Updated: Jan 31
A little about me: I’m a middle aged black man. With kids. And I no longer hunger for thrilling new adventures. And I’ve moved well beyond my ‘invincibility complex.’ And I have dreadlocks.
“What in the hell was I thinking?”
This seven-word question rushed through my brain as I stood trembling on a five-foot circular platform, surrounding a massive redwood tree, perched one-hundred forty feet from my imminent death.
Yep folks, my wannabe-earth-traveler butt had pledged this past New Year to enjoy ONE NEW experience every month. That’s twelve over the year. Sounds easy right? That specific Facebook post generated some positive feedback. It also led to some great convos with my better-half, Stephanie, (who will be referred to as Flip Flops moving forward), as we discussed some cool things that we could do together that would qualify for the resolution.
I think this newfound zeal for the fullness of life has sped up in concert with my hair speeding up the outward appearance of aging. My brown dreadlocks and former, jet-black goatee have been overrun by grey invaders. And the rest of my body has followed suit. My iron board stomach, and six-pack have been replaced by a fluffy desert storage and a keg. In short, I am getting old. Quick.
Aging plays interesting tricks on your psyche. My desire to experience new things and live a more well-rounded life seems to outweigh my need to stay in the familiar confines of ‘my comfort zone.’ So, on Saturday, January 27th, at approximately 12:53 (I memorized the date because I feared it might appear on my funeral announcement), I stood helpless, in a monstrous four hundred for Redwood tree waiting to zipline.
Ya’ll heard me correctly. Zipline!
At this point, you are probably just as puzzled as to I am as to why I suggested it. Me? A black man ziplining? That doesn’t even sound right. And don’t turn this into a racist angle. I am far from racist. But I do like to poke fun at stereotypes (especially the ones I embody).
1. Black People Love Soul food - Check. I own it. Flip Flops is going to make some mac-n-cheese, and yams this weekend. I’ll make the oxtails or the ribs.
2. Black people take food into movie theatres – Every chance I get. Popeyes, JJ Fish, Fuddruckers, College Avenue Burrito, Baskin Robbins, Subway, Five Guys Burgers and Fries (whatever we can fit in a purse).
3. Black people Don’t do cold events (I.E. Ski) – No we don’t, but the parties at the Black Ski Weekend were lit!
4. Black People Don’t like Mice - Maaaaaan! I have hurt myself running away from a peripheral glimpse of a mouse.
5. Black People by nature aren’t adventurous - Exactly. We don’t surf (sharks in the water. Duh.) We don’t spelunk. We don’t jump from airplanes. We don’t run-withthe-Bulls. We don’t fool with heights. We don’t run towards commotion. We don’t try to get closer looks at wild animals. Hell, we don’t even try new drinks at the bar. And fasho we don’t ZIPLINE.
At least I don’t. And wouldn’t have, had I not run across an add on my Facebook timeline. I was trying to be a good partner, so I nonchalantly shared it with Flip Flops, and her girlfriend Marnie. And to my absolute shock, the two of them become infatuated with the excursion. Women are emotional, so I thought their excitement would run its course, and that would be that. A couple weeks passed, and I forgot about the whole thing, but I would soon be reminded that my suggestion was about to become a reality. I’m in my kitchen one day and Flip Flops asked me for my credit card. I lowered my voice and reply, “What for?” Her response rolled of her tongue effortlessly, but her words hit my ears in a dramatic slow motion, “I……..am…….. going………. To……. Pay…….. for……. The…….. ziplining…….. trip.” Ruh-Roh! I kept a stiff upper lip and flipped my credit card onto the kitchen counter and fiddled around near the sink, completely fighting the urge to ask her why she and Marnie would want to risk their lives (and most importantly my life). But I played it cool, said nothing and wandered upstairs to my room to collect my thoughts and contemplate life. Three short weeks later, here I was standing in line with three other couples, strapping on our flimsy harnesses and being briefed by our instructor. At 6’3”, two-hundred thirty pounds, I was by far the largest person in our group. And I continued to examine my straps to make sure they would hold. To hell with what the instructor was saying.
6. Black People try their best to maintain their cool in front of others- While we were given our tutorial, I was cracking jokes, taking selfies, and sharing witty banter all the while I was silently praying to GOD that he might drop a SNOWSTORM onto the coastline and prevent our 12:30 zipline tour (I clearly did not pray hard enough).
So now here I was, the ‘coolest brother in America,’ walking to the gaping recess in the forest. Throughout this forest braided steel cables are strung throughout the trees and guys like me (well not guys like me), pay to suspend themselves on said cables and ‘zip’ from tree to tree. I pulled my cement feet in front of me while I contemplated the life I had lived.
“What was I thinking?”
Answer: I wasn’t.
Insert* Relationship Note: Women - If your man accompanies you to the Nail Shop, window-shops with you without becoming grumpy, or attends her girlfriend’s daughter’s 2yr. old niece’s birthday party at Chucky Cheese………….or ziplines with you, keep him. HE MUST LOVE YOU.
But I digress.
We trudged over to a confined area prior to beginning. We were going to ‘test’ our ziplines on a cable that was no more than eight feet off the ground. Our group laughed and chopped it up, but I already had on my game face. I could die out here. This was hardly funny. After ten minutes or so, we made our way over to the first platform, our once jovial moods had changed to a glum uneasiness. I silently picked-up my conversation with GOD.
We arrived at the first tree, right behind the fence. One of our guides, Conner, began fastening our individual harness cables to a cord stretching hundreds of feet across to the next tree. He then gave us one last warning/math lesson.
“These cables are strong enough to hold five thousand pounds. But if they are unhooked, they can’t hold anything. So please do NOT unhook them.”
“I’m not a math major, but Conner, this brother is not going to unhook a damn thing!”
Conner zipped over to our destination tree, while our second guide, Veronica, walked us through our launch. She did her best to soothe our fears and attempted to get to know how we were feeling by talking to us.
I guess my steely exterior fooled her, because she looked right in my face and asked, “Al, do you want to go first?”
It took everything in me not to go on a rant, “Hell naw! You think I wanna risk death first? Is that part of the Make America Great platform? I’m only here because of HER. Why you gotta ask a black man to go first?”
But I chilled. I nodded coolly and forced my legs to take the necessary two steps on to the step-platform that was on the edge of the death…I meant deck (Freudian slip). I pulled myself up onto the platform and felt my jaws clench as I stared into the cavernous valley beneath us. The air on my face was cool and the beautiful lush green forest around me was vibrant, if not inviting.
“How do you feel?” Veronica asked. “Do you know how deep Redwoods roots go? Where did you say you were from again?” I heard her, but I really didn’t.
After Veronica asked her last question, she directed me to sit down. I sat in the harness in some imaginary seat, and the gravity propelled me towards Conner and the receiving deck some ways in front of me. I located him in the distance, as I flew swiftly through the air. The earth rushed past my feet and my mind cleared, and I only focused on this moment. Finally, I saw him raise his fist, which was a signal that I was preparing to slow into the platform in the tree where he stood. I reached the Redwood tree in as a tangled mass of arms and legs while Conner clumsily pulled me onto the platform.
“How do you feel,” he asked.
I could no longer feel my legs and my butt cheeks were clenched so tight, that I could hardly walk, but I would not let him see me sweat.
“That was dope,” I replied feeling confident that Conner would not catch on to the sheer terror coursing through my body. Because that’s just how we do.
Even if ziplining is something we don’t.