At 13,000 feet nothing else matters

A few weeks ago a coworker of mine decided that he wanted to celebrate his birthday with something big – and came up with the brilliant idea of going skydiving. He had been once before, and he’s a very thrill-seeking kind of guy, as well as a snowboarding instructor in the winter.When he sent out a general invitation to all to join in on the fun, I was initially excited, as this is something I’ve thought about doing, but never really pursued the subject at all. So my initial reactions were mixed – want to go, yes, really! But then the terror of jumping out of a plane? That’s insane!!

Lucky for me, the Saturday he had scheduled for was Yom Kippur, and I was already going to be with my uncle in the local synagogue, and then break the fast with some cousins in New Jersey.

Little did I know that Yom Kippur was going to have just enough rain to keep everyone from skydiving that day, and that everyone left and rescheduled for the following Saturday.

Back at work, hearing this, I immediately jumped on board for the next Saturday’s jump, and put it on my calendar and didn’t schedule anything else.

During the week, I kept on reconsidering, reflecting on whether or not I really wanted to do this. I mean, really, going up into the air, and dropping like a stone from a plane that’s turning right around and landing anyways! How crazy is that!

Turns out, my kind of crazy.

Saturday morning, I head over to Harrison, New Jersey and get picked up by Gavin (whose brilliant idea it was), along with Christophe and his friend Fernando. We meet up with Vincent, Olga, Alex and Marissa. We exchange directions, and head down to South Jersey, a place called Willamstown.

On the way, I call Freefall Adventures to inquire about the weather conditions impacting the day’s activities, and am informed that it’s going to be ok, just a major delay as the early morning was unsuitable for jumps, so everyone got pushed back a few hours. Once we arrived at the location, we met up with Mike S. and Veronica, more friends that live in the closer area and had a much shorter drive.

The we line up for forms and such, and get handed a pile of stuff to read and fill out, waivers and such, who to notify in case of accidents, and whether we have any physical distinguishing marks. The last was the source of many a joke. Much gallows humor had by all.

There were a large crowd of people hanging around, and not much jumping going on. There was some good music playing, and we eventually found a deck of cards, and had lunch, shot some hoops, chatted and had an all-around good time hanging out, with the eternal wait.

We also got called in for the orientation video, where we saw some other jumps and guidelines, as well as the president of the company repeating that this is a dangerous activity and that they will try to keep us safe at all times, but accidents happen. Nothing disillusioning about that.

So we hung out for longer and longer, until finally at around 4:30pm, we get called in to get into harness and get instructed. This goes on for about half an hour, where we learn what we’re going to do and how to react. We also perform some of the stances that we will be in. My pulse is racing.

At about 5:00pm, the sun is starting to drop low in the sky, and 24 of us – a large amount of experienced single jumpers and 6 of our crew and accompanying instructors – board the Otter and take off.

We rapidly climb to about 12,000-13,000 feet (around 2 miles or 4 kilometers, give or take a bit), all the while being checked and double checked for straps, connections and everything else. One instructor, a crazy Frenchman, kept screaming at random intervals, “We’re going streaking!” with no apparent relevance to anything else.

As we near jump height, they open the door, and the first three jump. I’m fourth, and I’m almost freaking out, I can only remember that on the ground they told us that when jumping, the instructor will use the “Ready, set, go!” method while rocking together. My instructor, a huge Brazilian dude named Jonei, dumped us out on “set”, which helped my adrenaline levels skyrocket.

In the 60 seconds of freefall that followed, all I can explain that the completely foreign feeling of falling at of a rate of over 120MPH (more like 200KPH) was so phenomenal and alien that I wish it had gone on much longer.

At about 6,000 feet, Jonei yanks my left arm in front of my face to show me the altimeter dropping fast, and I have about 5 seconds to pull my own ripcord before he does it for me at 5,200 or so. I slowly reach back to my right hip for the toggle, and find Jonei’s hand on it already. As soon as he feels my hand tap, he pulls the cord, and the chute deploys.

If you’ve never gone before, that rapid deployment seems like it’s going to yank you really hard, but it’s actually not that bad. A little unexpected, but not bad. I fold my arms to my chest as Jonei checks the straps and we begin slowly gliding downwards at a much more leisurely rate. I let out a battle whoop, releasing that pent up tension, and feel the blood pounding and rushing. Whoa.

He then proceeds to point out some of the landmarks that you can see from that high above, none of which I can recall right now. We do some crazy turns and spins, stalls and swoops, and he hands me the toggles to control, explaining what they do. I do a few simple maneuvers as he instructs me, hoping that this thing is resilient and won’t drop us to the ground.

He takes back the reins, and then proceeds to freak me out, doing a couple of 360’s almost parallel to the ground, some cool turns, and finally landing in turn after swooping over some trees nearby. We ride in and slide me on my butt, as described as the probable method of landing during the instruction phase.

I collapse and lay down to enjoy the feeling of all that coming to an end, and then Jonei pulls me up, and I head back to turn in my gear.

We all talk exuberantly about the experience, while waiting for our other 4 friends to go up and jump. While they do, we rehash our experiences and have some great laughs.

