Charlie Cunningham Medical/Rehab
In early August, 2015, Charlie Cunningham, bicycle builder, inventor and all around amazing person, fell off his bike and sustained several serious injuries.
Charlie suffered broken bones, bruises, and trauma to his head. At the time, he didn't feel his head injury was significant. Unfortunately, seven weeks later, the head injury manifested into a subdural hematoma, a life threatening condition that resulted in emergency brain surgery. Having been about two minutes from death or complete vegetative state, he endured a hell period of about six months, beginning with two months in intensive care, followed by months of doctor's visits and rehabiliitation. His days of getting around by bike were over, or so we thought.
Currently, Charlie is at the "plateau" level. He has no sense of direction, nor much vision (his brain was affected, leaving the upper half of his visual field empty, as well as the periphery). But he is walking, speaking normally, with very little aphasia, and still working on learning the alphabet. he can read a simple news headline after about five minutes of careful study of each letter. We move about Marin on a gorgeous tandem, which will soon get a motor so we can go offroad, away from traffic.
His 'genius' resides now in his efforts to recover what most of us take for granted: balance, literacy and agency, the will to do things and make things, which seems to have disappeared when the brain bleed happened. Your donations will help to offset the costs of his rehabilitation and the visits to UC Berkeley Eye Clinic, and the weekly respite care visits. Thank you for your generosity.
A bit about the fund: it was dreamed up by Caroline James, a good friend of Charlie and Jacquie's since the 1987. She's an artist, web designer and was an early Wombat. Since the end of the first year of the fund, I have taken over most of the administration. Grant Petersen of Rivendell renown, and 1,200 donors like you have helped move us along, for which we're ever grateful.
Since the bay area had none, I produced one for about a decade, to fund my racing.
Alchemy: turning dusty old shelf stock from bike shops into shiny shekels to hand to airlines or overland chauffeurs such as Ricky Hunter.
I named it St. Packrat's Day.
Oh god, I'm digressing horribly from a vintage slide I found in Charlie's photo trove that I wanted to share. Before he built bikes, he put together a speedy go-cart that was the bane of the Mill Valley police and the California Highway Patrol.
This machine (according to CC) was so quick and so very nimble (with its highly modified McCulloch engine which had three carburetors and ran on ethyl alcohol and nitromethane) that he could arouse the cops, who then gave chase up Highway 1, then he'd do a U-turn, and lead them back toward Mill Valley, where he could duck into any number of tiny unmarked streets, including his own, Castle Rock Drive.
When I showed this recently exhumed picture, he exclaimed: "oh, that's the Chevy Carry-All that I used to move all kinds of heavy stuff like desert ironwood (which he still has)".
I called his friend Jim Frick and learned that they traded cars-Charlie got Jim's 1962 International Scout, which was radically altered for ease of repair (floor had four-inch diameter holes through which C could place a wrench, to save having to get under the car). It also had a hand made metal aluminum canopy over the rear pick-up bed). I remember the Scout, it was C's cherished Never Used Car.
Once, on a camping trip, something happened in the engine, and it destroyed one piston ring. I am not sure I'm saying this right. But nearby at a trailer park near Tahoe City, we found a guy--actually he found us laboring around the car for hours--who had a "spare" Scout and was willing to sell C the needed part for the piston. Some kind of ring. But the extrication was very tricky. And the fellow insisted on doing the extrication (from his spare engine) himself. Each time he was about to get it out, he'd do something (I wonder if Charlie could explicate this---anyway, he'd RUIN it. ...and one at a time, Charlie watched this ham-hander misuse the tool, mangling the only hope for getting back on the road...luckily, after destroying ring #3, he graciously allowed Charlie to do the removal--if he paid extra. Charlie deftly pulled out the piston ring, paid the man, and we got the Scout on the road the next day. Whew.
The trails from our place are re-greened, the seasonal creek flowing merrily, and I am guessing the mushroom people will get another couple of weeks of foraging from this steady damp.
Just learned how to make everything taste better (assuming you don't despite the umami of mushrooms).
Take a couple handfuls of dried mushrooms from an asian market, put in yr coffee grinder with some chile flakes, good salt, and a couple peppercorns, grind away, and collect compliments for your soup or salad that you "dope" with this blend.
Forget using yr coffee grinder for coffee if you're a perfectionist. I guess you could get another one, or grind the dried mushroom in a mortar/pestle, but they really need to be made into powder. Sharp blade, in other words.
HOw I digress.
Anyway, that's how I'll impress Charlie with tonight's chicken stock from 'back door catering' and potato soup.
I realize you'll never eat over here.
Yesterday, Aaron Faust, of 'the good guys' ( internet bike part sharing group) brought by the funds raised by the sale of the "homage" (or 'hamage" for cunningham) bicycle two months ago at the Marin Museum of Bicycling.
A major shot in the arm! 4.6k. Will cover half a year of C's schooling at Schurig.
I learned that the founder of the Good Guys, Fritz Weber of Bern Switzerland, died only a year ago at age 42.
That seems so very young.
We are eternally grateful to have arrived at old age with our so-called faculties.
