Warning: Let me warn you that this blog entry is morbid in nature. If discussion of dead bodies bothers you, stop reading now.
Usually when I use the term "bridge jumper" I refer to a bet like the no safety in the Superbowl. They call them bridge jumpers because you have to lay about 8 to 1 odds. If you win, which you expect to do, you mostly just get your own money back, so it doesn't mean much to you. However, when you lose, you feel like jumping off a bridge. Especially after the fourth safety in seven consecutive Super Bowls, but that is another story.
On Sunday I saw the body of a real life bridge jumper. I was doing the Black Canyon kayak trip, which Lisa wrote an article about in 2009. This trip is one of my favorite activities in Vegas and I highly recommend it for anybody who is in decent shape. This was about the 5th time I've done it, this time with my boot camp group.
When Desert Adventures took us down to the launch site at 6:00 AM I helped carry the kayaks from the trailer to the beach. Most guests helped to carry their own kayak but some were not strong enough so I made multiple trips. Meanwhile, everybody else was evidently claiming one and launching. In the end, there were about 25 guests and 24 spots in the kayaks. Guess who didn't get one? The guy who was the most helpful lugging them to the beach. File that under no good deed goes unpunished.
The staff was very apologetic and said they had never seen that happen before. After making some calls, they said they would have to take me back to the Hoover Dam Lodge and I could launch with the 7:00 AM group. Due to dam rules, I could not just wait by the beach by myself. Without any choice, that is what I did. Let the record show that the company later sent me an Email saying they put a $65 credit in my name towards a future trip (the total cost is around $100).
When I finally get back to the spot I started a couple in a tandem kayak from the 6:00 AM group was just off the shore and warned us there was a dead body floating in the river. The staff let me go first and I said I didn't mind the dead body in the river. The 6:00 AM couple suggested I stay far to the left of the river if I didn't want to get close to the body.
About five minutes later, I saw a lump floating in the river. Per the advice I was given, I paddled around it as far as I could and at a pretty good speed. There was no way to tell it was a human body from this distance but I assumed that it was.
I then met up with the rest of my group and we took a side trip to the Gold Strike hot spring. The hot spring was totally washed out, by the way, due to recent flash floods. This was true of the other two hot springs along the trip as well. However, we still spent about an hour exploring up the canyon, hoping to find a pool deep enough to sit in, but never did. During this hour the dead body was quite the topic of conversation. I felt a bit left out of it because I went by it so far and fast. Eventually, with a 4:00 deadline to keep in mind, we got back in our kayaks.
Shortly after more paddling downstream I notice a familiar looking lump floating in the water. Sure enough it was Mr. Body* again. He floated past Gold Strike Canyon while were were exploring it, giving us the opportunity for a second viewing. After hearing so much talk about it I couldn't resist getting a close look this second time around.
So I trepidly got closer and closer until I could at least see that it was a human being. His position was back in the air and his face turned at an angle away from me and half in the water. From this point, I could see he had nappy** dark hair, indicating that he was probably black. I then looked into the crystal clear water and could see bloated legs and an arm dangling there. The only clothing that I could tell were cargo shorts. About 75% of his skin had peeled off, revealing a morbid pale layer under the skin. The legs and arms were at unnatural angles that not even the highest yoga masters would be able to achieve. There could be no other likely explanation to his death than jumping off the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is just south of the Hoover Dam. I suspect his bones and joints were all shattered in the fall, explaining why his bloated extremities were at very unnatural angles. At least I couldn't see the face, which fortunately remained turned away from me.
I heard that another guest called 911 to report the body when it was seen the first time. About two hours after this call would have been made a ranger boat came up the river at a fairly high speed with a siren visibly but not audibly on. A pontoon boat followed it but that may have just been a coincidence. From a distance we watched two or three people in the ranger boat get out what was either a huge orange tarp or bag and try to scoop up the body with it. We were rather far away so it was hard to tell how they were going to go about it. After about ten minutes later we headed back down the river while they were still evidently fussing with the the orange tarp/bag. I imagine they would have needed a crane to lift the body into the boat as it was obviously very bloated, which I think ranger boats are equipped with.
Sometime much later in the afternoon we saw what looked like the same ranger boat heading downriver. I couldn't tell if it was the same boat that scooped up the body as they probably have more than one at Willow Beach that look the same. There was no sign of the big orange tarp/bag on it. Back at Willow Beach the guides who picked us up said that he was indeed a bridge jumper. They were apologetic that we had to see that but it clearly wasn't their fault. The driver of my passenger van said that he has encountered dead bodies before on the trip but they were always stuck on the side of the river somewhere and this was the first time one was just floating down in the middle. The news doesn't mention jumpers from the bridge much. I tend to think the Park Service likes to keep such stories quiet.
