Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years at Deland

The winter of ‘92/’93 I was part of a competition 4-way skydiving team/study group named Muffy and The Divers. Muffy was kind of our team leader and she came up with the name. We did everything together. For New Years we decided to go down to Deland Florida for a huge skydiver’s party.

I think I might have run my little Samurai into a ditch at our annual chili party in Vandalia, Illinois because it was left there for repairs when we drove down. I drove down with Dan Cunningham and Laura G. Laura was on my team. We were taking her down to meet up with her fiancé Jamie, but that didn’t stop us from making passes at her. We were the perfect traveling companions. We laughed almost the whole way down. U2’s Achtung Baby had just been released. In a trance listening to the lyrics of “One” Laura turned to me and said, “Bono is God.”

When we got there I was the only one that was too broke to get a room. I pitched my tent at the airport’s tent city and somehow crawled back to it every night. We must have been there a week but hardly jumped at all. The sky was always overcast.

One night, after a day of not jumping, Rob Walsh and I ended up at the pilot’s bar at the airport. Rob was also on my team. Everyone was mourning the death of Tommy Piras. He invented the style of team jumping we practiced. He died nearby and everyone knew him. Rob died last year in that terrible airplane accident in Sullivan, Missouri.

Rob had an affinity for tequila. He lined up 5 shot glasses and told me he’d roll a quarter off his nose. If the coin bounced once and went into a glass I had to drink it. At 3 or 4 shots I looked up bleary-eyed to catch him holding the coins right over the glasses.

Several other jumpers were there and when the bar closed we found ourselves in the parking lot. Some big, dumb redneck took a look at me and decided he hated me and everything I stood for. I recoiled in surprise as he took a swing at me.

Laura came to my rescue. She jumped on his back, swung fists violently at him and yelled, “You can’t hurt my friend!” All at once there was a riot and 20 or so people were at it. We had to return the next morning to find Jamie’s glasses. I was the only person that didn’t even get hit.

That morning was another overcast unjumpable day. Jamie said he knew a place that made the best Bloody Marys in the world. We drove for hours along the coast. The bar was tiny and at the end of a pier. There was an angry pelican standing guard. Jamie was right; I had never had a better or more unique Bloody Mary. I wish I could remember the name of the bar.

Muffy was going out with John Vincent then. John was the guy that scaled the Arch with suction cups and jumped off. That Halloween everyone in St. Louis was the Arch Jumper. My skydiving buddies brought him into the Venice Cafe one night when I was tending bar. A lot of pop culture celebrities visited the bar but my boss Jeff Lockheed was most impressed with The Arch Jumper.

He ended up spending a few months in jail because he violated his parole by jumping off the radio tower by the Kendrick movie theater. I mention John because Muffy and I spent an entire day at all the head shops in Orlando looking for just the right hash pipe for his birthday.

The party was at Deland’s biggest hotel. I think it was a Holiday Inn. We partied with a lot of skydiving celebrities including Bill Booth, the inventor of the tandem parachute rig and the 3 ring cutaway system that greatly simplified reserve deployment.

I made it back to the airport and crawled into my tent. I lay awake most of the night trying not to hear the moans of my neighbors in the heat of sex. After sleeping it off I walked back to the hotel. The place was a disaster. Clothes, trays, and bottles were strewn across the halls. One of the doors creaked open and I watched Muffy sneak out of one and tip-toe into another room. She wore a tiara, a torn dress, and fishnet stockings with runs. She looked spectacular.

When it was time to go Dan and I drove back without Laura. It was an empty experience. When we got back to Vandalia I went to the shop that had my car. They told me they didn’t even look at it because someone had vomited on the passenger side floor. I always bring my own vegetarian chili to the chili party. My leftovers had spilled giving them the wrong impression. After cleaning it up I had to spend another couple of nights there before I could drive home.

Photos are of Laura, Jamie and Rob Walsh at the airport. Rob is in a white jump suit with a blue rig on the right in our Missouri POPS record photo.


Anonymous said...


The place with the great Bloody Marys is J.B.'s Fish Camp.

That was one of the more memorable road trips I can recall.


Doggie said...

Thanks, now I can find next time we go down. Tom K was talking about some kind of POPS things they did down there last summer. Dean B went with him. I think it might become an annual event.