And Then There Was Lissa…

March 17, 2015

To say Lissa went out kicking would be a gross understatement…

Well, let me start from the beginning.

After Ursula and I enthusiastically immersed ourselves into the sport of skydiving, Lissa decided she wanted to try it.  Personally, I didn’t think this was a really good idea.  There are just some people who should not jump.  People who tend to freeze in crisis situations fall soundly into that category.  I remember once when Lissa cut her finger and just stood there staring at it, while blood spurted forth out and ran down her arm.  Another time a faulty outlet caught Ursula’s bedsheets on fire.  I ran to the garage looking for the fire extinguisher, my mom ran to the telephone to call the fire department and my dad found the fire extinguisher in the kitchen and put out the fire.  All the while Lissa screamed, “Oh my god! Fire! Fire! There’s a fire!”

But, Lissa really wanted to try skydiving and so I called the drop zone and put her name in for the first jump course that weekend.  When Lissa showed up bright and early that Saturday morning, she was clearly hung over from too much partying the night before, no doubt a last hurrah before facing certain death.  “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.  She assured me she would just take the ground school that morning and jump on Sunday, since we were planning to stay at the DZ for the whole weekend.  We drove through Micky D’s on the drive to the dropzone for some hangover breakfast, and she managed to spill pancake syrup onto the white leather seats of her electric blue convertible mustang.  This caused a fit of histrionics and before long trays, napkins, forks, condiments and bags went flying out of the open car like an airplane undergoing an explosive decompression.  I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting day.

At the dropzone Lissa was her usual funny self, and the instructors were never quite sure whether she was pulling their leg or she was really an incredibly spoiled airhead blonde (ish).  At the end of the class, however, when it came time to suit up, she politely declined.  “What do you mean, you don’t want to jump today?”  The instructor was incredulous.  She explained that she really didn’t feel up to jumping today, and that she would rather jump tomorrow.  The instructor wouldn’t have it.  It just wasn’t done that way.  You took the class, now you make your jump.  That’s the way it goes.  Reluctantly she acquiesced.

Well, Lissa suited up and went up in the plane with the rest of her group, and came back down in the plane.  When it came her turn to jump, she took one look out the door and this time her refusal was not so polite.  Not only no, but HELL NO.

That night as we camped out in the loft, Lissa moped about having missed her opportunity.  Bill, the jumpmaster, told her she could try again on Sunday if she wanted.  I told her I would go along with her in the plane and exit behind her.  Once she got under canopy she could look over and she’d see me flying by as well.  I’d even land right beside her.  While I really didn’t support the idea of her making regular skydives, I knew she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t make this one.  She agreed.

Sunday afternoon, after the next ground school was finished, we suited up with the rest of the students and waited for our load.  When our turn came, we loaded up in the Cessna, the jumpmaster, Lissa and me and a couple of other students.  On the first pass over the DZ, the first student made a nice exit.  On the second pass, out went the second student, nice and clean.  Then it was Lissa’s turn.  She got in the door, legs dangling, clinging to the doorframe.  She looked ready to go — until she looked outside.  She scrambled back inside.  The jumpmaster, Bill, signaled the pilot to make another pass.

Again, Lissa got in the door.  Again, she looked very determined.  Again, she looked outside and subsequently panicked.  Bill, quite generously, gave her still another pass.

On the third pass, I kept telling her not to look outside.  Just push off.  Don’t look out, just push off with your hands and go into a nice arch.  Don’t look, Lissa.  Please don’t look.  Lissa looked.

As we started to head back to the airport, Lissa was clearly quite disappointed.  Bill felt bad.  “Do you want to try one more time?”
he asked.  She nodded eagerly.  Bill signaled the pilot and we went back for one more try.  This time she was so close.  She was in the door, her hands clutching the doorframe.  I was sure she was going to do it.  Don’t look Lissa, just go.  Her face was squinched up in fear and determination.  “I can’t.  I just can’t.”

“Would you like some assistance?” Bill asked.  “Yeah, Bill.  Push her!”  I yelled.  “Just give her a big shove!”

Lissa nodded her head tentatively.  Out the door she went.

Lissa flew her parachute like a champ and managed to flare for landing back at the DZ as instructed, but landed like a sack of potatoes anyway.  I think her knees were too wobbly to attempt a stand-up landing.  She had a big grin on her face, and we both had a very funny story to tell, as did Bill and Roger, the jump pilot, and we each told our versions over and over that evening, drinking beer in the loft with the other jumpers.

Skydivers Who Go Out Kicking

March 3, 2015


At the California City drop zone in the Mojave Desert where I learned to skydive, one evening my sister Ursula and I were sitting around drinking a beer, looking for something to entertain ourselves with — as skydivers are wont to do, and we made an interesting discovery.

In snooping around behind the counter of the parachute loft, we located the club’s student records and decided to amuse ourselves by reading the instructor comments. At that time, all new students had their contact information printed on one side of an index card, and on the other side was information about each jump they had made, with an occasional remark by the jumpmaster.

