A little bit more on where I liveIt should come no surprise that this is what I see all day, every day. I live in one of the many hangars at the airport, which in addition to skydiving, offers a flight club, pilot lessons, glider flights, and general airplane storage and services. We have a cutesie airport cafe here, too. This is one of the biggest skydive centers, and a lot of people live here. It's also the cheapest dropzone probably in the whole country. A tandem skydive is only $100 and your AFF1 course is $1000, compared to $200+ and $2000+ respectively anywhere else. If you want to get into the skydiving thing, this is the place to do it. There are people here from all around the world, mostly for the cheap AFF training. It's free to pitch a tent. You could get a really nasty, dark, and smelly room in one of the hangars for $300 a month. So we got pretty damn lucky to nab the last space in the Dogpatch hangar, for $250, renting a trailer from Roger, who was paying for storing it here. Everyone else has their own Winnebago or trailer. One guy, Jacob (he's from Quebec, so it's pronounced zhack-O), just lives here in a tent. If you consider this all one small step away from homelessness, I assure you, it is! This guy is 58 years old, and the same no-good-punk he probably was since adolescence. Skinny and dark, he wears pajama pants and sunglasses. He wakes up and goes to bed with an echoing groan, and in between mostly sits around looking at nothing, chain-smoking and filling up garbage cans with Budweiser cans. He works here as a parachute packer, and is one of those special characters full of contradictions. One day he'll complain, "I have never seen business so slow" and the next day, looking up at the landing jumpers, he'll whine, "There's one of my clients, damn I don't want to pack a parachute!" He'll walk around with a cigarette and ask me if I'm doing something that's making the hangar smell. Friday 13th they did night jumps. It was beautiful and a full moon, and most importantly nobody died or got hurt. There is virtually nothing around, just flatness everywhere. The flatness of the airport, surrounded by highway and vineyards on all sides. Lodi, CA is also wine country! And touted Zinfandel capital of the world, if you were to believe the billboards. There's virtually no shade, but that proves an advantage at night. Starry night sky, totally unobstructed. 270 degree views of the horizon, and incredible sunsets every single day! <iframe width="960" height="720" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Q5t2Es2rBjg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
1 AFF stands for "Accelerated Freefall" and is the course you take to get your skydiving certification. Typically it's 3 tandem jumps and the rest you are on your own parachute getting instruction.
The Stolen rig.
I should have been writing about my adventures for a long while now. And photographing, and videographing. Because boy, it sure has been a wild trip for quite a while, since maybe right around September of 2012. On September 15, 2012 I went to a beautiful overnight psy-trance party in some woods in Pennsylvania and I took some acid. I think my whole life changed direction that night. It set in motion, no, hurled me onto a completely different direction. Up to that point, I felt that my life was pretty much always in my control. I knew what I wanted and I made it happen. An affordable and spacious apartment in Brooklyn, shared with just my best friend. We had a vintage coffee table complete with green leather top and gilded accents, bought for $50 on Craigslist. My whole life was bought on Craigslist and I had my favorite bed, couch, and coffee table. Hardwood floors. Right off the Q train, 20 minutes to the city and 15 to the beach. 3 blocks from Prospect Park and the best Jerk Chicken in the city. I had a 9-5 salaried job and was supporting myself, living self-sufficiently, finally. All those things I wanted, I set out for, and I secured for myself. My life had been my own and completely created from conscious will. But then there were those bed bugs, in the otherwise pretty damn ideal apartment. And our neighbors Nuwan and his sister across the building, also on the fourth floor, had some beast living in the roof who was digging a hole through his kitchen ceiling. I watched his cat for a few days while they were visiting their parents in Tibet, just me and the cat alone in the apartment, and was scared to death by the claw I saw come out of the ceiling. I covered the hole with duct tape. I think the creature died up there because a few weeks later the clawing stopped but there was a quiet