After the day's adventure, my boot camp group stopped at the Boulder Dam Brewing Company, where we had much deserved beers and bar food. There we made a toast to "Bob," a name another guest attributed to Mr. Jumper. Another guest shared some very close shots he took of the body. I took only a few from a far distance but these photos were taken within a few feet of the body and saw more disturbing angles than I saw earlier, including his ear, which looked tiny compared to the bloated head it was on. No, I didn't ask for copies, which would have been easy to send me as the pictures were taken with a cell phone. Very clear and colorful pictures too, taken with a late model Android. They made the body look more morbid than it really was. After dinner we all went back to our respective homes with a good story to tell.
* Mr. Body is also the name used to refer to the murder victim in the board game Clue. ** I hope this term is still politically correct. To those who disagree, please read Happy to Be Nappy.
I'm scared of heights to some degree and I have to think this would be the last way I would ever pick to try and commit suicide. I wonder if such a person before such despair hits was also afraid of heights, but at this point the fear has gone away?
Decomposition of bodies in water was part of the Smiley Face murders theory. This person you saw might not have actually been a jumper, but nobody will ever know if it wasn't because so much evidence is lost. I've heard jumpers always regret it, survivors say. I'd have not gone down river if I'd had known a dead body was there, I couldn't handle seeing something so tragic.
About the cause of death, that is what the guides said when they picked us up. Occam's Razor would suggest the same thing. I also heard when someone drowns they initially sink but eventually bob up to the surface. I'm tempted to add a picture of the floating body. It was taken from a distance but if you zoom in it rather morbid. Probably won't.
I have heard that survivors from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, and I think about 10% do, later expressed feeling regret on the way down. Then again, maybe that is just an urban legend. I've also heard there are more suicides around Christmas but Snopes says it isn't true.
Personally, if I ever take my own life, and I probably will if I'm diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or something else involving a long protracted death that causes me to be a burden on my family, it will be pills for me.
One of my biggest interests outside of gambling is collecting license plates. I had a small collection going starting in high school I believe. However, around 1985 I discovered that there is a who club for license plate collectors, known as the ALPCA, which stands for Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. I quickly joined and my collection swelled in size from about 20 license plates to about 1,500 today.
I'm not as active as I used to be, for lack of time, but do bid on plates on Ebay a few times a month and usually attend the annual "Silver State" meet, which is always held at or near Vegas. Every year there is one big national meet in a location that bounces around the country from year to year, tending to favor the east coast. However, when they announced that the 2017 national meet would be in Ontario California, in the boring outskirts of Los Angeles, I couldn't resist attending for at least a day. I was due to visit my mother anyway, who also lives a bit south of Los Angeles. In my 32 years with the club I had only been to two national meets before, which were in Chattanooga and Reno, I believe in 1992 and 2013 respectively.
Where I am at with my collection is I have almost everything I need from California and Nevada, which is where my emphasis is. What little I don't have is very hard to find. This meet I found nothing that filled in any missing pieces. However, I didn't want to leave empty handed so purchased some international plates. I by no means claim I'm trying to get a license plate from every country, but do try to add some new countries to my collection from time to time, especially if it is from Central America, the Caribbean, one of the micro-countries in the Pacific Ocean, or a country that westerners seldom travel to.
In that end, here are some I picked up this year. Click on any image for a larger version.
Cuba is a difficult country where it may be easy to acquire a license plate once you're there but it is difficult to get them out of the country. Customs will seize them if they catch you trying to take one out. Note they are of the size and simple style used in the US in the 60's and 70's.
Haiti is another tough country to get. I've been next door in the Dominican Republic recently, where local license plates were plentiful in souvenir shops. However, whenever I asked about plates from Haiti everyone just shook their heads.
I don't know much about Saint Eusatius except that it is a very small island in the Caribbean and I believe a self-governing possession of the Netherlands. Plates from there are not often seen at the collectors meets, I suspect because the population is only 3,193, according to Wikipedia.
This is a Palau license plate I've had for years. I consider it one of the most beautiful license plates ever made. Little did I know that Palau has 16 states, I think 11 of which issue their own license plate. By the way, if you're wondering where you've head of Palau, Survivor did seasons 10 and 16 there.
