Nov 16, 2019, 7:33 PM
Post #1 of 2
Bingo Twistle - a 14 year old story...
According to Wikipedia – I just looked it up – Wilshire Boulevard is one of the principal arterial roads in the Los Angeles area.
Of course, from where I stood, I didn't need the internet to figure that out. On the very tip of a construction crane, looking down 300 feet, even when it's 4 am at night; six lanes of heavy traffic in both directions made it painfully obvious; Wilshire Boulevard would be a bitch of a landing area.
I radioed my groundcrew one last time, did a countdown, and jumped...
At this point, you might expect a detailed account of how BASE jumpers get in the zone during freefall. How time slows down, while their primal brain reaches a meditative state of hyper-focus, and their sensory intake goes into overdrive to ensure survival.
All of that... it's a bunch of horseshit.
Me, personally, I always spent that second waiting for one of two outcomes; the familiar tug of an opened parachute; or a sudden need for a fresh pair of underpants.
I got lucky this time, and soon I was hanging under a parachute, gliding towards my landing spot.
Which, as I mentioned, was right in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard traffic. Fortunately, I had groundcrew helping me out. A friend had been waiting in his pickup truck a few hundred yards back, engine running. The moment I jumped, he slowly drove this get-away vehicle down one of the lanes, blocking traffic behind him, creating a spot for me to land.
I did, smoothly. I quickly collected my parachute and climbed on the back of his pickup truck, ready to get out of there.
It was that moment that I noticed the police car – oh-oh.
That's LAPD, making a U-turn from the opposing lane – shit.
Sirens and lights on, these were cops, headed straight for us – fuck.
Hang on a second. Let me rewind four days...
This is the story of the time my boss found out I was a BASE jumper.
It's 2005 and I'm working at a place called Next Level Games. A fantastic company, they're still around today, check them out. At any rate, that year the whole company flew to L.A. to show the game we'd been working on (Super Mario Strikers) at the annual E3 convention.
This all began at YVR airport, where twenty colleagues and I are waiting to go through security. I'm nervous and sweaty, hoping to pass through without a hitch.
"Sir, please open your bag," the security guy says.
I proceeded to pull out a complete set of parachuting gear, and one of my coworkers asked: "why do you have your skydiving gear as carry-on?" I gave him a confused look and quipped: "...what, you didn't get your safety parachute?"
Few people know the TSA allows parachutes as carry-on. Even less people know the difference between a skydiving rig and a BASE rig. So, I told my coworkers I planned to make a couple of skydives at a nearby dropzone, and they thought no more of it.
My actual plans were slightly different, but why bother them with details.
During the day I'd join my coworkers at the Nintendo booth, showing our game to huge lineups of enthusiastic fans. Then, after dark, I'd hang with the local BASE crew for a variety of shenanigans.
And truth be told, for most of that trip – everything worked out great.
Our first night, we jumped an AM radio tower. That's where I met the crazy millionaire BASE jumper who'd later invite me to a New Year's Eve party at his Beverly Hills mansion to help discourage a different BASE jumper – a depressed paraplegic one – from killing himself.
That's another story, maybe you've read it.
It was this first guy, the crazy one, who helpfully suggested I climb the ladder as fast as possible when passing each antenna-shaped extension. You know, to minimize radiation exposure. Pause for too long, and you'd feel your hands get warmer. Looking back, I wonder if my fertility problems started there and then.
The second night, we jumped a building downtown. Now, I had only jumped bridges and antennas up to that point. This being my first time off a building, the locals decided to take me somewhere special – legendary, even.
I learned this address had only recently become a spot for BASE jumping. The guys who discovered it, on their first go, they got busted right upon landing. A panic-struck security guard had yelled at them, called them all sorts of names, and then she had started crying. Sobbing, she explained how this incident would get her fired, that she couldn't afford to lose her job, how she was broke all the time... that kind of thing.
So, a bunch of the local jumpers, they went back the next evening. Not for a jump, but with a large bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates; to apologize. One thing led to another, and they soon discovered this friendly lady – this minimum-wage security guard, she did not object to a little side hustle.
That's how, for several months that year, she'd turn a blind eye when small groups of BASE jumpers would lift the gate of the parking garage up and out of its rails, just enough to fit through. In exchange, every BASE jumper coming through paid 50 bucks each, collected in an envelope, tucked inside a box of chocolates they'd leave behind.
So, on the second night of my business trip, squeezed past the parking gate, climbed more than 60 flights of stairs, used a fire-escape to get onto the roof, soaked up L.A. at night from a unique vantage point, and then leaped over the edge to earn the 'B' in BASE.
Like I said; this trip, funded entirely by the company I worked for – this trip, everything worked out great.
That is, until the third night...
You see, next door from the hotel that my coworkers and I stayed at, was a new high-rise development. Attached to this work-in-progress building, was a construction crane. A beautiful one, I might add.
I mean, come on – what are the odds?
Serendipity had struck, and that crane might as well have had a big ribbon on it, and a banner that read: "Somebody Jump Me!"
So, on the third night; I packed my parachute once again, asked a local friend to groundcrew for me, and sometime around 3 am, I hopped the fence onto the construction site next to my hotel. From there, it didn't take long to climb up and reach the operator's booth – the point where the crane's horizontal part begins.
Now, I had some experience jumping a few cranes back in Vancouver. And every time I had been able to climb through the booth to access a narrow but relatively safe walkway to the tip of the crane.
But not this time.
