Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Got my blue skies.

Holy shit, was the weather in San Francisco gorgeous. I couldn’t have picked a better time to escape this hell hole (though I was sad to miss this). Got out before the snow started, and reinserted myself into the madness after it stopped. Of course, the city is now (and will be for some time) an annoying snowy, slushy mess, but whatever. It was an awesome weekend, and memories of that will have to keep me warm. Yep. Memories of those crystal clear skies, those gentle breezes, that unobstructed sun, and those temperatures in the 70s will have to sustain me for the time being.

It was a great weekend, full of fun and hilarity. All of which is, of course, overshadowed by the memories of jumping out of that plane.

That’s right. The main purpose of this trip was to go skydiving in Monterey. Well, I should say that the main purpose of this trip was to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday, but since the way she wanted to celebrate it was to go skydiving, well then the main purpose of this trip became going skydiving. So skydive we did!

And it was spectacular. There just aren’t enough superlatives in the English language, so I won’t even bother. All I can say is that everyone must do it. At least once. Ho. Lee. Shit. You think you’ve experienced beautiful views before? Let me tell you, you haven’t experienced a “view” until you’ve experienced it from 15,000 feet with literally nothing between you and...it. And let’s discuss that fall, shall we? How the hell else could you ever experience 80 seconds of true free-fall without jumping out of a plane? You couldn’t, that’s how! So jump out of that plane already! Come on, what are you waiting for?

Ok. Truth be told, skydiving is something I’ve always had on my list, so when my friend announced her plans I jumped at the opportunity. I was the first to respond with a “Hell yeah, let’s go!” Others needed a bit more convincing. But in the end, a group of 13 of us took the plunge on Saturday, which is a pretty damn respectable number. I never thought our group would be that big.

And I guess we all had different reasons for jumping. It was quite a cast of characters, let me tell you. You’ve got me, the totally chill, ready-to-go dude, beaming with excitement as the plane accelerates on the runway. You’ve got super-excited-bubbly-bouncy girl, who can’t contain herself or keep from running and jumping and giggling around while waiting for her turn to board. You’ve got the big, manly, macho-man who’s done this before and had a terrible experience, and is using this go-round to (hopefully) purge himself of that memory and replace it with a totally positive one.

And then you’ve got people like X and Y, who are purely and unabashedly terrified, and appear to be doing this in some difficult, yet admirable, attempt to face one of their deepest fears.

I didn’t interact with X much, because she popped a couple valium in the morning and pretty much zoned out until it came time to harness up and climb the staircase from the tarmac to the plane. But Y, on the other hand... I spent a lot of time with him. He drove the car that carried me and two of my friends from San Francisco to Monterey, and so we all had a lot of time to chat and get to know each other. And when I say “chat,” you should know that I am not using that word in any way even remotely similar to any way I’ve used it before. “Chat” just sounds way too benign for anything involving Y.

That’s because Y is like no one I’ve ever met before. From the moment he met up with our little group in the morning, he effortlessly inserted himself into it and became an integral part of it. Which was fun and fascinating to watch since, as I just said, Y is like no one I’ve ever met before. And lest anyone read this and take that as some kind of judgment, let me just state for the record that that could not be further from the way it’s intended. I’m totally infatuated with Y, as was, I think, everyone else in our group.

When you meet Y, the first thing you notice (and believe me, there’s no way not to) is that he’s flamingly gay. Seriously. FLAMING. Flaming in a way that I don’t think I realized existed outside of bad ‘80s comedies. It’s a way of being that I always thought was fiction, caricature, and had very little basis in reality. But it is, in fact, real, and is definitely Y’s reality. And though it is momentarily disorienting, it quickly becomes refreshing in its earnestness; in its complete and total abandon and “take me as I am and I will make no apologies for myself” attitude. How can you not respond to that? And I pity the person who would respond negatively.

So we get in the car, and it’s all gay all the time. Well, that is, except when conversation veers to tangential topics like the Catholic Church and Classic Cars. (Um, yeah.) We hear about Halloween in the Castro. We hear about Brokeback Mountain. We hear about familial issues. We hear about parties and drugs and stories in which he refers to himself as “Mama.” We hear about past relationships and past humiliations... It’s as if we’ve all known each other forever, rather than just a few minutes.

So we get to the drop zone, and spectator friends of his show up with spatulas with which to scrape his remains off the ground. Hilarious. He continues his antics, and wins over pretty much everyone in the place, all the while holding at bay his own terror at what is soon to take place.

And so our time comes, and we all meet our jumpmasters and get harnessed up. Y was paired with a “piece of beefcake” who clearly didn’t know quite what to make of him. But like everyone else, he was quickly won over. As Y proceeded to pull a ski mask over his face, Mr. Beefcake said, “You know, you really don’t need that. It’s pretty warm up there today,” and Y responded, “Yeah I know, but it’s to keep my dentures in my mouth.” And we laughed, not really sure how to take it or whether or not he was serious.

So we board the plane, do our thing, and some 15 minutes later come in for our landings at the landing site. And once there, it’s all fun and celebration. Though we all may have had different reasons for embarking on this journey, once landed we were all celebrating the same thing. Life. Risk. The tempting of fate, I suppose. So much laughing, and hugging, and talking excitedly, and sharing tales of our individual experiences. The afterglow would last for hours. Days, even.

I got the biggest kick out of listening to the reactions of the previously terrified members of our party, as their celebrating seemed to carry a weight that the rest of us couldn’t really appreciate. I wish I could say that by jumping out of that plane I had faced a major fear or fulfilled a life goal or exercised some measure of control over my fate or destiny. But really, I just had a fucking fantastic time.

And though Y was definitely a member of the Club of the Truly Terrified, back in San Francisco I learned of another layer of his motivation that I never could have guessed. Turns out he's living with full-blown AIDS, and he nearly died in December. He was in the hospital for a month, and only recently has been able to get himself back out and about. In fact, it really wasn’t certain until the last minute that he’d be accompanying us on our big group outing. My friend, the birthday girl, told me later that last week she was on the phone with him and was telling him how truly ok it was if he needed to bail on her birthday. He’d been through so much, and shouldn’t be putting undue pressure on himself, she said.

“Girl,” he said, “I have worked too damn hard to get myself out of that hospital bed for this, and I am jumping out of that plane.”

And jump out of that plane he did.

5 Comments:

Blogger e.e. said...

Smile.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Blood Ray said...

Sounds like a fanatstic time, with some fanastic people.

I've thought about skydiving, but I'm not sure it's a fear I can actually face.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Limecrete said...

Yes, I would be one of those unabashedly terrified people.

You’ve got the big, manly, macho-man who’s done this before and had a terrible experience, and is using this go-round to (hopefully) purge himself of that memory and replace it with a totally positive one.

What encompasses a "terrible [skydiving] experience" that doesn't involve death and/or dismemberment?

1:55 AM  
Blogger P/O said...

good question, your limeness. i shall answer thusly: apparently he exited the plane badly, which led to him panicking and becoming so stiff that he was unable to get into a good free-fall position, resulting in a harrowing trip toward the ground. or at least, that's my understanding. :)

10:55 AM  
Blogger Raven in NYC (aka Mark) said...

I am so jealous. Sky diving is 2nd on my list of things to do that I probably won't, but really I should because I want to.

12:31 PM  

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