Las Vegas, NV
April 9, 2022 @ 2:15 AM
Well, that happened.
PRIME’s first big show of the Troy era already had the glowing reviews rolling in in the early hours of Saturday, and for the entire runtime I could be found in catering. Seems my sheer force of personality and all around jovial nature didn’t warrant the front office making sure this wasn’t the first broadcast on the ACE Network to not feature your humble narrator. Still, I figure it was better than getting chucked into some clusterfuck of a spectacle to get lost in the shuffle, or worse, lose.
Yeah, after I made my early exit from the Almasy Invitational, I looked at the calendar and penciled in my plans for a celebration just appropriate enough for the je ne sais quoi of Teddy Palmer, only to bust out the eraser when Ted got left with eGG on his face, courtesy some jackoff with a horseshoe up his ass, and in his boot. Still, there was a golden ticket and brass rings to be had tonight. Efforts, however valiant, showed short and it was my best bud staring skyward for the important three seconds.
The whole night just a shambles. You’d think I could take some small solace in a fellow Canuck winning the big strap, but then you’re probably an ignorant American who only thinks of Canadians as ultra-polite hockey players that all live on farmland buried by snow for eight months of the year.
It was all I could do to look forward, but that was the sour cherry atop the turd sundae; those contract talks caught a terminal case of mismatched expectations, gone colder than the remnants of the fried chicken and cornbread waffle I pushed around the plate.
Spying the server making rounds, I ask, “Cheque please.’
I get a nod from her, and cast my eyes about my fellow patrons.
Finally on his way back to the table, I greet, “I was beginning to worry you fell in, Grady,” at a distance just far enough, and a voice just loud enough to earn some scorn from the snake himself.
“Drole,” he slides back in, eyes glued to his cell.
“Anything worth sharing?”
“Not yet,” he leaves me to wonder what scheme he’s moved to now, but I’d probably be happiest to not be co-conspirator to.
“Here ya go, hun,” the mid-forties server plops the bill and a handful of breath mints at the edge of the table.
Cheque settled, and balance refused, I turn to Grady, “You about ready to head out?”
A non-committal, “Ehhhhh,” is what I get back.
Grabbing the duffel bag previously shoved into the corner of my booth, I stand. “Flight’s in an hour twenty. I don’t want to get caught running through McCarran, again.”
“Yeah,” he’s playing at something, but I don’t have the time.
“Good. Let’s get going, shall we?”
“Alex?” some mark stands in the way of my exfil.
“Sorry kid, no time for a selfie,” I try to shove past.
“Red,” Grady begs.
“Do you mind?” not entertained with this dance in the aisle.
“You are Alex, right?” the well-dressed yuppy is trying to get a handshake.
“Yeah, and I’m late for a redeye the Hell outta this desert, so, again, if you could just stand to one side.”
“Red, this was the guy I was waiting for,” Grady’s caginess makes some sense now.
“Leopold White,” and again with the damn handshake.
“Good for you. Grady, explain.”
“It was Ted’s idea,” the rat immediately flips. “This guy comes highly recommended. He’s supposed to be this sports guru guy,” Grady can’t even sell, motioning to the peacock still standing in my way.
“Sports Psychologist,” this Mr. White corrects his title. “And your friend Ted is very concerned for you. In our brief conversation, he relayed how he is worried that you are ‘shitting the bed’ as he put it.”
Not sure whether or not to drop this fresh faced dork, I turn back to Grady.
“And Ted might have already paid up front.”
“Non-refundable?” I am praying to Providence Ted didn’t waste too much money on this headshrinker.
“Quite,” Leopold and Grady try motioning me back to the booth. “Or, are you happy being winless here?”
“Alright,” I say sitting opposite my opposition, “Do you have a card, or something? I can lie and tell you I’ll definitely be trying to set something up for my next visit, God knowing whenever that may be.”
“I am sorry Alex, my schedule is pretty full. I have blocked off the next couple of days to work on your case,” I can’t tell if he’s bluffing.
“I’m sorry,” I am not, but still, “who in the exact fuck are you?”
Grady seems curious too. Con artists, the lot.
