16 September 2010

they should call it sky falling.

you know that dream you have, the one where you're falling and then - BAM - you wake up? I had that, in real life, except I didn't fall and wake up, I just keep falling and falling and falling.

Peeps, I went skydiving. For real. It was super fun. And the scariest fucking thing I've ever done.

It was my sister's boyfriend's quarter-century birthday. My sister doesn't do small birthday shindigs. The girl goes big. Surprise skydiving big. With everyone wearing matching shirts. How could I not get my booty down to Portland and jump out of a plane with them?

So I did.

Did I mention it was scary?

Amos couldn't come (he was man-cationing), so I was going solo. Get there late on Friday, promptly ruin the "surprise" part of the birthday ("So when I told Dad we were skydiving...Ooh, shit. Sorry!"). Truth be told, I hadn't really thought about what I'd signed up for. I just knew I needed lots of cash - this is not a cheap activity - and to show up ready to go at 10:30. On the ride out to the site, one of my fellow jumpers had the gall to tell me that just about every skydiving organization has had a death or two, and ours* - a suicide by an instructor - was no exception. At this point, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should have thought this through a bit more.

We drove out to the Oregon countryside, threw down some dinero, and signed away every legal right we might possibly have. Seriously. One of the waivers said - paraphrasing here - Skydiving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. Mistakes and errors happen. We might make a mistake. You might make a mistake. The pilot might make a mistake and you could have broken bones, bruises, concussions, or you may die. This is part of the risk of skydiving and you/your family cannot sue us. Holy crap. It took me about an hour to read all the rights I was signing away. This did not make me feel any more secure.

Post-waivers, post-payment, and post -very-short-15-minute-training-session, we were ready to go! We went out to a field, where we promptly sat for about 2 hours waiting for our turn. Actually, this part calmed my nerves the most. People kept going up in the planes, jumping out, and coming down safely. Including the 84-year old grandmother who went before us. She was fricking adorable, in her tracksuit and super white tenny-shoes. The woman is my new role model. I mean, you all know I have a secret desire to be an old woman.

Anyway, enough celebrating old people. It was time to go. I picked out my bright pink parachute (I insist on high style wherever I go), met my tandem jumper, put on the harness, helmet, and sweet goggles, and hopped onto the tiny little airplane. At this point, I had gotten very quiet. Not speaking quiet. Pale face quiet. I was just focusing on breathing and not vomiting.


The plane was empty save for two foam benches running parallel from front to back. We hopped in the door on the back of the plane and all straddled the benched and scooted back, sitting in a little train of skydivers. We climbed up, slowly, to 13,000 feet, where the views were impeccable: Rainier, Helen, Hood, Jefferson, Adams, Three Sisters, and downtown Portland. Strangely enough, the higher we climbed, the less nervous I became. It seemed significantly less real as the ground became a patchwork of colors instead of actual fields, farms, roads, and houses. Then the back door opened and the temperature of the plane dropped to that of a walk-in beer cooler. About the moment, I officially wanted to lose my shit. F my life.

We slid down the benches and Sister's Boyfriend turned to look back at us as he got ready to leave the plane. I've never seen the kid so pale. Then, right before my eyes, he dropped. As I was registering that he just fell. out. of. a plane., my tandem instructor was pushing me toward the door. At no point were my limbs going to help him out: I was pretty much paralyzed. He had me sit on the edge of the plane, with my legs dangling out, flapping in the wind, as the landscape whizzed by, and wind whipped around me. I have never been so batshit scared in my life. And then we fell forward, the weight of my instructor pushing me out of the plane. Immediately, my stomach was in my throat and my eyes were closed. Reminding myself I paid handsomely do to this, I forced my baby blues open. We hit terminal velocity and my stomach was returned to its rightful place. We fell for over a minute, reaching 120 mph and descended from 13,000 to 4,000 feet. I kept chanting: Please let the parachute open. Please let the parachute open. Please let the parachute open. The universe listened. The bright pink canvas came out of the pack and we began to gracefully drift downwards. That part was fun, except when we did flips, and my extremely sensitive stomach threatened revolt. After putting my instructor in his place (Do you want me to vomit on you?), we returned to a lovely decent, landing softly in the field. Others in our group had a more Wild Ride, including free fall flips and spins, but I am - at heart - a boring girl and falling out of a plane the good old-fashioned vanilla way is plenty for me. Me and the 84 year old woman. The only way it could have been better was if I was in a matching tracksuit.

We celebrated with beer and burgers, followed by more beer at the Green Dragon, a favorite spot of mine (and sister and sister's boyfriend). If you find yourself in tPDX, and even if you are too much of a wimp to skydive, visit them and grab yourself a beer. Maybe a Jalapeno one**, if you feel like living, which is exactly what I was doing.

*Ours was Skydive Oregon, which was very, very good. Highly recommended.
** Srsly. Get one and a plate of nachos and thank me later.


  1. Awesome. I've still never gone skydiving but have always wanted to. I absolutely LOVE any kind of adrenaline-rush-inducing activity and I'm pretty sure I would love skydiving. It's just so damn expensive! Glad you lived through the experience :-)

  2. i tell people that it was the most lighthearted and gleeful moment of my life, freefalling like that. incredible. so glad you did it sar! Miss you soooo much!

  3. This is one of your best yet! You are SUCH an incredible writer. I'm so very proud of you! -Tyler

  4. Wow, looks like an amazing, crazy adventure! Great pics!



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