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A Hunger Unquenched (battle mountain)

A Hunger Unquenched (battle mountain)

I’m reaching through the web for something exotic. Some hunger in me for adrenaline or dopamine. I don’t have to understand the chemistry to feel it in my body. A hunger. A longing. I’ve known this feeling most of my life. Even as a kid, I recognized I was different than my friends. I was contemplative. I was curious to the point of being hyper-focused after my friends were moving on.

In an early memory, I was playing with green plastic army men up on top of a huge pile of sand that was left over from the construction of my parent’s lake house. I would spend hours up there. Alone. Moving troops into various victories and losses. As a kid, they were always Russians, even though the bad army, a grey tint to them, were modeled after German soldiers. I guess the cold war and the threat of the nuclear winter was the pervasive fear narrative of the time. Anyway, up there on my mountain above the lake, above all care or family arguments, I would spend entire afternoons alone, moving, assembling, and destroying hundreds of formations.

When I had a friend over for a playdate, I would take them to Battle Mountain and we’d take turns setting up and then blowing up the fortifications and men. I always had black cat firecrackers left over from the Fourth of July. We’d blow the arms and legs off both our side and the enemy’s side. I was ecstatic to have a friend in the battle with me. And while I was setting up the 10th sortie, my friend would say they needed “a juice or something.” We’d wind our way down the long steps cut into the side of the hill and end up in the kitchen. The rush of the AC when we opened the door was shocking. Goosebumps. I’d grab the OJ from the fridge and pour us a few.

We’d usually wander off into the large house and find another game to play. This was pre-video games, pre-mobile phones, and pre-internet/laptops/tiktok. We’d end up watching something stupid on the TV, listening to my sister’s rock records, or playing a board game. I loved RISK. I could dominate RISK starting with Australia. Always start with Australia for 4 extra troops.

Today, 50-ish years later, I’m still looking for something to blow up, get crazy about, and lose any sense of time inside the joy of creating. Or, something else. I can’t name it. Novelty. Surprise. Exotic. I want the same jolt that came from blowing up the biggest sand fort in the history of Texas. As an adult in the modern world, my choices vary.

  • I could spend some money and buy a new thing.
  • I could surf some porn and find something “different.”
  • I could get drunk or high.
  • I could jump out of an airplane.

Today, our choices are only limited by time and money. When I have a little of both to spare, it’s the choices I make that will define my trajectory. I jumped out of a plane when I was a junior in college. It was euphoric. I immediately asked about buying my own gear, and “How much does it cost per jump if you have your own parachute?” I also began studying Parachutist Magazine in the college library. This back-of-the-book feature, The Bounce Report, was full of incident reports of what went wrong and killed someone. Often a decorated military paratrooper with 1,123 solo jumps, now taking tourists in tandem jumps. A bright and clear fall morning, before the heat of the day, woodsmoke fires visible from the plane before he jumped. It was a perfect day and a routine jump.

Something didn’t unwrap as planned. Ret. Sgt. Major Rock bounced at 10:32 am on October 21, 1987. (no irony in the name of the page.)

I was one semester from graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. My lust for plane jumping waned.

I still want to jump out of this state I’m in. I’m too comfortable. Too happy. There’s got to be some way I can blow it up.

Wait…

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