Fear of Falling

by Claude Samton                            

It had been a cold snowy winter and I was worried about falling in the street. There were some close calls on icy pavement but I’d managed to stay upright. I made it through the entire winter, walking on ice and snow, never falling. Now it was a beautiful sunny spring day in March. I had just left Beth Israel Hospital where I’d been given a stress test.

As I reached Mercer Street, I stepped onto the sidewalk.

My foot caught the edge of the curb. I fell and my head hit the pavement.

A young Chinese boy helped me up and asked if I was all right. ‘Yeah I’m fine,’ I replied, noticing that my sunglasses were broken. I put my hand to my head, there was blood flowing from my forehead. Luckily I had several old napkins in my bag and held them over the wound, then pulled my hat down to hold them in place. I started walking toward the subway. The head was the immediate problem,  but as I walked, I noticed a pain in my right leg, that my left hand was swollen and that I was lurching from side to side as though drunk. I managed to make it home, change clothes, clean myself off and call my doctor. He was on vacation.

Should I return to the hospital ER or, better yet I thought, check Google?  A dozen sites came up, most of them discussing the symptoms of head injury from mild to severe. They included headaches, nausea, dizziness, glossy eyes, loss of memory, inability to speak. The item that caught my eye was ‘age over 60,’ which mentioned that dementia can be the result of a head injury in seniors. I went to the bathroom and talked to the mirror, I seemed lucid.

Another Google site that stood out mentioned Natasha Richardson who had fallen on her head while skiing. She was talking and joking after the fall and refused treatment. Several hours later she complained of a headache and was taken to a hospital.  She died the following day. This was interesting information. I had a headache, but it was not severe. How bad did it have to be for me to go to the hospital? Knowing myself, I figured that the headache came from worry, but how could I be sure?

I called my girlfriend, who was at work and couldn’t be reached, so I called my ex-wife. ‘Oh, I’m sure you’re OK,’ she said, ‘It’s all in your head.’


Next, I called my sister. ‘Call your doctor,’ she counseled. ‘Someone has to be covering.’  Someone was covering and finally returned the call two days later. I called my son Matt who scolded me, ‘Dad, why are you always falling?’ I tried to remember the last time I fell, but couldn’t. Maybe my memory was failing because I’d hit my head.

Anyway, I called two more friends. One cautioned me to stay in bed; she mentioned an elderly womanmy age, actually—who fell down the stairs, hit her head and died. Another friend tried to calm me down by telling me her father fell on his head and was fine for over nine months, then one day collapsed into a coma.

I decided not to call anyone else and haven’t looked at Google since.




Claude Samton has been an architect, photographer, and more recently a writer and illustrator of nine books listed on Amazon Books.



Qutie on the Q

by Claude Samton

The Q train runs north through SoHo at high speed to the newly built Second Avenue Subway stations on 72nd, 86th, and 96th Street. Within twenty minutes I can be at my ophthalmologist’s office on East 70th Street. Generally I get a seat, although going to see the doctor last month, I stood up.  Seated facing me was an attractive well-dressed woman.

She looked up and said,

Hi, Claude, how are you?”

“Fine,” I said, not recognizing her.

“Are you still in your loft on Mercer Street?”

“Yes, I answered.”

“And how are your sons?” She asked.

‘They live in Brooklyn,” I responded without any idea who she was.

I began to feel uncomfortable as she asked, “Are you still seeing that woman?” Obviously she knew me quite well. She then remarked about her wonderful memories of SoHo.

Finally, looking for some sign of recognition, I asked her,

“So what are you up to these days?’’

“Oh, the same thing I’ve always been doing.” she said.

Just then, it was my stop and I got off the train.

Now, a month later, I still have no clue who she was.








Claude Samton has been an architect, photographer, and more recently a writer and illustrator of nine books listed on Amazon Books.

The Best Year of My Life

by Claude Samton

I was twenty- five years old and had just spent six months looking at the great architecture of France and Italy. Now I planned to go to Barcelona for three days to see the work of Antonio Gaudi, one of my favorite architects.

