Nude, Night, Illegal Bungee Jumping!

The best thing about having a best friend is having a best friend.

Whether imaginary, canine, spousal, or to thine own self be true, I highly recommend at least one. I treasure mine, Dale -- a live, in-the-flesh man that I met when we were boys on a school bus forty years ago.

Our friendship had the normal progression. We walked down the school halls talking about lunch, then sashayed down New Orleans' Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras with 15-year old Dale in most of a skimpy Aladdin costume, later enlisted together in the United States Marine Corps and jetted off to boot camp on Parris Island.

That one extra 'r" shape shifts Paris into an entirely different world.
Before I cold join, I needed to gain weight to meet the USDA/USMC meat safety requirements. In truest best-friend form, Dale matched my eating banana to banana and motivated me to gain almost all of the weight I needed. He gained eighteen pounds and entered this incredible physically challenging summer heavier than he'd ever been.

Did he bitch and moan and kick my ass into next week?  No. He had the generosity of spirit to add me to his newly heavy load. He buoyed me throughout our entire journey into the bizarre, green camouflaged world.

I couldn't have survived without him. We made it through alive; a scar from a cut toughens up that area. A scar seared on your psyche by a drill instructor makes you able to do anything.

Today we can call, text or yell and the other is there. I keep him in my heart and on my mind, where I need him most. I trust him with my life.

He put that to the test; he told me that we were going bungee jumping late one night off the Santa Maria Bridge in California.

"We? Have fun," I said.

 "No," he said. "We need to do this together."

Precedence had been set once we shared that Marine Corps adventure-trumping experience of a lifetime --  so any idea from risky get-rich-quick schemes to jumping off a bridge suspended only by a stretchy cord of indeterminate boundaries, always ends up with, "You survived boot camp, you can do this."

We had expert jumping guides (a real thing) who'd done this before. It’s illegal to jump off a bridge -- suicide prevention at a bureaucratic and practical level -- so we attempted this after midnight to avoid detection. The guides advised us not to eat in case we threw up as we flew down. Hints like these, upon reflection, make me wonder why I didn’t think to back out.

We parked the car a few hundred feet away from the bridge. That way, if a cop did pause to examine the abandoned car he wouldn’t associate it with crazy bridge jumpers. He'd (hopefully) assume that some poor fool had decided not to make any more payments and left it for debt.

Our two guides hoisted huge bundles of bungee cords over their muscled, taut, tanned shoulders and distributed headbands with attached flashlights to each of us. We left the safety of the road and descended underneath the belly of the bridge, me with the invisible hesitation of a shy testicle in freezing weather.

We stepped gingerly and crept out among the supportive steel girders and beams, walking along the bridge’s bones in the dark, quiet night. It felt wrong, as if we were walking on a dead body. The smell acrid metal and wet earth reminded me that we weren't supposed to be under there. I was sure that I was seeing things that I was never supposed to see.

As we crept along, I fantasied about the cord breaking. I'd not only crash into the dry river bed; but keep going, straight down into a fiery hell where I would spend eternity reflecting on my foolish and unlawful disrespect, never delivering my well-practiced and moving Oscar speech, nor seeing airlines embrace vegan meal options. Or at least watch my last bad haircut grow out.

The guys began the arduous process of unwinding hundreds of feet of cable. My life was literally in their hands. The attached the cords to the steel frame of the bridge’s underbelly. I mentioned the cords are stretchy, tight? I didn’t interrupt the guides by offering them a cold beverage or asking them any questions. To be honest, they looked like reckless youths who couldn’t get bread in a toaster. I needed them to get all of this preparation right; I got one shot when I hurled myself into space.

"Take your time," I thought, probably out loud.

Dale went first. As he prepared to jump, I promised to take care of his children and clear his browser history. I watched him fly off, wanting to yell, "I love you man!" I decided against it, sending him the more appropriate and loud Marine Corps grunt of approval, "Oorah!"

He flew through the air, bounced back up a bit, then settled. He looked so tiny as he dangled at the bottom and yelled up at us, "Amazing, fantastic, blah blah blah."

