The Needle And The Damage Done


If you look hard at the photo above, you can barely see me getting ready to go up the hill. On the other side of that hill is a broken leg.

I got bolted up today. It wasn’t as clean and simple as I’d hoped for, and there’s no way I’ll be able to sneak in the car for our AER race in two weeks. But I’m going to walk again. The ligaments are in surprisingly good shape. What little problems I still have can be fixed by a scope in the future, apparently.

Now, since I have your attention, I want to talk about the virtue of being unlucky.

I have been unlucky all my life. I don’t mean that I have been unlucky in the things that truly matter. After all, I can see and speak and think. My son is alive and well. I’ve never felt lovable but I’ve been the recipient of more love than I could possibly ever return, from men and women. Yes, haha, from men too. Not in the romantic sense but I have been blessed in the number of friends whom I truly love and whom I believe return that love. Plus, I have some really bitchin’ stuff, like my smokin’ hot girlfriend and some of my smokin’ hot ex-girlfriends (you know who you are and so do the lucky chumps playing Blaze Bayley to my Bruce Dickinson or, possibly, my Paul Di’Annio), my four Private Stock guitars and my Porsches and my bikes and my Kiton jackets and blah blah blah you’ve heard it all before.

So I don’t mean I am cursed by fate. No, I’m just unlucky, in tolerable but frustrating ways. In the past thirty years I’ve found a way to break about half the bones in my body and crash motorcycles and bend the unibody on a race car and blow a $14,600 Mugen-R engine and lose my chance at getting my doctorate and have someone knock my brand-new CB1100 over in the parking lot and drop things and lose amazingly valuable things and so on and so forth to the point where, whenever I find myself enjoying something too much, I feel compelled to ask of myself, “When will the bad thing happen?” Not the tragic thing. I’ve only had one tragic thing happen to me in my entire life and that was the January 2014 crash. Just the bad thing.

After no small amount of reflection, I’ve come to believe that being unlucky is, in itself, a form of luck. All the times I’ve spent in the hospital and on the sidelines and pushing a broom at Rax and feeling lonely: I need it. The writer in me needs it. Being periodically unlucky reminds me that I’m not a competitive shooter or a race car driver or a motorcyclist or a BMX racer or a musician or a husband or a wealthy, successful person. I’m a writer who occasionally experiences a bit of what it’s like to be those things. Just for the length of time I need, I find that monster fish in the deep sea and I fight with him for days and I capture him and I tie him to the boat. But when I reach the shore I find that the fish has been eaten down to the massive skeleton. Nothing but bones. Bones, and the memory. And if you have the bones, and you have the memory, you can write. Which I will endeavor to do, dear readers. For you, but mostly for myself.

What I need you to do, my friends, some of whom I love, is this: Stand behind me, like the slave did for the Caesars on their triumphs, and whisper: “Remember, you are mortal.” Sometimes I forget. And over to you, Mr. Tillman. Yes, I’m personally guilty of every single thing he lists in the whole song.

32 Replies to “The Needle And The Damage Done”

  1. DeadWeight

    I love many of your articles, Jack (musings on Lincoln, Cadillac, Porsche, Bentley, Hublot, etc.), but WTF dude, and cry me a river…

    …1st world problems. Go hang out for a day doing volunteer work at a hospital for young children with terminal cancer.

    Your perspective is totally broken at present.

    Maybe it’s the meds.

    • DeadWeight

      Just to supplement my comment; I believe one of the worst things to be with someone is dishonest (aka kiss ass; aka suck-up; aka asskisser).

      So, if this makes it into “[A]nd the critics respond,” prefix “critics” with “constructive,” if you will.

      • DeadWeight

        When you fully heal, I want you to join me, bball, 28, tresmonos and a few others on a mission to take out Sally Struthers.

        She’s eating most of the food intended for starving sub-Saharan African kids.

        • VolandoBajo

          Where can I enlist? Sounds like a great team and a worthwhile mission.

          Though I agree with DW that JB’s problems aren’t of the same magnitude as those he mentions, it seems to me that JB is fully aware of that.

          His article seems to be not so much a pity party, as an attempt at introspection and midcourse correction.

          And most of us are intelligent enough and educated enough to know what a life unexamined is worth.

