This may cause some surprise and maybe even alarm to those of you who saw me attempt acrobatics before, but I have performed what may have been my best acrobat work to date this last Saturday.
I was at the 2015 Celebratory Start of the Iditarod in Anchorage, Alaska and since I was a tourist and new to these things, I was taking pictures of everything. I was enthralled with the romance of one of the wildest, most adventuresome races on the face of the earth and it was always one of my boyhood dreams to witness it.
As it turns out, it was about thirty five degrees (above freezing for the less astute readers) on Saturday, and nature, being a cruel mother, took all of Alaska’s allotted snow and dumped it on Boston, leaving Alaska without any. This made sled dog racing a little cumbersome and unwieldy. But, the Iditarod is almost a religion in Alaska with the mushers garnering as much attention and gossip as your typical NFL player. The show had to go on. After 350 dump truck loads of snow was dumped along the route of the celebratory start, the show did, indeed, go on.
The festivities included free hot dogs, chili, and coffee handed out by one of the race’s sponsors. There were propane heaters set up with people huddled around them, assuring each other that their favorite teams were going to win this year. Soon some of the first teams trotted through with much barking from the sled dogs and hurrahs from the crowd. I know some people think making sled dogs haul you around on a sled is cruel, but the dogs love it. In fact, one of the first things they tell you about sled dogs is that you never, ever leave your sled and your team without first tying your sled to a tree. The dogs hate stopping and if they decide to leave without you, they won’t come back!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yea, my acrobatic performance. So the melting snow made huge puddles all around the track of snow. The cool thing about the Iditarod is that it’s pretty casual. All the spectators were right up against the trail and high fiving the mushers was a thing of tradition. Fans even gave their favorite mushers goodie bags full of food and goodies. So there I was, right up against the track, standing with one leg stretched out in front of me, toes extended like a ballerina out onto a tiny island in the middle of a sizable mud puddle, and the other planted on a hill slick with a thin coat of mud.
Now to appreciate the fervor of my acrobatic performance, you must understand that my camera literally cost more than my car. That means two things: my camera is expensive and my car is a piece of junk.
With that in mind, try to follow my performance as I describe it in great detail:
I think to myself, “How cool would it be to have some videos of the teams going through?”
“Pretty cool,” I answer myself.
I reach into my pants pocket to get my cell phone, the choice equipment of amateur YouTube stars everywhere. I squeeze a finger into my pocket and find that my pockets are stretched tight because of my legs, which were stretched like a shaky bipod over a small chasm of water.
“Hmm…” I couldn’t easily jump to the shore of the ocean puddle because people were lined all around it. “No problem.” I stick the lens of my SLR into the crook of my elbow and use one hand to hold open my pocket while the other dives deep to recover the stuck cell phone. My foot that was planted solidly on a slick mud bank starts to creep slowly down. I wave my elbows to balance myself and notice that one elbow suddenly felt a lot lighter.
It’s funny how time slows down sometimes.
I glance out of the corner of my eyes, which were previously concentrating on finding a place to reposition my ballerina toes, and see my camera hurtling towards the ocean puddle beneath me. I go to grab it but my large, panic stricken eyes are distorting my depth perception. My hand ricochets off the lens, my fingers grasping the edges of the camera body but not quite grasping it enough. At this point I’m falling sideways, my tiptoes practically useless. I quickly switch stance while my camera is in free fall, deftly planting a foot on each side of the puddle, a distance I previously thought I could not straddle without some major muscle damage. I lunged for the camera again and managed to hit it with my knuckles, only accelerating it towards certain doom. At this point, my eyes were so large that they formed their own gravitational pull that was so strong it competed with gravity and slowed the camera down a bit.
At this point a virtual hush descended upon the crowd, the type of muffled sharp inhale that usually precedes some sort of apparent disaster. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, or, in this case, a camera hit a puddle.
KER-PLOP! My camera nailed the puddle straight and true, right in the deep spot. I grabbed the camera, which was only several inches below my rear end due to my hyper-extended legs, so fast that the water didn’t have time to fully recede.
The crowd exhaled and expressed their condolences. I tried to laugh it off and saunter away like nothing unusual had happened. I mean, come on, I drop my camera in puddles all the time. My saunter wasn’t on game, however, since my legs had the sauntering capability of a stretched taffy.
I took apart my camera and let it sit for a day. It soon worked like a champ. I won’t, however, be performing that particular routine again. Sorry. My one spectacular performance that defied physics and you didn’t even see it. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.