It sounded like a toilet being catapulted into a brick wall. I was walking down the street in Portland, Oregon, where I traveled last week to meet with friends from across the US and Canada who work at newspapers like DigBoston, and suddenly my whole existence flashed before my eyes.
As far as the roughly five of us who stood there shaking after narrowly escaping death could tell, a significantly large potted plant had just plunged from the roof of a 15-story building above us, landing feet away from me and a couple of others. I don’t know too much about physics or brain trauma, but I’m pretty sure it would have killed or maimed one of us had contact been made.
I can’t recall too much from the next 10 or so seconds, other than that we all kind of stood there staring at each other, happy to be breathing. I passed the joint that I had already been smoking to a guy wearing a chef’s apron, and without flinching he accepted the cone and filled his lungs with relief. He then passed it back, and we both looked at the sky with a mutual horror in knowing that at any moment, even in the middle of a dream stroll through amazing Portland hopping between weed dispensaries and taco stands, some asshole’s flying garden may decapitate your lifted ass.
There’s no way I can know for sure, but I probably risk life and limb whenever I walk out the door, and for sure when I ride on the Red Line into work. Still this one felt like something different; it was the kind of brush with death that could spur someone to discover God, or which at least gets one to seriously consider what they’re doing on this planet. I personally started to think about everybody who I would have wanted to say bye to and taking stock of all the petty nonsense that drives me insane when I should just be chilling the hell out and appreciating my family and friends.
As for what it all meant cosmically… I racked my brain, and it turns out that despite whatever trauma I endured from my extremely close call, I’m still far too pragmatic to read too much into any spiritual hunches. The most I’m willing to concede is that it would have really been a hoot if a lifelong pothead like yours truly, while floating in a cloud of berries on a sidewalk in the cannabis Xanadu of Portland, got hit in the head with a pot.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.