My plane landed late at night and I found a pensione in the middle of the old city near the Ramblas. I woke early the next morning, had a café con leche and a wonderful crusty roll in the pensione dining room. I made my way to the American Express office on the Paseo de Gracia to pick up my mail. It had been twenty years since the Spanish Civil War but there were still paraplegic veterans begging in the streets. The aroma of olive oil was pervasive and Franco’s Guardia Civil soldiers were stationed at every corner carrying machine guns. The American Express office was small but had a bench where I could open my mail. As I was reading the mail, I was aware of an attractive black haired smartly dressed young woman standing nearby. She came over holding a cigarette and asked me for a light. My Spanish was mediocre but she had worked in London so we spoke English. Her name was Rose, a Catalan native. After fifteen minutes of conversation, she invited me home for lunch. We entered one of the beautiful old apartment buildings in the neighborhood. As she opened the apartment door, I noticed a large carved wood table covered with food and approximately twenty or so people seated around it. They were her relatives. In a loud commanding voice, Rose introduced me as her American boyfriend. We had a sumptuous meal of tapas, fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, and great quantities of wine. After several hours of eating and lively conversation in Catalan which I didn’t understand, I excused myself. I had an appointment with a cousin of my father’s who lived in town. I took Rose’s information and promised to call her.

Jaime, my father’s cousin, introduced me to a local architect who mentioned that he was looking for help in designing an apartment building. I said I would think about it and call him later. During the afternoon, I visited several of Gaudi’s buildings. As I walked through the outskirts of Barcelona, I noticed a relatively modern small apartment building with a for rent sign at the entrance. ‘What the hell,’ I thought, I’ll take a look. The elderly concierge walked upstairs with me. On the second floor, I saw a large photo of an interesting looking man with a beard tacked to the door. I knocked and Thad, an American architect came out to greet me. He invited me inside to meet his wife, an American painter. We immediately hit it off. They said a two-bedroom apartment was available upstairs for thirty dollars a month. Was this real life or some fantasy I had been dreaming?

In one day I had a job, an apartment, a girlfriend, new friends, and after having planned to visit for three days, ended up staying in Barcelona for a year.

It turned out to be the best year of my life.


Claude Samton is an architect and visual artist who has taken several years of writing classes at the IRP and produced seven illustrated books published through Amazon. He is currently finishing his Illustrated Life Stories, a memoir.



My Medical Memoir

by Claude Samton

As I look back at my medical history I recall the events which were painful and caused anxiety at the time. Now, however, as I write about these episodes years later, I remember primarily the humor and interesting aspects of the situation. The old saying “time heals,”I believe to be true.

August 1950  I look in the mirror and notice a large boil on my left shoulder. Worry takes hold. Is it cancer, a bite by a poisonous insect or some incurable disease I’ve never heard about? I call my uncle, Dr. Brunell who lives nearby and is able to see me in the afternoon. I’m shaking with fear as he says, “Hold still, Claude,” and takes a needle to puncture the boil which turns out to be a heat blister.

December 1954  It is a crisp cold sunny day as I drive with my cousin Albert to Sugarbush Vermont to ski. Our old Ford has a problem with the heater which tends to go off periodically. We get to the slope in the early afternoon, strap on our skis and take the chairlift to the top. On the first run down the mountain, I slide on ice and fall heavily on my right side. Feeling extreme pain in the right leg,  I say, “We better drive home.”  The pain is increasing, so on the way back we stop at Pittsfield Mass General Hospital late on New Year’s Eve. The only doctor on duty is a young Indian intern. He carefully examines the leg and remarks, “Hit it, hit it.” I think he’s crazy until I realize he means  “Heat it, heat it.”

May 1958  I’m riding a motorcycle on a muddy road in Ibiza, a picturesque island off the coast of Spain which has no electricity or paved roads. The motorcycle hits a rut and I fall. The bike lands on top of me and I am covered in mud and blood. A coarse looking farmer in a small shack nearby sees me, runs over, takes me into the house, plies me with brandy and proceeds to wipe the mud and blood from my body. After a superficial cleaning, he lifts me roughly on his donkey and takes me into town. We enter a sparse whitewashed adobe house. Inside there is an old man who claims to be a doctor. Through the window I notice animals in the yard outside. The doctor says I need a tetanus shot which he gives me with a foot long hypodermic needle used for horses.

