Hello, Gentle Reader. Been a while since I blogged, and odds are you know why, but I’m gonna tell the story like you don’t, so you will just have to sit and listen with the rest of the kids.
On January 19th (that’s the day after my birthday, for those of you playing the Whiskeypants! Home Game™), I decided that I wanted a sandwich from Berkeley Bowl, where the sandwiches are sufficiently delicious that I was willing to brave one of the mid-level circles of Hell to get one. I picked up a few other things, hopped back on Clyde, my beloved motorcycle, and moseyed back home. I was enjoying the sunshine and the clear roads, taking it slowly because I hadn’t been out in a bit and wanted to enjoy it.
If you have never ridden a motorcycle, you might not realize how hyperaware bikers tend to be of their surroundings. That’s not to say we can’t be taken by surprise, but we are also intensely aware that death or severe bodily injury could come from any direction, and the best way to avoid it is to know what’s going on around us at all times. What we absolutely cannot be prepared for is the sheer cluelessness of the motorists around us.
So, when I noted a car coming from the opposite direction that was signaling a left turn, I could not know that: 1. When the driver slowed as I approached the intersection it was not because she saw me; 2. She wasn’t slowing to give me my right of way; 3. She was slowing for some other reason related to her turn.
Thinking she understood that there was oncoming traffic and that I did have the right of way, I entered the intersection. I was wrong; she also entered the intersection. Having corrected her initial turn, she sped right along into her left, and into me.
The map is not included for accuracy, but just to give you an idea of what happened. She hit me dead on. I couldn’t possibly recreate that angle accurately, but as you can see, the turn requires a funky angle to begin with. Her fender definitely connected with my left leg, however, and both my bike and I were flung quite a ways. The green pentagon represents where Clyde landed, more or less, and the yellow represents where I landed.
I went down screaming, body and head hitting the ground hard (were it not for my beloved Shoei helmet I might not be here to write this blog post, actually). I will spare you the details of how it felt. I will tell you that in the time spent waiting for the paramedics, I screamed, I wept, I begged for help, I asked how my motorcycle was [PRIORITIES], and I knew there was something horribly wrong with my leg. They finally got me out of the street and into Highland Hospital in Oakland, where treatment began.
I was several days in the hospital and one operation in before a decision was finally made (a decision I was and am 100% behind) to amputate my left leg below the knee. Basically, January 19 and one very careless driver managed to change my life forever. But I ain’t mad.
I got lucky. That accident could easily have killed me or left me with much more severe injuries and disabilities. In the past two weeks I have discovered that I have a veritable army of friends and family who are willing to step up in ways small and huge. I’m gonna have a badass prosthesis. And perhaps most importantly to my happiness, I can still ride motorcycles. In the mean time, I am learning how to function minus a left leg. I am learning just how annoying a phantom limb can be. I am learning how much my friends love and care for me. And, while it will in no way be easy, and it will take a lot to get me back to the point where I can really enjoy my life again, things are gonna be all right.
Insurance is not going to cover all of my medical expenses, nor all of the costs of the changes I will have to make in terms of lifestyle, living and transportation accommodations, and of course there will be myriad other expenses that will crop up as a matter of course. My friends have set up a fundraiser to help me and if you wouldn’t mind either donating or sharing (or both, if you are feeling wacky like that), I would appreciate it greatly. However, no obligation, Gentle Reader: I love you regardless.
In the mean time, as I heal, my stump is gonna make faces at you.
I’ve been staring at the title of this post for about 20 minutes, now, and it’s not working. It’s not writing this post for me. It’s not finding any words. It’s not bringing my much-loved, talented, brilliant, and complicated friend back to life. I would prefer, out of the listed options, the last one.
So I guess I’ll just start writing.
Sunday afternoon I returned home from the movie theater to see that a friend had posted to Facebook: “FUCK THAT.” Being generally in favor of such sentiments, I commented, “WORD.” But then I checked in privately, and was informed that Sparkly Devil, internationally renowned burlesque performer, journalist, and all-around fantastic person, was killed in an auto accident on Highway 101 Saturday night.
My righteous indignation about the Star Trek sequel disappeared.
When I first met Sparkly, I was appalled. She was loud, brash, fierce, socially intimidating to my not-so-inner introvert, who wanted to flee. But my friends adored her, and she kept coming to various social gatherings and I very quickly figured out why.
When people say somebody is “larger than life”, what they really mean is, “almost like Sparkly”. Her creativity was big. Her ability to enjoy herself in any given situation was big. Her love for her friends was gigantic. Her hugs were epic. Her ass apparently problematic. She could bruise you with the enthusiasm of a kiss, blow you away with her insight, make you fall over laughing with her sense of humor.
And that was sometimes before you even got in the door.
But it wasn’t until her wedding, to which I somehow got invited despite the fact that we were not yet close, that I realized what a caring, considerate, deeply emotional and thoughtful person she really was. And it was sitting in the audience for that wedding, watching her make her vows to Bones, that made me realize how fortunate I was to know this woman.
Some of it was just little things. The fact that I was invited in the first place. The fact that, because I had recently injured my knee, and despite the fact that we barely knew each other, she reserved a chair for me in the very limited seating available. The fact that she was patently thrilled that I was there.
Some of it was just her. Sparkly being Sparkly. Effusive, so in love with Bones, so in love with her friends and family, so in love with life. And that’s what it comes down to, with Sparkly. That’s a huge part of why her friends and family are and will remain in denial about the fact that she is no longer with us. She was in love with life.
It’s difficult not to love people like Sparkly. I think that we, as a species, tend to fall in love with people who are in love with life. Those people who seem bigger in some way.
But when somebody is larger than life, it’s easy to forget how relentlessly human they are.
And Sparkly was human. So very human. She experienced pain and disappointment like the rest of us. She made mistakes. She cried very human tears. She had very human needs. Sparkly wasn’t just larger than life. She lived her life, and experienced life, and was derailed by it just like the rest of us.
The difference for me was, when I grew bitter about life and wanted to tell life to fuck right off, Sparkly would publicly join me in my bitterfest and privately remind me that living life was worth the cost of…well, of living life.
Now life is apparently supposed to be lived without her. And I want her to publicly rage with me at the unfairness of this, and privately tell me that my friends and I are awesome and will totally get through this. I want her to be waiting with all of us for Bones to recover from the accident, I want to be able to hug her close. I want her to be there when he fully regains consciousness, because I can only imagine and dread the despair he will feel when he knows that she is gone.
The last time I saw her, we’d met for dinner. I got sick, and had to cut the dinner short. We were in the process of rescheduling, so we could hang out again, and she could give me advice on where to go in Puerto Vallarta later this year. I owed her either a drink or a bowl of mashed potatoes (look, what you do with your friends is none of my business). She told me she had faith in my ability to have fun regardless. I am going to try to live up to that. Sparkly knew fun.
RIP Sarah “Sparkly Devil” Klein. I love you.