At least he was alive. The guides and I reached down and grabbed the cable to hoist him up by hand. It took all of us about ten minutes to pull him up, foot-by-foot of stretchy cord, reaching and pulling, reaching and pulling. It creates the same frustration one would have if trying to fold a basketball.

Eventually perched back on solid girder, Dale beamed. As they unhooked him, he looked at me with wild, happy eyes. This might have been the day OMG was first uttered.

"You're gonna love this! Incredible feeling! This is crazy!" he said, totally not assuring me.

But I wasn’t backing out. My mind said no but my body said yes. The hunks hooked me up, attaching the bungees to my chest and weaving the thick, colorful cords through my legs and around my waist in kinky foreplay that would have turned me on if my knees weren’t shaking so badly.

Capilano Bridge, Vancouver, Canada

I gazed into the dark night and down at the completely dry river and then out over the hills. For a second I loved how the silver light of the moon illuminated the landscape. I realized that if there were water in the lake and not rock solid ground down there that would break every bone in my body upon impact. The moonlight would shimmer across the river water like gentle sparkly shards. Did one die before impact, upon impact, or during impact? If I peed myself, would it hit me in the face as a final, acrid insult, or perhaps land on these idiot bungee boys and give me the last laugh? 

I needed to scream and beg and plead with my captors that they had the wrong guy -- much like after I arrived on Parris Island and the Marines released their shitload of craziness on me. I wanted to yell at he Marines that someone should weigh me now -- I wasn’t enough of a man for them. But I bit my silver tongue and approached the edge of the bridge.

They slapped me on the butt -- the universal guy speak for: Good to go.

I faced the sky, my back now to my executioners. Condemned by pride and unable to back out because my balls were cuddled up near my throat, as far away from the ground as they could get, rendering me unable to speak. 

One of the cruel fools was feeling me up, checking my cords, tugging on stuff to make sure it was all attached. Tug really hard, mother fucker, I silently wished. The other asshole pointed to a girder about four feet in front of me.

"Jump out far, you have to clear that beam," he said matter-of-factly. 

"What?!" I looked at him wondering if he was speaking Spanish or Chinese. He pointed at the girder like it was on fire.

"You have to crouch down and jump out so you don’t hit that girder. You hit that girder and it’s all over," he told me.   

Every groom walks down the aisle thinking, I'm not ready for this. I barely know this girl or guy. I was facing the most horrible aisle walk ever. I had to forcibly jump, into the air, thousands (okay, 180) feet up from the ground, without the backup cushion of water. I had to consciously jump not just off, but up, out and away from a goddamn bridge in the middle of the night, possibly ending my unfinished life.

I had a few seconds of reflective time. Would anyone turn my life into a musical? Perhaps my family and friends would skip my funeral, disgusted by my stupidity. An old lover would be forced to max out his credit card to bury the Ziploc bag of bones some prison detail would have to sweep up from the dried up, dusty riverbed.

And I had been denied a last meal, for the record.

I looked back at Dale. He was smiling. He probably was taking an uninvited tour of my mind and aware of all of my fears. But I looked in his eyes. They held a private message for me, You can do this, don’t worry, I’m right here. He winked. I love that wink -- it's so fast and easy, sometimes just implied.

His reassurance was the flint to spark my feet. It takes a lot to jump off a bridge, even more to jump away from a bridge. I've had to do difficult thing and I can pump myself up for them.

As I jumped off and flew into the night, I outstretched my arms to make sure my body cleared the girder and to grab the air. Yep, I tried to hang on to oxygen.

I went upside down, then sideways, falling and spinning. I caught flashes of the bridge and the sky and the ground. I expected to only see the ground rushing towards me. I want to think I didn’t scream, but I couldn’t hear anything over my deafeningly loud inside voice. I waited to hit the ground.

But I didn’t. Before I knew it, I was flying back up, towards the bridge. I could hear the guys whoop-whooping and hollering, one louder than the other -- probably the winner of the bet. I figured the stretchy cord would stop at the end of it's stretch and I'd simply stop at the bottom. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I gently reached the end of the bungee’s ability, then went surprisingly back up, gently ascending until I almost hit the underside of the bridge. I allowed my arms and legs to attractively flail about to deflect impact or signal for help. Soon I was floating back down, then back up, then back down, and back up a bit, then back down, bouncing and bouncing until finally I just dangled mid-air.