Ooh, in a totally unrelated item: picture of Elvis on a bike!!! https://www.directexpose.com/powerful-images-last-hundred-years/2/
If Charlie wasn't a 100x/day, ten times an hour watch-checker, such an acolyte of the Time Gods, I would not believe his account, but yes, a mountain lion dropped onto Concrete Pipeline fire road last May 12th, and didn't really look back at Charlie. It just...walked for a few minutes before dropping off the other side of the fire road which was seriously ravaged by the 2017 floods, leaving just a small strip of flat walkable surface.
I proudly announce this to you my readers, but a neighbor got wind of it and forbad me to allow C. to walk alone.
Which is the only way he likes walking (we companions go on and on about nothing, blocking the fragile Balance Signals that he is carefully tuning into, to keep from falling over.
He only occasionally comes home with a dusty butt. Mostly, he's safe, and we're happy now on (earth) mother's day.
Today we went dumpster "shopping" (always do that BEFORE going into the market) but no bananas. Lots of organic tomatoes and carrots, though. Perfect bananas are hurled when they're yellow, so we can often, but unpredictably, get around 20 of them, free. Anyway, when I came out of the market, Charlie was talking to a stranger.
It was a fellow enthusiast, admiring our Riventandem (Hubbahubba, actually) , and chatting C up...
"Hello, I'm Jacquie"
"I'm Andrew Levin, from Estonia!"
" Hyva Paivaa!!"
He launched into some Estonian, and I had to admit I spoke none of that Finn-Ugric lingo.
At least, not yet...
And, I learned that he'd just moved here...so, as self-appointed ambassador to the County that is a bit less than welcoming--at least, that was my experience as a freshly transplanted urchin. Maybe it's urchinhood, and not lack of charm, that is off-pudding. Yes, pudding...uh, where is this going, oh, right, as self-appointed REPETITIVE and BORING ambassador, I invited him and his two kids to the local horse stable. What kids don't love horses?
Then out of a car came a woman about my age (turns out she's nine days younger than me) to see what's taking sonny boy so long. Another round of introductions to Rina, his mom. OOH, an actual Estonian woman!
You mean I never told y'all that as an official Glow-Ball citizen (as compared to U.S. citizen) I am extra welcoming to out-liers? Yep. If you have an accent, I probably want to talk to you.
Where is Charlie in all this?
He's the point of this blog!
He was tugging politely and discreetly at my sleeve. We'd walked next door to the bike museum to see if it were open (twasn't), and he dreaded Not Riding Home for at least 20 minutes...
Waved good-bye, and asked myself: are you an angler-fish, or a banquet caterer?
Still pondering that...
I hope this wasn't a totally frivolous installment, or waste of your time.
Send reassurance, or confirmation that it WAS a royal waste?
Not all at once, eh?
Charlie is one of half-a-handful of modern bicycle geniuses and personal heroes of mine (and I am basically "anti-hero"). Everything I know about him, I love. Everything he's ever designed or made or innovated on his own personal bike, I admire and wished I was that smart. I'm so sorry to hear of this accident. Of course we all want him back on his superlight plastic saddle, held by the seat post that also holds a pump. Go, Charlie.
This is a tragedy and a wake-up call about head injuries and getting them checked out and monitored for a long time afterward. I was just thinking about Charlie last week; I was riding on Mt. Tam since 1981 at Thanksgiving when I rode it with Charlie and a number of other friends. He is creative genius, and a great human being to boot; I hope he gets his full faculties back soon. Get better soon, Charlie, and hang in there, Jacquie!
OMG! I am kinda the Cunningham FP, having provided care for Bruce, Charlie's fighter pilot and custom home builder dad, and his tiny book and social antiquarian mom Carol. As a late comer to the world of off road biking, and having been privileged to visit Charlie's shop, I just wanted to confirm the need for this kind of funding effort. For all the closed head injuries that our lifestyle generates, we have a very unsupportive neuro-rehab environment here in the US and A. Maybe the rising tide of reality about football injuries will help, but not in time for Charlie. Any contribution you can make will really make a difference in his recovery.
Jacquie, while I absolutely love his thoughts on greeting age, something many of us are currently doing, my favorite thing is when he talks about the "milky silver finish". This finish is what I always thought was SO beautiful about Campy (you should excuse the expression!) equipment. As far as your personal struggle with responsibility, most of us have been there...we travel a path that is comfortable for us, where we can make the most of our abilities, and then when the situation changes, radically in your case, the flexibility we all develop allows us to change directions. You can do it. You have your friends in your area, and hundreds outside of that. We are all breaking as much wind for you both as is possible. Actually, that's maybe not the best choice of words...
i can NOT wait to see that footage!!! I think of charlie every time i ride up Tam - and the other day i saw a gentleman with a cunningham racer - WALKING!! - i should have taken it away from him ; ) - still my holy grail of bikes - until then my 88 merlin will have to do - sending you love & strength
Yep. And "death-grip somersault " can be a lovely metaphor for how stuck we get in our own heads and fears, sometimes. Make that time to meditate, soak in a tub, walk in the woods, breathe, even write for 15 minutes or an hour: you've got to take care of YOU to be able to carry on. Peace and strength, Jacquie.
I shared the link to Deer Park's Nextdoor.com community to let people know what's going on in case they want to contribute/help. Some suggestions came back that you may already have heard of: Marin Villages: http://www.marinvillages.org/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=134956 Brain Injury Network: http://www.binba.org Memphis Center for Independent Living (not sure what their national outreach is, but they were recommended): https://sites.google.com/site/mcilaction/