Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

14 November 2017

The Little Things

There's happy and then there's happy! Right now I am happy! Why, you ask? Well I'll tell you.

Just before I left Florida for Washington this past spring, I stumbled across a Harley Davidson Sportster motorcycle at a really good price. It had been a while since I'd sold my last one and I'd been looking for another...for the "right" one ever since.  This latest one in the ad had all the things I want in a Sportster: the belt drive, the five-speed gearbox, spoke wheels (I don't like mags)... They've evolved over the years, gaining weight as features were added. I wanted one of the lighter ones of the mid-to-late 1990's.

Sometimes people buy motorcycles with the fantasy of being a “biker.” It doesn't always work out. Sometimes they buy bikes and never get to ride them. The ad I saw was for a 1996 model with only 7,000 miles. Of course I snapped it up. As luck would have it, the bike was located up in Georgia not far from where my friend Matt lives. His brother Joe and I drove up one Friday afternoon. We went to pick up the bike on Saturday morning. I brought it home on Sunday.

As with all Harley's, the previous owner (“P.O.”) had customized it to his liking. But not to mine. (People always think that their modifications makes a motorcycle more valuable. Not so. In reality it makes it less valuable. The new owner (as in: me) then has to spend money un-doing those modifications.

The previous owner of this bike must have been a short little guy, for he installed a kit that moves the lower shock-absorber mount rearward, which has the effect of lowering the bike. In addition, he took off the stock shocks and installed shorter ones. The overall lowering of the bike allowed various bits to touch the ground when cornering or going over big bumps. Not a desirable trait.

In addition, the P.O. installed a horribly loud “aftermarket” exhaust system. It made the ride from Georgia down to Florida painful. There are literally tons of aftermarket exhaust systems for the Sportster. Trouble is, they're all loud. I want a quiet exhaust, and so found a completely stock system online – one that had obviously been removed and replaced with a louder one. It wasn't a lot of money but still, every dollar I spend on the bike increases the “actual” total price.

Here's the bike in Matt's driveway in Atlanta.  I forgot to mention that gawd-awful seat which was the very first thing I changed.

Since this is my third Sportster, I have a good supply of parts in-stock. I have a small “sport” windshield that I think looks attractive and unobtrusive. I have a different air cleaner, because I prefer a round one to the oval ones Harley installs. And I have a taller side-stand because the stock one allows the bike to lean over too far when parked. I have some other bits too. Or thought I did.

It's been a couple of years since I sold my last Sportster. So before I left for Washington I went hunting for motorcycle parts. I looked high and low, all over the house but could not find the parts described above. Oh, I found the windshield, because that's too hard to hide. The rest of the parts? Gone. And I mean gone! I was pretty sure the parts hadn't gotten thrown out, but you never know. There's been a lot of people in my house and garage, especially while I've been away.  And, I can be an idiot and accidentally throw valuable stuff out.

And so I left, fairly dispirited, figuring that I was going to have to buy those parts again. I talked to the Harley dealer and they want nearly as much for just the windshield mounting kit as they do for the whole windshield and mounting kit combined! Ouch. The other parts aren't all that expensive, but the dollars add up.

And so yesterday I was cleaning out the garage. I need the room.  The Sportster needs some work (obviously), but I'm also in the process of refurbishing a couple of old and rare Japanese motorcycles which I own and intend to sell so I can buy this house – two things I said I'd never do but hey, you can't always predict the future accurately.

As I was loading stuff into my van to take to the dump, I came across a box that had been buried under a bunch of others. It was fairly empty but had some unmarked, sealed plastic bags in it. Curious, I lifted a bag out and was immediately overjoyed to feel the air cleaner! Other plastic bags contained all the other parts I had been searching for. Talk about happy!

So the Harley will come together pretty quickly and easily. It'll be the way I want it, not the way the P.O. wanted it. The Kawasaki's...well, they'll take a little longer. But they're both worth a lot of money. At this point I would derive no pleasure from riding either of them; they're just too rare to be what we call a “daily driver.” I would end up only riding them on certain special occasions. And who wants that? Motorcycles are meant to be ridden. I don't want a museum piece. 

