you live on the West Coast, flying all the way out to Virginia to skydive
may seem like a ridiculous idea. Why not though? If you're going to die,
it may as well be while you're on vacation, while you're feeling happy
and content. Why die on your way to work at 6:15 in the morning of a heart
attack birthed from the stress of having to clock in on time, your rain
soaked body quivering amongst the hubris littering the shoulder of the
carpool lane of the freeway? And speaking of dying while you're on vacation,
how about expiring in the lovely Commonwealth of Virginia while you're
at it, a state that was an original charter member of this great nation
of brave risk takers? Virginia, by the way, is the only state in the nation
that has, as an original provision of its constitutional acceptance of
membership in the United States of America, a provision within that agreement
to opt out at any time. That's right: "This place sucks, we have
had enough of it, we're now the Nation of Virginia, suckaz...go get your
tobacco from Brazil or China ." How cool is that? Why didn't Texas
think of that? (Now don't laugh too hard, if Texas did that, I would move
there, and then we would proceed directly with the invasion the rest of
the nation. Once we took over your state, me and Ted Nugent would come
knocking on your door to give you a free gun, and a free fifty gallon
barrel of premium gasoline from our 51st state, the State of the Liquified
Remains of the Entire Former Middle East.)
Embrace the insanity Credit: Dan Wayland
Anyway, most days, during the hours I'm not at work,
I'm not excited about the idea of dying at all, but on a warm fall day,
in the Virginia countryside, I got in line with a number of other odd
cats to put my life on the line for what would hopefully be one of the
most exciting days of my life.
Ok, let me back up for a second. I didn't really go out there thinking
I'd die. Not very much of me anyway. At the time, a good friend of mine,
Josh, was living on the East Coast and we had already decided to do
something totally crazy every time we got together, and skydiving was
the particular adventure we chose for this trip. Josh and I have always
been about crazy things like that, and skydiving was a big one for the
both of us. And for the record, I should add that I don't really care
where I die, just as long as there is a lot of violent noise and the
sound of screeching tires, or explosions and fireballs directly preceding
my demise. That's cool. What I'm not so interested in is dying in a
sour smelling room, on a hospital bed that's right next to someone else
who will soon die, in a bed on which everyone else who had laid in it
before me had died. Translation: Nursing home. That's not cool. It's
not ok. Worse than that, how about being constantly saturated in that
horrible nursing home smell, the same smell that certainly fills your
nostrils every single day at work after you choose the profession of
mortician? That's not ok. At all. It's like that bourbon-sipping, constantly-smoking
comedian on the Blue Collar Comedy tour once said: "My doctor bugs
me about drinking and smoking too much he says it'll take ten
years off my life. I tell him, 'Yeah. Well, it won't take those years
off the front end, it'll take 'em off the back end the nursing
home years.'" Ron White is my kind of guy. He's been thinking clearly
for years now. Comes correct.
Now, come to think of it, I'm fairly sure this talented
comedian will depart this sphere earlier than most because of his habits,
however, there will no decade-long pit stop in the Kingdom of the Chronic
Bed Sore. He will hear no loud plaintiff moans, smell not of the full
bedpan that hath explodeth over, and wilt not suffer through nightly
nightmares about his last sight on this earth being a nervous looking,
furtively glancing, and wide-eyed elder care nurse staring down at him
with a loaded syringe dripping with digoxen, tranquilizers, and muscles
relaxants, bent on adding a new name as just one more meager single
page journal entry to their storied career as the newest Johnny-come-lately
to the world of nursing home serial killers. No, I'll bet you Ron White
will enter his stille-nacht with alcohol and nicotine in his system,
minus illicitly injected toxins or even the obligatorily prescribed
pharmaceutical cocktail cooked up by the nursing home itself, meant
to prolong life long enough to exact just one more payment from the
insurance company and Social Security agency. With any sort of blessing,
I will end my days under circumstances similar to Ron's, with or without
the alcohol and nicotine. So when thinking about skydiving, in consideration
of the potential of a lingering and sour demise at the dreaded and now
seemingly franchised Birkenau elder care facilities, dying in a skydiving
accident, even if unlikely, really didn't seem so bad to me at all.
Ok, so, I'm sorry, I got a little bit distracted there for a minute.
Let's move on from the realm of the nursing home and head toward that
other sort of dying. Quick. Violent. Virtually painless Skydiving.
