I Almost Died Today

So I went cliff-jumping today—I’ve gone several times as an adolescent and teenager, but I only did a 10-foot jump, at Slide Rock outside Sedona, Arizona.  But today I did one that was over 20 feet and one of 30 feet.  I think it’s important for writers to push themselves to the brink, stand on the edge and look down (or in this case jump), in order to come back and report to the masses what it’s like.  At least it’s important for serious Gonzo-type writers like me, who believe in doing things most people wouldn’t do, both physical and mental (interpret the latter any way you want, but I will say that drugs are bad and I would never take them, especially the psychedelic, consciousness-altering ones that I’m talking about taking, entering that other realm, and coming back to tell you what it’s like).  And by physical I mean stuff like serious cliff-jumping, swimming with deadly sharks, skydiving with or without a parachute, traveling to sketchy places, and just living dangerously in general.

Anyway, the cliff-jumping was utter amazingness.  It was at an old dam somewhere in the mountains of Southern California, and it’s my new favorite spot in this wretched wasteland.  The jumping was nothing; I don’t fear heights—in fact, I LOVE heights.  Here are a few pics from the adventure, and a video of me jumping.

Looking down from atop the dam.

Looking down from atop the dam.


With my old high school buddy Marcus, who brought me to this great place.

With my old high school buddy Marcus, who brought me to this great place.

No, it wasn’t the treacherous rocky cliffs that almost killed me.  It was the path back up to the road.  I was in something of a hurry, as the lovely woman I’m dating arrived sooner than I expected and the path down to the dam is far too difficult and complex for her to do solo.  So I was rushing, and wasn’t paying close attention to traveling back up the way I’d come down.

That would’ve been the smart thing to do.  Which is probably why I didn’t do it.  My dumb Polack ass.  Instead I just took the first path I found, which brought me to an EXTREMELY steep and perilous incline, 20 feet to the top.  It was mostly loose sand, with some loose rocks thrown in for extra fun.  When I say steep I mean like about as much as this:  /  (!!)  There was nothing to grab onto either—all the roots of the surrounding vegetation were tiny.  I tried going up sideways.  Lost my footing and slid down 5 feet.  Screamed obscenities.  Tossed my canvas bag up to the top—missed once and it slid back down.  It didn’t help that I also had my good camera with me, which meant a heavy over-the-shoulder case, which continually threw off my delicate grasp on balance.  I just could NOT gain purchase.  Finally I tried crawling, digging my hands into whatever bits of rock or hard soil I could find.  I made it to within 5 FEET of the top.  Then I slid all the way back down on my ass and arms and hands, scraping off skin, gathering momentum.  I only stopped myself from crashing in a heap on the rocks below by reaching out and clasping an outcrop of rock, Tom-Cruise-Mission-Impossible-2-style, near the bottom.

My arm.

My arm.



Then I went a little bit north, gushing sweat, scraped and bleeding, gasping for air, on the verge of an asthma attack and a panic attack and passing out from heat exhaustion (my water was in the bag that I threw to the top of the incline) in the 95 degree mid-day, and found a much easier way up.  By the time I got to the road and my lady friend—sitting in the turnout on the other side of the road—saw me, I could barely walk.  My arms and legs and shirt and shoes and socks were SOAKED, and caked in paste-ish dirt-mud.  I collapsed onto my knees, feeling like I was going to vomit.  After 10 minutes of rest and almost-passing-out and gasping and some lukewarm iced tea, I felt like I’d make it.  Barely.

And you know what?  I’m actually GLAD it happened.  Given that I have a depressive mind/mood, I go through many of my days not feeling much, sort of drifting, floating.  But after that short stretch of absolute terror, after looking death or at least severe E.R.-level injury in the face, and coming out on top, it made me feel ALIVE.

Now whether being alive’s a good thing or a bad thing…it depends on what minute you ask me  😉

Smitowicz Out!
BarbaricYawpingJan @JanSmitowicz


2 thoughts on “I Almost Died Today

  1. Maureen Nolan

    You’re precious, Jan. Shoots! That was one wallop of a journey. I’ve been off-computer for approx. 3 wks. What’s up with your novel? Hey, do you alternate depression with mania?

    1. Jan Smitowicz Post author

      Which novel, Orange Rain? I’m having it professionally edited for a hopefully-soon print release!! Also rounding 3rd base on typing out my prison-written animal lib epic novel called The Liberators =) I’d say no, no mania–no manic, just depressive most of the time.


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