The Iron Man

54,55,56, Oh! The pogo stick record had just been broken by yours truly. It had not been broken for weeks and was the first time in a long time I held the title. Boy was I excited. It’s not often you beat the iron man, and when you do, you celebrate!

As I gloated about being the new champ, a stray dog came to join the party. Something was off with this dog. Instead of happy yelling he pouted quite softly. As we pet him and tried to see what was wrong we finally saw, there was what looked like a baby coming out of his ass. We had no fucking idea what to do so we ran home slightly terrified screaming like little girls OH MY GOD did you see that OH MY GOD!?

It was a fun day. I got called home for bed, I gloated a little more about my accomplishments and ran inside. The iron man spent the rest of the night practing, tuning his approach long after I had left.

We met at the stop sign again the next day, pogo sticks in hand. As we walked to the end of the street we saw what looked like a large tree branch in the road. We hadn’t left that there, this was our block, who put It there? As we got closer we realized with amazement that this log came out of that poor dogs ass. It was the size of a coffee can. After some screaming, astonishment, and dissection we got down to pogo business. 41,42,43 oh! “beat that” I said confident even if he could beat that I still had the record. But then, as if I should have been surprised, 43, 44…55,56,57…74,75…,97,98 ohhh! My record had been shattered. You see, if the iron man had a goal there was no competing. It’s just the way it was. You learned to appreciate It and admire him for it.

When we were kids we were the nobodies, the loners, the rejects.  While lunch tables were grouped into clicks like the jocks, the nerds, the band geeks, or even the regular dudes, we sat alone.  A strange group of kids with no clear meaning or any discernable quality to group us together and none of us gave a shit about that.  There was even a year they just forgot to add me to the yearbook. While each of us had things we were good at, like drinking or drugs, guitar, running or art, somehow we managed to group together and continue on the path to mediocrity.  Except one, the iron man. The iron man was a great athlete but didn’t stick with the jocks.  Instead of playing football he chose to run on the track.  Although talented he was not the best runner in the county. But he had a new goal and while most of us spent our weekends getting drunk, he spent his weekends practicing relentlessly.  it wasn’t long before he achieved his goal of becoming county champ in several categories.  Day in and day out his name would be heard over the loud speaker at school for achieving some new record or helping the team reach another milestone, but no one ever gave the iron man the credit he deserved and he never cared about that or bragged about it.  He just trained to be the best he could be.  While most of our high school tried so hard to tell us how amazing they were with everything they did, the iron man, humbly just showed us with results.

As we went away to college he’d earned tremendous scholarships and earned a spot on the college roster. That year he achieved great academic and athletic success and once again was a featured team member. But the path everyone takes was not for the iron man.  he knew if he was going to make an impact in this world it was not going to be by sitting in some class learning from someone who had read some books and never actually done anything.  He was going to learn how he always did, by setting a goal, working his ass off and achieving greatness.  At the end of his freshman year he quit college with almost a full ride and near perfect grades .

The next year, as he pondered his next move, he was offered to take a test to become iron worker in the big city. He thought about it and although he wasn’t sure about the career, he spent weeks studying & preparing for the test and aced it. A few months later he started his career as an iron worker just before his 20th birthday.

He quickly excelled to be very well respected in his field. I was at a party one night 50 miles away from the city and got talking to a few guys. One of them was an iron worker. Knowing the chances were slim I asked anyway, “i know an iron worker named Jim Brady, do you know him?”. These hard ass Brooklyn dudes quickly lost their tough guy accent and hard attitudes and gushed over the question ” You know brady?” They said, “that guy is crazy”. “He’s a machine”. “Makes the rest of us look bad”. ” He got kicked off my job for climbing 20 stories without a safety harness”. The stories of legends.

We spent most of our early years talking about girls, but very little time actually talking to them. Eventually, as real life set in he began to talk to girls a lot more. Soon he found the one. They were head over heels for each other. I saw a look on his face I hadn’t seen before, calm and truly happy, maybe it was the face of achievement. After they began dating I lost touch with Brady for about a year. He was off being ‘all in’ on his next goal.

