things done butThings I did but maybe shouldn't have

Youthful indiscretions, questionable acts, near misses

Trespassing on the site of an industrial accident

The Brass Rail: My job as a bouncer

Letting myself be abused at work as a fifteen-year-old maintenance worker in a steam heat plant in Philadelphia.

Window Cleaning With Junkies
Don’t let people who are high on narcotics work on swing stage scaffolds high above city streets. They drop things. (Once, when I was window cleaning, I discovered my partner on the scaffold was high when he kept dropping his tools. He and others on the crew were heroin users, which was really only a problem that one time.)

Skydiving While Hungover - it scared me so much, I never did it again.

Thirty-Six minutes of wrestling in one day
My only intercollegiate wrestling experience was at a tournament at the US Naval Academy for which I wasn’t prepared. I lost the first match to a wrestler from West Point but won the next three. At that time the matches were three, three-minute periods. They only did that for a couple years. It was just too hard.

I was so tired and beat up by the time I was to wrestle the fifth match I couldn’t go through with it. A few minutes before I was to go on the mat I left the gym. By then I’d wrestled thirty-six minutes against kids from Army, Yale, the Naval Academy and Lehigh and I couldn’t face another one. I didn’t even feel bad about it.

Mom and Dad were there, which was good because although we didn't know it then, that day would be the last time I'd wrestle in competition. They took me to dinner and when we sat down and they got a good look at my black eyes and mat burned cheeks they laughed at me. If I hadn’t been so whipped I might have laughed too.

Parasailing experiments

Flying a single engine airplane over mountains at night to a fog shrouded airport
One night I was flying a Cessna 172, alone, over the Coastal Mountains in Oregon. I was going from Portland to Tillamook, which is about sixty miles due west. Instructors warn their students not to fly single engine aircraft over mountains and water because if the only engine you have fails you’ll crash. Engine failure is pretty unlikely so many of us do it anyway. That night I made it past the mountains to the Tillamook Valley to find that the entire valley, everything as far as I could see north and south and the ocean almost all the way to the horizon was covered in fog. Above the fog the sky was very clear and the moon was full so it would have been a pretty sight if I was in a different situation.

I was using ADF navigation and the AM radio station it was tuned to was near the field so I knew which direction to fly even though I couldn’t see the rotating beacon at the Port Of Tillamook Bay Airport or the beacon at any other airport either.

It seemed that I would have to turn around and return to Portland but it was possible that by the time I got there that airport could be socked in too. If that were the case I’d have to declare an emergency because I’d have to try to land using the instruments and I didn’t have an instrument rating. It really would be an emergency too because I wasn't a proficient instrument pilot.

While realizing my plight and growing more and more nervous about it I checked my fuel which gave me a little relief. I had done the right thing in that respect at least, having filled the tank back in Portland, so I had enough to get back with plenty to spare. That also meant that I didn’t have to turn around right away so even though there didn’t seem to be any point to it I decided to fly all the way to the Tillamook airport.

In the last few minutes before actually entering the airspace above the field I was getting more nervous about what I’d have to do. The though of turning around and contacting Portland Approach Control, explaining myself to them, landing the airplane, and filling out the paperwork, if I survived, was making me pretty gloomy. But when I got to within just a few miles of the runway, to my delight I found that I could see it and it was the only open ground within miles! As far as I could see, in every direction, except the one from which I’d come, there was nothing but fog. The only opening for a hundred square miles was the one I needed.

I went straight to it, as fast as I could, landed, parked the airplane and went home to my wife!

Tower climbing or surveying mountain pipelines with out-of-shape legs
Neither was quite as bad as the last day on the mat but they were pretty bad.

Flying behind the ridge

Lost Passport
My passport was missing!
This story, about how I dealt with losing my passport in Madrid, is at the end of “R&R In Iberia".