being shot by “the guy with the gun under his pillow.” His paranoia ran on a different track than mine, I guess.
But that wasn’t the start of the “trying to kill him” mythology, as he never stirred, so far as I noticed, any evening after we bedded down the whole trip, and I never even had a clear shot at him. On the third day, though, the trip was cut short when we had an accident. Well, actually, Pann did.
We had been enjoying the twisty roads near the Big Trees campground in the Santa Cruz mountains, really hitting the curves fast and laying the bikes over in that rush only invulnerable youth fully appreciates.
Having the bigger bike with greater acceleration, I would frequently dart around a slower moving vehicle alone and then wait for Pann to get a stretch of road clear enough in front of him to do the same and catch up. It’s a standard routine for tandem travel and I’m pretty sure Pann knew it well.
But the pressure of trying to catch up apparently drove him to try to pass an r.v. when there actually wasn’t enough room. Luckily the road was clear, but he wasn’t able to slow his bike back down enough to negotiate the upcoming curve. He dropped it in the gravel on the shoulder and tore up his knee.
The first I knew of a problem was when the r.v.’s driver, who’d caught up with me as I stopped, wondering where Pann was, told me with a mocking sneer of satisfaction on his face, “Your buddy lost control of his motorcycle back there.”
I doubled back at top speed to find Pann upright atop his fallen bike nursing a badly bleeding knee through torn jeans. A passing motorist stopped and told us of a nearby hospital. I delivered Pann on my bike to the E.R. myself. But even my role as instigator in getting him to try too hard wasn’t what actually started the stories of my evil intentions to do Pann in on our little outings.
Later, while still at the hospital, I learned of one of Pann’s most peculiar and endearing characteristics: he had one of the most squeamish stomachs of any man I ever met. Although he’d dealt well with the emergency, the mere thought of human blood could, under less stressful circumstances, literally make him faint. More than once I’ve seen him blanch and turn his back quickly away from something only slightly gory to avoid passing out.
After emergency surgery to repair his torn ligaments around the patella, he was sitting in recovery with a bandage over his kneecap and a hospital gown to provide limited modesty. By then our wives had come to our rescue. I, being totally unaffected by a little thing like exposed cartilage, wanted a peek at the sutures.
As I approached, my helmet in hand, his discomfort at the very thought became evident on his face and he moved to stop my reaching for the dressing. Unfortunately for him, the movement dislodged my helmet, which bounced off his knee with an audible thump as he bellowed in surprise and pain.
From then on the story was always about the time I dropped my helmet on Pann’s knee.
On another occasion, Pann and his Canadian girlfriend came down to Florence, Oregon, where I was visiting my dad, who was living at my sister’s house. I had some pretty good weed on me and talked Pann into going to a remote beach in the area to enjoy the ocean stoned. For who knows what reason, the girls didn’t want to join us, so we went alone.
We had to cross a little creek to find a good remote place where we were confident we could smoke without bringing disrepute down on the family, but we lit up in good time to watch the sunset. Here the misfortune lay in having crossed water, the lateness of the hour, and Pann’s wimpishness.
Pann hadn’t done dope in years, and this stuff was pretty potent. We’d hardly taken two-well, maybe three- hits before Pann realized he’d had too much.
“Oh,” he exclaimed as he rose and began staggering toward the surf. Clearly hallucinating, something I’d never seen in someone on nothing stronger than marijuana, he took three steps toward the ocean and dove face first into the sand, embracing the beach with both arms.
As he muttered incomprehensible vowel sounds, I tried to check his condition, even worried enough at one point to feel for irregularity in his pulse. Later he explained that he had thought he’d gone about fifteen yards toward the ocean and then became fearful of falling off the Earth. I missed all that action, though, for I quickly became preoccupied with how the hell I was going to get him out of there.
I was pretty stoned, too, so I didn’t relish calling anyone for help-especially not anyone in authority . I probably wouldn’t be able to get across the creek lugging him. I wasn’t totally convinced I could even get him up out of the sand, which he kept burrowing into like a rabbit each time I touched him. It was getting dark and I really hadn’t paid much attention to what to expect when the tide came in. Luckily an almost full moon rose shortly after sunset, since we didn’t have flashlights.
About two hours later, Pann sort of came to his senses and we retreated slowly without major incident, my keeping him upright most of the way. I never quite saw how that was all, or even largely, my fault. But it inevitably became another attempt on my part to try to kill him.
The things I got blamed for.
Anyway, although it seemed we often had close calls, we always escaped serious consequence.
To be continued (next time Pann’s passing). . .