My Sportster is neat and all, but if I wrecked it I'd just buy another and build it up to my personal taste again. It's that easy (and fairly cheap) with Harley's; not so much with old Japanese bikes of which the hard-to-find parts are becoming super-expensive! And so the Kawasaki's have to go while I can still afford to fix them up.

So, a great day! I made plenty of room in the garage to work on stuff, AND found some parts I thought I'd lost or thrown away. Maybe not huge accomplishments, but life is made up of the little things. And you know, it's the little things make me 

Scott Meyer used to publish a hilarious comic called "Basic Instructions."  In it, he provided insights and ways of dealing with (mostly) everyday occurrences.  His take on these things was often...well...odd and the morals of his comics were often strange.  In the comic below, Scott talks about the pleasure of something unexpected.

See the actual comic (and Scott's others) HERE.

11 November 2017

The Power of Prayer

EDIT:  Soooo, I thought there was something vaguely familiar about this post.  There was: I'd written it before in 2008 which you can read HERE.  It's pretty much the same, word for word.  Dang, I hate when I do that.  For those of you who've been faithfully (and strangely) following this blog for a while, you've probably read this story.  I apologize for repeating it.  But rather than deleting the whole first part here, I'll leave it.  The new stuff is down below, in Part Two.  That part, as far as I know, I haven't written before.  

Part One: Dreamers

My friend Warren and I were going to be pilots! We were thirteen at the time, so what did we know? The possibilities were endless for two kids growing up in New York City.  When we were in junior high (middle school) sometimes we'd play hooky and go out to LaGuardia or Kennedy Airports to hang out on the open-air observation decks.  This was in that more innocent time before hijackings and before America became terrified.

Our other friends, the ones who did not want to be pilots, thought we were weird. They thought so because on sunny, summer days Warren and I would lay down on a patch of grass on a hill high above the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx and we'd watch airplanes fly over. Our neighborhood just happened to be under a departure corridor of LaGuardia Airport so there was a non-stop parade of airliners all day long.  We got good at identifying the various types of airplanes and airlines, even being able to differentiate between A Boeing 727-100 and -200.  (It's not that difficult.)

Warren had a battery-operated multi-band radio that could pick up the air traffic control frequencies. So we could listen to the airliners as they soared overhead, climbing out on their way to exotic destinations (i.e. not New York). We were dreamers, he and I. And we dreamt of the day when we too could command an airliner to exotic (i.e. not New York) destinations.

Of course, age thirteen was when I began drinking alcohol and smoking weed. That's when the dream almost came undone.  Almost.  For me.

Warren was a couple of months older than me. Better-looking, glib, charismatic and charming, he always got along well with the older kids in the neighborhood. I looked up to him with admiration. Hey, when you've only been on the planet for thirteen years, a couple months seems like a big deal.  He wasn't just thirteen - he was thirteen and a half!

One night Warren somehow managed to procure a couple of bottles of Boone's Farm Apple Wine. We drank with them unbridled gusto, like guzzling a Coke. I got sick right away and puked all over the insides of a pizza place on Kingsbridge Road. Warren, ever my protector, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and got me the hell out of there toot-sweet before the irate shop owner could get even around the counter. He deposited me in an alley where I proceeded to empty my stomach of everything I'd eaten for the last few days.

The next morning was spent with the World's Worst Hangover. It was also the morning my mom decided that the entire house needed to be vacuumed and cleaned (including my room), which necessitated the inexplicable and loud clanging of every pot and pan we owned. The apartment sounded like a continuous car crash.  I vowed solemnly that I would never drink again. Over the years I've made that very same vow more often than I care to admit.

New York City is unique in that it has vocational high schools which specialize in certain trades. I chose Aviation High School in Queens, which would have given me my Airframe and Powerplant FAA mechanics licenses if I hadn't wasted my time and not taking it seriously. I barely graduated, squandering a priceless opportunity.

Warren went to a high school that taught electronics, something in which he was keenly interested. So we saw less of each other. Until he dropped out, which didn't take long. He was hanging around more and more with those older guys in the neighborhood, who had coincidentally all dropped out as well. They hung out in the park, doing basically nothing...until their parents threw them out...in which case they'd get horrible little apartments with beanbag "furniture," and they had crappy jobs to pay the rent. I didn't like those guys very much and so didn't hang out with them.

