ne of the more colorful (and male teen) expressions from my frittered youth is “sliding down the razor blade of life.” As slides go, that is one we’d prefer not to ride, but as existence goes we often have little to say about the ride we are about to mount. As a little kid I couldn’t resist my rocking horse. On a humid summer day in Chicago, horsy and I would be lathered in sweat in no time. I loved it. Mother was less fond because in my races my mount and I migrated across any room we were in, so I was sure to bang into something. A typical small boy, I was not conscious of painted walls. I was highly aware of Salerno Butter Cookies, the best trick in Mother’s bag of many to get me off my horse and momentarily quiet. In Salerno Butter Cookie demolition I was swift and sure as a Hoover sucking up dust bunnies. Years later, well after giving up on mere rocking horse adventures, I liked the wicked sound of sliding down life’s razor blade, though I’d have passed that actual delight to others. I could name them.

I was reminded of the razor slide last week when I stopped on a vacant stretch of rural road to conduct some personal business that could wait but was better got out of the way. I stopped at what appeared a perfectly safe place given that the slight slope showed bare gravel. Thinking “perfect and just in time,” I was just about to begin when my horsy (appropriately in this case an Avalanche) began leaving. If you know about these things at all, you know timing is critical. I could not be doing one thing and the other at the same time. As saving the Avalanche was more important than coffee disposal, I was on the running board and at my seat (rather nimble for the gimp I’ve become) to monitor what was a rather long ride as vehicle in PARK crept down and down at an increasing but not breakneck speed.

Flummoxed because I’d stopped on gravel to avoid this sort of thing, I was doubly stumped when after a 70-foot sleigh ride the Avalanche stopped with sudden scrunch of gravel and abrupt halt. The excitement of the moment told coffee not to wait another second, so I was out the door again in another display of nimble skill under stressful circumstances. As is sometimes the case with life’s razor, what appears safe and easy can swiftly turn into more excitement than either mind or bladder will especially appreciate. With heart rate slowing and excess liquid drained off, I looked back at the ski track I’d left on the road and thought something wonderfully philosophical (which I’ve since forgot) about surface appearance hiding subtle surprises. But then, you know all this, so there wasn’t much point in getting too dramatic when most of you are well ahead of my anyway.

This latest incident on the razor slide reminded me of an earlier one shortly after I’d moved to a house I grimly called The Sorrow of Hovland. It needed work, and as I was essentially unemployed we were a perfect match, that wreck and I. The descent to Sorrow was down a long drive shared with a neighbor who did not believe in plowing snow. His money-saving tactic was to drive forth and back to pack the snow into a long iced run. I didn’t see the particular advantage in spending an hour of time and gas plodding up and back, but when it comes to neighbors, one is often better off saying nothing than adding bright color to their IDIOT label. That can be done as well in private and with more entertaining eye rolling as well.

It seems to me (and perhaps will to you as well) that bad ideas seem to attract one another, as in “Oh, let’s have an aquarium AND a red plan.” In my case it was Sorrow house at the bottom of a long, steep, unplowed drive about to be visited by some other neighbors who thought they’d “pop in” to see how I was doing. They drove a small two-wheel drive Toyota I knew was doomed the instant (yes, the very instant) I saw them at my door with it looking like a sheep to slaughter behind them.

Those who have ridden life’s razor have an inkling of what they’re up against. If it’s two in the afternoon on a winter day, you know daylight is going faster than I could demolish a Salerno. It no doubt offended my guests to get a 30-second house tour before getting them out the door so we could extricate Toyota from its snow tomb. Smiling male guest said his Toyota was great on snow. His happy wife agreed. They got all of thirty feet before spinning out. We had a ninety followed my 300 feet, another ninety, and then 600 feet to the top. This was going to be fun. After getting them back to the bottom and my Rover wriggled by, I drove to the top, carefully packing snow to keep neighbor happy, before driving down to winch pointed Toyota way. With chains to hold Rover I winched and dragged Toyota in practical increments of seventy feet or so. At no time was thought of fun or enjoyment encountered because we were either doing this in day or in dark and either way it had to be done.

We were three-fourths of the way when someone (no longer smiling about their great traction) forgot to put block behind wheel and Toyota began a long journey on its own. Toyota ran that luge until it was out of sight and we no longer heard the hiss of tires sliding on packed snow. There was no crash. The Toyota sled merely snagged at the first ninety. Enough fooling. Rover went to the top and was backed down with fury to a one-chain distance to Toy. “Get in, we’re going up.” Once Rover got Toy moving I was not stopping until we were bolted onto the highway. If ten semis were coming, I didn’t care. They’d have to stop because I wasn’t. In near dark Toyota stood on paved Highway 61. I don’t believe those people ever visited again. A little razor blade goes a long way.