Saturday, April 26, 2008

Frankenstein Missouri

I can’t seem to dig up details of this jump but I wanted to tell what I could recall.

In 1999 25 skydivers were asked to participate in a promotion for the release of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” video.

It was the 25 ½ year anniversary. They brought in a short skydiver so there would be 25 ½ of us.

I loved it because they paid us $300.00, 2 free jumps, and we got to keep our costumes.

Our pilot was Roger Nelson who was famous for organizing world freefall records. The previous summer he had completed a successful 246 way formation. He was shooting for 300 people that year. He died in a canopy collision in 2003.

If I’m not mistaken, B.J. Worth was our load organizer. He organizes all the skydiving stunts in the James Bond movies. He was also Bond’s stunt double.

The filming was to take place in Frankenstein MO (population 30). It was the only town in the US with that name. Our landing would nearly double the population.

After a day of recreational jumping at Quantum Leap in Sullivan, MO my friends Mary Jane, John and I headed in the general direction of the Calloway County nuclear power plant. Frankenstein was somewhere in between.

Late that night we got lost and stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. “Do you know where Frankenstein is?” we asked. “Do you mean Fronkensteen?” the attendant replied.

When we finally got there we couldn’t find a motel. It hadn’t occurred to us that a town of 30 wouldn’t have one. It was late and we were drunk so we decided to sleep in our vans at the site where we’d film in the morning. Shivering in my van I was awakened by John knocking on my window. It was too cold to sleep. Let’s just stay up and drink he suggested, this brilliant idea coming from a cop.

At 5:00 in the morning as the makeup artists were applying scars one of them remarked, “The bloodshot eyes are a nice touch.”

The mayor had officially renamed the town Young Frankenstein and the population swelled to 200 with a sudden influx of the town’s relatives.

As we landed in a small ball field, Fox 2’s Tim Ezell mysteriously appeared in our group in full Frankenstein drag with his microphone like he’d made the jump with us.

I don’t know how I did it, but I stripped as much makeup off as I could, put on a suit and tie, and drove to a deposition I had to videotape somewhere in the middle of Illinois.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Louisiana Jump

I think it was 1991 or 1992. Sharon, DJ and I went down to New Orleans for the Jazz festival. We were fortunate enough to see Nina Simone and Daniel Lanois, both of whom I idolized. The Gospel tent was a favorite. We partied at the side of the stage with The Subdudes and some bar in the Quarter. I was crazy about them too. I heard they got back together recently.

After several days of the Jazz Fest we decided to head over to the Creole Festival in Lafayette. I thought this was an even wilder street party. Creole cultures from the islands and mainland were all represented. Dancers in multicolored costumes on stilts celebrated life and the whole world was invited to the party.

I have a personal ambition to skydive in every state and hadn’t jumped in Louisiana yet.

I left the girls behind and took the car south to a small drop zone I’d found in my research.

The DZ was incredibly primitive. The outhouse was a plywood shack with a hole filled with lime to kill the odor. The manifest shack looked pretty much the same.

They had one Cessna 182 and a grass runway that was built up over a field like a dirt levee.

What really struck me was that, instead of talking their first time jump students down with a radio, they used a series of colored paddles. It looked like some kind of semaphore.

From the air I could see Avery Island. This is where they make Tabasco sauce.

As I swooped in for a fast landing my feet skied along the grass spraying a tail of water behind me. The water was just below the grass and you couldn’t see it.

I asked what the deal was with all the water.

“Didn’t you know this entire part of the state is a swamp?”

New Article about Jury Duty

I've written an article about jury duty. It's a little mean spirited. I published it at a new site. Click on the link. I could use the hits.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Big Time Drug Dealers

No, not the 2 in this picture.

A dear friend I only get to see about every 15 years called me from L.A. the other day.

She said my blog made it sound like we grew up total druggies. There was quite a drug culture back then but we also were actually learning about art, literature and the sciences.

I remember Tony turning us on to Marcel Proust when I was 16 or 17.

We were throwing lines from Finnegan’s Wake at each other while Captain Beefheart and The Bonzo Dog Band blared from our record player (and I do mean record player, not stereo).

We had good friends going into a Christian order “The Brotherhood of Mans”. (Tony please let me know if I’m not getting this name right). A. turned me on to Maxfield Parish which led to Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Post Impressionism, Da Da, Expressionism, and Surrealism.

We were reading Joyce Carol Oates, Herman Hesse, Richard Brautigan, and Carlos Castaneda among others.

In spite of all this I’m about to tell another drug story. This is in response to a comment I received from my “Suburbs” entry.

I was 16 and had just gotten my first car. It was a black Pontiac station wagon I called “Wild Life” after a Capt. Beefheart song. I was living in Soulard over Suzy, Mark, and Kent Gray (Suzy Q for those familiar with the name).

My apartment was always filled with my friends. My mother worked at night bartending and we were left to our own devices.

My buddy J. decided we could make a lot of money selling drugs. At first we experimented trying to grow our own marijuana. J. was learning about hydroponics and we tried growing seeds in toilet paper mulch. We tried all kinds of crazy experiments. As a practical joke J. used to push seeds into my mother’s potted plants. I would find the little sprouts coming up everywhere and have to dig them out before my mom found them.

This ended up being the only thing we could grow until several years later when we had mushrooms growing all around the house. You could order mycelium legally through High Times magazine back in those days.

One day J. got a line on a pound of dope and a few hundred hits of acid. J., M. and I decided to go into business together. We had fantasies about big runs up from Mexico. We were going to be rich!

The big deal went down in an apartment in the Central West End.

I can’t remember how much the LSD cost but the pound was $100.00. I can’t even imagine how much it would be today.

After spending an entire evening cleaning the pot we discovered the acid was very weak. We gave all but a hundred hits back and turned everyone else onto the rest. M. decided she couldn’t in all good conscience sell dope because she was so heavily into it herself. So one evening it seemed all the kids in South St. Louis were tripping. We lost all our money.

I remember J., M. and I cruised up and down Gravois all night in Wild Life. We watched the sunrise at the riverfront and went back to my apartment to sleep it off.

We woke my mother and she could tell that we’d been up to no good. She started barking orders and my friends and I found ourselves washing dishes and cleaning house.

The noise woke Suzy up downstairs and she came up. With my mother yelling at us in the background Suzy looked up at us from her cup of coffee and asked, “Why is she doing this to us?” She seemed to identify more with us than my mother.

M. and I got out of the business immediately. J. didn't and ended up doing 5 years in prison when his field was discovered. That is actually a fascinating story I’ll tell later. It should be made into a movie.

The picture is Kent and Suzy in her Afro wig in front of our Soulard home.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Dad's Birthday

I had forgotten until my mother reminded me. My father's birthday is April 5th. He would have been 72 today. This was always my favorite picture of him. I think he was still a teen ager. I once asked him why I could never remember his birthday but he never forgot mine. He told me it was because he was around for my first one. I visited his grave at Calvary Cemetery the other day and draped his headstone with Mardi Gras beads.

Because I Met Sam

Closing time one night at The Oyster Bar Joanie and I agreed to meet our friends Sam Northington and his wife Judy at the Eat-Rite diner. It was 1985 I think. By the time we left Joanie decided it was late and she was too tired to go.

Around 4:30 in the morning we received a phone call from our friend Richard. Judy had been killed in the parking lot at the diner. We went to Sam’s house on Russell.

They had been sitting in their car with the windows rolled up eating burgers. A would be purse snatcher swung a brick that was attached to a rope through Judy’s window. The brick shattered her jaw and one of the shards severed an artery. Judy died instantly. The killer was caught because apparently he was already being sought for murdering a homeless man who was asleep in an alley.

Sam was inconsolable. In tears he kept asking what he was going to do without Judy in his life. Sam had just retired from a long, hard career at Mcdonnell Douglas. He was instrumental in the development of one of their fighter jets. I believe it was the F-14. He blamed the stress of this for his first heart attack. Sam would have a history of heart problems.

Joanie and I began to spend a lot of time with Sam.

Judy’s sister, whose name escapes me at the moment, married a man named Peter Morgan. He was part of the Morgan family who own the department store chain in Canada.

Sam talked us into visiting them in Toronto. Judy’s sister looked exactly like Judy, it was eerie.

They had a beautiful place on a lake. Their kids had their own island with a fort. The kids impressed us with their ability to ski barefoot. Peter decided we should take a trip to Montreal and stay with his relatives.

The place in Montreal was a castle. Their nearest neighbors were the Goldwyns of MGM.

The perimeter of the property was surrounded by a stone wall. I can’t remember if they were French or English but they had a cannon pointing out at the St. Lawrence seaway to defend against the other side during our revolution.

There was a guest cabin at the water’s edge where Joanie and I stayed. It had a huge window that faced the water where I would swing from a hammock. Hammocks are my favorite sport.

Their attic was a museum filled with relics from the turn of the century. Someone in the family raided Egyptian tombs. There was a mummy’s head in a small glass case. Our hosts pointed out steam on the glass in front its nostrils. They gave me an old Egyptian knife I was to smuggle across the border and give to Sam as a gift. Apparently the Egyptian government wants all their artifacts back.

When we left they gave us a diamond tipped pen to sign one of the glass panes that surrounded their front door. There were hundreds of autographs on the window. They pointed out signatures from German guests they were harboring when World War I broke out.

I remember coming across the U.S.-Canadian border at Detroit. I think I was visibly trembling with fear about the antique knife I was smuggling.

Years later when I got married and lost touch with my old friends I learned Sam had gone on a serious drinking binge. His heart was failing as he waited for a new one for transplant. During this time he married a Soulard friend of ours named Michelle.

After 2 years on a waiting list Sam finally got his heart. Shortly after this he slipped in his shower and died. The service was held in a church in Soulard. Danny Spell gave one of the most beautiful eulogies I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how he was even able to stand. He was so drunk.

I ran into Michelle at Mardi Gras party last year. She told me about an antique Egyptian knife she’d inherited from Sam.