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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Attack of the Killer Seatbelt

The Beast
This is the sixth segment of Reggae on the River, 2016, a blatantly transparent saga of drunkenness and debauchery, brought to you by someone once referred to by a close friend, as Winnie the Pooh.

The Attack of the Killer Seatbelt

Fine, describing Reggae on the River, 2016, in terms of “drunkenness and debauchery” may be stretching matters just a bit, simply because I avoid alcohol-religiously-when I am in this venue. Being more of a spiritual man, per se, I use the term “religiously” loosely. 

Alcohol is not my thing though Buddha knows, I enjoy a shot of Jameson over ice or a glass of anything red, now and again, especially if it is the very end of October and the Giants are in the Show.

October of 2014, was the last occasion I bought Jamie for personal consumption. I did buy a bottle of Jameson Reserved for a good friend, as the result of losing a bet. I was sure Brandon Belt was going to hit thirty home runs last season…

No, anyone who knows me, knows that when picking my poison of choice, it will be cannabis. Ironically, that which makes others high, keeps me grounded. This is very helpful when we are talking about being at a venue with thousands of others, such as ROTR.

Were I to isolate one specific concern for me, and one that cannabis helps me combat, it would be the feeling of claustrophobia. For me it’s not being trapped in a small elevator, stuck between floors, it is more of a feeling of being trapped by either people or situations, and then blowing them out of proportion in my head.

At ROTR 2015, I experienced an acute sense of euphoria by merely being able to inch my way through the celebrating crowd, in front of the main stage. This mass of benevolent humanity, all bent on the single purpose of reveling in the music, has always presented the biggest challenge for me.

I can’t be in the midst of people without getting panicky.

I have long since lost the ability to attend ballgames at AT&T Park. Rather, I can attend them successfully enough-I have the mental tools-I just do not enjoy myself. Sitting in the middle of 41,000 plus fans is terrifying for me.

I expend no energy trying to figure out why. It isn’t important. All I do is listen to myself when I raise clarifying questions. Theoretically, it is OK to talk to yourself, until such time as you start to respond to that “other” you.

It tends to make people around you nervous.
So OK, at 3 in the AM, I am not looking "on fire..."

Therefore, I confine the discussions to within the boundaries of my razor-sharp, cheese brain, and they are quite one-sided. I listen to the side of my brain that went through the cognitive behavioral therapy, and let it take the lead.

Surprises do not work well for me; the unexpected is certain to plunge me into the Twilight Zone. The problem is that my communication skills go out the window but others don’t know that.

Take that killer seatbelt the other day, in the back seat of Lito’s hill-truck. 
[Oh, a hill truck? It’s one that looks and sounds as though it has been through a tour-of-duty in the Middle East-maybe two.] There was no malicious intent on the part of the seatbelt; no, it was quite methodical.

The setting itself, the backseat of a truck-cab, provided a classic venue for technical difficulties. There were one or two items of inconsequence that already occupied the region, so there was a competitive air present to begin with:

There were backpack(s), boxes, shoes (big ‘uns), lots more shoes, flip-flops, a pen, lots of clothes, coffee cups, hoodies, glass bottles, aluminum cans, plastic wrappers, sleeping bags, tv sets, electric fans, AND a kitchen sink.

OK, I exaggerate. There were no pens that I saw.

I'm not going to say that Lito lives out of his truck; I'm just going to say that those who are less well-versed in these matters, might make the mistake of leaping to that conclusion.

Robin graciously made the offer to sit in the back if I wanted to ride shotgun.

Do it! Do it! Take her up on the offer! It’s a jungle back there and you’re no Tarzan.

Another one-sided conversation, only it was the wrong side talking. 

Make Robin sit in the back? Dude, I can’t do that-it’s against my principles.

Uh oh, unclear on the concept here.

“You’re not making her-she offered…”

“No way! I’m good.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I heard someone say. “Women don’t ride in the backseat while men ride in the front while I’m around.”

Oh. That person was me, obviously high on the shit. The situation was patently deadly. Everything was piled everywhere but I managed to carve out a niche by using a small stick of dynamite to urge some of the detritus to take up residence behind the passenger seat.

Being behind the big guy left my legs about as much room as there is in a half-pint Mason jar, crammed with an ounce of flower in it. Everyone knows a half-pint jar is perfect for fifteen grams, not twenty-nine.

Was I able to articulate this? Something that was readily apparent to me? Emphatically not.

Let me make this disclaimer right now: Lito had no idea. He would never have allowed me to be in an uncomfortable position, ever. If you know him, then you know what I’m sayin’/talkin’ about.