Mass exit from larger plane. Credit: Dan Wayland
I should start off by saying, for those of you thinking
about going, that it's not hard to get to skydive. There are very few
requirements. All you really have to do is call and tell them you're
coming, and they will arrange a plummet time for you. Pretty much the
only question they'll ask you is how much you weigh, their main concern
being that you are not 220 pounds or over. When you jump for the first
time, the standard arrangement is that you're usually jumping tandem,
meaning you are tied to an instructor who makes sure you don't freak
out on the way down, soaks up any body fluids you expel on your way
down per FAA and EPA regulations, and makes sure the ripcord gets pulled
at some point after you pass out from the shock and awe of it all. For
some reason, skydiving instructors don't like the idea of being irretrievably
lashed with nylon tethers to anyone who weighs more than two and a half
bags of concrete while they're plummeting to earth. This seems reasonable
to me somehow. If you are over 220 pounds, depending on where you skydive,
you might be able to talk them into it, but they will charge you extra.
That last sentence is not a joke. If you're a bit over the line, you
can make arrangements. A standard arrangement is an extra charge of
around $30 per every extra ten pounds of you, added incrementally as
the poundage doth increaseth. Then they also haul out the Biggest Parachute
you have Ever Seen in Your Life. (Just kidding don't sit on me!)
(Really though, that parachute is huge. Lol.)
With a "Git 'er done" attitude, we booked us a weekday slot
fer some ska-dahvin' akshun out there in r'ral Virginee, at a place
called Skydive Orange, in Orange, Virginia. As we were driving out to
the facility, there was much talk about anxiety levels. Josh and I were
constantly keeping track of where we were at on the emotional discomfort
scale. For some reason, I wasn't bothered much by the idea of skydiving
at all. Reasonable man that I am, I figured that statistics were on
my side; in fact, I reasoned that we were almost certainly way safer
in the air skydiving than on the ground, driving to the facility. (Especially
with Josh at the wheel.) While we were driving, my stress level never
went over a 2, on a scale of one to ten; while Josh said he was hanging
out at around a 5. Anyway, I wasn't worried. The worst that could happen
was that I wouldn't ever have to go back to work again.
We arrived at Orange Skydive fairly before our jump time and started
to go through the process of checking in. One of the first things they
have you do is fill out reams of paperwork, most of it having to do
with legal matters regarding your potential demise, or any injuries
incurred on the premises which might or might not precede that demise.
And man, I'm talking reams of paperwork. All the pages you sign started
out something like this: "Skydiving is an inherently dangerous
activity that could result in great injury to you or even death...blah
blah blah." At the time, I was taking pre-law classes, so I decided
to actually read what I was signing, just because I was already tuned
in to that sort of torture, apparently. And on and on it went
"Significant injury Death . waiving of all right to
sue and forfeiture of liability Death malfunction of parachute
or equipment Death increased risk of life or limb, not liable
for injury or . Death involuntary evacuation of bowels
Death." For some reason, as I read on, my anxiety level spiked
up to a 5, which resulted in many quick signatures and an equally speedy
surrendering of the paperwork back to the desk person.
After so vividly awakening my imagination, they had us watch a video
or two, the contents of which I can't remember, because my fingers were
still throbbing from all the name-signing. Then it was on to the complex
training for the jump, which lasted about two exalted minutes. The instructor
told us the basics of what we were going to do and pretty much walked
away, and with that, we were deemed fully prepared to jump out of an
airplane with him strapped to our backs. Ok, that's fine. Curiously,
the airplane that would be used in the day's jumps turned out to be
a Cessna. For those of you who don't know, a Cessna is tiny. They had
bigger aircraft there, but there were too few jumpers on that particular
day to support that sort of efficient venture. So then, the plan for
us was to go up one by one in that little Cessna, with only the pilot,
the instructor, and the jumper aboard. The best part of this equation,
at least to me anyway, was that we would have to step out on the specially
modified wing of this Cessna while in flight, perch on a little step
for a minute at 10,000 feet, get situated, and then jump only after
the instructor situated the set-up for the jump properly. How cool is
Another great day to be alive. Credit: Dan Wayland
For some reason, of the group that was there, Josh and I were scheduled
jump to last, which meant we had a plenty of time to sit and think and
worry. Come to think of it, we actually didn't do much of any of those
previous things, especially the thinking part as usual. As we
were waiting, I practiced the jump procedure that had been described
to us by the instructor, over and over again, on a Cessna in the hangar
that had been specially modified (cut to shreds by a metal saw) to demonstrate
proper exit procedures. I was going to be sure to practice the procedure
enough to the point where it was automatic, so that when I got to 10,000
feet, it would all be routine to me. Essentially the drill was this:
From the aircraft, you were to step out onto the small ledge on the
right wing, face the tail of the plane, and perch on it for a minute
on your ankles until the instructor could get behind you and tighten
up the straps connecting the both of you. You would then cross your
arms like a mummy over your chest, and wait for the instructor to say,
"Rock!" At that point, you knew there were going rock back
and forth (front to back) twice and then on the third rock forward you
would push off into the unknown. Once in the air, it was apparently
very important to keep your head back and arch your spine (backward)
until the descent was stabilized. The instructor would then yell, "Hands!"
at which point you would relax your back a bit and throw your hands
out into a classic skydiving pose. This may not sound like too much
information to cope with, but somehow I found it vitally important to
practice it. Way back there in some deep, dark crevasse of my mind,
apparently work wasn't so bad after all. Actually, it was probably better
said that I didn't want to, by default, contribute to my skydiving instructor's
premature end, as I was rather convinced he loved going to work everyday,
and I didn't want to ruin that for him. So there.