Hanging from the ladder, 300 feet up the center tower of this crane, I not only discovered the door was locked, I also noticed the jib (what they call the horizontal piece) was completely bare bones – no walkway, no nothing.
Remember those high school tests for reading comprehension? Where you read some fiction, or an essay, and then get a bunch of questions about it? And one of them would ask: "where in the story is the turning point?"
In our case, it's right here. Literally.
Not because I turned around, climbed back down, and went to bed. Because I didn't.
I probably should have. But I promised you a story about bad decisions, and let me tell you; this next one is among my worst...
A real beauty.
And that's what makes this a turning point. The way I always figure;
…in for a penny, in for a pound.
Right there and then, I pulled my BASE rig out of the stash bag and geared up. That way, in case I'd slip and fall earlier than planned, at least I'd have a parachute on.
You must be optimistic about these kinds of things...
I swung my body around the outside of the crane, and carefully climbed past the booth, up towards the steel frame that makes up the jib. I'd like to say the view was incredible, but now I'm shimmying along a long skinny beam, and I'm entirely preoccupied with the idiocy of my enterprise.
You, on the other hand – you're not too worried. You just remembered this story began with me standing on the tip of this crane, fully geared up, and ready to jump. You already know I didn't screw up this part.
Easy for you to say.
But you're right. Here I was; back where we started. You, reading this story, and me standing 300 feet above Wilshire Boulevard, looking down at six lanes of busy traffic. Bear with me, as we do this one more time:
Radio groundcrew. Count down from 3. And jump.
So far, so good.
Wait for friend's get-away vehicle to block lane, smoothly land in front of it, quickly gather parachute, and hop on back of truck.
Notice police car in opposing lane, see it make a U-turn, hear its sirens turn on, and realize it's headed straight towards you.
And... We’re back.
Right where we started. Thanks for your patience. I'll keep going this time.
My head went into a tailspin. I pictured myself spread eagle on the hood of this car, getting hand cuffed as a police officer read my Miranda rights. I would lose my job. Heck, this would be last time I'd ever be allowed into this country.
Moments like these are when you learn the importance of a solid groundcrew. And luckily for me, I had the best that night.
Remember, all of this took place right next to my hotel. My groundcrew, this friend of mine, he put the pedal to the metal and careened towards the lobby. Stopping just long enough for me to jump off the back of his truck, he yelled: "go, go, go, get inside!"
Holding my parachute in a big wad of fabric, still wearing my full-face mountain bike helmet, I ran past the doorman. Inside, weird looks from the people behind reception – but I shouted: "don't worry, I'm a guest here" as I made my way towards the stairs.
We shared hotel rooms with two or three coworkers on this trip. Going to my room didn't seem like the best idea. Luckily, the company had booked one additional room to be used as a common area. Surely nobody would be there at 4 am, that's where I could go.
I swiped my card through the door lock and stumbled inside. Were this a Looney Tunes cartoon, there'd be that sound of a gramophone needle, screeching to a halt.
Turns out this room wasn't empty as I had hoped. I dropped my parachute on the floor, and took my helmet off, as ten or so coworkers looked at me confused. Their late-night poker game interrupted, they must've read my face, because one of them asked: "Jaap? Are you being chased?"
I closed the door, grabbed a beer, sat down, and explained...
Five minutes later; bam, bam, bam!
Somebody's knocking on the door, and it's loud.
Without hesitation, the CEO and founder of the company turned to me and said: "Jaap! Quick, hide in the bathroom!"
Like I said, the people at Next Level Games were a fantastic bunch.
So, I grabbed my gear, and hid in the bathroom, as a coworker walked to the door and opened it.
Turns out, it's my groundcrew. My friend who drove the pickup truck, asking: "uhm, is there a Dutch guy called Jaap in here by any chance?"
He said the cops pulled up next to him in front of the hotel, and using the police car's megaphone, they announced: "Sir, you cannot have people ride on the flatbed of your pickup truck, that is illegal in this city. Thank you, have a good night."
...and they drove away.
Fast forward three days. I'm back at work in Vancouver, and it's time for the weekly one-on-one meeting with my boss. We exchanged some pleasantries about how successful the trip had been, and how much everybody loved our game at E3. There's a certain unease, however.
"One more thing, " he said...
"…we think that your BASE jumps are very cool, and we urge you to keep doing what you love. However, we do ask you to leave your parachute at home on future business trips. It's a liability the company cannot afford."
Then he smiled, and added:
"...just between you and me though, that night you came running into the hotel room – that was really something. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it."
I walked back to my desk and sat down, wondering; how many bad decisions can a person make until they catch up?
Turns out I still had a few left. But I won't bore you with those...
Final note: I'm a happily retired-from-BASE family man these days, but god damn if there aren't moments where I miss the jumps as well as the shindiggery and fuckwittery that used to take place on these forums. I sure have made friends with some incredible misfits because of this place. Have fun, don't die!
(This post was edited by MyTwoCents on Nov 16, 2019, 7:34 PM)
Nov 17, 2019, 5:25 AM
Post #2 of 2
Re: [MyTwoCents] Bingo Twistle - a 14 year old story...
[In reply to]
I had read the original version, along with just about every other story in the articles section, back when I first signed up to this site. I prefer the original to this one, as the writing was suspenseful and immensely entertaining. Both are fantastic though, and I had always wondered the location in which it had taken place. Even though I have yet to enter B.A.S.E. I still troll these boards regularly, but the content has slowed considerably. Your story was certainly a welcome sight. Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad to hear you got out before the reaper caught up, lol. Are you out for good, or do you plan to make a comeback once the kids are grown?