Late that next year I arrived early to his house for a party he was throwing. As he finished working under his motorcycle I asked how things were going with the girlfriend. He said, “you know, she is awesome”. That look of achievement appeared again. As the night drew on I watched them across the party. Smiling, being affectionate to one another. It seemed they had become best friends. I knew they would make each other happy for a long time.

Until one day. She had found God and that left little room for the sins and risks the iron man brought to the equation. She had gone all in.

What had he done to deserve this? Like everything he’d done in the past he had gone all in, but this time there was nothing he could do to practice harder to achieve his goals. Although he would never say it, he was heartbroken.

The iroman continued working at his career but now worked like he had something to prove. Over the next few years he began over exerting himself at work, pushing limits even he could not handle. He strained muscles, dislocated vertebrae and on more than one occasion ended up laid out for several weeks with a nearly broken back those first few years. Still not getting the results he expected he shaved his head and eye brows and attempted demand the respect he deserved. He was tired of waiting for people to understand how incredible he was so he showed them with his skin head and eagle tattoo emblazoned on his chest. At this time he also started a new addiction to ease the pain – adrenaline. He started sky diving to blow off extra steam. The days he felt worse he’d take more risk pulling the cord lower and lower. He started drinking excessively and fighting. He still was performing at work but he was starting to unravel. I was worried. Without a goal he was on a quick path to self destruction.

Many years after the September 11th 2001 they started rebuilding the world trade center. When the job req came open he was at the top of the list to rebuild the most important building in the world. The iron man jumped at the opportunity. He called me shortly after he got the assignment and told me about his ambition to rebuild America’s tallest and most important monument. He told me how he thought he could really make an impact. I saw his attitude his attitude change greatly over the next few months. A new goal had given him the pride he needed to do something great again. Knowing how much he’d been jumping off things lately, and had even picked up a liking for BASE jumping, jokingly I said, ‘you just want to build it so you can jump off it”. He paused, thought a moment and grinned. “You maniac” I said.

It wasn’t long before the most important person building the world’s most important building was selected for a centerfold on the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Luckily that Sunday morning I bought the paper and happened upon the insert. Of course he didn’t tell me about it to show boat. There was the iron man, on top of the world’s most important building in the world’s most important city in with a full page spread in the world’s most important newspaper. I was proud.

When the day came to put the final spire on the tower he was the one to guide it into place, sealing a new achievement of building as the tallest in the western hemisphere. Crowing him one of the greatest iron workers ever.

But that wasn’t enough.

Several months before he even accepted the job, he started plans to pull off the greatest feat NYC had ever experienced. He was going to jump off the world trade center. This was not something that could be planned with haste. The potential consequences were big. He could fall and die. Or worse fall and end up in jail for years.

He’d traveled to Norway a few months earlier and met a few expert BASE jumpers. Knowing he could not plan this feat alone he quickly worked to build a relationship with these guys. The last day of his trip, when he planned to ask them about the jump they had disappeared. He looked all over town but could not find them.

When he returned to the states He spent months scouring the secret BASE jumping web boards looking to get in touch with them. Night after night he’d scour the boards, searching for the team he knew could help him pull off this feat. After a few weeks he started to doubt if he could pull off his plan.

A few weeks later he got a phone call. It was them. They were waiting to make sure he wasn’t some kind of narc before calling him back. They knew no narc was as persistent as he was and decided to hear him out. As soon as Brady recognized it was then he began his empassioned pitch, and outlined his rough plan. Where he worked, how he could get in to the building, when the security went on break. He thought he had it all planned out. As he finished his passionate pitch he said, so who’s with me ? There was silence and then Marco spoke up, ” so, you want to go to jail?!” He said, “because that’s where this plan will get you.”. Flustered Jim said ‘I’m ok with jail if…”. Marco cut him off, “didn’t you listen to anything we told you in Norway? You idiot. Click” Jim stood for a moment and let out a sigh and then a series of curses. He began punching his wood burning stove and just as he wound up for a haynaker that would surely break some fingers there was a kick at the door. He turned and thought who it could be. He opened the door. It was Marco and Bob. They knew he had something big to discuss, looked him up on zabasearch and decided to talk to him in person. “i hope you used a burner” Marco said as he barged past Jim. “No I used my cell” Jim said embarrassed. “you fucking moron” shouted Marco as he picked up the house phone to check for wire taps. He then proceeded to check random places he thought might be bugged.