At some point during that waiting time, wandering about aimlessly, mumbling,
and exploring and such, Josh and I somehow made our way around to the
back of the jump hangar and peeked over the fence. Many small travel
trailers filled the interior of the wooden fence, and it became clear
that the skydiving instructors, insane as they clearly demonstrated
themselves to be already by their choice of profession, actually lived
there in the back lot in some sort of endorphin saturated slum land,
like a bunch of dope addicts who threw down the junk all day, made a
great deal of money for doing so, and stumbled out the back door of
their offices only to land in their warm and waiting beds. Yes
so submerged in the world of freefall were these wild-eyed madmen that
they actually lived behind the back of the hangar in about a half a
dozen tiny tow-alongs, finding the spartan accommodations a worthy tradeoff
for getting to live their lives in the realm of Adventureland everyday.
These guys are my frikkin' heroes.
Seeing the last of the jumpers that were ahead of us file gladly to
their cars in their intoxicated and excited dazes, we realized that
it was finally our time to jump. Mi amigo went first and piled into
the airplane with the instructor, and off they went into the heavens.
For the last time. Or maybe not, we would see. The droning engine of
the plane faded as the spacecraft climbed higher and higher, until it
was virtually out of sight. As was customary for this part of the experience
among those on the ground, there was much covering of the eyes and pointing
up into the sky, as many fruitless suggestions were offered up as to
where the plane might actually be. That's how high up 10,000 feet is,
you can barely see a small plane up there. Anyway, I was thankfully
able to make sight of the Cessna just before the actual jump. At some
certain, crystalline pure moment in my memory, I can remember a black
object falling from the airplane. This dark glob was of course the conglomerate
mass of my pal and the skydiving instructor, and it looked exactly like
a bomb. It fell and it fell and it fell, very slowly getting bigger
and bigger, defining shapes coming and going, faster and faster, twisting
and turning, until the chute exploded out of its dwelling place and
announced very clearly its very relative position in the 3D of airspace.
Watching them freefall like that, screaming toward earth, was one of
my favorite moments of the whole experience. A high-end and kinetic
all-the-way blasted-off, fully committed, no turning back death-shot
to the waiting terra firma below. You understand very clearly at that
point that if anything goes wrong, it will all end with a bang, not
a whimper. Bad to the bone. They floated down to earth, gliding right
over us before the landing, with the sound of the canopy ripping through
the air as they alighted onto the demarcated landing zone next to us.
The author throws gang signs at all
appropriate times. Credit: Dan Wayland
Then it was my turn. I still wasn't afraid, my stress
level still hovering around a 1 or 2. On the walk out to the Cessna,
I engaged the instructor, Mike French, in a conversation about what
he did for a living before he got into skydiving. He told me he had
been into construction, but then things had gotten slow and he changed
gears and got into the skydiving thing. I told him I had also been in
construction for awhile, and our banal conversation topic continued
until about 7,000 feet, when I got interested in looking out the window.
First though, I should mention that the pilot was wearing a t-shirt,
shorts, tube socks, and tennis shoes, and was also wearing a pair of
those iconic-dork style Top Gun aviator glasses, and was also joking
a lot with Mike when he could find the time. I somehow didn't mind having
a comedian flying the plane, as it somehow made me feel relaxed. It
was all absurd anyway. Having a grown man strapped tightly to my back
(not my thing), jumping out of a plane, sitting on the metal floor in
the back of a tiny plane like two Wyoming rednecks riding in the back
of a dirty pickup truck in giddy anticipation of a frosty creations
celebration at the Laramie Dairy Queen you understand. Why not
have Dave Chappelle flying the plane too? Looking out the window finally,
I could see we were way up in the air. A quiltwork of farmland and forests,
freeways and tobacco fields, and invisible Civil War battlegrounds as
far as the eye could see. I briefly reflected on my life: It had all
come down to this. Looking straight down, I could see the airport below.
Finally settling into the sobriety of the task at hand at our final
elevation of 10,500 feet, the mood inside the Cessna shifted into some
accelerated form of seriousness, and with a few tersely worded exchanges,
the pilot and Mike decided it was time for us to bail out. Mike quickly
reached for the door and slid it open with a bang. As the 55 degree
air loudly rushed in, all of my practice knowledge gained from the Slasher
Cessna kicked in, and I comfortably moved to the door to get out on
the ledge, with Mike, already loosely latched onto me, soon to follow.