This is what a spider feels like, I thought as I looked around, feeling a little foolish and vulnerable. I did a mental body scan, nothing was broken or missing. I wasn't wet. Everything was silent, and lovely from this new, midair vantage point. The others on the bridge knew to let me enjoy the moment.

I dangled there in the afterglow, now loving the moonlight and life and the fact that Denny’s was open 24-hours.

They hauled me up and once back on the bridge, asked me if I wanted to jump again since I was all hooked up. I responded by tearing off my bungee apparatus as if I were waking from a coma and pulling my own cord from the wall before my greedy relatives could slip me propofol.

The guides asked if we wanted to jump naked. We declined, me on the grounds that Objects in the mirror of fear appear much smaller than they actually are. Plus I really needed to know my balls were going to drop again at some point or else my jeans wouldn’t fit.
But someone did want to jump naked. These guys were a thrill-a-minute and would have detached their arms and sent them down individually if they could, just to bet on whose landed first.

The first guy to go was a very hairy youth. I took a little extra time and care in helping to place the springy, hair-pulling cords under and around his impressive frame. 

As he jumped, the cord got caught in his arm. He flew off course and we all heard a horrible, muffled but clearly pained scream.

"Pull me up," he cried. It echoed through the canyon.

We used our headlamps to examine his svelte, hirsute body to assess the damage. The official diagnosis came from Dr. Dale, and the victim winced as he heard what no man should ever hear, Scrotal abrasions. That boy had been zip-waxed in the fastest, most unnecessarily cruel way.

It's amazing how scrotal abrasions end a party. We limped back to the car, and drove down the two-lane highway in silence. I felt happy that we'd accomplished this feat. It wasn't on my bucket list; but I'll forever boast that it was.

Pulling into the diner, I remembered that sometimes when I go too long without eating I get a little queasy. Or when I jump off a bridge. Combine that with exhausting nerves, anticipation and fear, and the usual magical land of a diner looks harsh and abrasive from the florescent lights, reflected in the thick eyeglasses of the bitter waitresses who metaphorically fill your half-full cup of coffee.

Dale and I ate in relative silence. Not much needed to be said. Pass the salt speaks volumes that fill the pages of the assumed narrative, We have done some crazy things but that was seriously bonkers.

I suppose what I was most happy about was that we both survived and I have the chance to have more adventures with him. I welcome any challenges, but I don’t need to jump off a bridge, test taser guns on our necks, wrestle a Yeti or dive in a cage and let hungry sharks ram into my flimsy cage (which Dale's done). 

Unless he gives me that wink, then I am so there.


I'd follow my best friend into battle, and have.


  1. Holy Billy Joe McAlester.
    Of all the idiotic stunts, my acrophobia is sucking me up as i read this.
    The Golden Gate Bridge is a fall of 4 seconds where water meets jumper at 75 mph. Of the few that have survived, they said all they could think of in that 4 seconds is they wish they had not let go.
    Got to admit, though, I have had fantasies of bungie jumping and parachuting, but I'm over that now.
    Great story.

  2. Greg.
    Although I never bungie jumped from a bridge I did get in a bull ring at a chareada in Juarez, Mexico once and fought a bull. The adrenalin rush when he brushed by close enough to slap my thigh through the cape was spectacular, something akin to fall into space maybe.
    It was associated with the Texas Society of Anesthesiology that was having an annual convention across the river in El Paso. Some might think it idiotic to have done such a thing, but i was sober, 40 and had just returned from backpacking in Alaska full of piss and vinegar. The reason to do it was obvious; i had never had a chance to fight a bull before then and would probably never have the chance again.

  3. Great -- I now have bullfighting on my list. If I win, I get their ear; if they win, what do they get?

  4. Can just imagine the two of you doing this!!! :)

  5. Awesome story! Wheeeeeee! (@serfbliss)

  6. Magnificent!! Gotta love that rush!!


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