Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking the Leap


There are certain events in everyone's life that are so monumental, so hard to believe, so foreign from our everyday experience that they seem to take on a feeling of fantasy. It can often feel like we are recounting a dream when attempting to recreate these experiences within our memory. There seems to be a glossy hue surrounding the exact details, often making the event difficult to describe to others or even to yourself after it has occurred.

These experiences takes on different sizes and shapes for each person that experiences them. It could be a monumental point of your life, such as your wedding day, or the birth of a child, or your first kiss. But it could be something small and simple at the same time, like the first time you saw the ocean, or scored a goal, or tried a dipped cone from Dairy Queen. It's difficult to put the exact emotions from these events into words, and you're often left with a goofy grin on your face as you attempt to do so.

Last week, I experienced a few of these goofy-grin moments while hosting a friend that was in town. The biggest of which was sitting on the edge of a plane's open cabin door, looking at the vista of Southern California 10,000 feet below my dangling feet. There was a brief moment that I sat there, with a large man named Eric strapped to my back, while watching my friend falling below me, that I said to myself, "What the F have you gotten yourself into?"

I had consciously made the decision to skydive weeks earlier. I made reservations, paid the fee, and didn't think much about what was about to transpire, until I was walking along, fully strapped into my jumping gear, toward a small plane on the tarmac.

There had been small outbursts of nervousness and trepidation prior to this moment, but nothing in comparison to the emotions that started to reign down upon me as we left the ground. My friend, myself, and two jump instructors were sitting in a tiny cabin, watching the runway grow smaller below us, while the cabin door was wide open. Less than a foot away from my left foot, I watched San Diego progressively decrease in size.

I attempted to disguise the boiling emotions of my insides from the rest of the passengers. I laughed at the jokes of the jump instructors, attempted to engage in conversations, and think of anything other than certain death, however, these attempts ultimately proved unsuccessful. My friend could clearly see the nerves that my stonewalled face was expressing, and quickly pointed this fact out to everyone else in the plane. Surprisingly, discussing my fears did nothing to quell these emotions, and I quietly contemplated throwing up.

After circling over the coastline and heading back inland, we began preparing to make the jump. Eric, my instructor, told me to get on his lap, so that he could strap himself to me. The effect of sitting on another man's lap, although not something that I would enjoy doing regularly, did provide some amount of distraction from the upcoming events.

Which brings me back to sitting on the edge of the plane again. Soon after getting strapped in, we had shuffled from our corner of the plane toward the open doorway, after watching the other instructor and my friend disappear from the cabin moments earlier.

Thankfully Eric didn't give me much time to think about the situation that I was in. Before I could back out, or request a countdown, or even wet my pants, he said, "Let's go!" and we began falling through the atmosphere.

After tumbling a few times, seeing the plane above me in one of my mind's snapshots, and then the quickly approaching ground in the next, we flattened out to a standard free falling position. Arms extended, I could see the mountains of San Diego to the east, and the ocean extending out to the horizon in the west. I saw my friend in full superman pose well below me, a small speck in the air, set-off from the scene of the Tijuana slums that extended into the south. I heard myself yelling, and involuntarily cussing at the top of my lungs, before realizing that I was doing so. I looked at the brown fields that were spinning below me, and before I could envision death by impact, the man on my back told me to cross my arms, and he pulled the shoot.

We had fallen from 10,000 feet to 4,000 feet in the manner of 45 seconds. A full mile in the air, accomplished in less than a minute. I had experienced a multitude of emotions; fear, exhilaration, joy, certain death, the need to pee myself, among others, in a minimal time period.

I was soon landing on the ground, getting unconnected from Eric, and not knowing exactly what to do next. I ended up running around in a dirty field in a couple of circles and then finding my friend to discuss what had just happened. I knew that it was an amazing experience, but my mind had just been overloaded, and I couldn't fully comprehend the moment at that time.

I still don't think that I can. It still seems like a hazy dream, even after spending an hour writing about it. It is an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, but one that still doesn't seem quite real. Trying to explain the emotions and the experience to my friends and family over the past week was a difficult affair. I don't think that I ever effectively orated everything that was going through my mind while falling through the air. Hopefully, this blog post will provide a little better of an idea of what it was like.

More to come...

Monday, August 17, 2009

As Promised


I didn't expect it to take this long, but I finally have some photographic evidence from my rendevous to the the Midwest. Enjoy!


Mr. Party Lion, partying with a well mustached Lampi

Full Tigger outfit, found at a garage sale, and later worn by our starting pitcher for our afternoon games.

A friend, dressed as the Gingerbread Man for the Truman parade. Maybe my favorite picture of the entire trip. He was hit by a truck soon after this picture. Of course, it was only traveling at 5 mph, but it was funny all the same.

Princess Fiona being attacked by Captain Jack Sparrow. She looked so beautiful, I can understand why she would be targeted by such a bloodthirsty pirate.

The emergence of Beltran. So beautiful, yet so dangerous.


Turning our attention to the union of Pooch and Courtney now, we can see the appearance of Guy Sampson's long lost cousin, the Packer superfan himself, Ronald Sampson!

Ronald Sampson, later making it rain, with a collection of napkins, on the dancefloor.

Beltran's back! With high kicks and a new haircut. Nice dye job, Beltran.

A blurry picture of The Wetsuit. He was quite elusive throughout the night, consumed with avoiding Land Shark attacks and encouraging beer drinking.

A collective group of friends, singing the Ghostbuster's theme song at the post-reception Karoake session.

There are many more pictures that I could post and caption throughout the day, however they would only be amusing to myself. A personal appearance by Beltran or Ronald Sampson could be arranged for a hefty fee. Please post a comment to this post in order to express interest.