I distinctly remember seeing my foot slide toward the open air, and
when it finally broke the plane of the open door, the 70 mph of wind
hitting the skin of my ankle brought home for the first time what I
was about to do. Of all of the things about skydiving I remember most,
it was this: Seeing myself stick my foot out that airplane door, feeling
that cool rush of air, knowing I was going outside for sure now, a scene
my imagination had tried to construct so many times before.
Here we go.
The pad you put your feet on when you crawl out of a Cessna to skydive
is about nine inches by three inches, and it is welded onto the frame
of the wing. Sure enough, just like I had practiced and with relative
ease, I crawled out onto it and perched there, with the instructor joining
me, making his final preparations.
As it turned out, the position I ended up at on the wing placed me at
a rather declined angle, to the point where I didn't even see the plane
anymore, I was just staring into the mosaic of hinterlands below. Straps
tightened. Crossed arms. Head back.
And we were off.
To my surprise, I distinctly remember it got quieter. Another snapshot.
When you jump from an airplane, there is a moment in time where you
are almost suspended in some sort of Einstein-archetype relativist nether-region,
as stationary air decelerates your forward motion after detaching from
the airplane. It doesn't take long for this to happen, but in the meantime,
your rate of downward acceleration from earth's gravity hasn't accelerated
you enough yet for you to experience much in the way of resistance from,
again, the stationary air. In essence, things get quiet for a second
because you are in a decelerating/accelerating no-man's land. Weird.
Also, to more quickly stabilize, Mike made sure to use the most of the
body's profile to decelerate from our forward momentum, gained from
the forward thrust of the Cessna, so our bodies were momentarily vertical,
heads pointing straight down. For a brief moment I could see the plane
again, it was up there by my feet. Killer.
Anyway, gravity, typically ever doing what it's supposed to, took over
at that point, and we were off, plunging down unto what would surely
be an exciting and certain death. Unless the parachute worked. One thing
is for sure, when you jump out of a plane at 10,500 feet, you are going
to die. This death will result from impact with the Earth. Again
unless the parachute works. That is your last hope. Your very last hope.
In the meantime, you are accelerating to the grand speed of 130 mph,
which is faster than most of us have driven in a car. It wouldn't be
too far out of the question to imagine that in a car wreck at 130 mph,
you are probably going to die. Government statistics tell us that there
occurs one death per every 40 mph accident, on average. That means,
by the way, that you can be driving at 20 mph and hit someone else head-on
that is going 20 mph, and it's likely that one or both of you is going
to die. Think about that the next time you're skimming along toward
7-11 in your Honda Civic, drooling lustily like Billy Carter for that
next six-pack of Hamm's, fumbling hastily among the remnants of your
cigarette ash burned floor mats for that last Merit Ultra Light that
sprung from your fingertips just as you struck the last match in your
matchbook. Adding to the strangeness, when you're skydiving, 130 mph
is referred to as your "terminal velocity." Terminal, meaning
either: The maximum speed you can accelerate to? Or, terminal as in,
the massive heart attack that you inherited from the shock of jumping
out of an airplane, resulting in your blue-lipped demise? I'm still
As soon as we reached this state of terminal velocity, there was a lot
of screaming involved I was yelling like crazy. Like this: "Wooooo!
Wooooooooooo!" I was completely stoked. After having dreamed about
this moment for so long, I was finally actually doing it, falling through
the air with only a parachute to save my skinny butt from shooting straight
into the earth's core like a piece of straw in a tornado whipped through
a telephone pole. Right there in my fingertips was another great adventure
I could check off my life's "to do" list. Verbal communication
is very easily accomplished during a freefall, even with the loud sounds
of the air rushing by and crazy people screaming, so for fun, Mike told
me to try steering us by turning the palms of my hands to the left and
right. Sure enough, it was scarily effective, our bodies corkscrewed
through the air, and I was left in a sort of mystified state by it as
if I were a child learning to walk: A completely uncharted environment,
learning absolutely brand new skills. Awesomeness.
With a brief warning and at a foreordained altitude, Jumpmaster Mike
pulled the chute cord and sure enough, for better or worse, the parachute
worked, and we decelerated with much violence. Apparently because of
all my "Woooing," Mike thought I was some sort of hardcore
fellow, so he immediately pulled hard on one side of the control strings
for the parachute, which put us in a hard and fast face downward spin
toward the ground. He told me later that we were swinging around at
the end of that tail at 50 miles an hour. Imagine holding onto the end
of a rope that's been tied to a merry-go-round that's booking along
at highway speed. I thought it was cool for a second too, and then I
could sense my hamstrings were getting angry because they were having
to make room for most of my digestive system, which by now was being
repeatedly stomped on by the entirety of my respiratory tract. The vast
vacuum of space created by this reordering of my internal organs was
completely filled up immediately with an Overwhelming Desire to Vomit.
