Friday, October 05, 2007


Do you believe in angels?

Who really knows? But I awoke this morning with an idea for this post, to tell the stories when something seemed to help me through a tight squeeze, possibly death.

I was a little kid. Don't remember exactly how old, but very young. My mother had gone into the local corner drug-and-everything store and I finessed my way out the door and ran across the street. Screeching tires. I had run directly in front of an oncoming car and thanks to the angellic? fast reflexes of the driver, whose child hit the dashboard hard enough to bleed, I was spared. Punished, oh yes, but spared.

When I plugged the tweezers into the ac outlet, Mrs. Graham, my babysitter darn near had a heart attack. The angel? fuse blew, maybe saving me.

My mother was driving back from her brother's house with my Dad sitting shotgun while I was in the back seat. I was little, but not too little to wake up and see that my mother was swerving and driving on the opposing lanes at the time. This was the 50s, late at night, and who knows what combo of pills and booze and angels? were responsible for a safe passage?

My father, who rarely did anything with me, was cajoled into taking me 'deep sea fishing' on a party boat off Ocean City, NJ. It was a foggy, rainy day offshore, matching his mood. We couldn't see but maybe 50 yards. We heard a fog horn grow closer. Finally, the captain of the fishing boat decided to move the boat in a 180 turn from where we had anchored. Then, through the thick fog, we could see the freighter which was travelling way too fast for conditions and would have sunk us if we hadn't moved. The fog horn would have once again been the sound of ghosts. Was an angel whispering into the cap'n's ear?

All good teens share a fascination with explosives. Back then, a simpler time, even the Gilbert Chemistry Set came complete with the ingredients for gunpowder, although not for MUCH gunpowder. But you could buy sulfur and powdered charcoal and potassium nitrate at the drug store (who knew WHY) and that led to many 'experiments.' In one surprise, I was standing no more than 8 feet from a 'flare' burning into a hole drilled into a 2x4 by my next door neighbor Pete, who put fast burning stuff under the slow burning stuff. When it blew up, it was the loudest thing I had been near up to that point in my life. And even though the 2x4 was GONE - just splintered, we were untouched (except by an angel's wing?)

My cousin dated a muscled lifeguard. Maybe as a way to get closer to her, he 'adopted' me as a mascot. I think I was 12. It was a far more innocent time than today. He took Barbara and me bowling. I bowled the best game of my life and beat him soundly, further cementing the relationship. For once I was a cool kid! On another trip to the lanes, without Barb, instead, his brother and I as passengers in the old '53? Merc (way cool), we ran through a deep puddle on the only road on the island where you could drive 50 (or...more.) At the first traffic light, the brakes were gone. Pedal pumping to the floorboard, honking continuously, we sailed through the intersection. There may have been an angel on the corner directing cross traffic.

On a rented Vespa 50cc, I was chased - tailgated, really, by a looming dump truck. The fields of Valley Forge shot by - I had it wide open downhill but the guy wouldn't back off, honking his airborne. The ghosts of revolutionary war soldiers might have called an angel to ride with me. Somehow I got away.

Snagging a ride home from school with a station wagon full of classmates - rich kids (not me) mostly, from the private prep school I attended, I had the rear seat facing backwards. They all would scream and then the car would do a 360 on the snowy road. Over and over. In the blur, when I was facing forward in the spin, I may have seen an angel. Really couldn't see much - probably my eyes were shut.

There are 3 times I remember driving when I clearly shouldn't have done so - in my twenties. On one of these I followed the red tail lights ahead of me for 15 miles up the turnpike. I figured if I kept them centered I'd be on the road. I couldn't see the angel in the dark, but that was stupid and highly dangerous, and yet, here I am.

On a flight to a wedding, the airline diverted us to Pittsburgh, where the landing was so rough I actually thought 'this was the end.' The flight attendant began to cry. Maybe an angel was co-pilot.

I learned to fly, and as a pilot had several close calls. VERY l o n g landings. A bad 'landing'/bounce on the nosewheel; a close encounter or two with other planes. Angels in the clouds?

Flying a friend's Ultralight Jetwing (the name is a clue) I was out of control from the moment of takeoff. My mind went: "If you get scared, you'll die - figure out what to do." Down was to my right, and I wasn't that far up - or sideways down. Angel?

You never know about the unseen close calls - the "if he had left one second later"s of life; the almosts untold and unknown. We are spared. That's all we know until we don't, and then we find out if angels are real.

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