One Headlight


In what is surely one of the most bizarre exhibitions of high school athletic sport, the ritual of making weight before a wrestling match knows little equal. I still recall the sprightly Alex Leeser running around the main building in circles multiple times wearing several layers of Glad garbage bags with duct tape at the wrists and ankles, shaving ounces off his already slight frame before we met our next competitor. I was never very good at wrestling. I enjoyed the psychological intensity facing an opponent. I was often outgunned and outperformed strategically often never knowing what hit me until my nose was being ground into the mat. But it didn’t matter, we had a great team and a lot of fun. Well if I’m striving to make some sort of weight now I guess I have succeeded. I now weigh 173lbs, the lowest I can recall since high school. Having weighed as much as 215 pounds post-college thanks much to a four-year infusion of blue cheese and chicken wings, standard upstate New York college fare, and becoming a new parent. I would like to to think it was a case of “couvade syndrome” a term meaning “sympathetic pregnancy” I’m not sure Laura would buy that. I was once up to 215 lbs and a size 38 Now? 33-34″ waist. I am now size Medium to Large shirt from XL. Oh well. None of that matters.

In what was one of the more sobering moments this week my friends Chris and Eric stopped by. After installing another handrail on the stairs, they put their hands on my shoulders, set me down on the porch, a beer for each of us, and swore me to a blood oath to promise that I would never again get in my car and drive. My tears and anger flowed, but I knew they were doing this out of love and concern not just for me but for my friends, family, my children and everybody else out there. It would have been unfair of and selfish of me to do anything otherwise. My declining health, seizures, left-side impairment and risk of not being fully cognizant of where I am and in what space is too much to chance. Needless to say this was hard news to take.

I have spoken to many people whose families have endured the struggle of having an individual with a debilitating, disease accident or other trauma who had their driving privileges taken away.They all shared this was one of the hardest moments. To lose one’s independence is to lose a sense of self. Living in a rural area makes this new reality that much more difficult but I’m grateful for friends and family who who are here and willing and able to help-  we are so dependent on car culture and the myths and reality of freedom attached to it is a deep loss. Whether it’s flying down the highway with the music on full blast with the sunroof open just wandering and exploring, one of my favorite things to do, or taking a road trip with friends. There are ways around it and it will be fine.It will all be fine. At least I know there is comfort in knowing that those who know me will breathe a deep sigh of relief knowing that I’m no longer on the road. I’m doing this in the interest of national safety as a national priority given my past driving record.

I will now take a moment of silence to remember the fallen. My 1965 postal Jeep bought for $400 in old Forge New York which I had painted Hunter green with purple trim. My 1987 emerald Green Volkswagen Scirrocco (which means “desert wind.” that I rolled on black ice in Richmond Vermont. The Subaru I took airborne causing great undercarriage damage. The Honda sedan which I took into a ravine after sliding on wet leaves. My dad’s mustard yellow Toyota Corolla in which I bent the axle after hitting a tall curb. My parents’s  days-old 1987 Chevy Colt Vista, wagon, also rolled and totaled. The 1976 Toyota FJ40  I traded, stupidly, with a friend for his 1993 Saab Turbo which became known as yet another “Saab” story after multiple alternator problems, a missing reverse gear and a stick shift that kept coming out in my hand. Or the 1990-something Toyota SR5 looking like an ugly breadbox and held together with annoying bumperstickers which was so rusted that when I took it through car wash before a date in Burlington the foamy water came pouring through the windshield onto my nice clothes. I know there are others but I can’t seem to recall, either by design or true loss of memory.

I have a friend, Neil Taylor known as the blind masseuse I visited recently. We call ourselves the tumor twins. He also has brain cancer and in addition he is blind because an optic nerve was impacted. He is an inspiration. As he also cannot drive we will make do  and I will get a ride to his house and we walk down into town together and have a beer and dinner. I know I can speak for each other when I say this will be a highlight of the week for both of us. His attitude is simply remarkable.

to end: two great road trip songs among the many which just make me want to get in the car. And drive. “One Headlight” is particularly apt


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10 Responses to One Headlight

  1. Haha. The car stories are the best. A lot I know from you telling me over the years and of course being in many of them. We share a pathetic SAAB story. Lol. I drive by the corner where you rolled the Toyota weekly. My kids now say “hey that’s where my dads friend Mark Green rolled his mom Bev’s car” will always make me laugh. I think it was on Cosby’s lawn or close to it. Very cool you know Bill. 😉

    Good to hang and drive around those country roads this week.

