Dunes and Don’ts.

So, after getting numerous emails saying if I don’t do something with my website I’ll wind up on a Worst of the Web page (is there really such a list?) I was prompted to revamp the entire site. That and the fact that I couldn’t do any real writing because, well, I fell off a sand dune.

I’ll get back to the website in a second. Okay, so here’s what happened, so you’ll understand if this What Th--? is a tad shorter than usual. My wife, Noel, works over at Dreamworks in their animation department, working on their Spring 2003 animated film, “Sinbad.” It’s a big, rollicking action-adventure film and when Dreamworks had Family Day a few weeks back they showed all of us some clips, and I can tell you it looks beautiful. Anyway, Noel is a Supervisor in the special effects department and a couple of the people there decided it would be a great idea if a bunch of them took a Sunday and went sand duning over at Pismo Beach, about three hours north of Los Angeles. Besides having sand dunes, Pismo Beach is the clam capital of something or another, if anyone cares.

Now, when I, my raised leg bandaged as well as black, blue and yellow, told my friend Mark Evanier about this later, he reminded me that I’m Jewish and our people don’t do sand dune. I guess that’s because we spent so much time following Moses across the desert (couldn’t we get directions from Mapquest?) that now we simply hire other people to walk across sand for us. What did I know? I went sand duning.

We got to the beach and mounted our ATVs (All Terrain Vehicle). The guy there gave us a long speech about how dangerous it was and how to be careful or you could wind up dead. Or worse.

So we took off. You cross the beach, which is beautiful, by the way, make a sharp left turn at the #4 marker, and within seconds you are in the middle of an incredible desert of sand dunes. I couldn’t believe it. They go as far as you can see. I’m now certain that at least 100% of all desert movies made in the past 100 years were made right here; you can’t tell the different between Pismo Beach and Tatooine. I swear.

Anyway, I suffer from a fear of falling. Not heights. They don’t bother me. Falling. Or maybe not falling. Crashing! The falling part is sorta okay. The crashing part – not so okay. But whatever I have a fear of it’s because I’m pretty clumsy and can trip over a shadow if I step on it wrong. Now, this has never stopped me from doing things, mind you. I feel irrational phobias are, well, irrational. They may be real and my stomach may clench and my face break out with sweat and my knees may buckle, but they are just phobias. It’s not like being afraid of, say, bullets. A bullet when used properly is something we should all be afraid of. Looking over a secure balcony railing is not.

Never the less, I have never let my phobia stop me. I have gone parasailing, climbed up mountains, gone skiing, etc. And even though I was positive I was gonna die at any second, I even once or twice climbed up over the third step of a ladder to get to the roof of my house. If you don’t have this phobia you have no idea how hard that is. If you do, I’ll expect to hear your “oohs” and “ahhs” any second now.

So, when I got to the edge of a dune heading down, I’d stop, check if the slope was gradual, and then, holding onto my heart, zoom down it. By zoom I of course mean go as slowly as possible.
This went well for several hours. It was time to return to base camp. Noel and I were heading back and had to go up a narrow hill with a deep slope to the right. She went up the hill without a problem. Noel has no fear of falling. Or much of anything. She went up there like an expert. Three year olds were going up that hill like experts. But what do three year olds know anyway? Now it was my turn.

For the first time that day I didn’t want to go up the hill. This one was very high. And very narrow. And the slope to the right was very steep. I went through the three stages of phobias: pounding heart, dripping sweat and the mandatory writing of the will stage. I started up. I was doing great. I was halfway up. No sweat. Well, actually, lots of sweat, but conceptually no sweat. Then, about 7/8th up the ATV started to swerve to the right. I tried to fix it but somehow couldn’t. It kept moving right. Then it went over the side. All right, I said, still in control, all I have to do is keep calm and ride this thing down to the bottom, circle around and try again.

Now I know why my people hire other people to do these kindsa things for us. You see, somehow, and I have no idea how, my ankle got caught behind the pedal and the wheel, stuck somehow in the axle or some other technical part of the ATV. I tried to pull it out and couldn’t. Meanwhile, of course, I’m careening down a sand dune. A tall sand dune. A Godzilla-sized sand dune that seemed to be getting larger and steeper with every passing nanosecond. My foot wouldn’t come loose and the ATV turned end over end and we both crashed down to the bottom.

I expect you’re all now going ouch! And yeah, ouch is, in its own minimalistic way, a starting point for what I was feeling, but it was not because several hundred pounds of ATV was lying on top of me. No – I was being pressed into the sand so I didn’t really feel that pain, at least not yet. It was because my leg was still twisted inside the ATV and I was faced away from it so I couldn’t see how to free it.

Noel somehow got down there and tried to figure out what was wrong. She assumed my problem was that I had several hundred pounds of ATV on top of me. Normally, a good guess. Most people I know don’t have several hundred pounds of ATVs crushing down on them. I could barely speak, but I knew I had to get my foot free. Yet, somehow, the word foot didn’t spring to mind. I said “Shoe. Take… off… shoe…” Noel went to take off my shoe. “My OTHER shoe,” I screamed. She then saw my leg trapped inside the axle or whatever and managed to ease my foot free. Immediately, 75% of the pain went away.
Then I realized I had several hundred pounds of ATV crushing down on me and there was no way Noel had the strength to push it over. Not unless after all these years she was going to reveal that in her secret life she was She-Hulk.

Fortunately, within hours (seconds, actually, but it felt like hours) lots of other duners sped to my rescue and pulled the ATV off me. They were led there, no joke, by a three year old boy who saw me fall from a distance and told his father that I’d fallen the same way he had earlier, but unlike him I wasn’t getting up. Did I ever tell you three year old boys can be terribly cruel?

Anyway, I managed to get back on the ATV and follow one of our party back to camp – without having to go up the hill again. I took some aspirin and we went to a Mexican restaurant where I had enough margueritas to kill any pain.

I thought it was over, and it was, until later, when the aspirin and the margueritas wore off.
The Doctor says it will take about a month before the pain is gone. The first two weeks I had to keep my legs elevated. The black and blue and yellow have finally gone away. The swelling is pretty much down. Many of the bruises are gone now. There is still some pain when I walk too long, but I’m getting better.

Which is why I had time to work on my website. I couldn’t write stories – the pain killers kept my mind a even duller than usual - so I couldn’t string together too many coherent sentences. And I couldn’t sit in any position for more than, say, eleven seconds, so I was unable to sit behind the computer for too long, but I could sit long enough to do a little bit of the website here and a little bit there. Art and design, for me, is therapeutic. Writing takes time.

Anyway, I had a great time putting together the site. I intend to update it frequently, so people will have something to come back to. And Jason says that now that it’s up he can come in and do some fix ups and make it real pretty. But it’s up. I’m pleased with it, and want everyone to come look, read it and let me know what you think. So now that you’re done with this column, click on the url below and happy reading. http://www.marvwolfman.com One last thing. I will be attending my first Mid-Ohio Con next week over the Thanksgiving holiday. If you’re in the Ohio area, come on by and say “Hi!”

See you in seven
Marv Wolfman

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