Fourteen Years Ago Today

Originally posted September 24, 2009

Ten years ago today, at this hour (2:06 am, EDT), I was enjoying time on a gorgeous 70 foot sportfish yacht, docked at Trump Marina in Atlantic City, NJ. After we arrived from Montauk, NY in pretty turbulent seas (9 foot swells as we left Montauk Harbour) the captain and first mate decided that winning several thousand dollars at Black Jack on AC's main strip was simply not enough. While they ventured into Trump Tower to play with their winnings, I remained on the "Angela Z", enjoying the luxury of such an impressive vessel by myself.

By 4:30 am "Captain Jerry" and First Mate, Mike returned to the boat in an agitated state, having lost ALL of their winnings from earlier. Jerry and Mike lifted the floor in the galley and proceeded to check fuel and oil levels. I suddenly discovered that the thought I had about actually going to sleep was just not going to happen. Captain Jerry decided he wanted to leave "Now." It was approaching 5:00am or so before we were ready to navigate out of the harbour and around the jetty, but it was PITCH BLACK! I quickly learned that the only way to do this is for one chump to stand on the bridge with a high powered flash light, in search of the numbered markers leading out of the waterway to the sea. I was that designated chump; the non-mariner. one of three souls on the vessel.

By the time we reached open ocean it must have been the other side of 5:30am, perhaps later. Soon we were well underway and the seas seemed moderately choppy. Suddenly the anchor cover flew open from the boat having pitched so hard, that Captain Jerry had to go out on the bow and secure it, as it was clacking around, rather out of control. It was--to say the least--frightening to observe him trying to execute this task while the boat was pitching (moving up and down, from front to back--as I later learned) madly, and his footing seemed to me precarious at best.

Following that, still in darkness, we all retreated to the relative safety of the bridge. The bench behind the dash housed us all amply, while the bench seat in front of the dash could have seated ten.

We sat with our feet on the dash, watching for waves coming perpendicular to the bow. These were quickly increasing to five foot waves breaking on the hull. Mike would say, "HERE COMES A BIG ONE!!!!!" and we would brace ourselves with our feet on the dash and "post," much in the same way that one would do in riding a horse.

Morning light started to seep into the picture to reveal an overcast sky. Personally I was disappointed, as I was awaiting a brilliant sunrise to capture on film. (Yes, film. Pentax K1000, 35 mm, FILM)

This banter with the sea from the perspective of the bridge of The Angela Z went on for a couple of hours. We were the only vessel in sight. No fishermen, no tankers, no canoes... (yes, I know canoes would never go there).

By now the entire exposed area of the boat, from bow to stern, was wet, as the waves were breaking and spraying everywhere. Were it not for the zip on windshield we would have been soaked too.

Now in this overcast daylight somewhere around 7:30am ( I think) I REALLY needed to use the bathroom. Capt. Jerry told me he would "slow down the boat" for me. Wearing Keds wasn't going to help me much in climbing down that ladder, walking to the opposite side of that stern to get in the cabin if we kept moving at that clip!

Finally in the cabin safely I first noticed a bizarre sight: the double-sided refrigerator had jumped away from the wall and was standing nearly two feet from where it had been earlier.

Not being a mariner, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I thought, "Weird. That's what happens to big appliances on a boat?" I just thought that was par for the course. Who knew?

I dropped my camera on the couch in the "salon" (apparently that's what we're supposed to call the "living room" on a luxury boat the size of a house) and went into "the head" (the bathroom).

As I was coming out I saw Jerry rummaging around in the entertainment wall for something. Thinking it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shoot film in the middle of the ocean (what would I see?) I decided I needed another roll of film, as the one in the camera was spent.

I took the camera into the "state room" (bedroom) forward of mid-ship where my luggage was. Little did I know, by then, Mike had been granted permission to increase the throttle back to the speed we had been traveling at earlier.

After loading the camera I proceeded to drop the roll of used film into my luggage, which was open, on the floor. I stood over the soft suitcase in a tennis stance and dropped the roll of film straight down.

Suddenly--REALLY suddenly--the boat apparently went over a huge wave, climbing up its steep slope with great speed and force. The response to that was the dropping of the vessel into the wave's subsequent trough, even more quickly. With that, I actually remained--like Wile E. Coyote--in the place where I had been, except now, the "deck" (floor) of the boat had dropped from the soles of my feet, leaving me three feet above it.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so of course, the boat had to return, while I had to comply with gravity and descend to meet it. I remember hearing something as loud as a gunshot, which I think was the boat hitting the surface of the water at the wave's trough. Following that, of course I had to meet up with the deck again while it was fast ascending to meet me. At the point of impact I saw-- in my mind's eye--my right shin, from about one-third up from my ankle joint, suddenly move to a 45 degree angle, turning inward toward the left leg. I remained standing.

