The fact that I am in a place as nearly perfect for me as perfect can be in this world, and in the best time of my life, does not prevent me from complaining about this or that detail. The pizza delivery guys screaming through the streets on motorcycles here are more than a detail, however.
One of the two important ongoing projects of my life has been trying to stay alive. The other project involves having the personal experience of this or that activity that could maim or kill me. The trick has been in the proper balancing of the two, which so far I have pulled off. Obviously.
For the most part, weird as it may sound, the project of trying to stay alive has consisted entirely of my jumping out of the path of things animate--or inanimate suddenly become animate--that come at me bent on my destruction. Large animals. Rolling rocks. Falling trees. Machines large and not so large. Crazed, mutant, loutish human beings whom I somehow managed to offend. The list goes on. The existential task set out for me by the cosmos seems to be the straightforward one of getting out of the way quickly.
The most graphic example of that about which I speak. In the summer of 1971 I was a 24-year-old Infantry Company Exective Officer. I was participating in a joint training exercise out in the bush around Baumholder, Germany, with those armored lunatics for whom, frankly, I had no time whatsoever even before this incident. Why the hell I was out there instead of off somewhere with my feet up doing the plush duty that is normally the province of a Company Executive Officer I do not remember.
My Company Commander, the radio man, and I had dismounted from the command track and were trudging up a hill loaded down with the cumbersome accoutrements of the trade. Troops of two of the rifle platoons had dismounted their APCs and were fanned out in the distance to the right and left, hiking along, too. There was a tank, an M60A1, further up the hill just ahead of us.
With no warning of any sort and for reasons that I never understood, the kid operating that tank lost control of it just shy of the crest of the hill. The tank then rolled back down the hill toward us backward. Not directly at us in a straight path. Careering one way and then another as the kid desperately tried to bring it back under control with the laterals. Cutting deadly didoes. I did my own little pas de deux with that tank, got out of its way, and turned in time to watch my Company Commander go under it. He zigged when he should have zagged and was instantly reduced to something that looked like strawberry yogurt there in a ditch as I watched.
That bright, talented young man, then in his late twenties, had been a helicopter jock in Vietnam. But he bought the farm on foot during a training exercise in The Federal Republic of Germany for chrissakes. My own game of dodge 'em on that day still sits me up in bed at night now and again as I try to catch my breath.
Which brings me back to these goddamned pizza delivery guys. Some months ago when La Mexicana still lived here we were on a leisurely sidewalk stroll. Suddenly, we heard a crash behind us. She and I immediately jumped to the abutting wall. We turned to watch a pizza delivery guy and his little rice rocket rolling over and over side by side down the street toward us, boy and bike coming to rest directly at our feet. At our feet. He had simply lost it on the cobblestone without any other vehicle in the vicinity. The kid was hurt badly. We stayed with him until help arrived.
Last evening I was walking home beside a street with no curb after taking on a couple of tacos al pastor at an outdoor stand. A pizza delivery guy approached from ahead flat out on his Honda Cargo. There was a speed bump in the street ahead of me. Speed bumps do not fit within these boys' agendas. This one veered over onto the sidewalk in front of me in order to avoid the speed bump and came directly at me. I stepped aside. He veered back to his left into the street. All's well that ends well, but I wanted to chase him, bulldog him, and beat him pulpy with his own helmet.
Mexico could kill me. I freely concede that. In the event I might be in the pickup as it rolls end over end down the side of a mountain. Perhaps I had been momentarily preoccupied with a recalcitant lighter or distracted by a bare leg or some such while driving a narrow mountain road. I might be put up against a wall and shot after my family member back in the United States designated to handle that call has refused to pay up—as she has been firmly instructed to do no matter how I beg over the telephone with the power drill whining in the background. I could live, albeit reluctantly, with either of those scenarios or a myriad others.
What I could not live with, what I could not abide after all those other potentially lethal instrumentalities that I have evaded in my life, is being run down and killed by one of these pissant pizza deliver guys on his motorcycle. That I could not live with.