When I was 16 I cut myself a Mohawk.
July 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
Some of the most important things I learnt in my life I took note of when I was 12 years old. I learnt them looking down the barrel of the long winding road at midnight that ran down a hill a mile from my house. The skinny road could barley handle two cars passing at a time. I was sat on my bike just looking at the way it twisted off and the way the trees hung over it pulling twisted shadows from little light there was. I could hear the wind light in the trees. The lack of noise added to it. I hadn’t come here through any ill judgement or poor planning on the part of a small child at the top of a hill at midnight. I was there because I wanted to be there, because I had snuck out of my house to be there. This would be my first act of serious rebelling, pretty innocent in comparison to the others but a landmark none the less. I looked down the road sat on the bike with my feet touching the floor at the top of that steep fucking hill. I obviously never had sex, taken any drugs, got drunk or achieved much in my then short life. Meaning that the feeling coursing through my veins was new to me. What I would learn on this night was that the moment before doing something dangerous or frightening is electric. The hard beat goes up you can hear it up in your ears, my palms went sweaty as they gripped the handlebars and I still remember the feeling as that little voice in the back of my head spoke up for the first time “Now.” it whispered. The whole body turns up. I pushed off aiming my bike at the bottom of the hill hoping to god that I can make every corner trying not to think of the painful alternative. The beautiful thing about push bikes is the low noise, just the quiet clicking on the gear cog every time the back wheel spins and the way the wind picks up around you as you pick up speed. Engines have their charm, I love the noise of a good combustion engine, but, sometimes that roar of tiny explosions can cloud the mind and the judgement, both are important at high speed. My right hand hovered over the break, the front break, it’s important to know what your doing at times like this, it is irresponsible to not. I knew that I couldn’t jam it on, then I would go over the bars onto the road face first, I would need to squeeze it gradually. The back would fuck my steering and I would loose control. I will never forget one corner, maybe the 4th or the 5th, a sharpe left-hander, I will never forget the way it made me feel as the bike wobbled as it couldn’t handle the speed, how I thought that I had gone in just a little too hot and would never be able to get the bike around the corner at such high speed. I squeezed on the old breaks scared to grip too hard, it wasn’t enough, I ran half a foot wide, rumbling on the grass, praying to stay on, narrowly avoiding a ditch in the dark. It made me out of breathe. It made me sweat. But jesus it made me happy. In that moment happier than I had ever been before.
I was in a bar in Chilhuahua Mexico today speaking to an Australian traveling student. Traveling students eh? I can’t remember who said they are like hippies but with less imagination, but they were right. Anyway, more intresting an important than him being a student is the fact that he is a veteran Sky Diver of what he estimated at around 600 jumps. The number was so high because his uncle owned a diving center and would let him go up free of charge. Anyway, he told me that the best thing that can happen to you on a jump is not for it to go well, but for it to go wrong. He told me of two occasions when his primary shoot hadn’t opened and he had struggled with his secondary. How the feeling was intense and gripped him like nothing he had ever felt before. He didn’t have to talk long because it became clear that we both knew the feeling.
I’m not saying jump off buildings and learn to fly on the way down, or play Russian roulette or drive too fast. I’m saying you need that feeling and it is important to get it anyway you can without putting other people at risk. If your sat there now and your thinking, this is just adrenaline junkie bullshit, I wager that you have never felt that twisted emotion that most feeling just moments before a sudden and loud death or a breathless redemption. No one gets away every time.
No Longer an Astronaut.