The trip to Sri Lanka didn't go according to plan and certainly there were a lot of ridiculous and upsetting things that happened that are fun to vent about, but here's the real story from my perspective
What did we do in Sri Lanka? Well…it’s a long story, but among it all we did one good deed that I’m going to hold onto until the end of my days. We helped a man in a wheelchair cross the street. And it was worth traveling all the way to Sri Lanka to do it. Now before you discount this task as everyday let me explain that we met this man trying to cross the busiest downtown street in front of the Sri Lankan World Trade Center building. Teaming with unlicensed taxi cabs, buses with wooden brake pads and an army of cockroaching scooters looking for any hole through traffic this man was fully committed to beating the Frogger high score in order to reach an open field on the opposite side of the street. The other pertinent detail to understand here is that it’s actually legal in Sri Lanka to brutally run someone down with your vehicle so long as you honk prior to turning them into Jackson Pollock hood art.
The choice we made was simple and yet had never occurred to any Sri Lankan as a viable means of solving this problem. We elected to take him up the service elevator to the top of the World Trade Center building with us, strap a parachute to him, chuck him off the roof and FUCK if he didn’t fly his ass right the hell over that busy street. It was a bold move, I admit. It was also one of the proudest moments me and everyone involved had ever lived. This man’s name is Lonnie Bissonnette (a professional BASE jumper who had been paralyzed in a jumping accident and rather than call it a day, continues to enjoy as much air time as his parachute will allow. I credit him and Gareth Parry with one of the greatest moments of my life and for organizing an event that allowed my to get involved in his jump.
Several days later as I exited the World Trade Center the doorman stopped me to tell me in reference to Lonnie’s jump he smiled and said,
“Sir, thank you for coming to Sri Lanka. You have changed the way I see my country and you’re group have also changed Sri Lanka”
So after that did the whole trip fall apart? Well, a little bit. Did our own tour company kidnap us and threaten to leave us in the middle of nowhere? Yes (an act still described by Elliot Bat Rose as a regular captain of a merchant ship trying to hijack a ship full of pirates). Did several locals extort us for amounts of money that would constitute grand larceny in the states? Absolutely. Did Chris Carnahan jump willingly into not 1 but 3 metaphorical snake pits to bail out our group? You better believe it. Were the police reports that were glue sticked into ledgers from the 1920’s ever going to make it to the proper authorities so we could recoup the massive travel expenses we incurred? Probably not. Did we lose a little faith in the Sri Lankan people? Maybe. But I and 24 other BASE jumpers helped a man in a wheelchair cross a street and I’m unequivocally and irrevocably putting that in the win column.
So thank you to Lonnie and Gareth for taking the risk and breaking through the wall of legal urban BASE jumping in Sri Lanka. The first ones through the wall always get a little banged up, but they also create the hole for the rest of us to see the light on the other side. And thank you to all my friends who stayed for the ride, I now know you all the better that having shared these confusing moments.