I Jumped Out of a Plane

That’s right.  I jumped, out of a fucking plane.

During my teenage years, I decided skydiving would be one of the things I would do soon after turning 18.  Then 18 hit, and I didn’t have the cash, the people, or the drive to do it anymore.  So at the age of 26, I’d almost forgotten about it completely until my friend and old roommate had his 27th birthday.

Reed is afraid of heights.  That being said, for some bizarre reason, Reed decided to jump out of a small, rickety airplane at 14,500 feet for his birthday.  Kudos to him.  Ben is also afraid of heights I suppose, but hadn’t really come to terms with this realization until plummeting through the air at 120 mph.

Well, lets start at the beginning.  Out of the many people polled to come along and do this with us, due to factors such as price and general wimpiness, the final tally was Reed, his girlfriend Rachel, and me.   We met up at Skydive Midwest around 11 AM and I thought we were going to be jumping into a class, onto the plane, and then out of the plane.  Nope.  Hours of waiting lay ahead of us.  Eventually, we get called up for our “training” class.  The class mainly consists of the instructor popping in a DVD of really experienced skydivers doing crazy shit like jumping out of a plane in a raft, flying through hoops, doing acrobatic routines, or performing King Lear in midair (ok, I made that last one up).   The point of showing us this DVD is to impress upon us how “cool” it would be if we shelled out the $2,250 or so to get a skydiving license through them.  That fee would entail around 25 jumps or so, and ground school.    Even though I know I don’t have that kind of cash and know I’m being pitched, I have to admit it is tempting.  Once you have your license you can pretty much jump solo anywhere in the world and do it for about $25 a jump.  Anyhow, its worth mentioning that you can also get your license by doing the required kinds of jumps and training while paying one jump at a time.

Moving on… after the “time share” portion of our training is over, the instructor goes onto to the actual training part.  Here’s what you need to remember:

  1. When you get up to that open door and are fastened to your tandem jumper: toe up to the line and cross your arms across your chest.  This is to prevent you from grabbing the sides of the open door and resist falling out, like any rational person is bound to do when facing an open door with no railing at 14,500 feet.  You are also to crouch forward a bit as the door is not very tall, and fall out with them when THEY push out
  2. Once falling put your arms out and kick your legs back up to minimize wind resistance.  This seems to be the easiest position for a stable fall
  3. When landing, lift your feet up so that your tandem jumper lands first, then put your feet down or just land on your ass.  Otherwise you will land while they’re still flying,  resulting in a poor landing experience for all parties involved.

Ok.  So more hours of waiting,  then its time.  Our tandem jumpers get us suited up and we are led onto the plane.  The tandem jumpers are fucking around, joking with each other: “Geez I shouldn’t have drank so much last night, my head’s all fuzzy,” or “I shouldn’t have taken all those painkillers a few hours ago” etc.  The plane starts climbing.  I start laughing trying to let it push out the fear.  Then they open the door all the way, and we are at the proper height for the jump.  My heart starts pounding as the first person is led up to the edge and, 1..2..3.. bam, falls out of the plane.    Upon their exiting, we feel the whole plane move and sway.  There is not much time to react as everyone follows fairly quickly.  A solo jumper gets outside on the edge of the plane and jumps along with the next pair.   One after the other, Rachel and Reed in their turn toe up to the door and fall out, fairly textbook.

I’m the last in line and its my turn.  My guy starts edging us forward along the bench we’re on(there’s not much room on the plane) and all of a sudden I’m stuck.  I see that my boot has gotten caught around a seat belt on the ground.  My tandem partner can’t hear me too well at this altitude with the door open so I’m sure he thinks I’m just freaking out.  Eventually I manage to communicate that I’m stuck and we both get my foot loose.  Having something go wrong so close to my jump leaves me a little rattled as I shakingly toe up to the door and instinctively put my hands on either side of it.  Dammit, broke rule #1.  Luckily I don’t have to be corrected, realizing fairly quickly what I’ve done, and I tuck my arms across my chest and crouch over.  Before I know it, I’m falling out of the plane and completely forget rule #2.  I think my arms are still across my chest and I feel us get flipped around, looking upwards almost immediately after falling out of the plane.  I feel the guy use his leg to flip us back over and then remember that I need to play a part in our survival.  I put out my arms and legs like I’m supposed to and notice that it doesn’t feel like falling anymore.

When jumping out of a plane, if you’re able to even keep your wits about you in the beginning, it will only feel like you’re falling for the first few seconds.  There are several reasons for this:

  1. Your body has never experienced falling for longer than a couple seconds, much less a solid minute of free fall, and has nothing with which to compare the experience.
  2. As you’re falling you eventually reach speeds of 120 mph and the wind actually has a strong, physical presence.
  3. The ground does not appear to be getting closer.

Number 3 above, I think confuses a lot of people, because despite being told not to waste time staring at the ground, you can’t help but expect to be making more visual progress as you’re plummeting towards the earth.  You get no real “ground rush” when freefalling because the height you are falling from is so high that the ground does not really appear to be getting closer.  By the point you would actually get a “ground rush” kind of sensation, it likely means your parachute has not opened and its too late.