stench of rotting. There must have been a quiet stench of rotting at my job, too. I was feeling pleasantly complacent with my situation; by summer of 2012 and six months into the job I was finally feeling comfortable. Things were steady and I was earning a living. Yet I had a sneaking suspicion that something wasn't right. I couldn't tell if I either loved or hated my job. Well that night, that acid trip, it suddenly became intensely obvious that I was wasting myself away. The immense energy and time expended on stressing over the consequences of tactless decisions made by an egomaniacal owner of the company weren’t worth it. I no longer was able to doubt the absurdity of fretting over some spoiled brat not getting her overpriced poorly-made dress before it went out of season due to our French scumbag production manager who never did his job. Funny how sometimes, you need a strong mind-altering substance to clue yourself back into the obvious. That realization initiated the transition from a life I largely designed for myself, to one totally out of my control, handed over to the grace of the universe. Even now, I feel like a dandelion seed blowing wildly in the wind and unable to land. When anyone asks how I’m doing, all I can say is I’m learning how to surf the wave - equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. Mind blasted to new frontiers and heart blown to new capacities. Ow, it hurts. And I haven’t been documenting any of it. Better late than never, right? Today, I just couldn’t hold off any longer. And it’s all because of the skydiving rig. Today it’s June 2014, and Dashatron Enterprises finds itself headquartered on an airport and skydiving center in Lodi, CA. In an airplane hangar in a trailer. The address is 69 ½ Dogpatch. It's off the grid so don't tell USPS. This enterprise is finally 100% virtual, 100% self-funded. I’m legit! Just gotta get my seal mailed and I’m ready to go. I’m here because, well, wow, that’s another story for another time. Suffice it to say my fiancé Timmayo is a professional skydiver, so he’s here making money while I get to watch the show. If you don’t know skydivers, they jump off things all day and when they’re done they do hard drugs as casually as Don Draper downs drinks. Here’s a video to get your toes wet.1 These are the people I am around all day, so you’ll be hearing a lot about them. So, the rig2. A few days ago, one of the guys here had his brand new rig stolen right out of the packing area. Considering skydivers are a pretty tight global community and how hard it is to get away with something like that, it was a shock to everyone. Only someone ignorant--an outsider--would do something like that. Sure enough, a couple days later, the drop zone3 gets a call from a guy: “Hey I was cleaning out my uncle’s garage and found this skydiving rig. I was wondering how much it’s worth.” It takes a real strong breed of stupid to offer the evidence back to the scene of the crime. Yet totally predicable, and they expected this. “Oh, really? Why don’t you bring it over here so we can take a look at it.” Naturally, this guy had no clue what a packing card4 is. The next day he shows up to get the rig inspected, Shiny5 takes out the packing card and asks, “And what is your uncle’s name?” The guy grabs the rig and starts to run. He gets in his car, and as he is rolling up his driver’s side window, a skydiver reaches in and grabs the rig. He manages to pull it out, meanwhile the dude ends up jamming his own arm in his closing window. He speeds away, into a dead end road, chased by 20 vengeful skydivers. At this point realizing he is trapped, he gets out of his car and starts running. They didn’t catch him but they did get the rig, and they caught his girlfriend or whoever was in the car with him. Maybe she’ll turn him in. So you know, just another day at the drop zone. I hope you enjoyed the first edition of my stories. Stay tuned, there's more to come!
1 Jester was made into a character in the video game Grand Theft Auto. 2 A rig is the skydiving apparatus – looks like a backpack with straps and holds the main and reserve parachutes, and typically costs a couple grand or more. 3 Drop zone, abbreviated DZ, is a term for a skydiving center. 4 A packing card lists all the people that packed the parachute and date, for safety and accountability. 5 Bald, bearded, tattooed, owns a Harley. Go figure. Nickname origin: one night when everyone was on acid they all agreed his aura was glowing and shiny. (Everyone has nicknames here and nobody knows anyone’s real names)
DISCLAIMER: Everything written here is not just based on a true story, it is the true story.