And so it ends, this last day of 2008. The day is a milestone and marker for so many memories, thoughts, dreams, and achievements…
Yes, another year has come and gone. It’s been filled with a lot of ups n’ downs (at least 500 of them for me personally), and I’ve found myself a different person today than I was 365 days ago.
I began 2008 knowing everything there was to know about skydiving, beyond improving physical skills and technique. I ended 2008 with the understanding that I only have begun to understand what I don’t yet know about. It’s been humbling. I’ve lost friends both in the physical and social sense. I’ve gained far more friends than I’ve lost. I’ve watched heroes become zeroes, and come to understand more about the value of friends. Nothing new to most of those reading this, but this particular blog entry is more of a self-commentary and observation…
So, if you’re looking for a lot of funny stuff about Skydive Sebastian or at the least, a history of the day….it’s probably going to be sparse in this entry.
My last skydive of 2008 was a painful one, as I listened to music that put my mind in a melancholy mode, reflecting more on the mistakes of 2008 rather than the successes. Successes only serve as reminders of what we do right, while mistakes are moments we’d like to go back and repair when possible. In that regard, I have a few repairs I’d like to make…and as one of my private resolutions, I’ll do exactly that.
In this last skydive of the year, I thought about those that have inspired me. Wow…what a list. Jason Carter, Brian Drake, Sean Horton, Scott Callantine, Jeff Nebelkopf, thanks for helping me be a better flyer, better person, and for the admirable qualities you demonstrate. Jack and Debbie…I can’t express appreciation enough. Joey…damn I’ve missed your smile lately. Chris, you’re an amazing coach. I’m safer, smarter, and more able thanks to you. Sean McLaughlin…thanks for teaching me the basics of ASL. Do me a favor though…SLOW DOWN! The list goes on and on….and there isn’t enough room in this blog to mention everyone.
Doug was a terrific student today. Watching him go from a zoomie guy with wings to being in real control of his flight was a grin neither of us will soon forget. Same for Skittles. Breathe, buddy. You earned that skydive. But at the same time….you demonstrate exactly why smart instructors stick with the USPA recommendation of 200 skydives before putting on the nylon.
Doug M. kicks it out; thanks for the great skydives, Doug!
Lots of AFF today…lots of freefly, and surprisingly very few tandems. Range was working on video for the New Year’s Eve party, and Handsome Harry was still obsessing over his new sign for http://www.theharryparker.com that appeared over the top of the Tiki Bar this afternoon. The inflatable boxing ring is up, can’t wait to see what happens with that tonight.
Brian, my packer, gave me an extra-special pack job for this last jump; it opened so damn sweet, and thankfully so, since I didn’t open til around 2k (OK, maybe a little lower, but I knew what I was doing…) Avery and Jeff, damn you for teaching me dirty tricks.
Following the sunset beach jump, Rook and Dave (the pilots) did a low-pass fly-by in the Super Twin Otters….no matter how often I see this, it makes my heart leap a little.
Oh yeah, did I mention the student that kicked me hard enough in the ribs that it left me with a monster bruise and probable broken rib? THAT hurt.
Back to this particular skydive, I reflected on the jumps in 2008 that meant the most to me. One was my first “real” wingsuit jump, with Scott Campos. I don’t know whether to hail or hate him for the addiction he fed into my veins. My first bigway (my fourth wingsuit jump) with the personal instruction and help from Scott Callantine; and my friendship with Monkey…all cherished moments. There are some people in this sport that just make you shake your head and think “damn, I’d like to be more like that guy…” Sean inspired me more than he’ll ever know, as have several others, but Sean in particular…encouraged me to attend my first wingsuit camp that became a major turning point for me.
Skittles Rides the Nylon at Sebastian on New Year’s Eve
I was determined to be a part of both announced bigways in wingsuiting this year, and that goal was achieved in spite of the best efforts of one or two people to keep me from em. To those two…I’d like to say “F**k you” but in truth, I can’t, because their attempts to keep me from growing as fast as I have served as a motivation to grow as fast as I did. In other words, thanks to them, my suck factor has significantly decreased. Neither of them would suggest that I didn’t earn my slot on the Wingsuit World Record held in November. I worked hard to earn a slot. I’m proud of those efforts not only for myself, but for all those involved. We all worked ourselves to the point of exhaustion. There are those that have worked equally hard to detract from the efforts of the one hundred-plus people that worked hard to be a part of the event. Only hypocrites of the greatest magnitude feed off the efforts of others after having tried to kill those very efforts. Thank you Hammo and Elsinore, for making this event work well. Jeff, you have my undying respect for what you undertook and achieved. Taya…words fail me. Justin, Mark, Craig, Scotty…you all were huge support for the video efforts required at this event. I enjoyed helping you and being helped by you.
Mark Kirschenbaum…Nationals was killer!!!! Damn! Who’da thunk we/you could pull this off? Sony Vegas, three computers, you, me, and a little luck…what a terrific learning experience for me (and hopefully you, too). Over 1000 videos captured, edited, or generated. That in of itself should probably qualify as a record in the skydiving world. Even if it isn’t “official” nor ratified by FAI, IPC, Guinness, or any other body…I’d challenge anyone to show us more videos captured, edited, and output to multiple formats at any skydiving event in history. F**K THE GRID!
