Down the road

 

I’m at the club. It’s the big lesbian night  hosted once a month at Traxx in Denver. My friends have just left and I’m holding a spot just off the dance floor where I can see the fun, young Go-Go dancers and do some serious people watching…  It’s crowded. Everyone has to bump and brush against you as they move around the club. There’s a few very attractive women.. One in particular.. Trim, tall, straight white teeth, long, thick, curly black hair halfway down her back.. She passes me and comes back.. Says “Wow! You’re hot!”

and she wants my number.    But I’m on my way out. I can’t find paper. The bar napkins are black. I fish out a five dollar bill I had in my pocket and scribble my number on it. Before I give it to her, I have a few questions.. One of them.. “What do you like to do for fun?”

Her: “Uhhhh… Hike?”

Uh oh…. Strike one.  Maybe she’s just shy.

She texts me a couple times and we meet for Sushi downtown.

She looks delicious when I see her waiting outside the restaurant. She’s wearing tight jeans, she’s tall in her high heels and a tight fitting vest with collared blouse. Long sleeves. The weather is pleasant.. Low 70’s… the windows are rolled down in my enormous white diesel truck.  I wave and smile as I rumble by her. I have to find parking for this beast somewhere.. and I’m starving.

We sit at the bar, she tells me she likes tuna and California rolls… And that I should order.

The sushi chef sets down our fabulously prepared plates over the counter.. I am already suspicious that she’s never had sushi before… We are having painful small talk and not really connecting, but she is touching my leg quite a lot. I can see she is very attractive, but somehow I’m not feeling anything exciting.. As well, I can see her eyes scanning the table… Futilely, I think, for a fork.
I’ve ordered enough food for two people, but she only takes tiny bites of each item. She says she doesn’t eat much… I believe her because she’s not very big… also, I know she’s in a jam.

I have a mean streak.

She’s still telling me she likes tuna, so I think… We’re on a date, right?

It is on the outside edge of appropriateness, given she’s been touching my leg and thigh so much, I decide its ok to feed her a piece of fish.

I chopstick up a beautiful piece of carefully prepared maguro tuna and put it in her very hesitant mouth..

I pick up another piece for myself and pop it in.. As I savor my slice, I watch her face go from apprehension to dismay.. As she forces herself to chew and swallow the tuna she has professed to like…

“Delicious…no?” I cruelly ask…. smiling.

“n-no.. no. I um.. don’t think so.” with a small, but vigorous shake of her head.

Strike two.

I am curious about this gal… She still wants to hang out with me… Why?

We make another attempt. We will ride my motorcycle together at gay pride. Dykes on bikes.. Right before the event, my friend texts me.

“Is her name—— ?”

Yes, I say.

“Well, so far, all her ex-girlfriends have restraining orders on her… And another lost her job because of her. I’d be careful.”

Strike three. She’s a tornado.  I know if there is that much rubble behind someone, it’s not going to be any better because of me.

I actually feel a little shitty now, but I have to bail out on our next date.. I’ve been in the tornado before.. I can’t do this to myself again…. Not even if it’s exciting. Not even if I might be making a mistake.

I shut her down.

She’s hurt, I’m free, and my life gets down the road. Literally.

I’m heading to Omaha, Nebraska now. I’m in my RV. It’s a giant toyhauler. I load up my motorcycle and the rest of my life. I don’t go quickly in it… I had a tire blowout in Nevada a couple weeks ago, I think the other ones are ready to go… I haven’t protected them from the sun like I should.

The only vehicle I pass in nine hours of driving is an ancient blue and rust Toyota pickup precariously overfilled with a giant pile of hay…spitting and  blowing straws along the highway. Two Mexican cowboys at the helm, plodding stoically down interstate 80.

Flying here is completely out of the question. It’s flat. No tows, no mountains, not even a decent hill to be seen… This cannot be my home.

I am here because I’m starting a new career that allows me to continue to work in my field while taking better care of my body and having some financial security… I will be better able to manage my retirement plans. I am on the safety/ regulatory side of the house now. As well, it is my understanding that the ability to take time off is generous.

I have to dig out some clothes from the camper that may be suitable to wear in an office.

It’s more like an exploratory excavation.

Lookout

Fear.

Sequoia National Forest, California:

I am standing with my friends on launch. We are watching the conditions carefully. We see the swallows dive bombing invisible insects, there is a cloud halfway to the next peak growing and shrinking. We see other pilots in the air a couple miles away. They’ve just launched from the far side of the valley. They’re getting a lot of altitude. Three… No… four of them.

My friend Dave is an amazing pilot. He loves flying passengers on his tandem wing. He is perennially confident and smiling. Today is no exception. The weather is good. Better than yesterday. It was a little strong and gusty yesterday but it’s looking really nice now.

Three of five of us launch. Another guy and myself stayed on the ground. We are both recently recovered from serious accidents. My ankle is still bothering me from my wreck in Colombia.. He flew yesterday in the marginal conditions and I suspect was looking for an ideal moment to fly today… which never came.

I watched them launch, but couldn’t tame my fear…. Is it even fear? I can’t tell… It’s fear-ish… But not totally fear… Could I just be overexcited??

I hate flying with too much adrenaline… It blocks out rational thought… I feel that my skills are adequate for the conditions, I have the ability and knowledge but this moment just isn’t mine…

This is much different than my job in the military…. I think it is easy to make an assumption based on that past experience… After all, I am a Bomb Tech, Navy diver, Naval parachutist, HRST/CAST Master, ATV instructor, motorcycle rider… What fears could I possibly have?

Maybe it was peer pressure… Maybe it was the knowledge that I would be medically and financially covered if I did something terrible to myself back then… Maybe I found a way to shut the door on fear in my former career…

Here, now, today, at the top of the mountain, staring down into this epically beautiful bucolic, rolling green Southern California valley, I can not find a way to control the wild surges of adrenaline filling my veins. I will not take off with this excess.

Fear.

It is a wild horse. One that must be battled, broken, and ridden under control. It can propel me into productive and driven action or cause a poor decision….decisions. If it is extreme,  then clumsiness and a complete blank-out can sometimes occur.

I have had many fears. Some were realistic, some made up, a few necessary, appropriate and timely.

In flying, we all battle fear. We all have our own methods of dealing with it. One trick that usually works for me… a friend told me.. Chew gum.

 Really. It works. For me… Usually. Some people listen to music.. Some people need quiet.

Since that non-launch in California, I’ve had 7 or 8 flights… easy Utah ridge flights and a couple of tows over the water. Some maneuvers. Some thermals.

Golden, Colorado. Lookout Mountain:

I’m on launch again, and again, and again. Almost a week Parawaiting. The conditions change here very quickly…

My last day at the top, conditions are perfect, the swallows are high up chasing the small floating insects, cloudbase is rising, I see two crows soaring the ridge.. my wing is laid out, my lines are clear… wind is 6-8 mph.. E-NE.. my adrenaline is in check, half a dozen people said they would be here, but I am alone. For two and a half hours… I get in and out of my harness. I put my helmet on… take it off. I have one eye on the trail up… Hoping for one winged friend to come. I watch as the conditions begin to deteriorate… should I just fly??

Never fly alone. never fly alone. never fly alone….   My old instructors voice echoes in my head.

Grumpy, I pack my wing and head down the steep rocky, slippery trail.
I’m getting fat. All I do is sit on launch and drink beer…. I guess that’s not all bad.

still grumpy.

I need to fly. Soon.