Back when I was young, indestructible and had the common sense of Brussels sprouts, I wanted to go skydiving. Jumping out of an airplane and freefalling within a few hundred feet of the ground before popping the ripcord was a thrill I couldn’t imagine. I’d want to hold off opening the parachute for as long as possible, because at the time, hanging below a parachute hundreds of feet off the ground had to be the most boring thing I could imagine. Today if I was in an airplane it would take a whip, gun and a very angry sasquatch to get me out of it.
When I was little, a friend of mine, Ray, and I would climb an old railroad trestle. We would climb it from the ground to the top: up the stone supports, onto the steel girders and up to the railroad tracks where we would be about seventeen gazillion feet in the air. (I never actually measured it, so I may be off by a few feet one way or the other.) We never worried about falling because there was a river below with water to fall into. If we missed the water, there were trees along the banks with branches we could grab before we hit the ground. And if we missed the branches, we could maneuver ourselves in the air so we would land between the rocks, and the soft sand would break our fall–sometimes high optimism covers up low intelligence. Someday I hoped to scale some unconquerable peak. Hanging by two fingers, I’d stop for lunch and deftly unwrap a baloney sandwich with one hand and enjoy a cold Dr. Pepper from the cooler with ice strapped to my back, while all the time looking for that soft spot between the rocks in case I lost my grip. Nowadays I drive pitons, string ropes and put on a safety harness if I have to climb up on a chair to get a dish out of the top cupboard in our kitchen.
I used to skateboard when I was little, and I’m not talking the wussy skateboards they use today that don’t break in half over jumps and the wheels stay on. I’m talking homemade skateboards where you grab a 1X6 or 8 or 10 and nail an old pair of metal roller skates to it. That was skateboarding at its finest. We didn’t wear those sissy elbow pads and knee pads they wear today. No siree, nothing but skin to protect us from the pavement when we crashed. And we crashed a lot; because those old wheels locked up if you hit a crack wider than a quarter, a rock, a stick or a night crawler crossing the road. We had scrapes and cuts, but we were fine–most of the time you could barely see the bone. It didn’t bother us because we were tough and in a punch-drunk daze most of the time from loss of blood and head injuries, because we didn’t wear those sissy helmets either. Occasionally now, I’ll see one of those new skateboards with the polyurethane wheels sitting on the sidewalk, and a small voice will say, “You can still do it.” It’s Satan talking. So I don’t do it, because I still have the will to live.
Quick update on the sequel to my first novel In The