Eloy…Also of enormous value to me was being a part of the Invitational Wingsuit event at Eloy this year. Scott did an outstanding job of keeping everyone safe, even if the HALO jump did end with most of the formation in the cotton fields. I’ll never forget the elation on Veggie’s face for being part of a bigway. He was like a kid in candy. You did it, Veggie!!
We can’t forget the jump at Pepperell where 43 people landed off, nor the jump in Utah where Purple Mike flew east vs south, and 12 people landed off, and we spent 3 hours looking for Scott Callantine who had spent 3 hours looking for a phone. Or that Mike flew northwest instead of southwest over Farnsworth Peak, ended up in the parking lot of a Maverick gas station, regaling everyone with stories of his heroism as a skydiver. Mike…you’re priceless. An incredibly self-absorbed kind of priceless, but priceless and loved for certain.
Pepperell…Lodi,…Zhills, all were great places to jump. The space shuttle jump particularly stands out for me; Jumping with Scotty Burns, Purple Mike, Mike Mascheff, and Discovery changed my life forever. We won the USA Today photo contest with that jump; we were on the cover of USA Today. It’s unlikely the jump will ever be repeated. It’s a small moment in history that for me, ranks above winning my Grammy’s or Emmy awards. There is a small irony that I ended the year at Sebastian when I more or less started as a wingsuiter at Sebastian earlier this year. Strange how friendships can influence where we spend significant moments.
Speaking of friends….Scotty Burns, Justin Shorb, Scott Callantine, Joey, Rick, Jason Carter…you guys all helped make this year incredibly memorable. Thank you for being there on my 1000th. You’ll never know how much you mean to me. The wingsuit community is a dysfunctional family that works well…and it’s been a fun family to be a part of. Some of the group are like brothers, others more like sons. Then there are those that are merely friends I know I can count on, and who can count on me…Jeff D, Chris W, Mike S, Mannie, the “Dave’s”, Rudy Sarzo, Princess Tai, Lurch…All part of a terrific year.
See….I thought a lot during this skydive that seemed to go on forever….It was a long one, barely under three minutes. I reflected on my jump in Eloy that took place on the anniversary of Josh’s death. God, that was a hard jump. In those moments as I flew towards the sun, thoughts of playing Icarus rather than Daedalus prevailed; there was a strong urge to fly forever. In that jump, I made a choice of losing myself or letting Josh really go, for good. In that moment a small piece of me died but a new piece of me was borne. I can never replace Josh, but I have found I can exist with a smile on my face. God, how I miss my son.
And told him as much in this final jump of 2008.
Sometime in 2008 I fell in love with being in love, and that too, has changed me. It’s been a challenging ride, but one that is meaningful and forward-looking. Life is good. (So says Andrea’s Jeep…) I’d forgotten how to smile, but the last six or seven months have helped me remember. I’m not sure exactly when the change took place, but it’s been a long time coming.
Who’da thunk so much thought could be found in a single skydive? I surely wouldn’t. I was stunned when my audible went off.
So, I’m off to the New Year’s Eve party at Sebastian. It’s time to leave the video room for a change. Range was smart enough to leave a while ago; Harry is LONG gone. Tonight, I’m looking forward to seeing the faces of friends, laughing at their antics, and sharing in the turn of the new year. I wish Scotty and Justin were here; it’s like we’ve become the inseparable three over the past few months as we’ve worked on Flock University projects. There are others I wish were here with me…you know who you are, where ever you are.
Sorry for the disjointed rambles, it’s odd how the mind works this time of night.
What’s up for 2009? Some great jumps, that’s for certain. Looking forward to seeing many of you at the Wingsuits Over Utah event with the Otter from Eloy, and the freefly events going on at the same time. I’m looking forward to the competitions we’ll hold at that boogie. Those that enjoyed the Settlement Canyon and Farnsworth Peak jumps in 2008, just WAIT til you see what I’ve got planned for the 2009 event!
I’m looking forward to the students that 2009 will bring to the wingsuit world. I love teaching. More than almost anything, I love teaching. I love flying. I’m looking forward to the next world record event, and hoping I’ll be able to make it on the team again.
BTW, check back on this blog again, as I’ll perhaps edit it after the night is over and the Oban has worn off….until then…
Happy 2009 to you.
May blues and puffies fill your skies.
[edit/add] and so this night has passed, it is now the new year. The party at Sebastian was impressive with Jay Moledzski spinning tunes, Jonathan Tagle tearing it up, both of them looking fresh and phat with their facial hair and perpetual shades. Amanda/manifest was hot and stylin’ in her high heels, and people were bouncing hard in the inflatable toys. Sparklers abounded, and there were at least 5 practice countdowns to the new year.
The Harry Parker was dispensing beer like a total pro; he even bought me one. I guess buying enough beer in one lifetime trains one to be a bartender… Nice job with the bar, Harry.
Scotty and Justin, you two f**kers shoulda been here. You really should have. Christmas, I was away from family, New Year I was away from family. The ones I love were all so very far away from me this holiday. I would like a do-over. Can we do New Year’s Eve in July? I made the important phone calls at the appropriate time, I can’t wait (yes I can) to see my phone bill for New Year’s Eve around midnight.
It’s now 12:45, and time for bed. Fortunately, I was able to get back to the motel before the heavily-imbibed got on the road.