I arrived at work Tuesday to find in my emailbox a press release regarding this summer’s Oregon International Air Show, scheduled for Aug. 3-5 in Hillsboro.
Knowing that photographer Mark Ylen is an aviation nut — more on that a bit later — I forwarded the release to him and asked if he had any interest in doing anything regarding the show.
His response was to ask if I thought they’d let him fly with the Thunderbirds. I told him I would ask, and I have; haven’t heard back yet.
“Maybe they’d let me jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team,” I suggested.
Mark replied by saying that perhaps he and I should put together a regular feature called Bucket List in which we do a series of adventures we might aspire to experience before that great editor in the sky highlights our names and hits the delete key.
“We could get David to do some of them,” Mark said, seeking to spread the wealth (and/or risk) to his photo department colleague, David Patton.
“Totally,” I said. “Let’s put David down for that motorcycle jump over like 12 school buses. We can use the parking lot at LB. We’ll set it up like Caesar’s Palace.”
Truthfully, if the Golden Knights were willing to let me do a George Plimpton-type thing with them, I likely would take them up on it. Because I do want to sky dive before my time here — on earth, I mean, not necessarily at the DH, though increasingly those expiration dates seem identical — is up, and I think I could feel safe enough with a bunch of soldiers in charge of things.
I’ve pretty much reached the minimum age I long ago set for myself as far as trying things like parachuting and bungee jumping, where if something goes wrong you’re probably bound for the obits. Actually, it’s not so much my age as my stage of life — that is, my kids are grown and self-supporting.
Not long after I started working at the DH in 1990, I wanted to do a story about bungee jumping, but the only local bungee guy I could find, Kcasey Dale — yes, that’s right, Kcasey — would only consent to do the story if I were willing to jump.
I think I lol’d when he told me that (though of course that was years before he, I or anyone else had discovered text messaging and its abbreviations).
“Can’t do it,” I said. “There’s just no way it’s going to say on my tombstone, ‘died bungee jumping,’ when I have two little kids at home.”
“It’s not going to say that because nothing’s going to happen,” he said, but I was not going to be talked into anything.
So instead, I passed along the offer to my thrill-seeking colleague Tony Overman, then a photographer, formerly our east Linn County reporter. Tony, who would later cover the war in Iraq for the paper in Olympia, Wash., had no problem writing and shooting the story as a human yo-yo. And well before personal computers were something just about anyone knew how to use, Tony even sat down at the one Mac we then had in the newsroom and designed a very attractive and creative page layout.
Bungee jumping doesn’t hold quite the same allure for me as sky diving, but I may yet give it a try; we’ll see.
As for Mark and his fetish for flying, that comes in really handy, say, when you need to book airline tickets. He flies constantly and is very adept at hunting down cheap fares.
But the most noteworthy aspect of his aviation bent, at least that I have personally observed, occurred in the fall of 2000 when he and I went to Shedd to report on a couple who took to the skies via one-person contraptions known as powered parachutes.
Basically, they resembled a cross between a big go-cart and those swamp boats like Dennis Weaver tooled around the Everglades on in “Gentle Ben,” with a parachute atop them. A rear propeller provided thrust, and thanks to the Bernoulli Principle — what, did you think I slept through physics? — the chute provided lift, and off toward the clouds they went.
Mark wanted to give one of the PPs a try, and for reasons I’m still not totally sure of, the owner agreed to let him take one up. Mark did rather well, though, right up until the moment he cut the throttle just a bit early and the PP landed kind of abruptly — hard enough to break part of the frame, damage that the owner accepted, at least outwardly, with remarkable aplomb.
Later, when we got back to the office and editor Hasso Hering somehow learned that Mark had piloted one of these aircraft, his reaction of course was to scold me for “letting him” do that.
Letting him, I wondered. Am I our photographer’s keeper?
Also, Tony could bungee jump on the job and that was apparently fine, but I get yelled at for Mark’s wild blue yonder-lust?
Curiously, there was also no problem in 2007 when the paper sent Patton and me on 2,000-mile motorcycle ride around the perimeter of Oregon.
Danger is apparently measured on a sliding scale.