Paul Simon is playing through my head. Steve Gadd’s signature rhythm soothing my dreams, but somewhere Steve missed a beat or three and it startled me. As I opened my eyes, a tunnel came rushing towards me. Seriously. It moved in my direction. A massive void in a natural and organic space slowly gravitating towards my face and I’m powerless to do anything about it, horrified at the speed at which the gap was being closed.
If I didn’t do something quickly a horrible, distasteful contact would occur. It was like watching a horrible scene from an old Star Trek where the monster machine was sucking up every planet in its path.
His T-shirt was simply too short to cover the mound of hairy flesh that surrounded the oversized, probably lint-filled belly button pressing so closely to my cheek. We’ve all seen this sort of person, usually in social parody shows where the guy has a beer in one hand, a wrench in the other, and a tattoo of a curvy woman he’ll never have a chance of meeting tattooed upon his forearm. In many cases, the T-shirt also reveals what some call “Five-buck” pants, otherwise known as “plumbers butt.” This was one of those many cases. I found myself wishing for a quarter and instantly regretting the thought (no matter how humorous it was). Remember that basketball scene in “Meet the Fokkers?” Where DeNiro is slimed by Hoffman’s sweaty belly as he goes for the dunk? Yeah…it feels like that…
This guy even has the requisite tattoo, but it’s of a comic book character, not a woman.
It’s the 6:00 a.m. flight to Boston, and I’m sleeping very soundly as we leave Phoenix in the rear-view mirror. A voice from the seat next to me awakens me, and it’s at this point I’m faced with the Chunnel in front of me. My seatmate has a buddy who has walked up and like many men with monstrous pre-arriving protruberances, he feels the need to rub his mass against something.
In this case, my face (actually the seat side on which my face is resting.
Reaching up quickly and pushing into what felt like a well-worn mattress from a brothel, I push back. “Resistance is futile” began playing in my mind, but the truth was, the defensive move surprised my new friend as much as his belly had surprised me. He began a hasty retreat and to his credit, apologized. I smiled and told him that while I have a penchant for bellybuttons, his was not quite what I usually have in mind.
His name was James Ray. Hmmmm
We both got a chuckle and I did my best to apply mental bleach to the moment as the plane began its descent into MHT.
And so began my day.
Next up is a rental car and long drive to Jumptown.
Jumptown is a fairly large dropzone/skydiving club located in Orange, Massachusetts, and they’ve brought me in to install, develop, and implement a new video editing system, one with which they can automatically edit tandem and AFF videos for very fast delivery. I’ve never been to Jumptown, but have heard a lot about them. Within only a few minutes I can tell this is a place I’d like to visit often.
The system isn’t terribly different than the turnkey systems we’ve installed in Lake Elsinore and several other dropzones around the world, except that the dropzone has purchased this one on their own, and now they mostly need custom templates and training related to the system they’ve built.
Change always brings discomfort, and this dropzone is no different. As it turns out, there are videographers shooting 15 minute epic films for tandems, while others are struggling to meet the “six minute requirement” that the DZ has in place. The disparity is the greatest I’ve seen on any dropzone.
Some of the videographers are resisting the change from tape to file-based camcorders, and yet others are resisting the idea that their tandem videos will be fairly consistent with regards to length and content, to that of other videographers on the DZ. This is normal, I’ve seen it on a coupla dozen DZ’s, but usually the argument is about which camera to go with, not length of videos. Listening to the guys bitch and whine about “I’m a filmmaker, and I like telling the story of the person’s tandem….” falls on deaf ears from me. I truly am a “filmmaker” with a long history in the business, and 12-minute long tandem videos are not “films.” We’re gonna forge on anyway. Hopefully they’ll figure it out, but right now, the dialog feels something best illustrated “Brick wall, meet words.”
The next thing I know, it’s been a 12 hour day of computers, twitchy installs, and tweaky videographers. I want a bath, and head for the hotel as fast as my rented wheels will take me to one.
