The Rope Wasn’t Hemp, But I Got High On It Anyway
Gather round, boys and girls, it's time for Grandpa to tell you more of the adventures of Captain Liam of Bozo Command!
When we last left our hero, he had just completed a "zip line" course, flying through the treetops at high speeds suspended from a thin cable and looking just as agile and dexterous as a manatee washed up on a Florida beach, but with a thicker overall layer of blubber. Not, technically, subcutaneous blubber, but our hero was terrified, so there was definitely blubbering going on.
In the morning, Captain Liam had a scheduled encounter with his arch nemesis, Perky Mo, on the high ropes course of doom, and it is here that we begin today's tale.
To begin with, boys and girls, the name "high ropes course" is a bit like calling yourself an expert at "Super Mario Kart" just because you can beat your Dad, who frankly doesn't understand these new-fangled video game systems and wouldn't know the "turbo boost" button from the "kill-o-zap ray" one. What's that? There is no "kill-o-zap ray" button? Shaddap, ya little pipsqueak, Grandpa is trying to tell a story here.
Anyway, Captain Liam arrived at the "high ropes course" somewhat discouraged to discover that by "high" they meant not more than 15 feet above the ground at any point along the course, and by "ropes" they meant logs and cables and very few actual, honest to goodness ropes. Frankly, the most actual danger Captain Liam and his fellow attendees were in was that Perky Mo would speak a harsh word to them, if they failed to get permission before transferring a safety strap from one cable to the next. Or before climbing across the next obstacle. Or before stopping to scratch one's nose, Perky Mo was big on everyone obtaining permission for anything more complicated than inhaling.
The Earthshine Lodge had warned Captain Liam that he should plan for the ropes course to take at least two hours, and he figured it probably would take that long… if the entire group consisted of snails who, on noticing the perilous ankle-twisting fall below, froze in fear and had to be rescued by Perky Mo or his assistant. As it was, Captain Liam completed the course, waited for all of the other participants, and then completed the course a second time in just about as much time as I've been telling you whippersnappers this story, not including that little argument we had about "Super Mario Kart".
At the end of the course, boys and girls, Captain Liam was led to a "secret surprise", which turns out to be something they call the "leap of doom." This meant that our Captain had to strap on a "belay rope" and climb about 35 feet up a tree and stand on a platform about the size of a standard issue postage stamp. Then, using the same cat-like agility for which Captain Liam is not known, leap off of this precarious perch in the vague direction of a trapeze hanging about eight feet away, with the intention of catching it and hanging for a few moments, before being belayed back to the ground by Perky Mo's assistant. And on a side note, children, if you've never gotten belayed, Grandpa highly suggests you try it. But please don't tell your Mom I said so, or she'll put Grandpa back in the home.
Now, there are two things I have to tell you about Captain Liam's leap. The first is that he was the only one in his group of 10 people or so who successfully grabbed the trapeze and held on. The second is that Captain Liam is not, let's face it, a small man. He is also not exactly a spring chicken. He resembles the small, spry young Perky Mo about as much as Rush Limbaugh resembles any given member of the Chinese Women's Gymnastics Olympic team. And so it was not without some personal injury that he did in fact manage to grab and hold the trapeze, and in truth probably the only reason he was successful is that Perky Mo's assistant was a slip of a woman, and so if Captain Liam had missed in his grab, he feared he would likely have plummeted to the earth at nearly unimpeded speeds while launching this nice young woman holding the other end of the belay rope hundreds of feet into the air.
Here's the way the actual jump went: Captain Liam took a deep breath and momentarily considered whether he could pull this off without looking like a large wad of Jello flung via catapult, said a word that your Mom would wash your mouths out if you said it, and jumped. Across the open space he sailed with all of the aerodynamic grace of a sack of overripe potatoes, scrabbling frantically for the trapeze bar and finally grasping it with both hands… at which moment two shoulders, two wrists and one elbow, with the kind of simultaneous precision Olympic divers can only dream of, dislocated as one and the remaining elbow made a sound like Grandpa’s car did yesterday, when he forgot to use his clutch.
Which is why as of today, our heroic Captain is now "Captain Liam of the NSAID Patrol" and (this is true) this story was written at about half speed, as he keeps having to rest his right arm and type entirely with his left.
* * *
This would have been the conclusion of the story, had I finished this essay when I started it, 8 days ago. However, as is my wont (yes, I have a wont, you should get one too, they're ever so helpful, and they don't shed nearly as much as they did in our grandparent's day), I put it aside and let the humor "marinate" (in much the same way that compost "marinates" into soil).
Since that day, my oldest two children and I decided to go kayaking, on the last day of our trip to my parents' house. This was on Friday, the events of the rest of the essay happened on Monday, but I have, as you might imagine from my age, 40+ year old joints, and I'm ashamed to say I haven't kept up with the regular maintenance since the manufacturers warrantee expired, and so Friday was just long enough for the pain in my elbows and shoulders to go away, but not enough for the damage to heal, and so as my daughter and I paddled our way out to the middle of the lake, they began to ache again. And I know I've made a lot of jokes about my aging memory, but the truth is that it is depressing just how long I was thinking "wow, I’m out of shape" before I realized just what, exactly, I was doing to myself.
When I realized it, of course, it was already too late, and so as we turned the kayak around and headed back towards shore, my shoulders and particularly elbows were noticeably stiffening with each successive stroke of the paddle. The shore which, based on the effort required to get out to the middle of the pond seemed to only be about 50 yards away suddenly seemed miles away and by the time we reached the shore we were (this is also true) being outpaced by the octogenarian couple who were also out for a nice kayak.
All of which I mention because there's a certain wry humor in driving back to the house entirely with the left hand because the right arm has become almost entirely immobile, and then realizing just how difficult it is to shift even an automatic into gear when you can't use your right arm.
And lest you think I'm kidding, I honestly and with no exaggeration reached around with my left arm to turn off the car and take the keys out, because the right one simply couldn't produce sufficient torque to turn the blessed car off.
Copyright © August 16 & 22, 2008 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com