“Lesson #1″ Marco proclaimed ” like I told you before, the man is always listening. Only talk in person or over a burner. If using a burner never use names, places or dates. Got it?”. “yea” said Jim. “Now, can we get down to fucking business?” Marco asked. Jim suspiciously said ” yes, the jump?”. ” You really think you get us in” Marco asked. “Yes” said Jim. “You really think we can get to the roof?” “Yes.” “You really think you can find a path to the ground? “. “Already done, the northeast corner has no obstructions.”. “Not just get us to the ground, get us down without any cops?” “Yea, I mean I think so” said Jim.

“You think I might not go to jail? Great, thanks. You think I might get ass raped? Awesome. If we gonna do this we need better than I think. Tonight is day one. From here on out we plan, we test, we speak to no one. Got it? ” “Yes” said Jim. “We need a driver.” Said Marco.

They began tearing all the stuff off a wall. They started with a blank slate. In the center the taped a picture of the world trade. They added a section “people”, “equipment” “timelines” and filled in each. Over the next two weeks they developed a failsafe plan. Then they started testing. Jim volunteers for the night shift and started measuring each night the number of cars per hour. When the security guard walked by, when the police patrolled the streets below. How many seconds it takes the hairs to go from one building to the next.

They wrote their four goals down in the wall in the order of importance:
1. Do the world’s greatest base jump
2. don’t hurt anyone
3. Don’t get caught
4. Don’t die

Each day they’d test scenarios measuring the chances of any of the above. Eventually after about 12 months they had the perfect plan. They were just missing one piece, the driver. They enlisted one of Jim’s good friends, someone they could trust.

They prepped for everything. Jim slowly starting bringing gear to the roof. The day off the jump Jim made his last move. In the base of the spire he strapped on a locked compartment labeled tools. He placed the parachutes in the box and let the crane do the rest of the work. As the beam left his hands he gave it a good tap, kissed his fingers, raised his hands and taped the beam as it raised to the roof.

As the day drew nearer I questioned him about it and jokingly said I’d be the getaway car, still never having confirmed the plans were real. He laughed and we went on with our chat.

That night as the security guard slept they quietly crept through the entrance into the elevator. They took the elevator to the 103rd floor where it left off. Another 30 to the top Jim said. As they ran up flights the excitement grew. Knowing they were minutes from history they began smiling and chanting softly. All the planning they had done was wasted as they pretty much just walked in.

A floor before the roof they grabbed their packs from the secret spot in the ceiling. A few steps up the final steps Jim stopped them and reached into an exposed I beam grabbing 3 helmets. Right at the door grabbed the last bag, “gopros” he said.

They got to the roof and could not contain themselves. Giddy like little kids. Shouting, laughing, knowing there was nobody for at least 100 stories. As they unpacked their bags and got their gear on Marco unrolled his chute. “Guys, oh fuck”. “fucking rat, a fucking rat!” As he knelt head in hands cursing, crying, Jim continued to unwrap the chute. ” Hey guy, it’s just the fucking bag. See chutes in tact.” He said. “When we. get to the bottom I’m buying some fucking lotto tickets!” Marco proclaimed.

They finished putting on their gear. And turned in their cameras.

“Thank the fucking dear Lord that we made it here”.

Deep breathe in..
Jump,
Freefall
Coast
Pack up
Get away.

The next day I saw on the news that a security guard had seen 2 men with parachutes land near the world trade center. I knew immediately it was him. The iron man had successfully jumped from the building which he built. The blip on the news was gone the next day and it seemed it went off without a hitch. We spoke during this time and it was like nothing had even happened. He did mention he wanted me to come by and check out what he’d done with the house.

