This is the makeshift daredevil outfit Jim will wear when he is catapulted into space from the 9th green of the Germantown Cricket Club’s golf course. If he comes down crashing into an open manhole cover, it will be counted as a hole-in-one. (Photo by Z. Schulz)

by Jim Harris

I was perusing the Local’s online archives, looking for any references to myself, as I do from time to time, when the following information in the Dec. 20, 2012, issue caught my eye: “The Chestnut Hill Community Fund … has earmarked $16,767 for special grants.”

Now, I’m always extremely interested in grant information because it means that someone is giving away free money. These particular grants were to go to those who could “develop a special program or effort that enhances the Chestnut Hill community.” The article went on: “’It [the project] should be something big and not seen in Chestnut Hill before.’”

First of all, I’d like to say to the folks responsible for distributing the grant money that I greatly admire and appreciate what you do, and, out of the goodness of my heart, I’d like to treat you all to brunch at the Four Seasons. This I will do just as soon as I hit the lottery, which, according to the law of averages, should be any day now.

In the meantime, I’d like to present you with my proposed plan. I simply request that you wait until you have heard it in its entirety before passing judgment, as it is multifaceted.

Step one will be to build a giant, spring-loaded catapult on the 9th green of the Germantown Cricket Club’s golf course. It will be designed by kids from the local chapter of the Harry Potter Fan Club, and built entirely with union labor, of course. (That way we won’t have to worry about violent thugs destroying it with acetylene torches, as they did to the Chestnut Hill Meetinghouse now under construction.) If all goes according to plan, then at the appointed date and time, the device will fling me approximately 19 miles up into the sky.

At the apogee of my transit, I will unfurl a banner saying, “Shop Chestnut Hill,” then plunge earthward at speeds approaching 700 miles per hour, executing a perfect swan dive into the Roxborough Reservoir, which, I’m assuming, still contains water. I can’t see in the reservoir because it is surrounded by a large fence, but I have Map-quested it in order to obtain the proper headings and coordinates for my launch team. If I succeed, I will become the first morbidly out-of-shape old man to break the sound barrier without the aid of a rocket.

I’ve been practicing for the event by rolling out of bed onto a pile of wood chips every day, but frankly, I find it very tiring, so now I’m just going to use positive visualization techniques, like picturing myself spending the grant money.

Doctor Freddy, my personal physician, has told me bluntly that if the shock of the 10-G launch doesn’t kill me, then either temperature extremes, lack of oxygen or a hard landing on Henry Avenue will probably finish me off. Of course, I could also just die from old age at any time during the attempt, but as long as it enhances the Chestnut Hill community, that is all I care about (except for money, of course).

Now some of you will probably be glad to see me disappear over the horizon into Roxborough (or possibly into Heaven), and some of you may wish me well, but one thing’s for sure: this monumental stunt and the week-long festivities leading up to it will undoubtedly focus the attention of the world squarely on Chestnut Hill and be great for local businesses. It might even encourage other daredevils to ply their trades here. And all I ask in return (in addition to the $16,767) is a modest statue at the top of The Hill.

(And to show my civic-mindedness, I am going to offer for free my fool-proof advice to the U.S. Post Office on how to eliminate their multi-billion dollar deficit. Here it is: Raise the price of a first-class stamp to $18.75 and reduce mail deliveries to Wednesdays only! They may have to lay off a few workers, of course, but that’s a small price to pay for the fact that we won’t have to get all that junk mail every day.)

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