I knew that aviation demanded drug-free people. By high school I'd pretty much cut out the pot-smoking and (most of) the drinking. But it was tough being a “goody-goody” in The Bronx, New York in 1970. Since the guys in my high school came from all over the city, we didn't see each other in our off-time. I felt pretty alienated. But hey, we make our own choices, right?

Flash forward a couple of years. My parents had moved us out of the The Bronx and into Manhattan. I was working as a charter dispatcher for a local helicopter company. It was the very beginning of my career in aviation. My uncle came down to visit from the old neighborhood where he still lived.

“Sad about your friend, Warren,”
he said offhandedly at some point in the conversation.

Say what?

Apparently Warren was with some friends in some apartment where he succumbed to a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol. I hadn't heard.

I went back up to the old neighborhood, but nobody was talking. The circumstances were sketchy, better left alone. He's gone, they said. Just let it be. And so I did. What am I, Lt. Columbo? Warren liked to drink – liked to party without limits. It's no surprise that his lifestyle did not foster longevity.

Flash forward a few more years. Now I was working as a pilot for that same helicopter company, flying sightseeing tours around New York. There were five tours of varying lengths that covered different parts of the city. One of the more expensive took passengers up over the Bronx, over Yankee Stadium, almost all the way up to Yonkers before turning south on the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty. It was not one of the more popular tours, and so I didn't fly it much.

But when I did, I always looked down to find that little patch of grass on which those two thirteen year-old dreamers used to lie. No, I never became an airline pilot – I'd discovered helicopters and my life was changed. But I was a pilot! And every time I'd fly over the old neighborhood I'd feel a twinge of sadness that Warren never got to experience it.

Part Two: The Power Of Prayer

Now we get to the point. Both Warren and I came from Irish-Catholic families. His parents went to mass every Sunday right alongside mine at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church on Fordham Road. I'm sure that his parents prayed for him just as often and fervently as my parents prayed for me.

And so we must ask: What good is the power of prayer? We Catholics hear about it a lot. We are told to pray for this or that. And I wonder, all things being equal, how come it worked for my parents and not for Warren's? Is there any value at all to prayer? Or is it illusory? Does it just make the person doing the praying feel good? Because it certainly did not help Warren.

I've struggled with this issue ever since then. I've always wondered why I “made it” and he did not. We were exactly the same, he and I: just two city kids with the same aspirations and opportunities. He even seemed to have it better than me, being more sociable and more physically fit. Not only that, he had an uncle who owned an airplane who used to take him up!  Given all that, why does one guy live and one die?

Obviously there are no answers for such questions. But they do make you wonder...does prayer even work? Because in Warren's case, it appears to have not.

09 November 2017

Going Both Ways

Up in Brewster, Washington we had one of the driest summers ever. I mean, really, we had only one day that it rained, and there wasn't much at that. So none of the ships flew more than a couple of hours apiece. The boss was not happy.

The company really makes money when we fly, of course. The standby charges pay for the helicopters and the pilots with a little leftover. On the other hand, we surely did not have to burn (or buy) very much fuel.  And when you've got ten helicopters that each burn 50 gallons per hour, the potential for using a lot of fuel is real!  Normally, each season the ships get between fifty and 100 hours each.

So there was a lot of sitting around.

Ironically, this summer I got to fly more airplanes than ever before. You all know that I'm a helicopter guy, but I love flying airplanes too. A lot of helicopter pilots turn up their nose at airplanes. ”Boring,” they say. Perhaps. Helicopters keep you busy 100% of the time; if you let go of the controls the helicopter will try to turn itself upside down. In an airplane you can sit back and relax a bit because it's not always trying to crash itself. To me, it's all good.

My boss's friend Gene has a beautiful old Piper J-3 Cub – the quintessential airplane from the 1930's and '40s. It's yellow, OF COURSE because all real J-3 Cubs are yellow.

Gene is a 75 year-old frenetic fellow who's dying of cancer and simply cannot sit still. He knows his time is limited and wants to make the most of it while he's still in good health. He was visiting us one morning at our hangar in Brewster. With his first cup of coffee he was fidgety.  By the second he was bored. ”Let's go flying!” he boomed with perhaps too much enthusiasm in his voice if that's possible.

