Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

1. Jumped out of an airplane at over 5,000 feet.

In the winter of 1991 I was working at the lake near my parent's house in suburban Maryland holding boats at the dock for Korean families on weekends. The manager of the boat house was Issac Gerstenzang, a really energetic friend from high school who had the biggest smile of anyone I've ever met. His job at the lake was to drive around the patrol boat and make sure people weren't horsing around on the water and capsizing their canoes.

About that time, the movie Point Break came out and Issac was in love with it. If you don't remember, this is the movie with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze who play surfing, skydiving bank robbers who rob banks while wearing US presidents' masks. Issac was so inspired by the skydiving scenes in the movie that he decided to do it himself. I was the only one of his friends that would go along with him.

He set up our lessons at Skydive Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. We went though a busy day's worth of jumping simulations in which we jumped off a 2-foot-high box onto---if I rememebr---a pad of some kind. It was intensive and we were dying to finally get to jump but the weather was bad so we waited for the following weekend.

One side note: I didn't do tandem jumping. That's where the instructor is strapped to your back and he pulls the cord for you and everything. You just sit there. I did the kind where two instructors hold on to your sides as you fall. I would be like the person in the middle in this picture. I pulled my own cord and parachuted alone.

When our day came (December 7, 1991, I still remember the date) Issac decided to pay an extra $75 dollars to have a cameraman jump and videotape him while he was falling. I didn't want someone filming me. They took us up to about just over 5,000 feet and we jumped. The fall itself was for just over a mile and went fast, as I fell at 190 miles per hour. The best part is after the parachute is deployed and you fly around for 15-20 minutes over miles of inter-connected farmland for as far as the eye can see. When I got to the ground I was so high on adrenaline I sat and giggled for like 30 minutes, sitting on the top of a ladder.

When Issac got the video back it looked great. He even got to choose a song to be played over the video (there's not much other sound going on while skydiving other than rushing air). Issac chose Kenny Loggins' "Highway to the Danger Zone", a fine choice, I believe.

I think I watched that video of smiling Issac Gerstenzang falling downward a mile over rural Pennsylvania 100 times in '91 and '92.
Pulled the cord and launched it into the air? I don't understand. You mean the ripcord? Isn't that what you're supposed to do — pull it?
The rip cord is made of thick, steel cable. When you pull it, it comes separate from the body of the parachute backpack. If you let go of it after pulling, they charge you extra by like $20. Then, the thing floats to the earth and gets ground up in hay (cow food). They tell you again and again not to let go of it after you pull it. The skydive class focuses so much on not letting go of it, that they almost forget the other important procedures. But Issac just launched it into space. I guess it was the cameraguy and Kenny Loggins. Who knows.
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