There was quite a loud "crunch" sound from inside my body to my ears...somehow.

Being a little stubborn, even though I could see in my mind's eye that my right leg was in serious trouble, I decided, "That did NOT just happen. Now I'm going to stand up." With that I touched my right big toe to the floor and promptly screamed BLOODY MURDER!

Thankfully Jerry was still in the salon, as the intercom from the bridge to the cabin was not functioning. Who knew there was an intercom anyway and how would I have gotten to it?

Jerry ran in. I asked him to help me to the floor. He ran up and told Mike to drop anchor. He proceeded to make a May Day call to the Coast Guard, then broke the cutting board in half and splnted me to it.

Always the "take charge" person in a moment of crisis as a teacher, I instructed him to get me two Advils "for the swelling." HA! The SWELLING? I was a little delusional and perhaps going into shock, or so they say.

After about ten minutes lying on the floor I started to feel as though my back wouldn't let me wiggle around at all. Suddenly more pain started creeping in.

About thirty minutes later, a helicopter seemed to be getting increasingly closer until it was quite loud and obviously over head. And then, there were FOUR souls on the boat. "Hi. My name is Dave. What's your name?" "Hi Dave, I'm Anita. (smile) Thanks for 'dropping in'!!" I said as I laughed at the easy pun. "This is Jerry and this is Mike!" (smile)

Dave took about 30 minutes to pack me up on a stretcher (no basket). I informed him that I needed him to pack up my belongings, knowing I would not return to the boat. So, he did.

Now Dave an Jerry picked up the stretcher and I said, "Wait. You guys have to put me like this...(demonstrating angle with my forearm) THEN put me through the doorway and then like this, cuz I can't tolerate it if you put me this way...(further demonstration with forearm)"

Dave and Jerry looked around at the narrow threshold and Dave said, "She's right."

She's right? OF COURSE SHE'S RIGHT!!! She has observed and supervised the moving of FAR too many vertical pianos for her NOT to be right! Same concept.

Soon I was hooked up to the helicopter and flying solo (sola?) vertically to greet a RED helicopter against a now perfectly azure sky with no clouds. I may have been strapped to a stretcher, but I still needed to see the boat from up there and just look down BECAUSE! That's all. Just BECAUSE!

As I started to try to peek over the side I suddenly realized I was taking my life into my hands as the stretcher started to behave erratically. The inner dialogue went something like, "Anita, you're strapped to this stretcher. Your hands are not going to get free without help. If you FALL you're dead. Just relax and lie flat."

Now the red helicopter was getting bigger, and bigger, REALLY fast. JUST when I thought I was going to slam my face on its belly, a guy holding onto a railing leaned out an SLAMMED his foot on the side of it and stopped it from moving. OUUUUUUUUCH!!!!!! Just jarred, but WOA! Now there are TWO guys! The two of them heave my dead weight into the chopper. A few minutes comes Dave! He has ALL my luggage! "Thanks Dave! Where's Jerry?" "He has to drive the boat into Cape May Coast Guard Station."

Then I started to freak out. I'm being flown to a hospital by four men I never met and there won't be a single soul I know in the building OR in the town. More than the leg, that was the scariest prospect for me; being alone in a hospital with a serious problem to deal with. Suddenly I started to realize that I had nobody I knew and trusted along side of me. With that, I started to cry and freak out. My mouth was now bone dry. Just dying for some water. "Why won't the give me any water?" I thought. With that, the pilot turned around to me, lifted the helmet shield from over his face, looked straight at me and smiled. He was THEEEEEE most gorgeous man I have EVER seen in my life!!!!! And I just CHILLED! HA! Just like that! WOA DUDE! He handed me his Gatorade and told me not to take a big sip, but just to put some in my mouth and swish it around. So I said, "OK" (smile) just check out the helicopter Anita and realize "You're in a US Coast Guard Helicopter!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!!!!!!"

So, at the time I actually thought...cast...home. No problem. Little did I know that my right tibia (shin bone) AND fibula (smaller outer bone) were shattered--not fractured but shattered--and that vertebra L3 had been compressed/fractured. I had NO idea I would be living in my parent's living room for the next three months, and that I would be VERY lucky if I got home for New Years' Eve 1999, and even luckier that Tony Kadleck would actually take me to the grocery store before his gig that day and wait on me hand and foot until the groceries were put away, and even luckier that I could drive myself to the local pub, use only one crutch and manage to sit at the bar to ring in the New Year. Lucky. And lucky, VERY lucky to not only NOT be paralyzed from the waist down, but to be walking, jogging, wearing heels, wearing skirts, NOT wearing orthodics or funny shoes and both lucky and grateful that the whole thing happened at all. For as I was riding on the bridge out of Montauk Yacht Club, I was writing music, trying to notate the sound of the infrequent nine-foot swells, hissing and cutting on the side of the hull with the lighthouse off to my right in the distance.

