Sharing the Love
Published in Threepenny Review... “When you are in free fall,” Utah warned me, “you may feel like you can’t breathe. You can. Just close your eyes and smile.” The tips of my sneakers were at the airplane’s open door and the wind was in my face. I was strapped into a kind of spooning position with Utah, since New York law requires novices to skydive in tandem with an instructor. I had decided this was my favorite New York law. Utah was about six-foot-four, of Paul Newmanish appearance, and had possibly been genetically engineered to reassure me. He was, he’d informed me, the instructor they sent out with paraplegics and the elderly. “Look up at the wing!” he yelled. I averted my eyes from the reeling landscape and fixed them to the wing of the Twin Otter. We were the last ones to jump. I had already watched the other skydivers tumble out, howling with joy and followed by videographers. Everyone at Skydive the Ranch seemed to be there with a birthday or bachelor party, except me, which might have been why I got the special needs instructor. I wanted to tell Utah that I really did have friends. Peekaboo wanted to come, but she had to pole dance, and Colin backed out because of Hummel’s Piano Trio Number Five. Skydiving was the last thing on my Two-Kidney Bucket List. For a year, I had been taking the tests required to be a living organ donor for my mother, whose kidneys were barely functioning after sixteen years of lithium for bipolar disorder. A prophylactic transplant would save her from, in the words of a friend, “the living death of dialysis.” Finally I’d finished all the bloodwork, urine tests, pap smears, mammograms, CAT scans, and EKGs. Our transplant was scheduled for [...]
I found skydiving late and by pure chance or destiny...I think the latter. I was a single Mom with 3 sons, strange time to pick up an extreme sport but perfect for me. My oldest son wanted no part; #2 son was interested, started his tandem progression in Vermont and then came to the Ranch. #3 son, Chris, was at home in and around the DZ. Christopher sat for his first ground course at 11 or 12. Got to fly in a 206 and watch jumpers play. He would ride his bike around at the Ranch and get all types of pointers from his soon-to-be mentors. I did remove him when the sun went down! At 18 he was going for it! I was so lucky to be the one to take Chris out on his very first tandem. Crazy fantastic! He was hooked and has been a committed part of the Ranch family and skydiving community ever since, and one of my favorite play buddies! He got so into it, he joined a competitive team: Let's hear it for R2G!!! Brenn Richards, Michelle Karamon, Joey Marshall and Chris Kuhlmann....oh yeah and Sonic Bayrasli, of course. They are representing the Ranch and the sport on a level that is noteworthy to say the least, winning silver at US Nationals in 2016. Talent, personality, commitment, focus, loyalty, competitiveness, they have what it takes to go all the way.....and they actively give back. What a package! So in closing, the Ranch is a very special place; we are all very lucky to have found our way here. Feed it, grow it because if you travel around to other DZ's you will truly see how special this place is. Peace out! Oh shit, forgot the most important part! RANCH PRO SHOP.....BUY BABY BUY!!! [...]
Birthplace: Springfield, NJ Occupation: Owner of Ranch ProShop Container: Glide Main Canopy: Crossfire 139 Reserve: Nano 143 Year of First Jump: 1992 at Skydive East # of jumps: 6500 # of cutaways: 8 License/Ratings: D license, AFFI, Pro, S&TA, FAA Master Rigger Pre-jump superstitions: Putting on my "Ring of Power". I put my wedding band on a string and wear it around my neck when I jump. What made you start skydiving? One night, my brother and I were at a sports bar watching football. At half-time, they showed the 200 way. So we said, "Let's go do that." What is your jump philosophy? Don't kill me and I will try not to kill you. Of all of your skydives, is there one that stands out the most? A sunset jump at Lake Havasu, on the border between CA and AZ. We did a tracking dive above this amazing background and then, as we swooped on to the beach, there was a band playing in front of hundreds of people. Before I would even get a toggle out of my hand, someone handed me a beer. Who has been your skydiving mentor? Hank Bungay, Kim Emerson, Carol Sternberg, Golden Knights, Airspeed, PD Factory Team, JC Colclasure. What safety item do you think is more important or most often neglected? Pre-jump gear inspection. What is your greatest advice for the new jumper? When the shit hits the fan, don't panic! What has been your most embarrassing moment in skydiving (in the sky or on the DZ)? Leaving my gear bag in Phoenix Airport, going to the World Meet at Skydive Arizona in Eloy and not realizing I left it there until the next day. Is there one jump you would like to do over again? The one when I broke my leg - it was your every day landing, I just [...]
I hadn’t heard from Joe in a very long time. We lived in the same city, but somehow that proximity always seemed to work against me. It seemed that the closer a friend lives the further are the chances to make plans to see them. Joe and I weren’t the closest of friends. We would bump into each other here and there at different parties on regular occasions, but that was a long while ago. I hadn’t heard from Joe in a very long time. When I saw his name on caller ID, I was pleasantly surprised. “I don’t have much time,” he said, “I’ll be driving through the city around midnight and we will go. Not far from the city. Do you want to join me, camp overnight and catch up?” That was one odd invitation. I wanted to see Joe anyway, but the circumstances were suspicious to say the least. I had no clue where exactly he was going, why he was in a rush in the middle of the night, and was absolutely clueless what awaited me there. So without giving it a second thought I said, “Where do we meet up?” Thinking back about that day I recognize that even the first thought did not cross my mind at the time either, much less the second. I drove to the meeting point and he said to follow him. So for the next hour I just drove behind him. He was obviously in a cheerful mood. It was a very warm summer night; he had his driver side window open, his hand was out and snaking through the oncoming airflow. I couldn’t hear him, but I am certain he was either singing to himself or bouncing to music. I should have had questions or concerns, but I did not. [...]
A huge thanks to Skydive the Ranch for your amazing staff. My instructor, Denes, was awesome! Excellent skills and very knowledgeable. Guys, if you're thinking of skydiving, don't delay any longer. Do it! It is an amazing experience. But I am sure you've read/heard this many times before. If you have the desire to do it, that's all you need. Once you're there, your instincts will take care of the rest, with the help of an experienced. Rebecca Matos
The first 45 seconds of freedom and happiness that changed my life forever.