The Piper Cub is a small, two-seat, tandem (i.e. front and back) airplane designed for much smaller, skinnier young people who are more limber than this never-missed-a-meal 60-something guy. After a thorough preflight inspection, Gene coached and coaxed me through the contortions necessary to just get in the damn thing.  I cursed; he laughed.  I really need to lose some weight and do some exercise.

Gene's yellow J-3 Cub next to his red sport biplane next to our Cessna 182

For some, flying a Piper Cub is akin to a religious experience, given the history of the design. In truth, it flies just like every other airplane, only slower. It's got really long, thick wings which makes it unsporty in maneuvering. Those fat wings are really “draggy” and what with the limited horsepower of the engine you don't go anywhere very fast. But it is marvelous, basic airplane that is great at teaching students how to fly. I can't say that it was a religious experience for me, but it was a hell of a lot of fun!

Since we didn't fly helicopters a lot, the boss took pity on me and decided that we needed to go out flying in his seldom-used Cessna 182. The Skylane is an extremely capable four-seat airplane that Cessna has made forever, starting in 1956 and continuing with few changes to this very day. It's got a 230 horsepower engine (big for its class) and it can carry huge load. 

Like the Cub, the 182 is a relatively simple airplane. The landing gear does not retract; the downside of that is that it's not very fast. But it is the perfect for the family of four who want to go away on vacation and don't want to leave anything behind. The boss's 182 is a pristine example of a 1977 airplane that looks very much like a brand-new one. Things don't change much in aviation.

My boss's 1972 Cessna 182

Some time after that, we were having lunch at The Club in Okanogan with our friend Darrell Diebel, who owns a beautiful Cessna 177 Cardinal. I've flown a lot of Cessna models, but never the Cardinal, and I've always wanted to. It's a beautiful design. We got talking about his airplanes (he owns three) as we ate. Knowing that I've always wanted to fly the Cardinal he said, ”Let's go flying!” with as much enthusiasm as Gene had used about the Cub. Darrell is not dying of cancer but like most pilots he'll use any excuse at all to go flying.

In the mid-1960's, Cessna's basic four-seater, the model 172 Skyhawk had been around since 1956 and actually was just an updated, tricycle-gear version of the model 170, a taildragger that had its beginning back to 1948.

So in 1968 Cessna designed the model 177 as a replacement.  But it was...different. It used a new wing design that also sat further back (for better pilot visibility) and was cantilevered so that it didn't have the struts that are so common on single-engine Cessnas (see the pic of the 182). The landing gear was changed so that the plane sat low to the ground, making it easy to get in and out.  Because there were no struts, the cabin doors could be huge, and they opened wide, like a car. This was not always a good thing if you happened to park the plane with a ripping tailwind.

The new design brought along slightly different flying qualities that alienated some pilots because  it didn't feel conventional enough, especially during the landing. A Cessna is supposed to fly like a Cessna, and the Cardinal did not. Subsequently, sales of the 172 Skyhawk remained strong and the Cardinal did not summarily replace it. They're both great airplanes.  However, ironically the 177 Cardinal disappeared while the model 172 is still in production today.  Go figure.

Darrell's Cessna 177 Cardinal

The Cardinal was great fun to fly!  Yes, it lands a little "differently" than other Cessnas, but I did not find it super-challenging.  All my landings are equally bad in every airplane.

Speaking of bad landings...

Finally, the boss also owns a Cessna model T-50 Bobcat. This is a twin-engine, taildragger that was first produced in 1939. It is often confused with the Beechcraft model H-18 “Twin-Beech.” The Cessna was designed to be a trainer for the military and “lightweight” twin for personal civilian use although it is not exactly lightweight except compared to a DC-3 maybe.

My boss likes old airplanes and helicopters, if you can't tell. His T-50 is beautiful – lovingly maintained and always stored inside. Our task this day was to move it from the Brewster Airport up to another, smaller grass strip airport that he owns up the Okanogan River. The flight was short, so I didn't get to actually fly the T-50. But it was neat being in such a classy, vintage airplane. It gives you an idea of what flying was like back in the 1940's and '50's.

Nowadays airplanes, especially light twins are tiny and cramped, shrunk down for maximum efficiency and speed. But back in the 1940's flying was different. Airplanes had big cabins. Their wings and frames were made of wood and fabric and welded steel tubing. The interiors were plush, like expensive automobiles were at the time. Some airplanes even had roll-down windows. They weren't all that fast, but you sure traveled along in style!

