Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hanging Upside Down Thirty Feet In The Air

"This is humanity at its finest!"

Thus asserted Chris, who was very much in his element. Out by the Los Angeles River, in an industrial area, we stood outside the workshop and residence of a metallurgist named Gabriel who had built an extraordinary gift for his girlfriend.

For his lady love, Gabriel had built a steel swing designed to fly a person thirty feet in the air. The swing rotates 360 degrees, and the passenger, strapped into a harness, is taken upside down. For additional fun, the seat spins as well. The entire apparatus - hundreds of pounds of steel - was braced and bolted securely to the wall, and tested to make sure the occupant of that seat would not be scraped across the building or rammed into a nearby tree.

This 6-second video clip demonstrates the experience:

The bags of sand seen above were in place to weigh down the passenger seat, so they could bring down the counterweight end and decorate it with green light. The green lights were powered by a car battery, which Gabe had to strap very securely somewhere on the arm of the swing:

We watched the swing rotate for the first time, 180 degrees so they could decorate the counterweight:

Naturally, we cast our gaze upward to see the sandbags which were sitting in for a human passenger at the moment. There they were: 30 feet in the sky, and upside down.

Gabriel's girlfriend kept asking, "Can I go on now? When can I go on?" as Gabe and his friend worked fast to wrap the arm in glowing green strips, since everyone knows a carnival ride needs to be lit up.

Finally, the lucky lady got to take her ride. The seat consisted of a secure harness consisting of three belts and some caribeeners. She could barely contain her glee as she was assisted with her straps. This girl wanted to fly.

And here she goes...

"This is humanity at its finest!" Chris declared again. "This man spent three days building this and inviting everyone here - just because it's fun!"

This is what Chris loves the most: anarchic situations where inventive people congregate and engage in beautiful and elaborate frivolity. There is fellowship in gratuitous fun.

Chris was the first of our group to go for the ride:

And off he went. This one-minute video shows you what the ride is like:

Chris later warned me on a point of anatomy, vis a vis the harness. "Remember," he counseled me, "That at the top of the circle, you are literally hanging upside down by your nuts. So get those nuts where you want them to be at the beginning."

I heeded his warning shortly afterward, when I doffed my grey jacket, emptied my pockets, kicked off my flip-flops, and hopped on board.

Oh yes I did:

As I strapped myself into the harness, my mental activity sped up with assumptions about what I was going to experience. I imagined I would get dizzy, that I would feel scared for my life when I found myself hanging upside down at a height that would kill me if I fell. Once in motion, the thoughts calmed down and the ride felt quite safe. The smooth ride and the snug harness made me feel as if I were a baby being "flown" around in my mother's arms. The ride ended before I really wanted it to, but by then a line was forming.

Gabe started a fire outside, there was food on the grill, and plenty of wine. Orange sparks flew into the air and gratuitous fun prevailed. Gabe's girlfriend graciously allowed everybody a chance to go for a ride before reclaiming her seat and spinning around some more.

Around. And around. And around. Like life, like love.


Trinity said...

What amazing gift for a girlfriend!!
I never have had a gift like this, I'm always pleased of flowers...
It would be an idea!!! Thanks for share it!!
Good Night! (in Italy are 11.00 PM)

PS: My english is a little rusty!! :-P

Theriomorph said...

That looks completely fun.

Unknown said...

Where was I? That must have been amazing. What a cool experience!

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you got high!