Sunday, September 23, 2012

My mother recalls the day the wall fell on me: 

"I heard what sounded like a landslide outside: I was in the kitchen. The neighbours' flint wall had collapsed, and you were pinned behind an old wooden trunk from Portugal, which saved your life. Frank Turner [a neighbor] came over to help get you out of the rubble and onto the sofa.
I only know that Dr. Babbage was quick, that he tried to get your nice cord trousers off but your leg was bent at a right angle; I told him to cut them off, of course. He was able and kind. I have no idea how long the ambulance took; you went to Bury St Edmunds hospital (the old one). I have vivid memories of all that, of riding in the ambulance with you (it was 14 miles to Bury then and you were in shock) and of the ordeal you went through when we got to the hospital. And I remember the Lavenham visitors you had as well [so many visitors, and such kindness and generosity], and the [stodgy food the hospital] tried to feed you, and keeping salad and salad dressing in the nurses' fridge and of your over indulgence in olives! One of the nurses claimed to be a cousin of American Western TV star [Doug McClure]. Because of your traction, you had to stay in the lounge, which meant you didn't get much sleep as the nurses watched TV late!" 

I was in traction for three months. I remember one particular night the nurses were watching Moby Dick, the 1956 John Huston/Ray Bradbury version, with Gregory Peck. I could see the TV screen quite clearly from my bed. It seemed like the movie went on all night, but of course it didn't. The "great white whale," Moby-Dick, took Captain Ahab's left leg, and the vengeful Ahab is said to be literature's most famous sufferer of phantom limb. At the time, my left leg was wrapped in bandages and hoisted up in the air with ropes and pulleys; I was essentially lashed to my bed, just as Ahab was lashed to the whale. I watched transfixed that night at the hospital, as Peck's peglegged Ahab met his doom, trapped against the whale, unable to save himself from a terrible demise. Ahab and me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The accident happened on the anniversary of my grandfather's birthday. My grandfather, George H. Scheer, Jr., was part of the reason I wanted to be an astronaut at an early age. He was a science fiction writer in the 1930s, and later, according to his obituary, "Technical advisor for the electronic warfare division of the Air Force Avionics laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base," though what he actually did for the US government is still shrouded in secrecy. My grandfather's short stories, including Beam Transmission, Another DimensionThe Crystaline Salvation, and The Last Ice, were published in Amazing Stories. He invented a matter transporter for the 1934 story, Beam Transmission.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Some friends and I are in a few shots. That's me, second from the end, blond, brown coat, no hat. We were much more interested in the balloon than in John and Yoko, though I do remember liking their white Rolls Royce. The amazing thing is that Chris, to my left, and John, to my right, are still my best friends from Lavenham, 43 years later. John still lives there, and Chris now lives in Spain. By the way, those are probably the same wellies I was wearing when the wall fell on me earlier that year.

In December, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono shot much of their balloon film Apotheosis in Lavenham. They looked very cold that snow-covered day, as they sat huddled together in their black cloaks, waiting for the orange balloon to inflate. The event was featured in a BBC documentary (the Apotheosis segment starts at the 9:00 minute mark, or about 2/3 of the way through).

At the time, my parents and I lived in the medieval village of Lavenham, England. You may recognize Lavenham from the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as Godric's Hollow was shot partly on location there. Lavenham was also a location for Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Vincent Price's Witchfinder General.

"Ground Control to Major Tom...." When I was six years old, I was playing outside one frosty morning – February 18th, 1969, to be precise – when the ancient nine-foot brick and flint wall between our garden and the neighbors' collapsed and broke my leg. At the time, I was lying on my back on a formica-covered board on top of a pile of old lumber, my feet towards the wall, looking up at the sky, pretending I was an astronaut. I had just "reentered the airlock" when I saw a large crack appear in the wall above me....