Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oh Fuuuuucck... Pooof... Ouch

If you only have it in you
to be reckless and adventurous
one time... within your lifeline...

then this... my friend...

will completely satisfy
and quench that one-time
thrill seeking thirst for sure.
I promise!

Nothing in this present tense
can ever compare
to this adrenaline rush of madness!

It was simply...


Oh Fuuuuucck… Pooof… Ouch

Overcoming a fear.
A fear of something that just numbs you.

Mine is without a doubt,
the fear of heights.
Oh man!

And I know you guys have your own phobias. But, have you ever risked your life
to rid that fear?

I hope not, because I have.
And holy moly, once I realized
just what the hell it was that I was doing,
I wanted to punch myself right in the face.

Remember I said most of the weekends were spent up at Navy Lake back in the Stalag 13 story? Listening to southern rock music, and becoming a redneck for a few hours.

Partying up at Navy Lake in Millington Tennessee
Gettin' our redneck on up at Navy Lake... LoL
We were so incredibly uncool AND...
SO awesome all at the same time!

Well, every so often, instead of hootin’ and hollerin’ with the guys up at the lake, some of us actually went off and did some cool shit.

I remember driving out to the
Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
That was a really cool place.

Tommy Mondello at Jack Daniel's Distillery in Tennessee
That's me top right standing on the rail.
The instigator to all this madness you're about to read
is standing in the middle with the red hat. That's Bryan F.
He's a very cool dude.

But it was nothing compared to what I did next.

One day, a friend of mine was talking about his adventurous skydiving weekends. You know, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, with nothing but a bunch of worm shit
and some twine strapped to your back.

Not exactly what I would call fun, but hey, what the fuck did I know. Maybe there was something to it. I mean, everytime I’d see someone skydiving on TV, they always looked like they were having the time of their lives. Or, was that a look of desperation and fear?
Uuummm, I wonder?

Well, my friend Bryan began to constantly hound me about going with him on one of those ridiculous death-defying weekends, but I would always flat out refuse. I don’t think I could see myself jumping out of a plane. I was frightened to death of heights, plain and simple.

I thought about it a couple times, and maybe, somewhere in the back of my mind, just maybe there was something to this craziness. But no matter what Bryan said to entice me into strapping one of those things on,
my fear of heights always came up
with a better excuse not to.

LikeAre you fuckin’ crazy?
Or, this one usually went over well.
I said no dickweed! Why?? I’ll tell ya why! Are you gonna catch me when that muthafuckin’ thing doesn’t open? I didn’t think so!
That’s why!

He usually just turned away in disgust at that point, mumbling to himself, and analyzing those words of wisdom that he had just been privy to.

But after weeks of constant bombardment, my will to defend my fears weakened. I actually agreed to go with him and try it out.

I told myself that I would do it only to overcome my tremendous fear of heights. Or, maybe, I agreed to do it just to shut him the fuck up. Naahh, I’m still leaning towards
the overcoming the fear thing.

I really thought that if I confronted the fear, that it would cower and leave me alone for good. Well, for an hour or two, I did have it licked, but then I turned my back for a second, and that fuckin’ fear crept back into my life
stronger than ever!

Tough bastard that fear.
It’s like losing that last ten pounds. It’s gone for a day or two, but after one dinner party, you look in the mirror and there it is, jiggling back at you!

Weight and fear man,
they both stick to you like glue, don’t they?

Anyway, I committed myself to go the very next weekend. And you know what?
I actually fuckin’ jumped man!

I jumped right outta that plane, and fell three thousand fuckin’ feet, twice!

I remember the weather was beautiful that weekend. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Now, at least I would have a clear view of the ground getting closer, as I plummeted to earth
after my chute didn’t open!

Oh man, am I outta my mind here, or what?

As you could see, I wasn’t really going into this thing fully optimistic. But I was trying.

