Friday, January 25, 2013

COLUMN: Freefall

As many of my regular readers know, my lust for global fame occasionally exceeds the confines of this weekly column. It's not that I don't appreciate my current popularity status, a level known in the ancient language as Togwwtoc Biapaps (That One Guy Who Writes That One Column But Isn't As Popular As Paula Sands.) I'm grateful for my small corner of fame, but let's face it -- the Quad Cities are dreadfully lacking in paparazzi. How am I going to use this column to springboard my meteoric rise to super-stardom followed by my embarrassing fall from grace followed by my triumphant and career-crowning comeback?

I need to figure out a way to fast-track worldwide infamy... and thanks to this past weekend, I may know just the trick.

Do you ever get that feeling when you're lying in bed, perfectly relaxed, perfectly quiet, allllmost asleep AND THEN OMIGOD! YOU'RE FALLING! YOU'RE FALLING! YOU'RE... back to lying in bed and everything's fine, other than you've just suffered a near heart attack? Science calls it a hypnagogic myoclonic twitch, which is science for "we have NO clue why this occasionally happens, so we're just gonna give it a cool name."

If you've experienced this phenomenon, you know how terrifying it is to suffer the sensation of freefall for a half second. Now imagine that feeling lasting for just over four minutes -- and that MIGHT be what it's like to be Felix Baumgartner.

If you don't who Felix Baumgartner is, you clearly don't read the rest of your newspaper. Last Saturday afternoon, the civilized world came to a near standstill to watch Felix board a balloon-powered capsule, float to the outer reaches of the atmosphere, and jump. In his two hour ascent and four minute freefall, Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the sound barrier, complete the highest altitude skydive in history, and clock the fastest speed ever achieved during a skydive.

I don't know about you, but I was glued to Youtube watching the whole thing go down. I've got to admit, though -- it was a fun yet hairy experience. More than a part of me was convinced the only record I'd witness would be discovering just how high a human being could bounce. Miraculously, though, Felix pulled it off. The way I see it, this yields one of two conclusions:

(1) Felix Baumgartner is a super-hero among men. His bravery pushed all known boundaries, gave us invaluable scientific research, and serves as a testament to mankind's triumph over the world in which we live.


(2) Felix Baumgartner is a nutbag. I mean, come on. The guy went up so high that I was half afraid he'd jump out and float up instead of fall down. He travelled 24 miles at over 600 miles an hour. Sane people don't do that sort of thing. That's the rough equivalent of going from here to Geneseo in four minutes flat -- without a car. Dude crazy.

I'm not sure which school of thought I belong to, but it really doesn't matter. You see, Felix Baumgatner showed me one other important truth last weekend. Felix Baumgarter proved that it is fully possible for one man to become instantly really, really famous -- simply by falling. This is good news for me, as I FALL A LOT. If falling is all it takes to become super famous, then look out, paparazzi -- I'm a-comin'.

Yes, blessedly born without the cumbersome burden of coordination, I am wonderfully gifted at falling. I did it on my basement stairs just last week. A month ago, I fell in the shower. Winter's coming soon, and that means I'll have countless opportunities for zany pratfalls on the ice.

Look at what Felix needed in order to fall: a space capsule, a $250,000 custom-made balloon (actually TWO of them, because the first one was ruined in a failed attempt,) a corporate sponsorship from Red Bull -- the list goes on and on. Felix needed a whole lot of help to fall. Well, two summers ago, I tripped and fell over NOTHING on a smooth piece of sidewalk all by myself, and I did it so expertly that I broke my foot in a manner so rare that an orthopedist told me he usually only sees that type of injury from windsurfing or snowboarding. I'm so skilled, I did it by merely WALKING. Did Felix break anything in a cool and/or rare manner during HIS fall? Not so much. Talk about underwhelming.

Side note: Just because I don't NEED a sponsorship in my quest for fame doesn't mean I won't ACCEPT one. I'm talking to YOU, Red Bull. You're clearly a pro-active company. You saw something in Felix and you went for it. And how did he re-pay you? "Waah, I need a space capsule!" "Waah, I need a fancy balloon!" "Wahh, I need a parachute!" Well, Red Bull, I don't need any of that expensive garbage. The only thing THIS guy needs to fall is a can-do attitude and my God-given lack of coordination. And if you give me a bunch of money, I can trip and fall like no one you've ever seen -- and the minute I touch down on the ground, as soon as I stop swearing and provided I did not concuss myself into unconsciousness, I will shout it proudly from the pavement: "RED BULL -- IT GIVES YOU WINGS!"

Felix Baumgartner is clearly pretty good at falling. Trust me when I tell you I am GREAT at falling. And if falling is all the new rage, then say hello to your klutzy new posterboy, America.  

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