With all that spinning we got to the ground in a hurry, and as we came
in for a landing, I was really hoping I could look smooth and land on
my feet, rather than take the butt slide, as so many first timers understandably
do. Sure enough, Mike was so hardcore and skilled, I was able to simply
come to my feet and take a couple of steps to gain a full upright and
standing posture. Once back on the ground, I was so excited by the whole
experience, I temporarily forgot I would actually have to go back to
work eventually. Hey man, it worked for a minute, so it was worth it.
Amazingly, Mike carried with him a wristwatch of sorts, which spewed
technical information about the jump: Maximum mph per skydive, the exact
distance from jump point to the ground, etc. This masterpiece of technology
was no doubt mandated by the county coroner, who demands technical data
for that certain section of his autopsy reports. Notwithstanding this
sure fact, I was fascinated by the results. Our average speed on the
descent was 118 mph. Our maximum speed was 131 mph. We fell unhindered
for 45 seconds. We plummeted 7,000 feet before chute deployment.
Anyway, after this sort of technical information was exported and other
pleasantries were exchanged, I separated from Mike and the rest of the
group (some additional people had showed up in the meantime) and went
and laid on a picnic table, trying not to puke, while my spleen, liver,
gall bladder, and kidneys tried to sort out their boundary issues like
the elderly passengers of a tour bus gathering themselves after experiencing
a roll-over accident on a trip through Death Valley.
Josh eventually materialized and we jumped back in the car and rolled
out. We were so stoked leaving there I can't even tell you how
stoked we were. It so very much lived up to any of our expectations
of that day. Josh said his anxiety level peaked at about a 7 somewhere
during the experience, but said he had been rather calm throughout the
actual skydive itself. The worst of it for me was a 5, experienced while
filling out the tomes of paperwork with all their vivid legal discussions.
We feverishly talked about our individual experiences almost all of
the way back to Washington DC . It was truly awesome.
Josh had some bourbon later that night, and I may have even had some
myself. Chances are there was some nicotine floating around in our systems
by the end of the evening as well. We did not die that day, in fact,
it was one of the most exciting days of my life, just like I'd hoped.
And when I got back to work, it wasn't as bad as I had remembered it.
(That's a lie.) I'm still trying to avoid the nursing home, though,
so if you have any ideas, uh drop me a line.
I spent several school holidays in Windhoek with family
friends. Much later I took each of my kids (U.S. born & raised) on
separate trips to my native, Cape Town and "Overlanded" through
Namibia into the Kaokoveld. I enjoyed your travelogue immensely. Please
advise me if you ever publish a collection of your travel experiences.
The apple strudel at Helmeringhausen somewhere after Ai Ais was the best
Merv Hayman, Sarasota, FL
Hi Merv, thanks for the correspondence,
glad you enjoyed the article. It sounds like that country got into your
blood, as it has in mine. I'm looking forward to getting back there someday
and seeing much more of the place, Namibia has a peculiar allure. Thanks
for the complements and I will certainly put you on the list for a travel
Cheers and happy travels!
in Texas" Article
I love your website. It has shown me that all this time
my boyfriend was lying to me about who he was. On his Facebook page he
was using the picture of "Thomas Bosma"... Btw great story and
MaKayla, Rapid City
Hi MaKayla, glad we could be of
assistance in busting your prevaricating suitor! Thanks for the complements
All the best, Jim
Arctic " Article
Just wanted to say 'Hello' love your intro/bio Mr.
Boitano, fits the call of excitement/steelo of Mr. Friend. Hope to keep
correspondence, and hope all your travels keep you busy but safe, Check
Mico Gonz, Seattle, WA
Very interesting, I find it very important for me because
my BF is there. Hope he is fine...His name is Sgt.Jason Adams...Thank
you and God bless...
Leonila, Guiguinto, Bulacan, Philippines
Cpt. Disi was at Kutschbach with the guys of 2nd platoon.
I was in 4th, we were right up the road at FOB Morales Frazier. I don't
think I read anywhere about you being at KB but if you were up there in
Kapisa province with us you would have loved it. It was 10x better than
Jbad. The air there was so full of smog, and you couldn't really see that
far out early in the morning when the sun was rising. But its nice to
see someone like you who was out on patrols and documenting all the things
we did. Great stories. Keep up the good work...
Kevin Myrick, Calhoun, GA
* * *
Love your writing. Have you read Spike Walker's books
Kerry, Wenatchee, WA
* * *
Christian Louboutin, New York City
* * *
I do not believe I've seen this described in such an informative
way before. You actually have clarified this for me. Thank you!
Janice Randall, Post Falls, ID
* * *
I like the style you took with this topic. It isn't every
day that you just discover a subject so to the point and enlightening.
Charles David, St. Anne, Manitoba
* * *
Hey Jim! LT Singh just checking your site.. looks great
very slow internet here.. will be home in 2 weeks.