It took about two hours or so to get to the jump site. Ha! Jump site my ass! It was nothing more than a gigantic farm along side of the road
on which we were driving.

And it looked like there was enough room to land the fucking space shuttle. But, would it be enough room for one asshole who froze up like a deer in headlights while climbing a ten-foot ladder... to land on?
Well, in a second, you’ll find out.
Any guesses?

We pulled off the road and parked the car along side the others, then walked over to everyone while Bryan did all of the introductions. We got to meet some really cool people.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that the we included another friend of ours, Long. That’s what we called him anyway. Pure and simple, it was because he was really tall and skinny. Stupid I know, what can I say? Him and Miss Mini would have made the perfect couple.

That's our friend Long hangin' up at the lake with a beer.
That's Long.
Don't let the tough-guy look
or the "kill'em all and let god sort'em out" shirt fool you.
He was the nicest fucking dude in all of Tennessee.
A very cool guy. And oh, his name was Steven M.

Anyway, after the introductions were done with, we handed over our cash, and were officially, almost skydivers! 

There were four new jumpers on the scene that day. It was Long, two other people, and myself. We didn’t get to hangout with the seasoned jumpers. Oh no, they had a section all to themselves. While they kept us to the side, out of everyone’s way. The Newbie Section!

That’s where we went through all of the pre-jump training. Now that’s describing it

in a very technical manner.

Our pre-jump training consisted of climbing onto a fifty-five gallon drum, jumping off, and then tucking into a roll.

That’s it!

And they called this pre-jump training.
Get the fuck outta here!
Man, I’m gonna die, aren't I?

Before leaping off of the barrels they first made us change into Marine type combat boots. These laced up well over the ankles for support.

Okay, now that made a little sense. It was very easy to sprain your ankle. So, maybe they knew what they were doin’, after all. Maybe. But jumping off of the barrel…… c’mon.

They told us that this would be about the same impact we would be feeling,

when landing with the parachute.

Well, obviously they’ve never seen me perform under pressure before, or they would have had me jumping off the friggin'

telephone pole for practice!

We continued with the practice jumping and some lecturing for about two hours. They were actually very good instructors. Well trained. Everyone acted totally professional

while the jumping was in session.

But once the day was over, a gigantic cooler full of beer appeared, and it was time to recap the day’s jumps. So you knew that a jumper was done for the day when he had a beer in his hand.

I didn’t even have a fuckin’ parachute on my back yet, and I was lookin’ for one of those beers! But was I thirsty, or just chicken shit?

Finally, after all the barrel jumping and the droning on about emergency procedures... (Like if something went wrong, I would have enough coolness to do something about it)... we were actually going to strap that bad boy on.

Suddenly, my balls were hiding in my stomach, and my heart was racing. I’m tellin’ ya man, my balls are disappearing right now,

just thinkin’ about this story!

It was time to board the plane.

Fuck, it’s really happening!

I didn’t know what I wanted to do more. Kill Bryan for talkin’ me into this ridiculous stunt, or kill myself before I killed myself

with this ridiculous stunt!

One by one, the newbies entered the plane, and then the instructor squeezed in behind. You notice I said, squeezed. That should give you a good idea of the death trap that we were sitting in. I had Matchbox cars at home

bigger than this damn plane!

During the endless flight to 3000 feet you could’ve heard a fucking pin drop!

Except for the grinding of the plane engine, there wasn’t one sound or move inside that plane. And do you know how long it took to get up to 3000 feet? It took ten unbelievably long minutes.

Fuck, didn’t it take less time

to create the f’en universe?

The plane had to circle its way up to the jumping height because of the weight. So, not only were we dizzy over what we were about to do, but now, we were all getting dizzy from the ride up. Sounds like fun, huh!

We had ten whole minutes to just sit there, stare at one another in disbelief, and think about what the fuck we were all about to do.

It felt like an eternity.

Fuck the beer, man!

We all could’ve used a shot
of Pepto Bismol at that point.

