While most people fear the unknown, I see it as an adventure. Getting on a train just to see where it takes me doesn’t faze me one bit. After all, what can happen to me on a Train to Somewhere?
My fears stem from previous unpleasant experiences. If you asked me to get in a helicopter and fly around
But if you asked me to submit to the same theatre group I’ve been banging my head up against a wall to get read at even one more time---well, I’d just curl up into my shell and claim I didn’t have anything to submit.
If you asked me to jump on a trampoline, nothing would hold me back. But if you asked me to jump down just three steps onto a cement platform----beads of sweat would start to form on my brow. I broke my jaw that way last year. That’s a big time fear. That hurt.
Essentially, if I was hurt, I don’t want to go back.
It’s like a joke a comic I know used to do in her act. “Convincing a divorced guy to get married again is like trying to get a soldier to go back to
I’d love to visit
We all have our own personal wars. Our own Waterloos. Those things in our life that were so painful and/or frightening that we never want to go back.
I’m afraid of a lot of things.
Oddly, my friends and family have always thought of me as brave.
“I can’t believe you’re moving to
“You went to
“You walked across the George Washington Bridge? You've got guts.”
Actually, I have none of the above.
I just have different fears.
Some of my fears are a little irrational---like my fear of clowns and John Davidson.
A few of my fears are somewhat more rational---like my fear of swimming in water deeper than five feet.
This particular fear stems from an incident at the YMCA. I was in fourth grade. It was winter. And a few weeks into the class, I caught pneumonia---most likely caused by leaving the Y with a wet head in December.
But the pneumonia isn’t what did it.
After I recovered, I went back to my swim class. I had a lot to make up and the instructor tried to catch me up to the rest of the class.
But I did my best and somehow managed to pass. At the end of the test, the instructor told us that we could all go to the deep end of the pool and jump off the diving board if we liked.
What? Apparently, I’d missed quite a lot those weeks I was sick. The kids who’d seemed so terrified of the water on Day One were now all rushing to the deep end of the pool as if this was going to be fun. What? Not wanting to be the coward of the bunch, I slowly followed them to the deep end.
I had this crazy idea that if I was the last person in line, perhaps---just perhaps, there might not be time for me to dive in.
But before I knew it, the kids all started diving happily into the water. Swimming around like a bunch of seals. The line got shorter and shorter and next thing you know, another line started to form behind me. These idiots wanted to do it AGAIN?!?!
I was doomed.
My skinny little bird legs were shaking as I stepped cautiously onto the diving board. The kids behind me started yelling, “Hurry up! Come on!”
I got to the edge of the diving board and looked down into the deep blue water below---much bluer than the water in the shallow end of the pool. It was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.
The instructor tried to talk me thru it. But I couldn’t hear anything she said. I started to get dizzy looking into the deep, deep blue. And then I started to feel ill. Physically ill. Then I noticed the silence. The silence that comes from that moment of hesitation. Will she or won’t she? Every eye in the pool was now on me. Waiting. Even the instructor stopped talking and just let me decide.
It was now or never. To dive or not to dive.
I took a deep breath… And then I turned around and chickened out.
There were no catcalls. The kids behind me simply raced past me to jump off the diving board. They were too busy having fun.
But I was humiliated. Why did I even get on that stupid diving board to begin with? Why did I even think I could do that? Darn that pneumonia! Darn those missed classes! Darn! Darn! Darn!
As I walked around the side of the pool, I slipped on the wet floor and just fell right into twelve feet of water.
All I remember is just flailing about under the deep blue. Skinny arms and skinny legs flapping all over the place. Trying to hold my breath. I was too scared to open my eyes. I remember my feet touching the bottom of the pool and I knew I was sunk. Literally. Suddenly, my hands caught hold of a volleyball pole that was standing upright at the edge of the pool. I grabbed onto the pole and climbed up like a blind monkey.
By this time, the instructor and the lifeguard had jumped into the water---but I had somehow managed to save myself. Not by swimming---but by climbing.
I coughed up some water and slunk away to the locker room. Humiliated. Twice in two minutes. I have never gone in deep water since.
Today, on my last day of this blog---I decide to conquer a fear. This morning, I dig out my swimsuit and pack my gym bag. I’m going to the gym. Not just to work out---but to sign up for swimming lessons.
Unfortunately, my gym card is nowhere to be found.
After over an hour of tearing thru pockets and purses, I decide to come up with another plan. To conquer some other fear.
But what? And where?
I hop on a train and get off in Midtown. If I just start walking around, surely I’ll come across a clown or John Davidson or something.
Two hours and one giant juice later, I have stumbled across no fear to conquer except the fear of mixing watermelon with wheatgrass. Nothing to be afraid of, really. Just didn’t rock my boat.
I am about to give up, when I stumble across this:
A community garden I had no idea even existed. One of those Hell’s Kitchen anomalies tucked away in the upper forties. It was adorable, and I took some pictures of the flowers with my camera.
As I started to crawl through the back underbelly of the garden, I noticed a wooden cabinet buried in the weeds. Out of curiosity, I got in closer. And then I took a step back. Oh my god. It was bees.
I’m afraid of bees. I’ve been stung twice. Once by a bee and once by a wasp. Both times hurt like hell.
But today, I was determined to conquer a fear. And since the bees were the only fear I could find in Midtown today, I crawled in with them.
While it may not look like I was very close to the hive---trust me, bees were zooming in all around me.
I remained as still as possible as I watched them crawl in and out thru the little slots. I began to wonder who took care of the bees. And did they harvest the honey? The whole thing was so fascinating that I almost forgot I was surrounded by bees.
As I left the garden, I heard some kids talking on the sidewalk outside.
“You wanna go in there?”
“No! That’s where the bees are!”
I felt good. Pretty darned good. While I can’t say I’ll be applying for apiary jobs anytime soon---it was nice to know that I had the courage to face the bees. For about five minutes. From a distance of three feet.
Sure, it wasn’t much. But then, I didn’t plan this day very well. I didn’t plan to walk across the
On the other side, is
In the early silent days,
Here is a photo I took of the cliffs the day I walked across the bridge.
And here is a photo of Pearl White shooting an episode of The Perils of Pauline in that same area.
The word “cliffhanger” actually comes from these very cliffs. The serial films that would show the damsel in distress hanging from a cliff or tied to the railroad tracks with the train fast approaching. The editor would cut the film just at the moment of suspense hoping to get the nickelodeon audience to return the next week. Although, as a total geek note---the earliest “cliffhangers” (like The Perils of Pauline) actually resolved the scary drama by the end of the reel.
Pearl White, looking back on her early film career once said, “I've done a million stunts. I've been hurt over and over again. But it never happened when what I was doing looked really dangerous.”
Sure, I was afraid of the bees. But what was I REALLY afraid of?
A few minutes later, I walked into a diner.
I ordered a tuna sandwich.
And I sat down to write.
And what I write is the most dangerous thing I have ever attempted.