What Would Jorge Do?

Thursday afternoon, I finally managed to get myself up off my weeping, pathetic ass and write the post about my cousin I’d been contemplating over whiskey and cigarettes for four days.

I was going to be having dinner that evening with Steve, his brother, a hi-powered LA lawyer (complex business litigation, usually defending companies from lottery-seeking parasites), and his mom—with whom I’d spent a few hours on Monday morning in the aftermath. I just had to get what I had to do behind me. It took four days to start that post, 2 hours to write it, and it came surprisingly easy once I’d begun the task.

The subject title of this post was ever-present in my thoughts those four days, and since. …Ridiculous, to the point I actually Googled a banner-creation site and printed out 30 pages to tape together, to hang in my study: “Richard…What Would Jorge Do?” Then I thought: a simple URL to a post would be much shorter.

…Or, perhaps I just never forget.

The thing is, Jorge and I were far different and in fact, I’m absolutely a lot more like Steve than Jorge. Steve is impatient, doesn’t suffer fools, he’s not much of a “small-talker,” and he is incapable of playing along or humoring, very well, if someone is being embarrassing or generating discomfort. I just described myself, too. Steve possess a quality I don’t, however. He always has a joke up his sleeve for when things get weird. I’m more likely to steer the conversation to religion and politics because that’s more fun than jokes, and it has everyone bottom-lining themselves pretty quick.

Let’s get to the bottom line. That’s what I always say.

Give it your best shot. I say that, too.

In my last post I linked above, the message is pretty clear. Live your life big, have some adventure, some exploration. get yourself uncomfortable.

Please! If you’re not doing things that make you uncomfortable now and then, you’re really missing out on a lot of what life is about. Can you even imagine to dispute that?

So, let me tell you about how I get myself most uncomfortable; but when it’s over, the bong hit, when there is one, is just the cherry on top. Unfortunately, this will require that you spend a few minutes on one of my videos from the past.

That basically explains some of the what and why of it all, how it works and particulars for the site I was flying, near Mt. Lassen, CA, a place I’ve flown for 13 years straight.

How this relates to Jorge is as such. Back in the earlier 90’s I was out of the Navy, building a business, and looking for some sort of action that rose above the mundane, easy bullshit 99.9% of people do. I looked to Jorge, knowing he’d been a rock climber for years. Of course, when I hit him up, he was all smiles—heard it over the phone—and immediately set up an excursion for myself and a couple of others to “school rock,” a place at Donner Summit, overlooking the lake. I went, had a great time, and before barefoot was anything anyone thought about, he was doing the climbs barefoot, free climbing (without the safety gear), and I was often just a little too scared.

We’d done a lot and I’d learned a lot, but then there was that last obstacle. He set out, free climbing it barefoot…with a line, cams and biners strapped to him, in order to fashion a safety net for me. It was only about a 20 ft deal, but far harder than what we’d done already. This one was hard at the very top, at the cusp of the thing, where you get up and in getting over…and there’s this brief moment in time where you kinda have to let go and go for it. I could not, even though I knew, intellectually that if I fell, scrapes and busies would be the worst I’d fare.

He scaled down as he’d gone up, proposed a new idea, where we traversed the rock at a significant slope, which was far easier physically but which The Teacher was careful to point out: if you fall, you’re going to do a big pendulum and you’ll get hurt a lot worse than had you given it what you could have, before.

It worked out OK. But in the end, the spark for rock climbing just didn’t happen for me. I told him so, and as well, that I was looking into hang gliding. He laughed. As it turned out, when Popular Mechanics published the plans for basic Rogallo Wings back in the 70s, he and his friends built one with bamboo, bailing wire and visqueen, and ground skimmed it in the Almaden hills south of San Jose. He said: “We’d fly until someone got hurt.”

So that’s what I took up. Hang gliders had come a very long way since the early 70s. At the point I took them up in about 1995 or so, guys had already perfected them to be a poor man’s sailplane, able to climb in thermals and go cross country. At that point, guys I was soon to know had taken them to over 20,000 ft and gone over 200 miles cross country. Today, the hand gliding cross country record is about 450 miles.

Me? I jumped in with two feet, got very active and was out and about flying most weekends for a long time. I’d gotten to 10-12,000 feet a few times, enough to get very cold in a t-shirt. And I once went about 15 miles or so XC, launching from Chelan Butte in WA: get up to 10,000, head over the Columbia River gorge, over the massive power lines, and then out over the flats of Eastern WA.

My only real point is that Jorge inspired me to do something. It had to be something that almost everyone else in the world was a total pussy for. It didn’t end up being rock climbing, which scares the shit out of me.

…Some years back, Bea, I and a few friends did Half Dome in Yosemite, and if you’ve done it, you know what climbing the back side of the dome is like. Anyway, I’m at the top, and because it’s a dome, as you walk down the granite, it gets steeper and steeper, and at a point, you realize: if I slip and fall, I’m dead. It’s a sphere. The further you go, the further you go faster. But I told my friends while we’re exploring that: if I had a hang glider strapped onto me, I’d not have the slightest trepidation about just trotting off.

Here’s two short  flights from last summer. Both flights are 30-40 minutes long in the glassoff (you have to watch the video up top to know what that means)…but you’re spared, it’s just the launch and landing, a minute or two each, set to rock music.

In the end, I don’t really know whether I’d have undertaken this or not without the inspiration of my cousin. All I know is that when I wanted adventure, he was the first one I called and things just sorted, after that.