        • Athos

          Sometimes I shouldn’t look things at Google. I also should keep the bleach bottle close to the computer.

          Wouldn’t be a better a barbie with some tinnies? That’s a better mission.

  2. Niclas

    A Series Of Unfortunate Events, by Jack Baruth.

    Dealing with the pain of breaking your own body is easy. At least compared to feeling even partially responsible for causing pain to loved ones.

    Keep writing for yourself.

  3. Joe

    Smokin hot girl friends, driving all sorts of exotic iron and aluminum on race tracks, ownership of fairly exotic automobiles,( well I guess there were two wierd ass vw luxury cars), I would say all of your good luck way outweigh your bad luck! Get well soon!

  4. bkl

    Now I understand the Hemingway reference.
    You might also reference someone who played Tubbs to your Crockett and Ice to your Maverick, when you count your blessings.

  5. Ryan

    Beauty comes only from pain. Silly, happy people don’t produce art. Nor are they much fun to converse with. No significant figure in Western intellectual history was a glib, happy person. This is why I read you man.

  6. VTNoah

    Great song. I also suffer from the affliction of being paranoid when things are going well for me. Dealt with a fair bit of tragedy growing up so that now I am doing very well for myself I often ask “Do I deserve this? When is my number up?” makes me appreciate the good times even more. It’s good to have perspective on your life and I wish you the best in recovery.

    • VolandoBajo

      To which I will add one more time the line penned by Ray Davies of the Kinks:

      “If you have a friend on whom you can rely, you are a lucky man.”

      And I suspect you have more than one such friend, Jack, when I read what you have written.

  7. Gene

    People who insist upon dwelling on the positive things are insufferable. It’s how we react to failure, disappointment and misery that makes humans interesting.

  8. jz78817

    y’know, like I told an acquaintance who blew out his knee while dirt biking; at least you have a story to go with the injury. It’s not like you gave yourself a hernia from straining too hard on the can…

  9. Ronnie Schreiber

    This is funny. I was chatting with The Smokin’ Hot Girlfriend (Jack’s not bragging, that’s a factual description) on Facebook in the interregnum between the accident and the surgery and I told her that my usual comment about Jack’s writing is that saying that Baruth writes about cars is like saying that Hemmingway wrote about fishing.

    Multitalented autodidactic polymath, he’s also the most loyal person that I know. A true friend, one of the few capable of effectively giving me mussar (look it up).

  10. Robert

    Dang, Jack. Even from the distance in the photo I can see you’ve got your elbows up and out, on the gas early from the inside line. It’s a shame what happened on the other side. Here’s hoping you get what you need from this period of introspection.

  11. VicMik

    Law of the averages (?) commands the distribution of misfortune over the course of one’s life. Good life with a few bad things sprinkled here and there vs. overall mediocre life barring any major tradegies.

    Plus, the adventures you seek in life command higher probability of broken bones the towncar getting totalled notwithstanding

  12. Incapacitated by Ability

    David Bowie’s “Always Crashing in the Same Car”* might be the more appropriate song.

    *probably isn’t about crashing an actual car

  13. galactagog

    I was wondering what tune you’d come up with during your rehab!!

    what’s first on the jam list, once you can walk again?

    “you’ll never walk alone”
    “walk this way”
    “walkin’ blues”
    “walk like an Egyptian”
    “walk, don’t run”
    “walk the line”

    lots more to choose from….or maybe just keep it simple:

    “the stumble”

    hope you heal fast, amigo!

  14. Athos

    One of my bosses told me once something my dad repeated me (a lot) during my childhood: you make your own luck. You are probably one of the luckiest person out there. Carry on.

  15. Kevin Jaeger

    I’m not sure any of this counts as being unlucky. You engage in a lot of risky activities and a series of injuries and incidents are the nearly inevitable result. A person who was actually unlucky would be dead or have permanent disabilities, or have accidentally killed a bystander. With only bent up machinery and some broken bones that will mostly heal I’d say you’re still sitting on the side of good luck.

    Get well soon.

  16. SCE to AUX

    While I agree that the January 2014 crash was extremely difficult, I usually associate “tragic” with death. As you’ve said before, thankfully nobody was killed in that episode, and everyone emerged mostly whole – particularly young John.

    Get well soon!

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