Alvin Singh , New York
* * *
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older
articles are not as good as newer ones. You have a lot more creativity
and originality now. Keep it up! And according to this article, I totally
agree with your opinion, but only this time! :) .
Arthur Cox, Next to Paris
* * *
Jim. Take it all in, smother your senses with the culture
and people. Watch your top notch and have a once in a lifetime experience.
Jeff and Andrea, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
Fascinating photos Jim! Singly they are all fodder for
short stories; together they really capture an out-of-body trip! Enjoyed
mine, thank you! I'm curious what those compounds contain...mostly businesses?
residences? Love that the T-Boy card is making it's way around the globe!
Wendy, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
These are outstanding photos. You capture scenes that
I've never seen in the "mainstream media." Haunting images that
make me think that there is danger around every corner.
Al Burt, Friday Harbor, WA
* * *
Enjoyed your article immensely! Your title is fun and
so is learning about bin Laden skipping out without paying the rent -
what a loser! It's great you could meet with Mr. Jouvenal, hear the stories
and see the guns. Give our highest regards to T.G. Taylor and the other
military personnel serving in Afghanistan. Courage to you all!
Steve, Renton, WA
* * *
Jim, I enjoyed this fascinating article. It reminded me
of how sublimely surreal life is. Also, I would like to thank you for
your courage, and to express gratitude towards your bringing this piece
of the world, with its foreign realities, to my doorstep. I look forward
to reading more from you.
Sandra, Seattle, WA
* * *
This is outstanding reporting, Jimmy F! Fascinating stuff.
You've taken on a dangerous, important assignment in Afghanistan, and
we readers appreciate your work with the military and your unique observations.
I look forward to your next post. In fact, I'm going to go through the
archives to see your entire body of work on TravelingBoy.
Terry, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
I really enjoyed my entry into Kabul with you and the
visit with Peter Jouvenal... look forward to more of that adventure.
Brenda, Richland, WA
* * *
Great story, Jim, a story really "as current as yesterday's
news." Now there's a real TravelingBoy!
Eric, San Diego, CA
* * *
Jim you have probably revealed more about Bin Laden than
anyone...his rage on the world has to be linked to his limp handshake.
Be careful over there!
Janet, Caldwell, ID
Thanks Janet! I get the distinct
impression that his handshake isn't the end story to all that's limp with
bin Laden's physiology!
* * *
What a fantastic piece. You're a modern-day Hemingway.
Your writing is compelling and fascinating. I look forward to much more
of this great adventure.
Roger, Puyallup, WA
Wow, Roger, what an awesome set
of complements. Thanks a lot. My first journal entry of 2010 was: "The
stories will tell themselves. I just need to show up." So far, so good!
Jim, first time reading your stuff. Very cool. I hope
to read about our units and life in eastern Afghanistan very soon since
you will be coming to our area as an embed. BTW, I'm the PAO here in Jalalabad
and will be coordinating your visit with CPT Disi.
T.G. Taylor, US Army, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
* * *
I saw your email address included
on a couple of correspondences, and I cannot wait to spend some time with
you, and even yet more of our honorable fighting forces over there in
that bleak neck of the woods in Afghanistan in January, including CPT
Disi. This is truly a trip of a lifetime for me, and I'm completely looking
forward to absorbing the experiences there and recording the sufferings
and sacrifices of so many of those of you who continue to strain and press
to make Our Country Great, those of you who daily labor to assist those
in other countries whose lives had once withered under the burden of tyrants,
and whose hopes can now flicker again with the help of those like yourself.
Thanks so much for putting it all out there for us every day. My fervent
hope is to honorably document the expenditures of each of your individual
lives in the midst of this conflict, those of you who "anonymously"
struggle daily to make what We Hold As Good prevail in what, at times,
is a dark and wicked world.
Thanks so much, man. Great to hear
from you... See you soon!
Sad to say, this is the first time I've read one of your
articles Jim. What have I been missing!? Thanks for the funny, informative,
and just plain awesome read! Take care and have a great Turkey day!
Jeff, Pasco, WA
* * *
Jim, I just loving reading your blogs. As I've dreamt
about going to Costa Rica for at least 20 years, this was a very insightful
and fun read for me. You always make me laugh.
Deborah - Burbank, CA
Wow, what a HILARIOUS guy!!!!! I really really enjoyed
the article. The Village Artist is my 'uncle Boyd" as I call him.
He is closing his shop next year. That made my day and thank you for letting
me know of this on the world's BEST travel information source.