After our friends’ jump (the final one of the day), we hang out with the skydiving crew in their hangar – very laid back, fun-loving kind of crowd. They crack open some beers, we all joke around, and a few of us try our balance on an Indo Board – with varying degrees of success. Something like that is a pretty cool way to spend your time waiting for your jump.

So we then sat down and watched some of the videos that were taken during the final jump, and had some laughs and and then left to get some food and drinks.

After a delicious dinner at some place called “The Office” in New Jersey, I was dropped off at a PATH station and headed home for a good sleep.

All in all, an awesome way to spend a day. I’m definitely interested in doing this again.

Waste some time? I can do that!

I seem to be hemorrhaging words today. Hope you’re enjoying it.

Tonight I went to a show.

I say “show”, but I’m a little concerned that this might lend some preconceived notions as to its purpose, quality, and overall experience.

I saw the event listed on the NonsenseNYC email list update (thanks to Jeff Stark). He had an interesting description there, and had listed that the event would be starting at 8pm, and that the event price was $5. I say again, $5 – not $15, which I was asked for at the door.

Since the event was scheduled to start at 8, I came a little early, and bought a beer. Went outside to drink it – on the street! Ha! Outside, I met another couple of people – a guy waiting for a lady friend of his from Hungary to arrive, and another lady named Aida who was, like me, there alone, and because of the listing.

So we chatted a bit, and when the doors opened for admission, we entered a smallish performance hall, and got the best seats in the house, right on the floor, not a foot away from some of the actors. On the other hand, considering the performance value, it may not have been the best seats in the house – those might have been outside.

With harsh red overtones, and a 4-piece band playing discordant music, smoke pouring in, it was more than a little bit eerie. The name of the piece – Hot Blood Cabaret – seemed to be apt to the scene.

As the band played on, and my eyes adjusted to the dimness, they wandered over the room, where the performers were already in place, doing whatever they were supposed to do.

The once that stays fresh in my mind is one gal, dressing in black lingerie, heaving over a toilet bowl, for about 45 minutes – it never got old. She’s take a break, feel something come up again, and dive right back into it, with vim and vigor.

The show was MC’ed by a severed head, with running humorous patter – probably a large amount of improv worked in there. He was amusing enough to keep the audience from getting too restless with some of the other performers.

There was a guy who played both parts in a short classical monologue piece, turning from left to right to display the gender of the character he was speaking as. He strayed from the original, bringing in a lot of modern language and concepts to the piece. Quaint.

Anyways, as Aida and I left – we turned to each other and said the same – “It was worth $5 – not $15!”.

Good night.

Only 15 minutes? I want more!

It is said that you get 15 minutes of fame.

What happens when that fame is not the fame you wanted? Can you get a refund, trade in, rebate or something like that?

About a month and a half ago, my friend Beka and I went out to see The Fantasticks.

It was a fun show, and as we were leaving the theater, we were set upon by media people – men with cameras and lights and microphones and such, asking questions about the show we had just seen.

They were from a new web site, that hadn’t launched yet – (catchy name?) – and the both of us, being theatrically oriented, had no problem standing in front of them and pushing a few lines their way. They edited them heavily, obviously, so the transitions are not some effect of a space-time warp something or other.

Here’s the videos of us (if they don’t show up on my site, drop me a comment and I’ll link to another video mirror):

[flv: 490 327]

[flv: 490 327]

The $1,000,000 question really is: Are these videos specific to this show, or could they be applied to any show? You decide.

Fresh Salt! Get yer Fresh Salt here!

I may have written about this place before, but I’m going to again.

Sunday night, I headed over a couple blocks towards the South Street Seaport, and on the way, there’s this nice little place that’s pretty unobtrusive, a great little neighborhood place.

Fresh Salt is its name, and it has great little neighborhood feel, in an area that has precious little neighborhood feel to it.

Once there, comfortably at the bar, I ordered a beer from Maggie, a lovely young 20-something behind the bar. She was running the iPod playlist with great music, some oldies but goodies, some more modern, and then fell into a complete album of Sweet, which was enjoyed by all.

She had mentioned that her friend Katie would be coming by later, and had requested that Maggie mix her a cocktail, including tequila and grapefruit juice. So she consults Mr. Boston, and comes up with a couple of drinks – neither of which sound all that great.

So after another few minutes of contemplation, I offer up a mix of my own, on the spot creation, as I have been known to do before.

  • 3 parts tequila
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 3 parts grapefruit juice
  • top off with Sprite/tonic/seltzer (to individual’s sweet tooth level)
  • splash of Grenadine

She made a taster, and liked it enough to make a couple for Katie and Annie when they arrived.

So I met the two ladies, now drinking “The Katie” and they were joined by a couple of other guys, and then I was regaled with not one, not two, but three great stories from the three ladies. One was about Katie’s neighbor – Rick something – and how he’s pretty odd. Then Maggie told us about the time her roommate passed out and locked her out of her own apartment. Finally, to close off the evening, Annie told one about a friend (?) of hers that had crapped his own pants, bought a new pair on the way home, and managed to lose both of them while trying to change pairs in between moving subway cars.

Ah, the memories.

Now, at this point I had probably too much to drink, so I proceeded to close my tab, and stumble off home.

Here’s to next Sunday!