The runway that the boss owns up the Okanogan is short - just 2,100 feet. He had never landed the twin Cessna there. As we came around, he had our “aim point” squarely on the very end closest to us - good. We would not be landing long; over-running would be bad.

The boss is pretty sharp, but just as we crossed the fence, I saw that he'd let the speed bleed off just a little too much – still good though. But when he raised the nose to stop the descent, the wing didn't have much extra energy (lift) and the big twin just fell through. We hit a little...let's say “ungracefully” and bounced once before plopping right back down for good. But the stout oleo shocks and big balloon tires were designed for just such airports and they absorbed the landing with no fuss. Without even using the brakes, we stopped and turned into the hangar area which is halfway up the runway. No sweat! We watched the video that the boss's son, Danny took. The landing looked much worse from the inside than the out. But it's always that way.

The boss's Cessna T-50 "Bamboo Bomber" after landing at his grass strip 

So...not much helicopter flying this past summer. But at least I still did get to have some fun. I like being able to fly airplanes and helicopters. It's good to go both ways.

05 November 2017

Where The Heart Is

It's the simple things, right? On Sunday, I like to get up early, go out and get the paper, make myself a nice breakfast (my patented Bob McMuffin!), and then just drink my coffee and relax and “waste” the morning doing the various crossword puzzles. If the day is nice, like today, I'll slide open the door to the backyard and let the good air in. Nobody bothers me, the phone doesn't ring and I can just enjoy the quiet time by myself.

Life is good.

I don't know why this little ritual is so important, but it is. I mean, I'm not the CEO of some major corporation; my life during the week isn't that busy...I could do this any day I chose. But Sundays are special. Or should be.

I could never really do this in Washington. Sundays were like any other days. The boss didn't know what the word “weekend” meant, other than our parts suppliers weren't open. I'd get up at the usual time, go to the hangar at the airport, turn the lights on, make the coffee...just like any other day of the week. The boss would arrive and we'd plan out our work day. Predictable routines.

It's supposed to snow in Brewster, Washington today, Sunday, November 5th with a high temperature of only 39 degrees and a low of 16. Looks like I left Washington in the nick of time. I don't like the cold. Here in Pensacola it is an extraordinarily pleasant day.  We're forecast to hit a high of 80, and the low tonight will be 64. Won't have to run the A/C much; won't have to run the heat at all.

My boss in Washington would like me to move up there permanently, and keeps suggesting it. He certainly could use the help, and we get along pretty well. I could work my way into a really good position there, not just money-wise but I'd also have the ability to be around and fly all kinds of aircraft, and do all kinds of wacky things. While I admit that I do like it up there, I love it here in Florida. And that's the difference: I just don't love Washington enough to move up there full-time. Sorry, boss.

My friend Terry who is from northern Alabama originally, is always going on and on about what a beautiful place Pensacola is. He gushes, ”We live where other people come on vacation!” Which is true enough. But it's also true of many places. Imagine living on, say, Catalina Island, in California? How smug those bastards must be! Or the people who live in New York City, how 'bout them! You get the idea. I will admit though, Pensacola is a pretty special, unspoiled place.

They say that home is where the heart is. Mine is here in northwest Florida. We're not tropical or culturally diverse and exciting like Miami and south Florida. No matter. Pensacola suits me just fine.  And I am so damn glad to be home, where I can enjoy my little Sunday morning ritual once again.  

I may never leave.

03 November 2017

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Apples

People always ask me to send them fresh Washington cherries or apples while I'm up there. The problem is that cherries have a very short shelf-life and do not travel well. As soon as they're picked, cherries are run through a sorting/sizing facility where they are cleaned and packaged. They are almost immediately shipped out to grocery stores all across the country and overseas. The cherries that show up in our local Walmart here in Pensacola were literally picked within the last couple of days – certainly within the past week, nearly as fast as I could get them to you via UPS.  Because I ain't sending them overnight.

Apples are a different story. We all like to dream about picking a nice, juicy, sweet red apple off a tree at the peak of ripeness – what a treat! Unfortunately that's not the case. Apples are picked and then put in “CA” (controlled atmosphere) rooms where they are kept chilled until their sugars fully develop. The bag of apples you buy in Walmart today were very likely picked last season. It's why we can have apples all year 'round. It's an amazing fruit!