“Dr. Leopold White, Sports Psychologist, and quite the YouTube star in the self-help space. I am working on this book chronicling and detailing the differences between elite athletes and the average try hard.”
“Uh huh,” I think better of asking where on that division I land.
“Did you want to take this somewhere more private? Your hotel room, perhaps,” he tries to clarify, noticing the cutlery not yet cleared from the table I have a hand hovering over. “It is just that these talks can get a little sensitive and I think you’d be more open away from prying eyes.”
“Listen, Lenny, I don’t know what they told you, but that ain’t how this works.”
“I am sorry, I was led to believe that all members of the PRIME roster had rooms at the MGM Grand.”
“Oh, they do,” I can see this needs more explanation. “I am not exactly a member of the PRIME roster. It’s all handshakes and professionalism in this uncanny valley of appearance by appearance contracts. I fly in, work the show, fly out. I am technically a vagrant.”
“Oh,” I think Mr. White is catching some of the tension radiating between Grady and I.
”So just ask your questions.”
“Alright. When was the last time you had sex?”
Boulder City Municipal Airport
Boulder City, NV
April 9, 2022 @ 10:25 AM
This was my first sunrise in Nevada. Four hours later and the desert was already at a balmy 87 degrees.
After a room secured, and awkward conversation had, Leopold departed our company, with the promise we’d meet here. A solid four hours of shuteye and short shuttle ride from The Strip saw us to the airfield.
“Alex! Grady! This way, over here,” I didn’t think it possible for a man today to have two paisley shirts, but I think the whole point of Dr. White’s attire was that he couldn’t be missed.
“What do you think I am looking at, jail time, if I was to shove the good doctor into a jet engine?” the idle chit chat as Grady and I make ourselves through this rather populated tourist trap.
“I’m glad you guys made it. Honestly, I was a little afraid Alex would try to run away,” a fair guess, if I was to tell the truth.
“What’s the idea of bringing me to an airport that doesn’t fly international?” he hadn’t bothered to divulge this part of his process in last night’s session.
“Everybody, thank you for coming! We’re glad to have you at Skydive Las Vegas. We’ll be heading up in ten. Please fill out and return the paperwork to the desk if you haven’t already,” calls out this jarhead at the head of the unorganized mass.
“Well,” Leo walks us to grab clipboards and the pens attached with string, “I think you can guess. I told you last night, this was about pushing you into uncomfortable positions and learning how you react.Growth is about the struggle.”
“Character gets revealed at your lowest point not your greatest, etc? Same stuff my old man would tell me as a kid,” I am busy signing my autograph that I hope won’t become valued as my last. “I didn’t think you could get a doctorate in fortune cookie wisdom.”
“Is he always this hard headed?” Grady gets asked.
A short laugh Grady returns, the dramatic irony, the Doc not capable of understanding just how stubborn an ass I can be at times.
“I am here to help, remember,” back to me. “We’re going to push through that blockage,” or die trying he leaves out. “It’s about meeting your fears head-on, not avoiding and staying stunted.”
“I have absolutely no idea what the correlation between staring down a 6’5” demon of a man trying to knock your head off your shoulders and jumping out a plane has, but you’re the one with post-grad, right? Say, Doc, just for peace of mind, who else have you worked with?” I have to lean in to get heard over the growing anxious chatter.
“Well, I can’t exactly name names, but did you check out the YouTube page I told you about?”
Did he see me roll my eyes?
“Two million subscriptions,” he crows, leaving me wondering if I’d be spending this much time with an influencer. “And a particular member of the NFL that may have had some issues visiting New York last season..”
“Oh shit! A.B.?” I laugh, a resignation that might have outdone any of my prior bridge burnings. “You worked with that space cadet?”
“Guys, if I could have your attention again! Please follow Miles,” he points to the other ex-service member, “and we’ll begin gearing up and loading the plane.”
“Grady?” I motion.
“Oh no, this is about you, right? I’ll meet you guys at the LZ,” he shies away from the push of the fifty some folks making the way to get fitted up.
“Again, it is okay to feel a little apprehensive, Alex. This is about facing your fears so you know how to overcome them, the good doctor keeps at a close enough distance.
