Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crazy for the Storm (copy)

Norman Ollestad grew up amongst beach waves and fresh snow in carefree California. On his first birthday his father surfed with Norm latched to his back in a homemade papoose. At the age of three, his father drove to fresh powder and coaxed his son to ski the bowls. Other children his age could only dream about his exploits, but Norm thought his life normal.

The Ollestads lived on Topanga Beach north of Los Angeles, his mother in a trailer close to the surf and his father in a house overlooking the bay. Norm was very young when they divorced. It was an amiable affair and he could flow in and out of both homes without causing tiffs. The local surfers acted as guardians, too. He was never alone while in the water.

His father, Big Norm, was loved among the Topanga surfers. He was easy to get along with and had a calling for the big waves. All he needed was a storm and locals would see him out at the point trying to ride a pipeline into the beach. By the time little Norm was eight, he was joining him in the tubes.

Big Norm was a child actor with his greatest role as oldest brother in the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. In his 20s he started to work for the FBI as an agent, but became disillusioned with J. Edgar Hoovers’ employee practices. He began to write about his experiences and the book Inside the FBI was published in 1967. Norm’s hippy lifestyle had financial backing.

Little Norm’s life changed forever on February 19, 1979. The flight, in a Cessna 172, was to be a quick jaunt to Big Bear City before heading home for school the next day. Eleven-year-old Norm was elated from his winning ski run the day before and all excited to plow more fresh powder. His dad was following yet another storm in the San Gabriel Mountains of California.

The plane encountered heavy fog and hit the side of Ontario Peak. Little Norm remembers the crash site in frames as the fog lifted enough for a small peek and then lower. First frame, the pilot’s body is lying prone outside the fuselage. Next frame, the pilot has a hole in his face where his nose used to be. To his left the fog lifts and he can see his dad’s girlfriend crying still strapped to her chair. One of his last frames he stares at his motionless father.

Norm will have to transverse sheets of vertical ice in this true story of survival. Crazy for the Storm is an engaging adventure book for males of all ages. There is language and sexual content, but hey, it is also the seventies and California. ;D

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