Sunday, April 5, 2009


(part 112) FIRE TRUCK

At some point in the climb a huge fire truck was positioned on Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Pacific Theater. It sent 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 the basket, dressed in his yellow 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 bounced 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, crossed his face as he retreated downward out of the howling wind some 80 feet above the ground.

I watched him go and was impressed, as the ladder, basket and fireman 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 then turned from the picture on the ground, the fire truck and fireman whose momentary presence had halted my progress.

Once more my need to reach the top returned. With a new sense of urgency I commenced once again the final trek to the pinnacle. My body was feelings the effects of no sleep, too much booze and pills and over-stimulation from adrenaline. Whenever this happened, I stopped and took a drink and popped another 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 there 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 pushed myself like a dog, demanding that I accomplish what I set out to do. Against my own desire to give it up and go back down, I continued this ragged journey upward. I can not tell you why this was so important to me that day, but it was, it seems, 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.

My thoughts and emotions collided inside me like a train wreck. I had done it! I was now pulling myself up to the very highest point on the tower where I could stand straight up. As I grabbed the steel rod at the utmost portion of the tower with one hand, I raised my other arm in 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 asshole, you're hangin up traffic."

My mood shifted toward anger as I saw a man in a red suit below, seemingly alone within the crowds around him. All at once L.A. police officers appeared out of nowhere, running toward the guy in the red suit, tackling him to the ground. As I watched him taken away in handcuffs, I threw my empty bottle at him yelling, "Yeah, well fuck you."

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