Above are some I just acquired from most of the states of Palau. They now follow the standard 6" by 12" size made of aluminum.
Finally, on a much different note, here is one I would file under very difficult "enemy state" countries to get license plates out of us. The owner said his source there mysteriously disappeared. Hopefully not for anything to with license plates. Coincidentally, on the same day I purchased this plate, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for a temporary compromise on the attempted ban from travel from six majority Muslim countries, including Somalia.
Thank you for sharing. I collect tickets from sporting events I have attended over the years. And I have found, much like license plates I suppose, technology is changing them and making them much more boring. In the case of tickets, it's not very exciting to collect a print-at-home ticket.
I saw a license plate with simply the word "mulatto"on it in Pennsylvania last year by Pittsburgh. I'd have guessed such a term wouldn't get approved but it was. Wonder how much money that person could make by just selling their plates and continually reordering.
Below is my speech for the funeral mass of Dan Lubin.
First, let me say that I'm very grateful to be asked say a few words about Daniel Lubin. My name is Michael Shackleford. Like many people in the world of eccentric world of Dan Lubin, I worked in the business of new table games. It could not be avoided that Dan I would run into each other as there is a lot of overlap in what we do, helping wide-eyed casino game inventors become the next millionaire in the feast or famine world creating new casino games. A business where a small few have made fortunes but where the vast majority gave it the old college try only to singing the blues and going back to their day jobs.
As I recall, I first got to know Dan personally in February of 2012 when I put together a motley crew to make some gambling instructional videos. At the time Dan was a member of my forum at WizardOfVegas.com and as I recall he headed my call for somebody to play the role of the dealer in the videos. Dan kindly volunteered. I explained to Dan that I didn't know how long it would take and renumeration would be based on loosely on time. He seemed to feel uncomfortable talking about money and said that whatever I felt was fair would be fine.
On the morning of the shoot I met Dan face to face for the first time. Dan seemed tired as he was squeezing this gig in between shifts at the casino but was nevertheless enthusiastic and rose to the occasion. In fact, he rose a bit too high. As soon as the cameras were on he quickly upstaged me, who was supposed to be the star. He could have been asked a simple question like how the player should make a Hard Way bet and it would turn into 15 minutes of the etiquette of making every single proposition bet.
Yes, Dan could be quite a talker. My editor must have hours of unused footage of Dan explaining the minutiae of craps, pai gow poker, three card poker, and blackjack. He truly loved to help people and delighted in explaining the details of how to play and deal almost any casino game.
Dan was not just helpful and verbous in person but also online. He was one of the most active members at my forum at WizardOfVegas.com. There, he could be found expounding all things relating to gambling. The forum was a magnet for both game inventors as well as advantage players. Dan had a very strong opinion that casino gambling was meant to be fun and recreational for which the player's ultimately paid a price through the house edge. He felt that advanced techniques to beat a game such a card counting or hole carding were cheating because they exploited information the player wasn't intended to know or remember.
Suffice it to say that pretty much nobody agreed with this position on the forum. This made him a lightning rod for criticism and often worse. Through the many arguments on such topics, Dan always kept his cool. He never made it personal. He always listened to the other side and fought fair. In his roughly 5,800 posts, only once did he break the rules with a borderline insult, and we police the forum for such rule infractions carefully.
It would be easy to say that Dan was a loyal and good friend to many. In the bizarro world of casino game inventors, Dan was friendly with just about everybody. He was quick to welcome a newcomer with advice on the getting his game from a diagram on a cocktail napkin to the casino floor. In fact, that is the subtitle of his recent book, The Essentials of Casino Game Design. Dan had to know there would probably be a limited interest in such a niche business but that wouldn't have deterred him. He truly liked helping people and appreciated the details of a well-crafted casino game.
I'm sure the many people Dan helped started out as strangers to Dan and ended up friends. As far as I know, he never charged for his services and probably disliked even talking about it. Those who Dan helped were also potential competitors, as Dan never stopped inventing casino games himself, hoping lightning would strike twice after his success with EZ Pai Gow Poker.
Dan's endless energy and enthusiasm were often the topic of jokes when he wasn't in the room. Like how he seemed to always wear the same shirt. Or how his hair always seemed messy and overdue for a haircut. Or how he smiled and tilted his head, like Groucho Marx, when finally made his point and gave someone else a chance to talk.
But, for as much talking as Dan did, he didn't talk about himself very much. For the benefit of his Vegas friends in attendance, here are the highlights of Dan's life before his moved to Las Vegas in 2005.