Finally, the pilot broke the silence……

Two minutes!

What was left of our balls just totally disappeared. Gone, goodbye!

I could’ve been a woman at that point.
Just gimmie a pair of knockers,
some lipstick and bam, a woman.
Ugly yes, but a woman nonetheless.

The instructor reached over

and unlatched the door.


It sounded just like every movie you’ve ever seen, where some nut shoots out a window in the plane and then the fat guy gets sucked out. Just like it, but only no one got sucked out.

It was scary as all hell though!

Long would be the first victim.

The instructed called out……
Okay, let’s go!

And with that, Long shimmied his way to the door. He then handed the instructor his ripcord
(Since we were newbies,
we would not be pulling our own ripcord)

Long stepped out of the opening and onto the tiny platform, and in an instant, he was gone. That muthafucka was gone!

Fuckin’ gone!

I sat there and thought to myself,

Holy Shit!
Long just jumped outta the fuckin’ plane!

At this point, my asshole just seized up like an overheated engine! I no longer had an asshole. Now, I would not only be eating with my mouth, but would also have to figure out a way to shit out of it as well, because the hole that should’ve been between my two ass cheeks,

no longer existed.

Well, Long was gone, and now the instructor turned to me, and spoke the most terrifying words that I have ever heard in my life,

You’re next!

Oh fuck, would this torture never end?

I just took a deep breath, shimmied over to the opening and looked out. This was yet another defining moment in my life.

It just felt like pure chaos. Engine noise, wind, beating hearts. I felt as though

I would go deaf at any second.

I handed my ripcord over to the instructor, and pulled myself out of the plane. I say again… pulled myself out, of the fucking plane.

Can you believe what the hell you’re hearing?

I grabbed onto the strut with both hands. I held that thing so tight I nearly ripped it right off the wing. I then stepped out onto

the tiny steel platform above the tire.

The platform wasn’t large enough for both feet. You had to balance yourself on your left foot, and leave the right one straddled alongside.

So not only do you have to be out
of your mind to do this, but you also
had to be one of the Flying Wallendas.

Very similar to the plane I jumped from
This is pretty much the same set up as the plane I jumped from.
Although I remember the plate that I stood on to be much smaller in size.
But that's how we climbed out to prepare for the jump.
Only we were 3000 feet in the fucking air at the time...  LoL

So, there I was, balancing on a piece of steel the size of that bar of soap my mother shoved in my mouth for cursing, at the same time, looking down at the earth some 3000 feet away. With some guy that I didn’t even know,
holding my cord of life in his hands.

Does this sound like a bad movie script, or what?

I jumped!

I say again... I jumped!

I did just as they instructed us to do. Pushed outward as hard as I could towards my right, and away from the plane. Arched my back, threw my chest and arms out like a bird in flight,

and looked up towards the heavens.

Then, I let out a scream that I’m sure caused Elvis’s leg to shimmy a bit in his grave

(Remember, we were in Tennessee!)

Then all of the sudden, my world was rocked!

I felt as though I was being pulled
in every direction.

What was wrong?

I was violently being tossed around as if I had died, and heaven and hell were fighting over me. Up was down, left was right, and my asshole

was still nowhere to be found!

But then, the tossing came to a sudden and complete stop just as quickly and unexpected as it began. Leaving me in a place that truly only the privileged have witnessed.

Complete silence!

Me, and just the faint sound of the plane’s engine fading in the distance was heard.

That muthafuckin’ parachute opened

and left me floating on the air.
Floating on the muthafuckin' air my friends!

I was a modern day Jesus as I effortlessly walked across an ocean of deep blue sky.

This was the most incredible feeling
that I have ever had in my life.
Hands down!

Then... I heard nothing.

The plane engine eventually disappeared.

The wind had subsided.
Even my heartbeat was under control.
I was fucking floating on air!
On muthafucking air!