The hotel is best described as “quaint.” Sitting on a small hillock, it could have been a brightly painted inspiration for Hitchcock’s “Psycho” starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. Opening the door to my private chambers, I spy a chair in the corner, and have expect “Mother” to be waiting for me. Her chair was, but gratefully she was not in it.
Dawn springs forth, and a new day begins. This one should fall together much more efficiently than the last.
Part of my deal with Jumptown is that I get to jump a time or two while I’m there, otherwise they’re gonna have to pay my full daily rate. Justin and Brian let me know that the weather is coming in, so I’d be smart to get on the first load of the day, can I make a ten minute call?
Well…I’m borrowing a rig I haven’t seen, don’t have my wingsuit zipped onto the unseen rig, helmet, goggles, alti, legbrace in the car, and I forgot my shorts that allow me to wear my bionic knee in flight and landing. All of this usually takes 20 mins or so to set up and properly safety check.
Of course I can make a 10 minute call, you kidding me?
With a little help from my friends, I’m ready to fly, but damn, we’re hustling to beat the rain and in our rush, I caught the leading edge of my wingsuit on a protruding hook in the loading area, tearing a small hole.
Stress is really built up at this point….I don’t just want this skydive, I NEED this skydive.
On the climb to altitude, it dawns on me to ask someone “What canopy is in this container, mate?”
“Uh, I’m not sure” is generally not the answer one is looking for when inquiring about a life-saving device used to slow the descent of someone whom has hurled themselves towards earth from a high object.
Oh well…I NEED this skydive, remember? What could possibly go wrong?
There may be “fifty ways to leave your lover…” but there is only one way to exit this aircraft….and I can hardly wait to toss myself out at 14,000. Regardless of what is on my back.
Justin and Lurch leave first because they have bigger wingsuits, so if I’m gonna sink out on them, I at least want a few seconds of grinning time as I watch them shrink above me.
As luck would have it, they both dropped to my level and I held out my left hand for Lurch to take. As I did, I felt a tapping on my right side and there was Justin, knocking on my door. I released my wing and took Justin’s hand. The three of us flew there together experiencing sheer joy that only wingsuiters can truly understand. Docking while moving forward at 100 mph is pretty specific and challenging. Most people would be afraid to line up three cars on the freeway, reaching out of their windows to hold hands with others, let alone doing it three across. Add the component that a wingsuit is much lighter than a car, and someone else’ movements will quickly impact your own flight, and it’s a recipe for aerial combat. Some people have even said it can’t be done, but we’re doing it.
We pull off the dock for 30 seconds. Now I’m ready to try to float on these two. I pour on the gas to build speed and leave em’ in the dust for a second or two. But…their bigger suits and longer tail wings have them both back on my tail like the highway patrol chasing a speeding teen.
No matter, it’s time to find out what parachute is on my back, so I wave off (indicating my intention to let my parachute out of the bag, it’s sort of like putting on brake lights so folks know you’re slowing down) and I pitch out my pilot chute.
Seeing your main canopy properly inflating above your head is always a good thing, and I was pretty pleased to see Plan A being perfectly executed.
Landing on the ground (down wind, of course), Lurch greets me with a yell that falls somewhere between a hoot, caw, and psychotic giggling. The embrace we shared made the many months since our last skydive together fall to the ground as new memories have just been made.
The weather rolls in, the training is done. All thoughts of computer hell, video prima-donnas, hairy bellybuttons, and long flights pass by me in the flash of a 2.5 minute skydive. CTRL+ALT+DELETE….
Truly…there are fifty ways to leave your lover, but I’m only leaving Jumptown one way; with good memories of a fast, productive, and incredibly friendly visit. And can’t wait to return.
Thanks Diane, Dave, Muppet (and everyone else that participated), for making this visit truly a fun experience. I hope to revisit Jumptown 50 times….