  2. Sean Long says:

    Mark, Hang in there my birthday brother. Love and happy thoughts to you.

  3. humanekt says:

    Mark, I’m sort of kind of in your back yard. And I have 2 sets of wheels — well, 3 if you count the motorcycle. I’m available for shuttle service, dinner company chauffeuring, appointment delivery, etc. Hell, you could hitch with me to West Hill Shop on Fridays and hang for a few hours with the gang! Maybe they’ll put you to work!

  4. jim grossman says:

    should yuou really have been on the road before?! the litter of automotive roadkill (and not a fallen mark green in the debris) is impressive.

  5. As always, thanks for your honesty and humor. Of all the things I have ever read that have made me both laugh and cry, I think 90% were crafted by you. Funny… I owned several of those same vehicles along the way. Wishing we had back then… I’m wondering if I was buying some of your used cars! Please let me know if you ever need a ride. My car is particularly good at getting to pubs and concerts.

  6. wendy smith says:

    Mark my love,

    I read each of these new posts with despair and joy, as odd as that sounds to have two such disparate feelings at once.!i can’t quite believe or accept your descriptions of where you are at and I am angry at myself for not being able to see you here is NYC . At the same time I couldn’t help laughing at your car description. To remember long rides down country roads around Hamilton in that mail truck, one in particular with a huge pot from the coop filed with some hooch we mixed up- jeff green in the front next to you – Courtney in the back with me in probably the last happy memory I have of her…. Rockin along to to the swimming hole and every other road we could find. I remember your existential dilemma about buying the sirracco , was it you? Was it a cheesey sports car for an oily bohunk with a full oiled chest wig deeply embedded with gold chains and a sent of burger or was it you? I didn’t understand the dilemma at the time as I had been lent ( yes insert spoiled) some pretty shitty heaps that had I identified with them would have been truly demoralizing, but I did recognize the leap in style from the first to the next and I loved that leap- one side of crazy fun to the next. Moose stock can’t come fast enough if you want us all up there-I love you dearly mark green. Xo

    Wendy W. Smith Sent from my iPhone


  7. Beth Nikles says:

    Ok, Mark. When are you coming back to our lake? Hey… I want to meet your two friends, Eric and Chris! They have to be two of the best buds in the whole wide world ’cause they did what only good true gutsy loving guy friends would do w/a best bud…they steeled it up, threw their arms around you w/a cold brew in hand, and said it straight up! God love ’em! I want buds like these two when I am sliding in to home plate midst the dust of my last whirlwind. You have NOT lost an ounce of your independence…not your TRUE independence…you just have a bit of a crinkled wing! You can……dial a friend, dial a cab….whatever it takes….everywhere and anywhere at any time. Your friend pool is endless, bottomless….and you have earned that! In your lifetime of living life to its fullest, wringing the last ounce of fun, exploration, inquisitiveness, joy, discovery, and….wrecking a car or two here or there… on the edge….and being a friend to everyone everywhere……well…heck, Mark, you have packed more into your years than anyone I know! You kick it out and up! You twist every last drop out of every moment! You are a joy! You have earned your friends one and all! We love you, Mark! Come to the lake! Proud of you. Sending big hugs! Xoxo B and Ed

  8. Laurie Fichter says:

    Mark, Thank you for being so honest and open. You know that we love you and are just waiting for the call from you saying “let’s go to _______________! (Fill in the blank). Does Hannah drive yet? I keep meaning to ask you. xoxox Laurie

  9. Carlotta says:

    Oh Mark. Sending love and hugs. I burst into laughter with the story about the car wash water coming in through the windshield. Yes, that is one rough driving history, may your cars rest in peace.

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