-More to come...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Midwest Love Affair


Although I have taken nearly a month off, I am actively returning to the blogging game. I have no excuses. Only a schedule that was somewhat busy, along with some extensive laziness. However, after taking a bit of a vacation, I am throwing myself back into the glamorous, and profitable, world of on-line writing.

Over the past week and a half, I have been touring the upper mid-west, from Minneapolis to Truman to Milwaukee and back again. It was the first time I had been back to the homeland since Christmas vacation, and it sufficiently tugged at my heartstrings. From family to friends to dance parties, I was reminded of what life was like in the mid-west.

Below, I will provide a brief recap of the events that occurred in the short time period that I was traveling throughout God's country:


Truman is Mecca for my friends and I. It is a small town in southwestern Minnesota, that holds a town fair each summer. There are yard sales, parades, softball games, and a street dance. It encompasses everything that is good, and bad, about small town America. Truman Days inspired me to write a book, provides a venue to reconnect with friends, and allows for me to express myself through ridiculous outfits, all while dancing in the streets of the fair city.

I woke up on Saturday morning on the floor on my friends house, cuddling with a stuffed lion that we had previously retrieved from a street corner in Truman. It is affectionately named "Party Lion" and travels everywhere with us throughout the weekend. Party Lion even has a Facebook page. Seriously.

Party Lion and I, rocking out

After cheering on the 5K runners in the morning, with Party Lion in tow, I threw on my softball uniform to start my day. Several hours, and beers, later, I was wearing a Princess Fiona outfit (from Shrek fame) while walking in the Truman Days parade. To complete my day, I was transformed into a ninja master, known as Beltran, while wearing a karate gi, short red shorts, a wig, and a red mask. Three outfit changes may seem excessive, however, in the heat of Truman Days, this is commonplace. Expected even.

Although I felt like my internal organs were headed to failure by Sunday night, Truman Days provided a wonderful reminder of the potential that a Minnesota summer weekend can possess. Instead of splashing in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, I was sitting on a dusty softball diamond, surrounded by cornfields and heavy midwestern accents. And it was amazing.


I headed to Milwaukee on Thursday of last week, after spending a couple of days in the confines of my parent's house in Apple Valley. My friends were gathering, yet again, outside of the city to celebrate the union of a couple of our college friends. I had been asked to be the dj/host of the wedding reception and had another outfit change in the works.

After the wedding, we rushed back to the hotel to set up for the reception. I introduced the wedding party to the sweet, sweet music of Jock Jams' "Let's Get Ready to Rumble", and proceeded to drink heavily. At one point in the night, while I was dressed in full "Packer fan formal wear" (green and gold Zubaz, tuxedo shirt with cutoff sleeves, bow tie, drinking glove, green headband, and mullet wig), I looked around the dance floor to fully capture the essence of the evening. Here is a brief list of what I saw:

-The return of master ninja Beltran, as interpreted by another friend.
-The men of the wedding party, removing their tuxedo shirts, and only wearing their vests and bowties.
-A plethora of reception attendees sporting freshly drawn Sharpie mustaches.
-A friend wearing a wetsuit, poring beer over his outfit into the waiting mouths of other party-goers.
-Several people on the floor of the reception hall, either performing a dance known as "The Stanky Leg" or simply slipping on the beer that had missed the mouths of the wetsuit-drinkers.

At the conclusion of the wedding reception, the majority of the crowd entered into the hotel, to find that the bar within was hosting a karaoke night. The other patrons of the bar had no idea what to make of the scene that unfolded. A relaxed karaoke night turned into pure dancing madness. A bride was dancing with a man in a wetsuit, a ninja was singing Elton John, and a collection of 15 guys attacked the stage when the Ghostbuster's theme song was played. By the end of the night, the bartenders had run out of shot glasses, and we had scared the majority of the other attendees out of the bar.

Not yet satisfied, we moved the party into one of our rooms. Drinking games began and Sharpie mustaches continued to be drawn (including a fabulous pirate 'stache on the mother of the groom). After an hour or so, people slowly began to head back to their beds, ending an amazing wedding reception.

However, a select group of warriors continued to press onward. The reception was being held in a hotel at the base of a small ski hill, and there had already been discussion of climbing to the summit earlier in the day. At the end of the afterbar, an expedition to the "mountain" seemed only appropriate.

And so the wetsuit, Beltran, current roommate, former roommate, and myself headed to conquer the daunting peak. We marched through thigh high grass and weeds, encountered thorns and brambles, experienced some levels of doubt and frustration, and made it to the top after approximately twenty minutes. It may have been one of the proudest moments of my life.

After the excursion, we headed to the pool to wash off the dirt from our travels. While in the indoor pool, we crafted a synchronized swimming routine to tell the story of the mountain climb and all of the hardships that we had experienced. While putting the final touches on our water dance, a couple of security guards entered the pool area to inform us that we had to leave. The pool did not open until 6:30 in the morning, and, at 5:20, we were violating the rules. We consented to their request, but not before asking whether we could tell them the story of our night....through expressive dance.

After performing for the security guards, we headed back to our room, showered, and fell asleep, thus concluding the quest we had taken. From church halls to the top of a mountain, we had celebrated the only way we know how.

The two consecutive weekends were packed with the usual madness that accompanies the collective strength of my friends. Each of us attempts to outdo the other with something more ridiculous every time that we are together. It was a wonderful break from the day to day affairs of my life in the unemployment line. I wasn't concerned with work shifts or grocery shopping. All I was worried about was packing as much fun into a two week period as I possibly could.

And to that end, I think I succeeded.

-More to come...

*Editor Note: More pictures will be added as they become available.