October 1961 I’m very depressed after the end of a love affair. Diana, who is several years older, is totally controlling and tells me what to feel, to think, to eat, and how to dress. I worry that I’m losing my identity but feel trapped between wanting to be with her and needing to get away from the relationship. I have an emotional breakdown and am taken to New York Hospital psychiatric ward. They give me the drug thorazine and several doses of shock treatment which makes me feel like I am dying. I begin to hallucinate and at dinner, I think I am Napoleon sitting at the table with George Washington and Joan of Arc. The three of us have a spirited conversation and solve the world’s problems without Diana.

August 1970   Sheila, my wife, our two sons and I decide to go on vacation to Maine. The past several months had been a period of intensive work for me. As we drive north, I get a pain in the belly. It could be indigestion, appendicitis, or cancer. We stop at a clinic in Maine where the doctor examines me and says, “You have an ulcer which means you’ll need to eat bland food such as milk and mashed potatoes.” I watch with envy as the family eats lobster, which I love, for the entire week. Back in the city I go to see Dr. Shumann, my regular doctor. He examines me and  laughs, “You don’t have an ulcer. It was just a lot of stress after an intense work period.”

April 1974   I feel severe abdominal pain and rush to St. Vincent’s emergency room. I gradually wake up in the men’s ward after surgery and dimly see a priest who is coming towards me ringing a bell, which I assume is for last rites. “Well it’s all over,” I say to myself as I start to sweat and the priest keeps walking to the next ward.

There are seven other patients–a Hispanic man with a bullet in his pancreas, an elderly Italian man who makes gurgling sounds, a bearded man near the door who yells “Help me Jesus” every few minutes. There are three men on the other side of the room who are immobile and a heavy man in the next bed who looks dead. Wednesday evening an orderly comes to the door and announces, “Bingo Night!” Everyone jumps up including the dead guy.

November 1982   After having a stiff neck for weeks, I see Dr. Shumann who doesn’t know what it could be, a chiropractor who adjusts my head and neck, a neurologist who does a cat scan, a physical therapist who stretches various muscles, and an alternative healer who hangs me upside down and pummels me. Nothing works. I finally go to a shiatsu massage therapist who suggests eating macrobiotic rice and beans. It works.

January thru December 1996   It’s a difficult year in which I have girlfriend problems. I go to see a woman who specializes in primal therapy. She leads a small group which meets in a basement on the Upper West Side and screams once a week. After six months I realize the therapist is crazier than any of my girlfriends and I leave.

January 2002 I enter The Hospital for Special Surgery to have my hip replaced. While being prepared for surgery, a nurse puts a big black magic marker X on my right hip. Ten minutes later the anesthesiologist puts a bigger black magic marker X below the first. Finally the surgeon puts the third X below the first two. “Just to be safe,” he assures me.

May 2006   I break my right wrist falling off a standing bicycle. At Mount Sinai Hospital the surgeon inserts a metal plate and sets the bone. He puts my wrist in a rubber bandage and sling. “You’ll be fine in three weeks,” he says. Eight weeks later the wrist is swollen to 2X normal size and I’m having difficulty sleeping. I go back to see the surgeon who says, “Well, everyone is different.”

February 2010   I am diagnosed with thyroid cancer and undergo surgery to remove my thyroid gland at Beth Israel hospital. The following week I’m given a radioactive iodine pill and told to stay ten feet away from everyone for a week, especially pregnant women. As I exit the lobby, three very pregnant women approach me.

October 2014 I go to see Dr. Shumann  for the annual checkup. He examines me and says, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

I have been an architect who has worked on such projects as Grand Central, a theatre at Tanglewood, and a Trump Golf Clubhouse for which I was stiffed. For the past 25 years, I have also made large photomontages with shows in museums and galleries. Recently, I have written and illustrated six books which are listed at Amazon.