It was just so breathtaking, that I really wish I had you guys there with me. As these words

certainly fall short of experiencing it.

Well, after only a few seconds of floating in a dream world, I came back to reality. And I just looked up at that opened parachute, and immediately knew that everything went smoothly, and that most likely

I wouldn’t be dying anytime soon.

I was so happy, that I began pulling on both the left and right toggle lines like a madman.

(These lines help you turn and guide
the chute to the left and right)

I was just yelling out anything and everything that I could think of. I was just so happy

that I didn’t die. I felt amazing up there!

A good analogy to my emotional state of mind at that very second would be this. Just imagine being in front of a firing squad and everyone missed! Then, found out that there were
no more bullets left in the world to re-load.

How the fuck would you feel?

Like the luckiest son-of-a-bitch on earth,
that’s how.

Well, that was me up there. A big, dumb, happy idiot, who just found out that they had no more bullets. I would live to see another day!

So, I was pulling on those toggle lines with reckless abandon, forgetting anything and everything we learned during

pre-jump instructions.

The one major thing that I forgot, and that kinda got me into some trouble was that every time you pulled on one of those toggle lines, it would let air out from beneath the canopy.

And what do you think happens then?

That’s right my friend, you descend faster!

And there I was pulling on those things

like they were one-armed bandits in Vegas.
So, I began falling to earth way too fast,
and also well off course.

I was just so relieved that I would live to see that other day that I wasn’t paying attention

to what I was doing.

It was just so beautiful up there.

The entire fall only lasted a couple minutes, but it felt as though I was floating upon those molecules for hours. An incredible feeling!

I was getting closer and closer to the ground. And soon, I began to hear voices.

Wow, maybe they were voices from the heavens calling me? Or perhaps it was just the wind playing tricks on me?

Well, I would soon find out that it was neither the heavens, nor the wind. Instead, it turned out to be everyone on the ground yelling up to me, trying to tell me to stop pulling on the damn toggle lines. That I was falling too fast!

Ut oh!

But it was no use, because I was too far gone to react to them. And, by the time I came to my senses and realized that I was falling too fast, the crash landing had already begun.

Suddenly, I felt like I was the coyote after the roadrunner had just escaped his grasp once again. And we all know what happens

to that stupid coyote, don’t we?

That’s right!

Impact, and then that little poof of smoke. Well, just put my face in the place of the coyote’s the next time you watch that cartoon. And when you see the bottom fall out, and him start to drop, well, then you’ve just pictured exactly
what was happening to me.

I was falling pretty fast at this point. But hey, I’ve been jumping off of barrels all morning, and was wearing high top boots. I’m ready to deal with this situation, right? Oh boy!

Well, lemme tell ya what the first person I came in contact with said to me after I landed.


I can’t believe you got up after that landing!
You bounced like five feet in the air, dude!

Does that tell you how fast I was falling,

or what?

Man, I hit the ground so hard. But I guess with the adrenaline running wild throughout my body, I just didn’t feel it…… then.

The next day was another story!

But now remember, I was also way off course. I was no longer within the bounds of that gigantic farm, where everyone else was landing. I landed in some sort of marshy swamp

about four hundred yards away.

I mean, I practically landed back on

Staten Island for goodness sake.

But lucky I landed in the softer wetlands. Could you imagine just how high I would’ve bounced if I had landed on rock solid ground?

I would’ve been fucked.

I don’t know why I even bounced at all, and just didn’t sink deep into the mud on first impact though? I guess it was a lucky thing that the patch I landed on was a bit more solid than the rest of muck surrounding me. I might have sunk to fuckin' China otherwise for goodness sake!

You should have seen the look on the guys' faces when I reached them... LoL It must have been a pretty funny scene watching me

try to run in the mud to ball up my chute.

Finally, my pre-jump instructions kicked in!

Hey, better late then never.

I was so far into the wetlands that they couldn’t even get the car to me. I had to walk about a hundred yards just to make it to harder ground and to the car!

