Friday, October 12, 2007

Freefalling between years

December 31st 1990 I was at a small airport in Sparta, Ill. when I received a phone call. The Broadway Oyster Bar’s gates were padlocked. The bar was closed. There was supposed to be a new year’s party. No one had been notified. Apparently the new owners were afraid to do business into the next tax year.

After working there for 8 1/2 years, I was suddenly unemployed. I wasn’t going to get depressed and anyway it was symbolic. I was going to make a jump at midnight. I’d be in freefall over the planet between 2 years. I would be descending into a new year and a new life. JT and I had just broken up and everything was strange and new.

I might be mixing the details of 2 different jumps together in my head but it was the same cast of characters and everything actually happened.

We knew the moon would be full and there would be no problem seeing. We restrained ourselves from alcohol the whole evening. 11:30 finally came and we got into a small Cessna and took off. Our pilot was Gary Peek, a fellow sky diver who is now our USPA Central Region Director. There were 3 other jumpers with me; Stuff (a 6’6” giant of a man who had spent time in prison and looked it), Mike Lambert (a skydive videographer), and Kevin Schaener (I’m not sure how you spell that. Gary if you read this leave his spelling in comments).

At the time I was listening to PIL and The Cure but I told Stuff that New Kids on the Block was my favorite band. He gave everyone nicknames and mine was Far Side. There was an extremely thin girl I was seeing that he called Paper Cuts.

A faint glow from the instrument panel lit our group. Stuff looked at me and said, “You know if you really wanted to take someone out in freefall no one would ever know it was intentional!” I laughed nervously and looked at Mike. He told me his dog’s tail got chopped off and had to learn to smile like a human.

We circled at altitude until just seconds before midnight. Gary said, “It’s time”. Someone forced the door open and the freezing winter wind came screaming in. One by one we exited.

Satisfied that I had fallen long enough to pass through midnight I deployed my canopy and finally took a look around. The moon was certainly bright enough. Everything was covered in snow. The highways, farmers’ fields, houses, even the runway. I was alone, floating in a great white infinite void. I had no idea where the ground was. The only thing I could think about was a dog smiling like a human!

A blue glow became faintly visible through the snow. It was a runway light. I landed safely and hoped Gary would too. I threw my parachute into the back of my Samurai and drove an hour and a half to a great new year’s party.

The Oyster Bar would be closed for several years. Decorations gathered cob webs like Miss Haversham’s wedding reception that would never happen.

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