Please note: I apologize (by which I mean "I am displeased that you are displeased, but I admit no wrong-doing") for the GTKY-ish leanings of this writeup. To nudge it away from the realm of twaddle content and into the respectable category of tourist guide, I have thoughtfully included directions to the safety hazard in question at the end.

A cautionary tale, in three acts.

Act I: The Hard Landing

Two weeks ago, I jumped off a cliff. Vruba and I were wandering around Fort Worden, when we came to a platform on a large cliff overlooking the ocean. In war time, a small concrete bunker nearby had housed a large search light, which was hauled to the edge of the cliff on train tracks, and used to scan the waters of Puget Sound for enemy vessels. Pacing along the tracks, we spied a small path leading off into the woods. Following it quickly lead us down the cliff, clinging for dear life to the sparse trees, sometimes leaping from one to another monkey style; the youth of the Pacific Northwest are dumb, but brave, and tend toward having good reflexes. The trees themselves were perched somewhat precariously, growing from the near-vertical wall of dirt and moss, but thankfully they held.

In this manner, we climbed about two thirds of the way down to the beach (leaving us about 60 feet yet to go), at which point we found ourselves out of viable downward climbing, and unable to clamber back the way we'd come due to an overabundance of mud. Fortunately, our curiosity seems to have an easy time overriding our self-preservation instincts; when we spied a large sand pit below us and to the left, we carefully inched our way over -- and jumped.

What a rush! We were roughly fifty feet up and the cliff face was closer to vertical than any sane human would consider safe. A ten foot free fall, some skillful run-hopping, and a lot of adrenaline found us suddenly at the edge of the water, screaming like gods or extremely boastful ninja.

It was so great, we went back the next day, this time with my sister Spatula and her friend Armed Robbery* along for the ride (thank random they came away unharmed). Unfortunately for me, two very important variables had changed since the previous day's stunt:

We lined up above the sand pit, and I jumped first (to prove it was safe). Another exhilarating free fall, bracing for my feet to impact, and... crunch!

Hmm... that wasn't my feet. Let's see... brain intact. Spine good. Ass? Yep, that's it. Obscenity!

After a few nanoseconds, I went back to concentrating on my continuing downward travel, then spent several minutes at the bottom contemplating my error. Eventually I managed to stand up, and moved to make room for Spatula, Armed Robbery, and Vruba to have their turns. I had a gut-wrenching moment when Spatula, halfway down, went head first into a roll, but she made it to the bottom with no worse than a slightly bruised rib (I can see now that I was wrong to mock her study of Aikido). Armed Robbery chickened out and made for the harder but shorter drop to some bushes, then scrambled down the sand once she'd bypassed the 10 foot drop. Vruba, immortal that he is, executed a flawless landing.

Once everyone was at the bottom, I casually inquired as to how one knows when one has broken one's fucking tail bone. I ran a few self-diagnostics, including sitting, standing again, walking, running, and climbing rocks and metal pipes on bunkers. It hurt like hell, but at least I was still mobile. Unfortunately, my skeletal functionality wasn't much of a relief; apparently, a broken coccyx (don't laugh) doesn't necessarily impede movement, and can easily go overlooked.

The pain got increasingly worse for about three days, to the point where standing or sitting was an agonizing chore. Eventually it started getting better, and now it only hurts a whole lot.

Act II: The Bruised... Ego

Today I finally visited my friendly neighborhood practitioner of chiropractic medicine. She poked, prodded, adjusted and manipulated, then took some x-rays (I got to see my own spine... yeah!). While looking at the x-rays, she sort of muttered to herself...

"You'll be fine. Hmm... well... no, that's not... ah, but here... oh, no, you said that... and... you'll... well, hmm... yeah... you'll be fine."

At first glance, this might seem a wee bit disconcerting, but I've become familiar with the particular process these sounds indicate. This is the exact ritual a computer geek/engineer goes through when he has been posed a question, and rather than give you a quick (but educated) answer, she is seriously considering the matter, running full mental simulations of all the possible scenarios. It was extremely reassuring.

The good news was that my coccyx (I said stop laughing) was not broken, just terribly bruised. After four to six unpleasant weeks I should be fine, and overall my spine is in doctor-certified excellent shape. Take that, teachers who yelled at me for slouching!

Act III: The Non-Sequitur

On the way home, the rear-view mirror, the sun, and my glasses aligned in such a way as to superimpose an image of my lower jaw on the reflection of my face, providing the illusion of a mouth embedded in my forehead. I kept glancing in the mirror and making satisfied grunting noises, like my forehead had just received a massage or finished a really good meal. It's possible the fall has me a little rattled, but I doubt it. Heh. Forehead mouth.

The moral of the story, kids:

If all your friends jump off a cliff, go ahead; after all, they are your friends, and you trust 'em, right? Besides, if you're simply careful to go last, you can always glance over the edge and see how they faired. Just don't tempt fate by doing it twice, and make sure you have decent health insurance.

As promised, here are directions to the cliff: Driving through the main gate at Fort Worden, take the first left and head past the pavilion to the lower gate (which is almost always locked). Stop just short of the gate, and park by the trail head on your right. Walk up the trail for a mile or two. When you come to a fork in the road, take the right. Continue walking past the first bunker (dedicated to Samuel somethingerother, I think). At this point, you'll be walking up a fairly steep hill. Near the top of the hill, on your left, you should see a smaller bunker installation with a concrete balcony overlooking the cliff. Walk halfway out to the balcony, then turn right and follow the subtle trail through the woods, leading out to the cliff face. From here you'll really have to work it out for yourself. If you bear to the left a bit as you near the cliff, you should soon find yourself dangling over a sloping sand pit. Good luck.

Disclaimer: Pseudomammal is not responsible for any injury or death resulting from reading about or attempting to recreate the foolish actions described above.

Certificate of authenticity: If you search long enough, you may stumble upon an older, lamer version of this writeup on the web. This is not plagiarized -- I wrote that, back when I was young and stupid enough to jump off cliffs. Man, last month was great.

*names changed to protect the guilty.

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