Out of nowhere, months later dozens of cops showed up at each of the four guys houses. They raided each of the houses. Although Marco had been so careful he neglected to erase the video from his hard drive. The police immediately confiscated the computers and found videos of the jump. Knowing what they were up against they decided to turn themselves in. That Saturday they said their goodbyes and went to the precinct .

Overnight the city turned an American hero into a villain. Saying he “desecrated a monument”, never once giving him credit for building it. Saying he “endangered people on the ground”, never mentioning the combined 1000 jumps the jumpers had practiced to get to this point and the years of careful planning.

As the time passed it became clear the police were going to leak the video. Already 10’s of thousands of dollars in debt from lawyer fees the group decided to release the video on their own. Once again the police took this opportunity to degrade the iron man saying he was just in this for the publicity. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Having turned themselves in. They were willing to accept the punishment for their crime. They knew based on previous BASE jumps in the city they’d be charged with a misdemeanor for tresspassing, face some community service and pay some hefty fines. They agreed to the precedent and agreed to plead guilty to the charges others have received.

The city had other plans. The DA was getting huge publicity from this and wanted to extend it as long as possible and inflict the most pain on the defendants with the hope of making a name for himself. He convinced the prosecution to try to send them away in a max security prison for 7+ years. The trial lasted over a year.

The iron man was cracking. Under huge financial burden and worrying about losing his job he dove deeper into his vices than ever before. Drinking , drugs, girls, nothing was off limits.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, no work. Waking up “late” at 730 the iron man felt different today. Although the case waS not over He decided to move on with his life. He wasnt going to worry anymore about the consequences, he had owned up to his actions and accepted whatever the punishment was. So he went on with his life. He got a new job. Even with this * on his resume his reputation lives on and employers are still eager to hire him any chance they get. As he pulled up to work to park his motorcycle in his regular spot there was another bike in the way. He went inside not understanding the fate that was upon him.

That day he worked from a few stories up and noticed there was a group of people all gathering in the ground floor. As he looked closer he realized what this was, something he’d seen many times before. There was a female on this job. He’d seen this before. The group of guys gushing over this girl, all fighting each other for a one of 30 chance to be the one she liked (if she was even interested). He was not interested in that game.

Later in the day they crossed paths and she Immediately she recognized him from the news. Knowing the legend that he was in the trade, she admired him. Knowing the legend he was in life she blushed and shied away. He thought this was her clearly expressing she wasn’t interested.

At the end of the shift he went to leave. As he approached his motorcycle he heard a bike startup. He looked up to see the girl from earlier getting on her bike. She had gotten out of her work gear and was showing some skin. He liked what he saw but knew he had no chance. As he hopped on his bike he looked over and said “nice bike” which he immediately regretted. Flustered she quickly rode away. He repeated the words to himself “nice bike? What an idiot!”.

The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on trials and lawyers, trying to throw the book at the iron man. After emptying his bank account on lawyer’s fees, the iron wound up with a result he were willing to settle with in the beginning. The only winners in this case were the lawyers which combined made over a million dollars. All could have been avoided if the DA didn’t feel the need for job security and had any consideration for tax payer dollars.

The day after the trial had ended he had been transferred to another site. He thought about her often, like the one that got away.

About a week later he got a message in instagram. “hi Jim, I don’t know if you remember me, we worked together for a day. You said I had a nice bike. I was wondering if you wanted to go riding sometime. Let me know.”

I knew something was up when I hadn’t heard from him in a while finally last week met them at a party. I immediately put my foot in my mouth when I arrived as I looked at them both and asked “who else is here that rode the other bike?”.

We spent the night remminicing about old times as I filled her in about the Jim I knew. We talked until the sun came up, except of course when they were making out. Naively I asked how long have you been together, expecting the tongue down the throat to signal a few weeks max. “I moved in a little over a year ago I guess” She said. I had no idea how to respond so I told an embarrassing story about the iron man. As the sun came up they walked to their bikes, arms around each other. He put on her helmet and smacked her ass. As he turned to me to say goodbye I saw a face I hadn’t seen since years before. A little happy a little calm, the face of achievement. He was all in.

As they rode into the sunrise I knew she had no idea the incredible life, passion, and exciting times she was in for…

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