You could smell the testosterone long before you could read the words on the side of the bungalow. Inside the "Skydiving Adventures" building was a lot like the locker room scene from Top Gun. Half a dozen manly men in aviator-type suits and no-nonsense expressions on their faces. I told them my name was "Maverick."

It's guys like this that keep NO-FEAR! Clothing in business. And keep me looking over my shoulder whenever I wear anything slightly effeminate.

After wading through the machismo, I spoke to the woman behind the counter. I'm almost positive I said, "I'm signed up for a beginner Tandem Jump" But it ended up sounding a lot like, "I'm a little girl in frilly underpants and I'm signed up for preschool..."

Then came the paperwork. They made me sign away so many rights that if they would have whacked me in the head with a long handled ax - right there in the waiting room - I would have no legal recourse. The document was NOT intended to ease my fear. It made constant reference to "death or personal injury" and I had to initial the waiver in 30 places.

They gave me a tight blue superhero suit and a Jim Thorpe leather football helmet. Apparently, if my shoot doesn't open this flimsy leather cap is going to save my life?...then again, what do they care if I live or die. I've just signed forms absolving them of any negligence...and I've already paid for the jump. Their only motivation for keeping me alive is avoiding the custodial hassle of mopping me up. That and the fact that I am harnessed to the instructor. And you can bet I made sure those straps were tight and secure. I figured he's gonna do whatever necessary to save his own hide - by default he'll take care of me. (I would then avoid the "death and personal injury" so prophesied in the lengthy waiver.)

The Jump
(Actually, Its more of a Fall):

I was strapped to the instructor's belly like a goggle-wearing kangaroo pup. We left the airplane backwards and did 5 backflips.
Then arch my back... stabilize... and fall. After the initial rush of seeing the plane rocket away from you, you kinda lose the sense of falling. You are so far from the ground, you can barely tell its getting closer. It just feels like you're floating...except that wind is blowing at your face at 120 mph. Having my nose inflate like Dizzy Gillespie's cheeks was enough to counteract the peaceful beauty of flight. I don't remember Superman (or Lois for that matter) having the same facial rippling that the velocity of flight inflicted upon me. Would Superman inspire the same awe if his face behaved like a sheet-in-the-wind during flight? "Look! It's a bird! It's a plane....Dear God, look at his face!!"

In any case, as the chance for being mistaken for a superhero was nil, I turned my attention to deploying my chute. At the instructor's signal I pulled the rip cord and prayed that my crotch-binding body harness wouldn't turn me into a eunuch. The torque caused a hickey-looking bruise on my shoulder that would take some explaining to my girlfriend at the time, but left my testes intact.

The remainder of the fall was slow, peaceful, and free of facial sandblasting. I took in the scenery of the coast and the Mexico-US border and gave the obligatory "thumbs-up" to the camera man as soon as we landed.

For the next 45 minutes I could actually feel the physical remainder of the adrenaline coursing through me. I felt light and tingly...and had an unexplainable urge to deck myself out in NO-FEAR! apparel from head to toe.

other tales
"Yes, I was on STUDS"

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