Sandy - Sitka, Alaska
* * *
Comments like those that you wrote
make all the hassles and travails of writing resoundingly worthwhile,
thank you! I am so sorry to hear that Boyd is closing his shop! The Alaskan
State legislature should immediately intervene to make his shop an Alaskan
cultural heritage site of some variety (not kidding). Meanwhile, from
the sound of the conversation Boyd and I had, it's the federal government
that's confused and harassed the poor guy with inconsistent and random
applications of federal law to the point where it's probably not worth
it anymore. I hope that's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. Whatever
the reason, I am really sorry to hear that he's closing shop. I'm privileged
to have seen it... once in a lifetime. Thanks again for reading and thanks
a lot for your comments!
Now I know what you were doing on the Alaska cruise when
I wasn't around. Besides playing cribbage. I'm glad that you, a younger,
more slender and fit person, also saw the value in cruising. I didn't
come back with a tan, but I did lose 3 pounds while sleeping every night
and eating every meal but one. Jade and I are looking forward to three
weeks exploring Mediterranean ports in May. We put down our deposit for
it on our last night on board and have starting our training. Sleeping
in the same wonderful bed every night makes such a break-neck pace completely
possible for a grandma like me. I'm looking forward to reading your Afghanistan
piece WHEN you have returned.
Janice - Seattle
* * *
Yes that was a blast! I would do
all of that again any day of the week. Have fun on your Mediterranean
cruise, that sounds like great fun!
Love your expeditions. Keep writing.
Karen Cummings - Yakima, WA
* * *
Jim can't tell you how much I am enjoying your writing.
One other commenter mentioned you are living the life we all dream of,
ain't that the truth. As far as looking for a place to live that will
challenge you to be able to make a real living and supplying a steady flow
of women looking for the bbd (bigger better deal) then you should try the
Yakima Valley here in Washington State (inside joke). Look forward to
reading more from you.
Huston Turcott (hooter) - Yakima, WA
Awesome!!! I love Japan!
Maja - Chur, Switzerland
Jimmy my love,
I totally thought you were kidding when you told me you went bullriding. OH MY GOSH you actually did it. (SIGH) Am I going to have to smack you around a bit?? heheheheee Seriously, come see us!
Leah, Richland, WA
Rock on Friend! Living it up... inspiring us all to do the same!
Are you for real? You're living the life many people only dream about. You're
obviously not yet married. What wife would allow her husband to do all
the crazy things you do? This Virginia skydiving adventure is probably
the scariest yet. Your writing style helps bring the exhilaration out.
Great photos too. Loved the caption about you striking that "gangsta
rap" pose. Come to think of it, why do we do that in front of the
Thanks also for the tips. $250 for a few minutes with nothing between
you and mother earth is a bit costly but I guess if you have a death wish,
this is definitely the way to go.
You mentioned that 25 people a year lose their lives doing this. With my luck
I will be among that number if and when I decide to do this.
Enjoyed it very much. Can't wait for your next adventure.
Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA
Found ur Glacier trek (I will Destroy You Glacier Peak)
to be serious kick ass. To be honest, Im such a lightweight, Ive
never been more than a day tripper. When u really get out there on one
of those long solo treks, and the water runs short can u drink
from local streams? Ive heard that pollution is so bad that even
places untouched by man are now off-limits.
* * *
Great to hear from you and thanks
for the complement and question. That is a seriously cool name, by the
way: VitoZee. Just from the phonetics of it, I get the impression that
you might be a very friendly and mild-mannered hitman working out of North
Jersey. Really cool.
As for your drinking water from
streams question, there are a lot of answers for it. The simple answer
is that, no, you can almost never implicitly trust stream water sources,
unless they are flowing straight out of the ground (via an aquafer or
spring) bubbling up right there in front of you. That's your best bet,
but you rarely see that in the wild unless you're looking for it, and
even so, I have actually gotten sick from drinking spring water straight
from the source at Panther Springs on Mount Shasta. You never know what
you're going to get drinking untreated water from the wilds.
Most of the time the pollution you'll
be dealing with out in the wilderness is not man-made, it usually comes
from bacteria and parasites that inhabit the bodies of wilderness animals.
For example, on this Glacier Peak trip, I drank from a stream I was confident
was trustworthy. In the immediate vicinity were living quite a few marmots.
A number of days after I got home I fell ill, and had to wonder if I hadn't
picked up something from the water I drank, as there was not much of any
other explanation for my symptoms. I knew a trip to the doctor would probably
result in them sending me back home with a plastic cup that was required
to be filled with my own poo, which would need to be delivered back to
the lab steaming hot so they could figure out exactly what kind of bacteria
or parasite they were dealing with. (Not a joke, remember Panther Springs?)
After this diagnosis, I would then have to go back to the doctor and get
a prescription, but by then, my body would have probably fought off the
tiny invaders completely on its own. Not worth the trouble, and all of
this would certainly = Jim minus $280. So I suffered it out, and whatever
happened to be bothering me left my system in about 7 days or so. Yuck.