But hey, I just jumped out of a fucking plane, and man, I was still alive to talk about it.

Fuckin-A baby!

But crazier yet was the fact that I repacked my chute, once the mud dried, and jumped again.

I was totally in love with the whole sensation
of flying and floating.

I climbed back into that meat grinder,

circled my way back up to 3000 feet,
and fuckin’ jumped without hesitation.
The fear was gone man.

I could’ve beaten King Kong in a race to the top of the Empire State Building at that point.

That’s how pumped I was.

This time I kept myself a little more under control. I didn’t use my toggle lines as much. I still landed way off course, although not nearly as bad as the first jump. I only had to walk about fifty yards or so, to the car this time.

And, once again it was a great thrill.

But within moments,

reality would creep back into my life,
and plant my feet on the ground for good.

I made it back to the jump site after my second thrill. Still pumped, I was ready to go again!

So I folded up my chute, and strapped it back on. I was ready to soar once more, but the plane had already taken off. So, I had a few moments of down time, and would get to see some of the seasoned jumpers at play.

They were amazing.

They would jump from much higher heights than us newbies. And man, they would land not more then ten feet from where they took off. Unbelievable!

But then, it happened.

It was the event that grounded me for life.

We were all watching the next set of jumpers getting ready to depart the plane. I recognized that the next person to jump was Bryan. He was easy to spot, because he was biggest person at the site by far. So, there was no mistaking

that it was him.

He jumped outta the plane,
and began to free fall.
(Remember he’s been doing this for a while.
So he pulled his own ripcord)

I remember the chute beginning to deploy.

But something just didn’t seem right.
Then, someone yelled out...

He’s got a Mae West!

Then everyone began yelling for him

to pull his emergency chute!

I was freaking out at this point. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. But then I saw the problem. I saw what they meant by a Mae West

One of the lengths of twine that goes from the chute to the harness straps didn’t clear the canopy. It opened up right above the canopy, and was pulled down, dividing the chute into two large sections instead of just one big canopy.

These two sections resembled a huge bra, and thus the name, Mae West. Only unlike the real bra, full of voluptuousness, this bra was full of deadliness, and caused the diver

to descend uncontrollably.

Parachute with a Mae West malfunction
You see how the chute is being pulled down in the middle??

Once Bryan realized what was going on, he reached over, and pulled his emergency ripcord. The main canopy disengaged, and the smaller emergency chute was deployed.

He did it!

That muthafucker just saved his own fucking life!



It was right then and there,

as Bryan was floating towards the ground,
that I said to myself, I said...

Tommy, if that happened to you, would you have enough coolness, and enough sense

to pull that emergency cord?

And I just stood there for a couple seconds,

one really, and thought...

Well, fuck!

They’d be scrapin’ me off the ground by now. ‘Cause there’s no way in hell I’m gonna be able to pull that cord. I’d be like that fuckin’ deer in the headlights again, and just freeze! Fuck!

It’s always hard to recognize a weakness

within yourself isn't it?

And, with that monumental observation behind me, I unstrapped my chute, walked over to that huge cooler, and pulled out the tallest, coldest muthafuckin’ beer I could find.

And just as Bryan touched back down to earth,

I cracked that baby open
and lifted the bottle to eye level.

I then quietly toasted Bryan,

my short but breathtaking skydiving career,
and to pure luck,
for allowing my chute open, twice!

And it was all over, just like that.

I still can’t believe that I jumped.

Twice no less!

It’s something that I wish every one of you could experience. That’s how incredible it was. Oh yeah, my fear of heights, twenty times worse since that happened, thank you!

Tommy Mondello Steven M. (Long) Bryan F.
There we are... the new Flying Wallendas!!
Tommy Mondello, Steven M. ( aka Long) and Bryan F.
This was taken at the end of a very long,
and entertaining visit to the Jack Daniel's Distillery.

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