Guest article: Crash knocks out teeth, community helps put them back

Carl Larson

This article was written by Carl Larson.

A nearly ubiquitous presence on the Portland bike scene, Carl’s done everything from delivering bike maps as an employee of the City of Portland’s Transportation Options division, to working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council on the Zoobomb Pyle art rack project.

Few people move between Portland’s many bike clubs, organizations and sub-cultures with as much panache and dedication as Carl.

In this article, he shares a heart-warming story of tragedy and triumph within the Zoobomb community.

“I took one hand off my handle bar to scratch my nose…and I crashed.”

It was late September and over 30 Zoobombers were nearing the end of an epic weekend of Canadian bike fun. Tall-bike tomfoolery, graphic bike porn, an Australian-themed alleycat, and bike dance-troupe performances were all behind them as Vancouver’s Velomutations Bike Weekend wrapped up.

Just one event remained, the “Mountain Bombtastic.” It would be an epic bomb down seven scenic, steep, and twisty miles of Seymour Mountain Road (check it out on Google Maps).

Looks bad…but there’s
a happy ending.

After a hangover-erasing brunch and some intense bike polo, a crew piled into pickups and rented minivans with minibikes piled high inside and out. The first run was flawless with many riders averaging 35 mph, grins stretched wide across their helmeted heads.

Right from the start, though, the second run didn’t go so well for 24 year-old Jay Hasty.

According to Jay, “I took one hand off my handle bar to scratch my nose, and I guess I was going fast enough to get the speed wobbles…and I crashed.”

As a Zoobomber, Jay is a relative newcomer, but she’s no stranger to bicycles (she recently sold her car). It was simply an inopportune time to pick her nose. It was broad daylight, she was wearing a helmet and she doesn’t blame road conditions or drinking (both Jay and the road were dry).

It turned out to be a painful and expensive mistake.

“I hit teeth first…” she says, adding that her lip-ring also got ripped out in the crash. The bottoms of her two upper front teeth were gone, leaving the nerves exposed. Jay’s comfort with blood — she is a blood analyst for The Red Cross — was made clear as she joked with her pals en route to the hospital.

“I kind of miss the old fangs, you know, street cred and all…but now I can bite harder, which was one of my favorite fighting techniques that I was beginning to miss.”

Rather than feign Canadian-ness in hopes of receiving free health care, Jay fessed up to being an uninsured American. She was relieved to find that the emergency room bill (including temporary caps for her teeth and some very necessary painkillers) was only $500. That wasn’t the last bill she’d see, though. By November, Jay’s distinctive new “fangs” were a familiar sight for her friends. The caps on her teeth had crumbled and even with the generous sliding-scale pricing offered by Laurelwood Dental in Portland, she was looking at another $500 bill.

To help her pay the bill, friends and fellow Zoobombers began to talk about a fundraising party.

“All I want for Christmas…” was the name of the thread on the Zoobomb forum where various get-Jay-some-front-teeth schemes were discussed. Finally, a few weeks ago, Jay’s housemates hosted an “All I want for Christmas” benefit party at their house in Northeast Portland.

The evening started out early with folks quietly working away at art projects (painting, drawing, carving…), but soon after Handsome Dave unleased a donated case of vodka, the crowd grew larger and louder. Before long, barely-clad Zoobombers were auctioning off everything in sight.

According to Jay, “An unfinished painting of mine that I wasn’t even planning on selling was just sitting in the room and Coach Dan picked it up and started auctioning it off.” To her delight, “Dogeye bought it for 30 bucks.”

As one might imagine, the art wasn’t conventional (and some of it wasn’t even very good.) Jay recalls that, “Sauce wrote ‘Farts are funny’ on cardboard and sold it for $7.”

Jay shows off her spiffy
custom-painted helmet.
(Photo courtesy Jay Hasty)

A stenciled panel by Tiago DeJerk, customized blue jeans, kiss vouchers, an old broken window wildly painted — with each new item, the jar of cash filled up. Gabriel Amadeus Tiller created the most fitting piece: a new full-face helmet for Jay, custom-painted to look like a dinosaur head complete with green foam spikes and gold front teeth.

The spectacle of the evening was the auctioning off of real live Zoobombers for “One hour of work…or a date.” Some touted their bottom-bracket lubrication skills while others flouted their bottoms in an outrageous display of love for their flattered, toothless friend.

By the end of the evening, Jay’s grinning gratitude had turned to overwhelmed embarrassment. “Going around the party, there were stories of others in need, probably even more (than me),” she explained, “and when (the party) started to appear to be almost too much of a success, I felt like it shouldn’t be all about me.”

Jay was floored by the generosity of a group frequently stereotyped as destitute freeloaders. Lead auctioneer Coach Dan wasn’t alone when he said, “I was touched by the zeal and compassion displayed by the Zoobombers towards their injured comrade.”

By the next day, Jay had $846 cash and a new full-face helmet.

(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Having paid half of her dental bills already, this was considerably more than she needed. After considering a few options (Zoobomb injury fund?), she settled on donating the balance of the evening’s profits to Leo Westwind, the 12 year-old bike event regular who is battling a genetic liver condition (Update: Leo has received a new liver and is recovering in Seattle).

Jay was quick to get her teeth fixed before the holidays, “My mother warned me that if I came home with teeth missing to see my grandmother for Christmas, she would be ‘Extremely disappointed,’…I did not want to scare my grandmother.”

For the most part, Jay’s very happy to have her teeth back, but she’s quick to point out, “I kind of miss the old fangs, you know, street cred and all…but now I can bite harder, which was one of my favorite fighting techniques that I was beginning to miss.”

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