partsThere’s a phrase from Nietzsche’s “The Birth Of Tragedy” that I’ve always admired. It goes something like, “Only when viewed as an aesthetic phenomenon are the sufferings and miseries of life eternally justified.”

Pictured here is an assemblage of parts from the car that nearly claimed my life yesterday.

OK, I’ll admit I have a tendency for dramatic overstatement, but let’s just say I had plenty of New York’s finest tell me how lucky I am.

Of course, I already knew that.

Yesterday, returning in my friend’s car from the best practice session ever at the golf range, a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided me, totalling both cars. He was taken to the hospital and later arrested for DUI. Wearing my seat belt — something I’ve neglected throughout most of my life — I came out of it without a scratch.

I don’t want to sound self-indulgent nor get all preachy on you, but when something like this happens and you have an audience, you feel kind of chatty. So don’t assume a red light means the coast is clear. And wear your seat belt — really. And don’t drink and drive, nor allow others to do it. You might deprive the world of an entertaining blog or an up-and-coming golfer.

A few years ago, at the crossroads of life that ultimately brought me to New York to draw the curtain on Act Two, I wrote in my journal, “What you need is a near-death experience.” Well I finally got it, now let’s hope I make use of it.

I didn’t see the impact coming, but when it happened I think my body instinctively tightened as an act of self-preservation. My brain must’ve flooded every muscle in my body with a max dose of adrenaline, most of it in the muscles that protect the vital organs. The first thing I felt when I climbed out of the car was that I’d been punched in the gut by an 800-pound gorilla — or rather a 4,000-pound BMW. This morning it just felt like I’d done 4,000 sit-ups.

After the fire trucks and police and neighbors had cleared out, they towed my friend’s car. But the other car remained, wedged against a telephone poll, as it was considered evidence in a DUI case. By the time it was taken away I’d already retired for the night.

This morning I went outside to find just a pile of wreckage on the sidewalk. In the morning sunshine, the first after days of storm, I felt a compulsion to clean up the mess, lest it remain there indefinitely.

Soon an elderly woman came by and said, “Who should clean this up?” I didn’t quite understand the question, so I just said that I was the victim of the accident. She said she knew, that she recognized me from the day before. I told here I was simply cleaning up my neighborhood while meditating on the frailty of life.

I came inside with a few souvenir shards, which I cleaned up while listening to Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion.” Then I put them on a shelf above my piano, along with the family photos and artsy bric-a-brac. It felt satisfying to let the creative impulse find some use for the wreckage of  life’s misfortune. The piece in the center, made from steel or cast iron, is damn heavy. Holding it is a chilling reminder of what happens when two cars collide.

Speaking of which, I never even spoke to the guy who hit me. What would I say? “Are you OK? By the way, fuck you.” — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD