Thursday afternoon, I finally managed to get myself up off my weeping, pathetic ass and write the post about my cousin I’d been contemplating over whiskey and cigarettes for four days.
I was going to be having dinner that evening with Steve, his brother, a hi-powered LA lawyer (complex business litigation, usually defending companies from lottery-seeking parasites), and his mom—with whom I’d spent a few hours on Monday morning in the aftermath. I just had to get what I had to do behind me. It took four days to start that post, 2 hours to write it, and it came surprisingly easy once I’d begun the task.
The subject title of this post was ever-present in my thoughts those four days, and since. …Ridiculous, to the point I actually Googled a banner-creation site and printed out 30 pages to tape together, to hang in my study: “Richard…What Would Jorge Do?” Then I thought: a simple URL to a post would be much shorter.
…Or, perhaps I just never forget.
The thing is, Jorge and I were far different and in fact, I’m absolutely a lot more like Steve than Jorge. Steve is impatient, doesn’t suffer fools, he’s not much of a “small-talker,” and he is incapable of playing along or humoring, very well, if someone is being embarrassing or generating discomfort. I just described myself, too. Steve possess a quality I don’t, however. He always has a joke up his sleeve for when things get weird. I’m more likely to steer the conversation to religion and politics because that’s more fun than jokes, and it has everyone bottom-lining themselves pretty quick.
Let’s get to the bottom line. That’s what I always say.
Give it your best shot. I say that, too.
In my last post I linked above, the message is pretty clear. Live your life big, have some adventure, some exploration. get yourself uncomfortable.
Please! If you’re not doing things that make you uncomfortable now and then, you’re really missing out on a lot of what life is about. Can you even imagine to dispute that?
So, let me tell you about how I get myself most uncomfortable; but when it’s over, the bong hit, when there is one, is just the cherry on top. Unfortunately, this will require that you spend a few minutes on one of my videos from the past.
That basically explains some of the what and why of it all, how it works and particulars for the site I was flying, near Mt. Lassen, CA, a place I’ve flown for 13 years straight.
How this relates to Jorge is as such. Back in the earlier 90’s I was out of the Navy, building a business, and looking for some sort of action that rose above the mundane, easy bullshit 99.9% of people do. I looked to Jorge, knowing he’d been a rock climber for years. Of course, when I hit him up, he was all smiles—heard it over the phone—and immediately set up an excursion for myself and a couple of others to “school rock,” a place at Donner Summit, overlooking the lake. I went, had a great time, and before barefoot was anything anyone thought about, he was doing the climbs barefoot, free climbing (without the safety gear), and I was often just a little too scared.
We’d done a lot and I’d learned a lot, but then there was that last obstacle. He set out, free climbing it barefoot…with a line, cams and biners strapped to him, in order to fashion a safety net for me. It was only about a 20 ft deal, but far harder than what we’d done already. This one was hard at the very top, at the cusp of the thing, where you get up and in getting over…and there’s this brief moment in time where you kinda have to let go and go for it. I could not, even though I knew, intellectually that if I fell, scrapes and busies would be the worst I’d fare.
He scaled down as he’d gone up, proposed a new idea, where we traversed the rock at a significant slope, which was far easier physically but which The Teacher was careful to point out: if you fall, you’re going to do a big pendulum and you’ll get hurt a lot worse than had you given it what you could have, before.
It worked out OK. But in the end, the spark for rock climbing just didn’t happen for me. I told him so, and as well, that I was looking into hang gliding. He laughed. As it turned out, when Popular Mechanics published the plans for basic Rogallo Wings back in the 70s, he and his friends built one with bamboo, bailing wire and visqueen, and ground skimmed it in the Almaden hills south of San Jose. He said: “We’d fly until someone got hurt.”
So that’s what I took up. Hang gliders had come a very long way since the early 70s. At the point I took them up in about 1995 or so, guys had already perfected them to be a poor man’s sailplane, able to climb in thermals and go cross country. At that point, guys I was soon to know had taken them to over 20,000 ft and gone over 200 miles cross country. Today, the hand gliding cross country record is about 450 miles.
Me? I jumped in with two feet, got very active and was out and about flying most weekends for a long time. I’d gotten to 10-12,000 feet a few times, enough to get very cold in a t-shirt. And I once went about 15 miles or so XC, launching from Chelan Butte in WA: get up to 10,000, head over the Columbia River gorge, over the massive power lines, and then out over the flats of Eastern WA.
My only real point is that Jorge inspired me to do something. It had to be something that almost everyone else in the world was a total pussy for. It didn’t end up being rock climbing, which scares the shit out of me.
…Some years back, Bea, I and a few friends did Half Dome in Yosemite, and if you’ve done it, you know what climbing the back side of the dome is like. Anyway, I’m at the top, and because it’s a dome, as you walk down the granite, it gets steeper and steeper, and at a point, you realize: if I slip and fall, I’m dead. It’s a sphere. The further you go, the further you go faster. But I told my friends while we’re exploring that: if I had a hang glider strapped onto me, I’d not have the slightest trepidation about just trotting off.
Here’s two short flights from last summer. Both flights are 30-40 minutes long in the glassoff (you have to watch the video up top to know what that means)…but you’re spared, it’s just the launch and landing, a minute or two each, set to rock music.
In the end, I don’t really know whether I’d have undertaken this or not without the inspiration of my cousin. All I know is that when I wanted adventure, he was the first one I called and things just sorted, after that.
And again, now the spotlight is upon you, reader. What have you dreamed to do, but never done? What have you always wanted to try, but never lifted a finger to do it? How many times have you suggested a hint of a try of a remote possibility and got shot down by everyone you dared mention it to, because the last thing total-comfort-at-all-times-bodies want is to contend with your Splendor? Joke’s on them, though. They don’t really know how bad they already look, and that’s in a Free the Animal perspective.
If you have never done what you’ve always dreamed or even tentatively imagined doing, your life’s not getting any shorter, you know.