Friday, January 30, 2009

(part 126) FIRETRUCK


At some point in the climb, an extremely large fire truck positioned itself on Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Pacific Theater. It raised a very long extended ladder up to where I was on the tower. At the end of the ladder was what is called a rescue basket. All of this gear is hydraulically run from either the basket itself or from the truck on the ground.

A lone L.A. fire fighter was in that basket, dressed in full gear and fire hat; he held a huge coil of rope on his shoulder. As I watched him bobbing in the wind from my position, he carefully maneuvered the ladder and basket toward me.

I will never forget the look on his face--one of courage and terror all at the same exact moment as he inched ever closer.

When he was actually near enough for us to hear each other, if we yelled, I shouted to him, "How's it goin out there man?" He looked at me with eyes wide and hesitated while he fought the effects of the wind, which was bouncing the basket and him up and down and then sideways.

I could see it was rough going out there and he finally yelled back, "Why don't you come on down, buddy?" looking hopefully for my response. I yelled back at him, "Why don't you come on up?"

I will never forget his next look either, as my answer to his question hit home. A look of frustration, fear and disappointment, mingled with a little anger. It was etched on his face as he pleaded again for me to be reasonable.

I shook my head in the negative, refusing his request again. I then watched as he retreated downward out of the howling wind some 80 feet above the ground.

I watched him leave and was impressed, as the ladder, basket, and brave soul slowly descended toward earth. He will live in my memory forever as the face of courage and the offer of a helping hand turned away by me in my madness.

I turned away from the picture on the ground, with the fire truck and fireman, whose momentary presence had halted my progress. Once again my need to reach the top returned. With a new sense of urgency I commenced the final trek to the pinnacle.

My body was feeling the effects of no sleep, too much booze, pills, and over-stimulation from adrenaline. I stopped and took a drink and popped a chloral hydrate. For some reason this deadly mixture continued to bolster my stamina against exhaustion and the effects of the wind.

I'd been up on the tower for nearly two hours and my goal loomed before me. As my senses dulled, I forced myself to continue in the growing cold.

On and on I went, pushing myself like a dog, demanding that I accomplish what I had set out to do. Against my own desire to give it up and go back down, I continued my ragged journey upward.

I cannot tell you why this was so important to me that day, but it was, it seems. To me it was my last chance to succeed, if in fact it was only to succeed at reaching the pointed pointless top of my steel mountain.

My need to see myself as successful at something, anything, kept me blindly climbing on. I was almost there. Just a little further, a little longer and I would do it. I would shout at the world and tell them, "see, I said I would do it and I did. I made it all the way to the top."

And then I was there. I had done it! My thoughts and emotions exploded inside of me, as I pulled myself up to the very highest point of the structure. I was standing at the top. I grabbed the steel rod at the utmost portion of the tower with one hand, and raised my other arm in a triumphant gesture claiming my victory. Exhilarated, I downed the nearly empty pint in toast to the moment.

From far below, a cry from the crowd arose and grew in intensity, as if needing to share in the celebration of my achievement. Again I threw up my arm in salute to those who had followed me up with their eyes, and again they sounded.

From somewhere in the crowd below came a single voice rising up to me much louder than the rest. I listened to it and heard, "Jump you asshole, you're hangin up traffic."

My mood shifted to anger as I focused on a man in a red suit below waving his arms. He stood out from the rest of the crowd and I knew it was his voice I'd heard.

All at once a number of L.A. police officers appeared out of nowhere, running toward the man in the red suit, tackling him to the ground.

I stood alone on my perch and watched him taken away in handcuffs. As he a disappeared into the crowd, I felt exhilarated once more, and threw my empty bottle at him yelling, "Yeah, well fuck you."