“That waver was longer than any contract I’ve ever signed for any promotion. And I mean, look at this crowd. Do they even have enough planes?” I stop, stepping onto the tarmac to see the Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” sitting at the ready. “Woah.”
13,000 ft above Boulder City
Boulder City, NV
April 9, 2022 @ 10:55AM
I hate the pressure changes every time I fly. I am fortuitous enough to be chomping on a stick of Extra spearmint, but it doesn’t stop the odd pop and crackle. Looking over to Leo, his knees bounce up and down.
“Are you doing good, Doc?” Maybe it’s just being attached to another human being.
“Uhh,” he takes a moment to steady his nerves, “Yes, entirely. This is about. About getting you to face. Face your fears,” he tugs at the collar of that paisley button up
“Can I ask how many times you’ve done this?” I shake with the brief gust of turbulence.
“You are kind of a trial run, full disclosure.”
“Oh,” and I don’t know what I should have expected.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the head of this outfit, who’s flight suit reads ‘Shane,’ calls attention to himself, “We are in a holding pattern over our desired jumping area. In a minute we will be dropping the tailgate. In an orderly fashion we will begin directing you to exit. You all have headsets, we’ll be in communication. And remember, enjoy yourselves!”
I am pulling out my cell phone, scrolling through Spotify to find the appropriate accompaniment, when I get the tap on the shoulder.
“Jumper, get ready. Please stand,” I do and he helps unhook me from the mesh walls. “Any questions?”
“All good, boss,” I smile, settling on the classic Tom Petty playlist.
Here’s where the Doctor clocks on. “Wait, where is his instructor? I thought this was tandem jumping?”
“Correct, jumper. First time skydivers are paired with an experienced member of our team,” Shane is matter-of-fact about it.
“And he isn’t a first time jumper?” his face is turning a pale green.
“Information on Mr. Redding here says this is his 16th jump.”
The back loading bay opens to the blue skies, and Shane gives me the nod.
“I’ll see ya back on land, Doc,” I part and step out into the open air.
13,000 feet and down.
It never gets old, this feeling out, reaching out, in every direction trying to get level. Once you do, you’ve got little more to do than look at the majesty of Providence’s work.
At this height, it’s forty-five seconds of free fall.
Seems Troy has cast me among a battle between a cult and a zealot. I know I haven’t seen the totality of this hate-kin, but what we’ve already seen seems like two hulks happy to lay lumps on, and bleed blood from one another.
And the thing of it is, I know she doesn’t care. I am set dressing. The way it was announced in the post-show scrum read as an afterthought. The placement on the card. Get the big man some impact and let the fireworks fly.
I know I gave the Doc a hard time for all the platitudes, but in my travels I’ve found one I don’t mind sharing with you all:
Be who you can afford to be.
It’s been used to justify that talent grants patience. Assholes can be suffered if they draw. Wealth is some sort of measure of worth. But that ain’t it.
To me, ‘Be who you can afford to be,’ simply means that you cannot accept that which you cannot abide.
If I am ever going to start matching up expectations, I’ll have to be much more clearer on exactly who Alexander Redding is, if not Your WIlling Villain.
“Jumper 1, deploy shoot.”
Going three losses without a win, I don’t think it much matters the difference if I get mothballed.
“Jumper 1, repeat, deploy shoot.”
So this 6’5” redwood is in my path. Nothing but thorns to cut with and roots to trip with. Nothing to do but grab the hatchet and start swinging.
Or I could work smarter.
A chainsaw cuts quicker.
A fire burns as it dances and spreads.
Explosives would make for a short but exciting show.
“Jumper 1, deploy shoot! Now! Now! Now!”
The fall slows greatly from here on down. You have to shut your mouth to avoid eating the bugs.
I’m ready to shut a few mouths, the ones of worry and ignorance. The patronizing bullshit I will not abide.
Mr. Mephisto, bring your best. Solomon Richards, stay the Hell away, or don’t. I can work with chaos, but I can’t work it clean.
Learning to fly without wings is just about how fast you hit the ground to decide whether or not you walk away.
When I hit the ground, I’ll have a plan to get back to work.
It’s just what villains do.