It’s just that I’m not a big guy, I did not want to make a fuss and I sure did not want to make Robin ride in the back. Unfortunately, I rolled up something too big to smoke by myself, but I tried anyway.

 I could not deal with the close nature of the situation.

What if I get a cramp? It’s just a matter of time, you know…

I felt my right hamstring. That’s it. I felt it nudge me, as if to say, “Oh yeah. I’m here.”

Tell them this isn’t going to work!

It was at this moment that the seatbelt attacked me. Coming down toward the bottom of the Bell, and recognizing that I had still to deal with being properly cinched in place for the journey on The 101, I reached down to the right and fished around down under the seat for the locking mechanism to the seatbelt. 

Fishing in deep waters in Lito’s truck is decidedly dangerous work, but after a few scary moments, I was able to extract the desired component to my continued safety.

Triumphantly, I grabbed the belt itself with my left hand, and attempted to pull it out and across my chest to cinch it in place. It traveled smoothly enough outward to a certain point and then it abruptly stopped. Yes, I could easily fasten it but would there be ENOUGH?

You know the drill-you let it all the way back and start again, this time slower, as if to acknowledge at the outset of the battle, that you are at the mercy of a force far greater than you.

The inevitable result is that you lose some of your gain. Immediately, the law of diminishing returns sets in.

Do I feel lucky today? Should I stay where I am, or try and extract another bit of seatbelt from the deep confines of its den?

After two more attempts, and two more losses, I want to punt. I give up and simply shove the mofo into its socket, effectively pinning my neck against the back of the seat.

Ack! (Only maybe it was not really “ack”)

Aside from the fact that I can’t breathe, this is kind of uncomfortable. Get me the ack out of here!

It gets worse.

In attempting to rearrange myself into a less restricted position, I had found that trying to reach back down with my right arm to undo the belt, did not work due to my reconstructed right shoulder having its own say in the matter.

Unfortunately, it remained mute, preferring to let pain be its spokesperson.

Trapped in this preposterous manner, embarrassed to have to ask for help, Lito actually had to pull over and stop to rescue me. Dignified. That’s me.

Ever the vigilant Responder, Lito, was up for the task.

Now! Tell him you need to swap with Robin! Open your mouth or forever hold your peace. Otherwise, you’ll wish you had a “piece,” all right, of a .22 caliber nature, to end it all.

But no, I stuck it out. And had so much fun I signed up for a repeat ride on the return trip home. 

This time, I lasted no more than a minute before I got overwhelmed with the belief that I could never make it home with my legs compressed in front of me, so I decided to withdraw them one at a time, and just twist myself ninety degrees, so that I could stretch them out over the seat, parallel to the backrest.

In theory it was possible; all I had to do was extend my legs up over the Matterhorn, which refused to compress even an inch with me on top of it, in order to nap.

It should have worked out OK, and it did, except for having my glasses slip off and end up under me, twisted into a similar spaghetti-like pattern, that the ACL of my left knee resembled, when I blew it out in 1991.

Spectacles do not respond well to being crushed.

That was not the worst of it. In trying to retrieve my glasses, I experienced technical difficulties with cramping stomach muscles.

Can you say ice pick?

Fast-forward to the present.

Over the last couple of days, I had ample opportunity to recognize how I could have solved the whole thing. I’m sure you have never experienced the sensation that you had the perfect comeback, after the fact.

I explained all of this to both Lito and Robin before we went up Tuesday, to continue setting up for the show. It was easy, now that I had been able to sort through it all.

I laid my cards out on the table, requiring a full deck to accomplish the task. 
Just look at that innocent face...

They got it, and I know they got it because Robin rode in the backseat on the way up to French’s Camp on Tuesday. She was more than happy to, just as I’d known all along.

Older people have issues that are hard to explain, sometimes, because we don’t always understand them ourselves. But I’d rather find a way to poke fun at myself, than find a way to make people feel bad for me. As long as I can pull a muscle laughing, I’ll feel it’s still all worth it.

BTW, there’s a warrant out for that killer seatbelt.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. "Older people have issues that are hard to explain, sometimes, because we don’t always understand them ourselves." - I might amend that to say "all people have issues.....ourselves". Lord knows I have plenty of issues and I am not even as old as you are! I try to deal with them but often that means putting them out of sight.
    Btw, maybe I missed something but why did you bother to put the seat belt on in the first place?

    1. To help ensure my safety. I have an important job to do, and she needs my support.