Anyway, I don't recommend drinking
straight from the streams of the wild, but in a pinch, I do it everytime,
unless I see a bear or a moose straight upstream from me pooping in the
river, which has only happened about ten times. (Or zero times.) Anyway,
sometimes I get sick, sometimes I don't. If I'm exhausted and thirsty,
to heck with it, I'm drinking it.
All this notwithstanding, or withstanding,
or notwithoutstanding, whatever, they just recently invented the coolest
thing in the world though, so you might want to check it out. Previously,
for treating your water in the wild, you'd always have to put a pellet
of iodine or a congregate of other evil ingredients into your jug of stream
water and let it sit there for an hour before you drink it while the chemical
cocktail thoroughly treats your water. That is ridonkulous because when
you're hiking and thirsty, you aren't going to wait a full hour for that
pill to dissolve and work properly, you are going to guzzle. Anyway, they
just invented this magic wand of sorts that you can find at any decent
backpacking or outdoors store. You turn it on and dip it in your stream
filled water jug, and the ultraviolet light it produces irradiates everything
to death on the spot, after about 30 seconds or so. Kind of like my pinky
finger, which I keep forgetting to treat my stream water with, because
I'm always so dang thirsty.
Keep it comin' Jim. Sounds awesome.
Matt Langley, Duvall, WA
Enjoyed your Victoria article. It was an intersting slant
on a city that is generally just promoted as a destination for tea rooms,
gardens and double-decker buses. Now let's get serious ... are the Canadian
women there really that attractive, good-natured and open-minded? Maybe
I won't get married either and just move up there. It sure sounds refreshing
after having to deal with the smugness of all those LA starlets, trying
to make it in Hollywood.
Gary, Santa Monica
* * *
Thanks so much for the communique. I can honestly tell you that there
was little exagerration involved in my description of the girls there
in Victoria. God, in his infinite wisdom, has thankfully granted American
mankind a few other places than the great old U.S. of A. to relieve our
hearts of the burden of the eternally-self-absorbed, career-tracked, Bill-Gates-as-a-husband
seeking beastly variety of female. I know, after living here in the States
forever (especially in Seattle), how it is. I was recently researching
a trip to Columbia, and heard the same news implicitly spoken about the
women there, they are apparently of the same caliber of those that live
in British Columbia. I invite you, before relocating, to take a trip up
to Victoria, to see for yourself. I'll never forget it.
And my brotha', if you think you have it bad in the Los Angeles area (I
lived there for six years), try Seattle (where I have lived for the last
laborious three). Seattle seems to be crammed with nothing other than
Ice Princesses, who live their lives completely within the confines of
darkened cerebral domains, mental attentions locked firmly onto the goal
of marrying the next Bill Gates, hoping to live in one of those big houses
smooshed up against Lake Washington, hearts available only to the ultimate
goal, the dream of all dreams ... being on Oprah someday...absorbing the
jealous attentions of the millions of suburbanite women watching, all
hoping to sit right there across from Ms. Winfrey someday, too, while
regaling her with the tales of the good life, closets full of the savvy
and smarmy garb purloined at Nordstrom's, their husband a virtual "Prince
Charming," their family-owned barnacle encrusted yacht anchored firmly
in some northern fjord. Oprah smiles back approvingly amidst a cacophony
of applause, screen fades to commercials, all conduits nourishing The
You're my kind of guy, Gary. Hang in there, amigo. I look forward to meeting
your smokin' hot wife someday.
Call ahead or don't.
It's a good idea to make an appointment for skydiving if you have a future
date in mind but you don't have to. At many skydiving facilities,
you can just walk through the door and sign up for a jump for that day.
Think about that the next time you're feeling squirrelly and happen to drive
by a place that offers skydiving.
Special clothing not required.
You might think you'll need a fur-lined parka or some other expensive specialty
gear for the jump. Not so. The most they'll probably ask is that you wear
tennis shoes, and they'll probably have jumpsuits to offer you on chilly
days. On a nice enough day, they'll probably even let you skydive in shorts.
How much will it cost?
What kind of crazy question is that? Who cares? You will never forget it!
What was the last thing you bought for $250.00 that you will never forget?
Oops yeah, uh .it costs around 250 bucks. The value, though, is
But it's dangerous,
In 2004, 25 people in the US lost their lives in skydiving accidents. In
the same year, 42,636 people died in car wrecks. Moral of the story: You
are way safer skydiving than actually driving to and from the airfield.
If I haven't made you feel completely relieved already, check out this cool
Speaking of relieved: What if I wet my pants?
Skydiving instructors are professionals, love challenges, and train hard
for many of these sorts of unforeseen eventualities. For more information,
see the skydiveorange.com webpage entitled, "What
if I wet my pants?"
If you live in Virginia or are traveling there, I'd highly recommend Skydive
Orange. They are awesome. They have a professional and interesting staff
that you'll trust for your skydiving experience in the air and feel right
at home with on the ground, as well. Skydiveorange.com