Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bat Out Of Hell


Bat Out Of Hell

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - That thing about the cat and the scalding water, ‘What does a cat hate worse than being sprayed with cold water?’ It wasn’t intentional at all; it’s just that the hose had been lying out in the sun all afternoon, and what can I say? It’s the tropics.


Everybody knows what going 'like a bat out of hell’ means. ‘Went by me like a bat out of hell.’ ‘Came out of there like a bat out of hell.’ When going like a bat out of hell, especially on a motorbike, you should never go full bat. Everybody knows you never go full bat.


I don’t particularly like driving at night, especially on a motorbike. Went up to Takuapa, some thirty kilometers north of here, a half hour ride, after sunset, fully knowing the drive home would be in the dark.

You never know when the Good Lord is going to take you, right? So if you’re expecting it, then it should come as no surprise. It could be a big hole in the road that could easily send a bike cart wheeling and the rider spinning through the air, KIA on impact with the asphalt, or that elephant appearing out of nowhere, heading home also.

I had to take a second look, since these days ever since the 90s I don’t like driving at night because of failing eyesight, a kind of blur. Especially on the streets of Takuapa, where the lighting is poor, there is constant construction throughout the city, the pavement is uneven, and you just might run into an elephant headed home.

“I’m sure glad I wasn’t coming the other way,” I thought, noticing him just at the last minute. “I would have hit him.”

That’s what had me thinking about the high possibility of an accident, and going like a bat out of hell, assurance of death. It’s just all so tenuous, existence, life, when you think about it, a mere 93 million miles from our nearest star.

So tenuous and fragile. Out there floating in the Sea, something could come along and gobble you up. Chance you gotta take, like crossing the street. Should’ve zigged instead of zagged. Should’ve caught the next flight.

Although at night like a bat out of hell, I should have been paying strict attention to the highway, the train of thought led to how I wouldn’t want to die. Wouldn’t want to die in the sky, or falling from the sky, hang gliding, parachute failure, Hindenburg sequel, or blasted out of my seat from an aircraft. Wouldn’t want to drown or have anything to do with not getting air, like, mine shaft suffocation, spelunking, or scuba diving. Wouldn’t want to get eaten by a shark, or any other big Jonah-sized fish.

Don’t want to hit an elephant, nor get hit blindside by fist, pool cue, wrecking ball or subway train. No RPG, IED, or UXO. Wouldn’t want people saying, “Never saw it coming…never knew what hit him.” Screw that.

Don’t want to die in a NASCAR crash or any other sort of public event or arena. No Daniel in the lion's den, Christian martyr, gladiator combat, crucifiction or Little Black Sambo. No sirens sweetly singing. Don’t want to die in a car or any other form of transport. No hangman’s noose, lethal injection, hospital, nursing home, or life support hoses, undignified or embarrassed.

Don’t want to die at someone else’s hand or someone else’s hand on the wheel, no death wish or suicide attack. No imprisonment of any sort, body or mind. No Alzheimer’s. No drug-induced coma.

Don’t want to die from carelessness or inattention, like stepping off a curb, looking the other way and getting whacked. Don’t want to go from ineptitude, or any other kind of stupidass negligence or lack of awareness. Please, for me, no mindlessness accident or bizarre twist of fate.

I’m trying to narrow it down, here.

Along with his autograph during an author-signing session in Rochester NY for his book, “The Wheel of Death,” The Zen Buddhist Roshi Philip Kapleau wrote, ‘May you live long and die well.’

I sure liked that. Hope it happens. For you, too.

A good way to go, for me I think, is of old age, out working in my garden. I’ve been working on that visualization for a number of years, for the distance future, of course. Old, old age, experiencing a convergence of garden and self, cultivating compassion with no anticipation of harvest. Along the way, try to contribute to the happiness and well-being of plants and other animals.

Dad went well. I liked his style. Worked hard, lived long, had a loving family, ate a good dinner prepared by a loving woman, and went in and watched about six innings of the Cubs in a Lazy Boy recliner and drifted off, catching my mom by surprise, washing the dinner dishes, when he failed to answer.

Well, you could go on and let your mind meander about all the ways you wouldn’t want to die. Like Elvis, Michael, high and low profile deaths, forgotten and tortured prisoner with no name. But we all come and go, our time here measured in what, years? Breaths? and against what scale? Life of the earth, the gods, a tomato plant, that of a butterfly?