"Sky Diving and Other Dreams"

There are many things I would have liked to have done in my life, things I dreamed of doing but didn’t have the faith or belief in myself to pursue them. Now I’m just to damn old to do them. Yes some of them verge on the ridiculous and others are serious, but they do share one thing in common, they were never done. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my bitch list or catalogue of regrets, and it’s not my bucket list of things to do before I die, I don’t believe in bucket lists. No, this is just a few of the things on my wish list of things I would have liked to have done, nothing more nothing less.

As a child like every other boy in town I dreamed of being a cowboy. My friends and I lived and breathed cowboys. We wore our six guns slung low on the hip and tied down and talked about living in of all places Texas!  And we were serious too. My friend Bobby’s grandparents lived on a ranch in Texas and when we grew up we were going there to work and live as cowboys. A few years later when we were around 9, we hung up our six guns and dreamed of being astronauts. We even built a space capsule out of a refrigerator carton and a couple of old chairs and pretended to travel through space. Sometimes we would spend the night in our spacecraft. Yeah Bobby and I were going to land on the moon one day! Unfortunately, about that time we moved away ending our childhood dream.

As a teen I always wanted to be in a rock band, no not a drummer in a power rock trio, just a rhythm guitarist in a garage band, maybe do an occasional vocal or two, play high school gymnasiums and parties. Yeah, that would have been cool. I played guitar and it was something I always really wanted to do, I even had a couple of opportunities, but I just never had the confidence in myself to just do it.  About the closest I came was when I played and sang with the Shalom group. I know, a church guitar/singing group is a far cry from a garage band, but it was a lot of fun. I loved it. I also got to perform with a couple of the guys from the group for something called “The House of Wonder.” Yeah, we formed our own little trio like Crosby, Stills and Nash, called, what else, “The Larry, Don & John Group”. Now that was a kick.

Back in the day I would have loved to race cars. I used to love driving up San Gabriel Canyon in my VW or 56 Chevy Wagon and playing Ricky-Racer, flying down the mountain at break-neck speeds!(for a VW) Yeah it was dangerous, and perhaps a bit careless, and maybe even stupid, but oh so much fun! I haven’t been up there in awhile but just thinking about it gives me the urge! Yeah, I would have loved to have raced cars. I would have really enjoyed sitting behind the wheel of an Indy type car barreling down the straightaway at Ontario Motor Speedway or maybe maneuvering a Porshe turbo through the s’s at the old Riverside Raceway. How cool would that have been? Me on the raceway, hauling ass! definitely cool.

"I can only imagine"

Another thing I really wanted to try and came within 48 hours of doing, is sky-diving. That right, I wanted to soar through the air, the wind in my face, screaming like a banshee! Now that would have been the thrill of a lifetime. I had my opportunity too. One of the directors of the youth group at my girlfriends church was a skydiver. Every Thursday and Sunday evening we would go to the church and play volleyball or just hang out and talk. I remember one evening Brian, his brother Mike and myself were there after our meeting talking to the directors Steve and  Mr. Hardy when the subject of skydiving came up. I couldn’t believe he was a skydiver. He shared some stories with us and I remember leaving there that evening so excited by the idea of skydiving. It’s all I could think about. It also reminded me of one of my friends dad who used to like the song ‘Sky Pilot’ by Eric Burdon & the Animals. After a few beers he used to like to sing it with us on camping trips, however he never got the words right, for him it was always “Sky Diver.” And that’s exactly what I wanted to be, a ‘sky diver.’

After that one evening we would always stay late talking to Steve and listening to his stories, then finally one night he asked if we’d be interested in trying it.  Oh yeah we would! So for the next several weeks he instructed us on skydiving. He even brought in a couple of chutes and had us wear them to get the feel and learn how to operate them. It was incredible. I wanted to do this thing so badly. I could hardly wait. Then finally a date was set. We would be meeting Steve out at Perris Airport in two weeks and go up for a possible jump!

My mom was beside herself! She absolutely did not want me jumping out of a plane! Actually, having never flown before and having this incredible fear of flying, she didn’t even want me going up in a plane! My dad was always fond of saying that my mom would fly anywhere as long as she could drag one foot on the ground the whole way. Sadly she never did get an opportunity to overcome her fear and fly. So anyways, we went round and round on the issue. I finally told her that I was eighteen and that I didn’t need her permission and that I was going to do it.  You can imagine how well that went over.

On the Thursday before we were to have jumped Steve arrived to youth group late. When he finally walked in he looked troubled. After the meeting he approached us and asked if we were ready for Saturday. There was no way we could downplay our excitement, we were ready! I remember him just smiling and saying that everything was set up and we needed to be out at the airport at 6am. I knew something was bothering him so I asked him what was up. He went on to tell us that earlier that day a good friend of his had been killed. When we asked what had happened he explained that they had been out skydiving early that morning and his friends chute had malfunctioned and never opened. His backup chute had somehow gotten tangled and he plunged to his death.  I guess I don’t have to tell you, that in that moment, my dream of sky diving also died. In fact, it would be years before I even went up in a plane. Call me chicken. Cluck, cluck!

Yeah there were a lot of things I dreamed about doing, a lot of things I still dream about doing. I’m much more confident now, so maybe I’ll get around to doing some of them, we’ll see if my body cooperates. Right now I think I’ll get started on my “do-over” list. Now that could be a long one!

Just Saying…


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