May 24th, 2007

flying man

in the dark

In a park near where I grew up, there's a long, paved track that a few friends and I used to ride down, at night. It's actually the Soap Box Derby track in Bush Park in Salem -- one of the two in the US west of Nebraska.

It's about a quarter-mile long and maybe 30 feet wide. We'd dare each other to see how far we could ride while standing on the pedals, hands up in the air or outstretched, with eyes closed.

Our system is that one guy would ride alongside you, to shout a warning if you got too close to either side, and a couple guys would wait at either end, to keep watch for anyone who might wander or ride onto the track while we were doing our stunt. I think these days the park is more strictly monitored, but a couple of decades ago all you'd see until about 2am was a lone patrol car every once in a while.

It was pretty thrilling, but I don't think any of us went more than a few hundred feet without wussing out.

If you REALLY wanted to be hardcore, you'd wear your Walkman at the same time. I was too chicken to go this far, partially because one of my friends had me half-convinced that you'd go straight to Hell if you died while listening to Black Sabbath.

A few years later, I was riding from my parents' house to my apartment near the University, and decided to go through the park on the way home. At the top of the track, I decided I'd see how far I could go this time, but with no wingman or lookouts to provide at least an illusion of safety.

No headphones, also ... because one, I didn't have any with me, and two, I was in one of those zen moods where I was lost in my thoughts and just enjoying being by myself, silent, outside, at night.

And three, I was probably still too chicken.

So, after sitting at the top for a minute to make sure no one was around, I positioned myself in the middle of the track and pedaled a few times to get going ...

stood up ...

put my arms out to the side ...

and then closed my eyes.

Quite a rush, literally. I listened to the sound of my movement through the air and counted off the seconds, trying to remember my personal record from years back. I couldn't, and I only made it up to thirteen this time before my heartbeat told me that I'd better open my eyes again.

I'd veered maybe a foot or two left of center, with several hundred feet of track left in front of me, but it was enough for me, that night.

As far as current commitments and obligations go, I think mine are at a decent level, and I rarely feel overwhelmed or not in control of myself or what I'm doing, or feeling. But that sense of freedom, those thirteen seconds that night in complete darkness with the wind on my face, alone, I haven't felt like that in a long time.
  • Current Mood
    peaceful peaceful