Those sketches later became the upside down trombone pyramids leading to the climax of "27 EAST" while other sketches became the bass line of the funk shuffle of "Shifting Tides of Montauk."

The CD itself was financed by the eventual settlement from this episode, following payment of exorbitant hospital bills for my seven-day stay at Atlantic City Medical Center's Trauma Ward.

Arriving at that location was truly congruous with a scene out of ER. I had to laugh. "Surely this is not THAT serious!" I thought. And all the while poor Dave is running along side of my gurney on wheels, shouting (and I mean SHOUTING) my stats and carrying my suitcase.

My wardrobe for the day consisted of brand new Victoria's Secret black capri leggings under Jerry's jeans (it was FREEZING on the boat) and the matching set's black tee shirt under Jerry's very cool, embroidered, button down fishing shirt. Making my appearance in the trauma ward, a man in a white coat with an unfamiliar accent for which he rolls his r's in an exaggerated fashion peered over my face and said loudly, "Meeeeeezzz Brrrrrown. We arrrrre going to cut yourrrrrr clotheszzzz offffff!!"

I replied, "YOU!! WILL!!!! NOT!!!!!!"

I proceeded to instruct the nurse, who was not only smiling at me but surely laughing that someone gave it back to this guy, as to how to assist me in removing the clothing, although I gave her permission to cut Jerry's jeans. No great loss for me! I still own all the other articles of clothing, believe it or not.

A while later my brother arrived on the scene. Some time after that both my parents arrived.

I refused to sign any consent for surgery until they arrived, a decision I know now was not in the best interest of my healing, but it was what I felt I had to do if I was to be put under anesthesia. I refused on the basis of the dangers of surgery without any "next of kin" in the house. See Tony? That's why I showed up for your appendix thing. My fears. That's all.

On September 25th, Mom's birthday (the day after this fiasco, also my cousin Leah's birthday)I went in for surgery early in the morning. They inserted a rod in the "tibia" (shin bone) and four screws; two at the inside of the ankle and two at the inside of the knee area.

Recovery was a challenge, but honestly, the first time I was able to sit up in a wheel chair for any length of time at all without being in excruciating pain was one day when Mom said, "There's a Yankees game on. Do you want to try to watch some of it?" SO I said yes. I got into my chair and propped myself in front of the TV. Clemens was pitching. It was the first time I had REALLY paid attention to a pitcher. I was riveted to his concentration. Riveted to that drive, the will to succeed, the focus, confidence and the fact that he's just too damn handsome helped too. I had no pain for the duration of that game. Mom said nothing til it was over. I hadn't noticed I'd been in the chair for at least three hours. Following that, I kept track of the Yanks' schedule and got into that chair for every game remaining through the World Series, and with no pain. Then I said, "If Jeter can do that (stop in mid-air, change direction, pirhouette and make ridiculous plays) then I can walk by Christmas." And I did. And that's why this Mostly Massachusetts Girl is a true, die-hard Yankees fan. Percocet and codeine are OK, but the Yankees rule!

I will be forever grateful for the daily phone calls during that time from Tony Kadleck and Maria Schneider. Mom and Maria got to know each other quite well over the phone. I will never forget Maria coming to my parents' place with two dozen long-stemmed white & yellow roses, and proceeding to wash my hair for me in the kitchen sink. I am also grateful to all the assistance, visits and calls from Evan Barker (and the subsequent grocery shopping oustings), Tim Horner, Janice Friedman, Glenn Drewes, Joe Mosello and Miles Evans, and of course my parents, to name a few.

It turned out that the best physical therapist in the world was my nephew, Alexander "Woody" Brown, who turns eleven this November 10th. As I began trying to walk "again," he was learning to walk for the first time! He and I would go down to the ground floor of my parent's building where there is a long corridor. We walked it's length and he would say, " 'GAIN!" (again, without the first syllable). So, I had to walk the length AGAIN! And a little faster. And AGAIN...a little faster.

Well, here I am and it's almost 4:00am. That hour when, ten years ago this moment, Jerry & Mike came back from the casino having lost all the money. Why did they want to leave in such a hurry? I always wondered. Alas, it turns out...the money they lost? It was the boat owner's. AHHHHHHH!!! AND...for the fact that we pulled into Trump Marina at 10:30pm on 9/23/99, the Dock Master was already gone for the night, not scheduled to return until 6:00am on 9/24/99. OHHH!!! So if we left before see...we don't pay the dock fee!!!

In the liner notes of my CD it does, in fact, say "...and thanks to The Atlantic Ocean, my benefactor." Yes, I know what a benefactor is. And it is ultimately The Atlantic Ocean that financed "27 EAST." Pick up your copy today!!!!!!!!!!

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