Once a skydiver was cleared from student status, their index card was moved to the regular jumper file, but if someone had come and made one or two or a handful of jumps ten years prior and never returned, their card would still be in that student file. Needless to say, it was a large file.

Now, jumpmaster comments were generally limited to just a few words, since there was only one line for each jump. They might say something like, “nice arch” if the student had made a good exit, or “tumbled on exit” if it didn’t go so well. But on looking through card after card, there was one remark that seemed to foreshadow whether or not a student would return. It was just one word, “kicking.”

Kicking meant the student had struggled or thrashed on the way out the door of the airplane, signaling that they were singularly uncomfortable with the situation, or so I would have to believe. Because even the students whose cards bore the remarks “tumbled” or “back loop on exit” inevitably came back for more, while those who went out “kicking,” by and large never returned.

Now, after many years of skydiving and having observed my share of student jumpers, I have to say I have never seen one come down without a dazed, slightly maniacal grin on his or her face. No matter how terrified they are in the airplane, once they’re under canopy floating gently to the earth, there’s a sense of exhilaration that can’t fairly be described unless you experience it for yourself.

I’m guessing, though, that perhaps it’s a different sort of exhilaration for different jumpers, which explains why some never come back. Perhaps, for the ones who went out “kicking,” the exhilaration is less a sense of thrill and accomplishment but rather sheer relief at having survived the ordeal.

One for the Road!

February 16, 2015


Click on this for a good laugh  and make sure the sound is on  on your computer!


Death by Crack.

February 14, 2015



how much crack can anyone handle in one sitting?

Don’t people know when they are cracking up in public?  Buttock fissures are not for human  visual consumption.   Lead cause of retinal trauma!

Can’t the crackheads feel the draft?   And when the crotch of their shorts migrate up their butts?


Lissa, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  JUST SAY NO TO CRACK.  No, no, no, not if you paid me a million dollars.  I don’t want to see your butt, I don’t want to see your thong, I don’t want to see your underwear.  KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

68 Degrees

January 28, 2015

Hey Peewee

do you remember growing up in Northern California when Daddy used to set the thermostat of the house at 68° and we would sneak it up to 70°  Of course thermostats back then weren’t  digital so you couldn’t actually figure exactly what temperature you set it at you were just guessing.  The dial only marked the degrees in fives so depending on which side of the dial you were standing it would vary by 5°.

Which is why we frequently got caught.  We were sneaking it, rushing and doing it on the fly.  We never had the luxury of standing exactly in the middle of the dial to up it by just a couple degrees.

We’d walk past the thermostat in the hallway and flick it a bit while he wasn’t looking and that flick had to be just right or else it would go up too high and he would bust us.

Ironically I set my thermostat  now at 68°.   Of course I sleep with four large very warm clingy dogs.   And… here the temperature only drops below 70° a couple of weeks a year.   I can rough it.


Yeah, Lissa, I remember those days.  That’s when the price of heating oil went up and there were gas lines and the president told everyone they should keep their thermostats at 70 degrees.  So we said, “Daddy, Daddy, the President says we should turn our thermostat UP to 70 degrees.”  The house heat came from hot water pipes underneath the floor, so sometimes I would sleep under my bed on a chilly night…

Now I keep my thermostat at 69, but only because this house is so drafty with all the cheap windows that it would cost me a fortune to try to heat it beyond that.  I finally broke down and bought a mini space heater to warm my toes while I’m working in the morning because my office is the coldest room in the house (all windows).  So now Grover likes to cuddle up right in front of the space heater all morning…



Just One Resolution

January 21, 2015

Sorry Lissa, I’ve been really, really swamped with work.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and what I really want to do is get this one book written.  I have so many stories to tell, but I think I’ve been going about it all wrong.  Instead of sitting down and trying to write it like a memoir starting from the beginning and slogging through to the end, I’m just going to write anecdotes as they pop into my head. — short stories.  I can edit them into different lengths and submit them to Reader’s Digest or other magazines, and maybe generate some interest for the book.  Then when I get enough stories, I can just put them together as a book.  Anyway, I really feel good about this new effort.  Here’s my first anecdote.  It’s too long to publish here, so I posted it on my site, in the “What’s Up Peewee” section.  Check it out.  It starts out:

The Day I Joined the Bounce Club

In the sport of skydiving, to “bounce” is to land a parachute that has malfunctioned, usually in a rather fast and violent manner.  Ideally, when a parachute malfunctions, the skydiver releases it by means of a “cutaway” handle and deploys the reserve, landing unharmed and ready to buy a case of beer for the rigger who packed the reserve chute.  Unfortunately, sometimes things happen, and for whatever reason, be it lack of time, altitude or awareness, the skydiver fails to perform the proper emergency actions and crashes to the ground under a malfunctioned parachute.  It’s called a “bounce” because often the body can be seen to bounce slightly on impact.  People rarely survive a bounce.  I did.

Read the rest of the story at

Well Peewee?

January 16, 2015


we haven’t heard from you since New Year’s.  what’s going on with you what’s up? what are you doing any changes you’d like to make in this new year?


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