And again, now the spotlight is upon you, reader. What have you dreamed to do, but never done? What have you always wanted to try, but never lifted a finger to do it? How many times have you suggested a hint of a try of a remote possibility and got shot down by everyone you dared mention it to, because the last thing total-comfort-at-all-times-bodies want is to contend with your Splendor? Joke’s on them, though. They don’t really know how bad they already look, and that’s in a Free the Animal perspective.

If you have never done what you’ve always dreamed or even tentatively imagined doing, your life’s not getting any shorter, you know.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Justin on May 5, 2012 at 18:36

    Love it!! Adventure be thy middle name!

  2. Kelvin on May 5, 2012 at 19:39

    Love the story Richard … insane watching you run off the ledge !!!

    For me – for 30 years – it was get serious and get kick-ass good at the guitar (rock, blues-rock, rock instrumental) … 2 years ago I decide to to give it EVERYTHING – got myself a “jazz master” mentor from New York (head of guitar studies at Princeton Uni and New York Uni) …

    … I’ve since met Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Orianthi and chatting to them about my journey – and the better I get, the more I learn – the more I realize I know almost nothing and mastery will take 10 live-times, but I’m lovin’ every minute of it …

  3. Todd on May 5, 2012 at 21:27

    I use to be really scared of heights, but I found flirting with that uncomfortable level for some time has allowed me to tolerate heights to a much greater degree. It’s a good feeling being able to get over that hurdle.

    I’ve been wanting to skydive for a long time, but I haven’t put a lot of thought into it other than just having the desire. I’ll have to move this up the bucket list now.

    Hang gliding looks like a blast too.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2012 at 01:02


      First, it’s pretty much all safe most of the time. I’ve skydived and bugee jumped too. They’re just rides. But they’re fun indeed.

      Had to open my reserve chute on the 3rd skydive. Saved my life.

      • Kate Ground on May 6, 2012 at 06:44

        I was just going to agree with Todd. I, too, have a fear of heights….and sky diving is on my bucket list…until you mentioned having to open your reserve chute….Gulp. No, still want to do it, even tandem will be scary. Just don’t look down, right?

      • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2012 at 09:19

        Realize that this was about 81 or so, and we were using old Army surplus gear. Equipment is far better now.

  4. Todd on May 6, 2012 at 07:25

    Bungee jumping looks like it would be really jarring. I’m sure opening the chute while skydiving would do that, too, but it seems less severe watching it.

    Have you seen the videos for those crazy bastards with the wing suits? That would be so cool, but I would most likely blackout and that would be it.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2012 at 09:26


      I did two bungee jumps. The first was at the top of Sqwaw Velley Ski during a summer. 70 foot platform as I recall and they used a harness that attached at the waist. The second was a tower they used to have right alongside the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA and I think that was 210 feet, and that used the classic attachment at the ankles only. I don’t recall either being particularly jarring but the second was a lot more fun and exciting.

  5. Kate Ground on May 6, 2012 at 07:47

    It has taken years to overcome that vertigo feeling when I look down from on very high. I did jump off a cliff once into a natural pool, but I had, ah, how do you say, chemical help? And I went back up and did it again.

  6. rob on May 6, 2012 at 10:11

    I have a fear of heights and took an accelerated free fall class once, figured it might help.

    Accelerated free fall is where you get to exit the plane on your own. A couple of instructors then exit the plane and catch up to you while you are plummeting. We went up to 11,000 feet because there was an experienced diver along for the ride.

    I actually forgot to pull the ripcord at 4,500 feet because they give you a bunch of training exercises to do on the way down, and I was trying to remember which exercise came next … it’s hard to think when you are falling out of the sky. An instructor pulled it for me around 3,000 feet, so I got a good 8,000 feet of free fall. Needless to say I flunked the class.

    I liked the part where I climbed out on the strut and held on to the wing, and I liked it after the chute opened (it’s pretty much idiot-proof at that point), but I didn’t like free fall. Plummeting is not for everyone.

  7. Ron on May 6, 2012 at 16:12

    When I retired in 1990 I sold my Harley and gave up motorcycling. I thought I was too old although I was only 54.

    In 2010 I decided to hell with it, I really missed motorcycles and bought another one at age 74. Some friends thought I was a little crazy but I wasn’t getting any younger. I’m still riding and enjoy it as much as ever. My wife of 55 years used to ride on the back with me. Last year she decided to ride with me again. I don’t ride as fast as I did before but nice rides in the country make us both feel young again.

  8. Kyle on May 6, 2012 at 17:13

    I just started paragliding last fall after thinking about it for a few years. it’s been a while since I decided to try something new and its good to be reminded about feeling vulnerable and kinda scared yet sticking with it.

  9. Jay Jay on May 6, 2012 at 19:58

    I’ve always wanted to be a “ladies man”. You know, meet a girl in a bar and take her home with you.

    But it has never, ever happened. Just too freaked from the fear of rejection. And from what I can tell, a lot of women really like me!

    How’s THAT for being a total wuss….

    • JLL on May 7, 2012 at 00:31

      If you get rejected, just open the reserve beer.

      • Jay Jay on May 7, 2012 at 20:39

        Ha! Yes. I have deployed that strategy. It soothes the conscience.

        The problem is, it’s a very fine line between drinking enough to overcome the fear, and drinking too much to where you just don’t give a damn about a woman…

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