So, I fall.  And for me it seems like a long time.  I start laughing and enjoying myself, but then survival instinct kicks in and I think about whether its time to pull the chute or not.  Ultimately, I remember my tandem jumper hasn’t indicated its time yet and so try to look around instead.  Knowing that you are falling about 9,000 feet through the air, while it feels like you’re just floating in midair on heavy wind is a hard sensation to convey.  Anyhow, I don’t really think I realized I had any kind of fear of heights until that moment.  Especially since I knew that the experience of surviving a skydive and of not surviving a skydive, would be very similar for a majority of the trip.  Eventually, my tandem jumper shows me the altimeter letting me know its time and I try to find the cord, managing to pull it and save our lives (give me some creative license here).  The chute opens and I get a beautiful view.  He points out Chicago and Milwaukee from that height, and I just hang there in the air.  I start getting a little disturbed about just loosely hanging  with nothing to hold on to and so decide to just hold on to the straps of the harness for some minor psychological comfort.

It’s time to land.   I try to keep my legs up but don’t get them up quite all the way and ultimately make some contact.  I think he still landed first.  Anyhow,  No bruises or injuries.  Still, 3 out of 3 rules broken.  Maybe I need to take that training course again.  Oh well.  Once back on Terra firma, I feel the adrenaline rush through my system along with the relief of being on solid ground again.  We all go and chug the beers we bought earlier and kept in a bag of ice by the car and it feels good.

All in all, despite my bitching, I had a great experience skydiving and would highly recommend Skydive Midwest.  The staff was professional, the experience was certainly memorable and I had a lot of fun.  I’m pretty positive I’ll do it again.  Here’s some other dude’s video.  I could have shelled out 90 bucks to have gotten my own, but figured that was a little too much money to get a tape of myself crying at high altitudes.  Maybe next time.

Zombie Jesus and Friends

The writing muscles have seized up.  Atrophy sets in, then inconsistent sentence structure.  Poor subject/verb agreement soon follow and eventually all you’re left with, is a mass of run on sentences that vaguely describe an event that occurred over four months ago.  Oh well, fuck it.

Anyway, I figured it was time to sit down and start writing again before I pile up any more crap that’s worth writing about.  One such noteworthy accomplishment, that was missed during the many nights of working overtime and drinking at bars, was the inception of Zombie Jesus.

Zombies are kinda in vogue right now for some reason.  I’ve never really been much of a zombie guy, preferring instead to spend my time at the other end of the horror archetype spectrum with the vampires.  I guess zombies never really freaked me out because I figured I could always think my way out of a zombie outbreak.  Typically, zombies are slow, stupid, and you’re only really in a jam if you decide to hole up in an enclosed area that’s difficult to get out of without wading through a multitude of them.  In the event of a zombie attack, I might consider going camping, or a road trip to the nearest military base.

Anyhow, they’ve grown on me a bit as of late.  As a friend mentioned to me, the scary thing about zombies is: “it’s your friends and family.”  Hmm. Fair enough.  Also, while vampires almost embody “Cool” by definition, it will always be way cooler to get made up as a zombie in your free time than go the vampire route.  You see, no matter how cool your vampire outfit may be, it will inescapably be pretentious on some level, to dress up as one.  Sorry.  And this comes from someone who has dressed up as a vampire before…several times.

So, getting a little closer to the point, zombie pub crawls have been sprouting up all over the place over the last few months.  It’s an opportunity for people to get all gored up and wander the streets of Chicago, or their hometown, getting so shitfaced that they can take the makeup off and still look like a zombie.  In short, it looks like a lot of fun.  So, Easter comes around and its time to make an imperial IPA.  Since we were brewing on the day Jesus supposedly raised from the dead, we decided to jump on the bandwagon and made a beer in honor of Zombie Jesus.

Here are the ingredients:

Ingredients:

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1 oz Simcoe pellets

1 oz Warrior pellets

2 oz amarillo hop plug packages

1 oz glacier leaf hops

1 lb caramel 60L LBreiss (caramel/crystal speciality grains)

1 lb pale ale malt

2 Breiss Gold Unhopped Liquid Malt Extract

1 Bress Amber Unhopped Liquid Malt Extract

1 Northwest Ale Activator Wyeast SVY1332 4.25 oz

 

Steps:

1.       Clean the fuck out of everything

2.       Steep speciality grains in 150-160 water for 30 min

3.       Strain into turkey pot

4.       Bring to boil, add warrior pellets

5.       Add 1 amarillo hop plug after 15 min of boil and then again every 15 min for 3 hop plugs in total

6.       Avoid pigeon’s crapping in your boiling wort if at all possible.

7.       5 min before finish add ½ oz simcoe pellets and glacier hops as well as ½ tsp irish moss

8.       Add cold water, until wort is at the 5 gallon mark and strain through hopback into the fermenter.

9.       Pitch yeast

10.   Shake carboy vigorously attempting to free it from the bucket it is now stuck in

11.   Give up on the prospect of dislodging the carboy from the bucket and move both into a dark corner.

OG: 1.08    FG: 1.015    ABV: Around 8%

We probably didn’t oxidize the beer as much as we should have.  So ultimately we ended up racking the beer twice in order to give it extra time for the yeast to process the sugars.  The end result was very decent.  We probably ended up with a little more yeast in the bottle than I would have liked and we probably could have either added extra malt or less hops to create a better balance.  However, when all is said and done, it is probably the best beer we’ve made so far.  Many many thanks to Nick for making us the kick ass label.

Onwards to the Pils.