Dan was born in 1960 in New York City, making him 56 at the time of his death. He went to high school at the prestigious New York School of Performing Arts as an oboeist. As the father of an oboe player, I can tell you it is difficult instrument to sound good. However, Dan was always up for a challenge and I'm sure delighted in mastering one of the more obscure instruments.
Dan then went onto graduate from the Metropolitan College of New York with a degrees in accounting, business, and computer science. After this Dan worked as a high school math teach for a time. He also served in the army reserve as a mathematician. He explained to me that his job was largely to aim long range artillery to hit the desired target. However, he spent most of his pre-Vegas working career as a mainframe programmer in some obscure programming language I never heard of. When Dan's job eventually got outsourced to India, I wouldn't be surprised if Dan saw it as a blessing in disguise.
Much like myself, I don't think Dan is a cubicle kind of guy. Although I didn't know him yet, I could see him excited to move to Las Vegas to pursue his dreams creating new table games. Here he would become a character among characters. Easy to imitate but impossible to replace. While here in Vegas Dan married his wife Prapaisri in 2008. In addition to his ventures in the gaming business, he also ran a Thai massage parlor with his wife. I knew Dan for many years before he mentioned being Catholic. He evidently forgot to update his Facebook page as it lists his religious views as "infidel" and his favorite quotes are full of those by religious skeptics.
With Dan's passing we've lost a one of a kind man who left us much too soon.
I'd like to close with a quote of Dan's from his Facebook page, "The gaming industry is a great and legitimate industry of very fine people - with a lot of rudeness, fools, and cliques. Obey - but doubt - what the floorman tells you."
When I actually got up there I forgot to put on my glasses and pretty much ad-libbed it. I left out the part about what Dan did before moving to Vegas because the priest covered that earlier in the mass. Here is a video taken of my speech. Not my finest public speaking moment but it is what it is.
In my pursuits to get Scossa off the ground, I had a few interactions with Dan. He was very complimentary, 'constructively' critical, but genuinely realistic with his feedback and encouragement. His insight was very valuable...not to mention...kind. May he rest in peace.
I just got back from a one-week trip to Mexico. The main purpose was to climb the first and third highest mountains of Mexico. After climbing the third highest, Iztaccihuatl, I got sick, and called off the highest (Orizaba).
The extinct volcano is located about a four-hour drive from Mexico City. We spent a day near the base of the mountain to acclimate to the high altitude, which was a very good idea. At 17,159 feet, the summit is 2,659 feet higher than my previous elevation record of 14,500 at Mount Whitney.
I didn't want to mention it in the video, but my guide was sick and I think he gave me whatever gastrointestinal bug he had.
I think those guides don't make very much. Mine was overtly said the trip was running over budget and that he was counting on a generous tip.
I doubt the Pantera guy had crampons. He only wore a small Camelback, which you can't fit much else in besides the water bag. I got through it all without needing crampons, but I should have used them. I got the impression he had raced up and down that volcano many times so was probably familiar with a safe route. Over the big ice field I saw people taking all kinds of different routes around and across it.
Ahhhhhh! I found the TR, almost teased you about me not seeing it and then checked your blog first. I know, I'm slow...
1st, thanks for sharing, I liked it.
Sorry you got sick and didn't get to the other climb, Mt giberjurusti (Sp?)
May be the color settings on my monitor but it looked like you were in pink hiking boots with a matching summit pack? I will dig further in your blog to make sure I didn't miss any major announcements ;-)
You looked pretty good for an old guy, must have been favorable lighting (or make-up ;-)
Seemed there were a bunch of earthquakes during your climb, was that scary?
I too have gone to Mexico and I climbed Popocatepetal and Iztaccihuatl (also 15,300' Nevada de Toluca which is a drive and short walk.) We also had planned to do Orizaba, but were mentally and physically beat after Ixti and Popo.
I later went on to take the snow and ice climbing course on Mt Rainier and did some climbs in Ecuador and Peru and some in Wyoming's Wind River Range.
I am glad for your sake and his that you reached out for the boy. I also would hope that the grandfather knew the risks and accepted them before the accident, and so he died as he wished to live. I'm also glad, selfishly, you did not see the actual fall.
I wonder how many fatalities are avoidable? In other words, if you have been trained some and are fit, would it be one chance in a million?
The old thing about '99.9% safe' not being good enough comes to mind. There would be 10 deaths every year at 99.9% chance you will not fall due to random unavoidable dangers that would cause death. Plus the deaths from people untrained or unfit.