Why not leave the apples on the tree until they ripen naturally? Well... If you have only a couple of apple trees that might work. If you're a big production grower with thousands of acres of trees, the harvest must be carefully planned and orchestrated. You can't wait until all of the apples are at peak ripeness or you'd never get them all picked in time. Like cherries, apples are all picked by hand.

As the apple ripens, the last joint on the stem going into it gets weak. When the apple gets too heavy the stem will break there and it will fall off the tree on its own. Some growers resort to spraying one of several products colloquially known as “stop-drop” to delay this event if the apples are not quite red enough to pick. It's better to pick them just before they fall off and bring them to the CA room to complete the ripening process.

It's about five miles from our company heliport in Monse, Washington (what we call “the LZ”) down to the Brewster Airport. There are two ways you can get there. One is to cross the Okanogan River and take the highway down. Or you can take a dirt road that also parallels the river and goes through apple and cherry orchards. We travel between these two places a lot; we almost always take the highway. The dirt road is very dusty and rough, and slower.

One day in October, just before I left, my buddy Chris and I headed to the airport from the LZ. ”Dirt road?” Chris asked. Fine by me, we were in no hurry. The apple harvest was in full swing. Big eighteen-wheeler flatbeds stacked high with apple bins shuttled up and down the roads nonstop.  Our plan was to find a section that hadn't been picked yet and grab a couple of Fuji's or Honeycrisps. Which we did- barely.  Almost everything had been picked.  But we got a handful of nice, red ones that looked ripe.

We got to the airport and washed the apples off. Eagerly, we bit into them, hoping for the best. Unfortunately they were mealy and not all that sweet. Instead of a treat, what a disappointment!  They were so bad that we threw them away.

When I was growing up in New York City, the Red Delicious was the standard apple as far as we knew. It had that traditional apple shape. A good one was sweet and juicy – nothing better! Unfortunately it also had a fairly tough skin (it was a New York apple, after all) and the pulp could be yellowish.

But times...and tastes...and chemistry...have changed. There's a whole science to it; apples get engineered. Now the popular apple is called a Honeycrisp.  Developed in the 1970's, it was patented in 1988 and finally released to the public in 1991.  Growers in Brewster, Washington are ripping out orchards of Red Delicious and planting Honeycrisps instead.  

If you've never had a Honeycrisp, you owe it to yourself to try one. They're amazing. They're big and round.  They're sweet and juicy and the skin is not tough. Bite into one and you'll go, “Now THIS is what an apple should taste like!”  Once you eat a Honeycrisp, any other apple will seem like you're eating a...well...a pear.

The beauty is that you can have one in January. But it was probably picked in October.  Last October.

01 November 2017

Enjoying Every Sandwich

I look at people...Donald Trump, say.  And I ask myself, "Would I trade my life for his?"  Almost always the answer is no.  I could never be Donald Trump.  I could never want to be.

A respondent in the Comments section of this blog said some very nice things to me...about being an inspiration for a career he wanted but never pursued because of...well, life.  Kind of funny, that.  Now, I'm not saying that the commenter wants to be me.  But let's face it, we all sometimes wonder about paths not taken.  

Life is all about choices, eh?  We do what we think we have to do to be "happy."  Unfortunately, sometimes the immature need for fun overpowers and replaces the need for happiness.  We who are guilty of such things think that the former is a good substitute for the latter.  Or that the former will bring the latter. 

But what is true happiness?  I'm not married...I have no kids, no roots, no permanent place of residence.  Some would say, "You're living the dream, baby!"  Maybe.  Sometimes there's a fine line between a dream and a nightmare, to torture that metaphor even further.  I've said it before: Being a professional pilot is like being paid to masturbate - ultimately fun but of no real redeeming social value.

You can't look too deeply into this shit.  You can "What if...?" anything to death.  Some questions just can never be answered.  I don't regret being this lifelong arrested-development gypsy, vagabond pilot, but I sure ain't leaving much of a legacy behind.  In fact, in all likelihood I won't be leaving anything behind.  And that kind of bothers me some. 

So my advice to everyone comes from musician Warren Zevon: "Enjoy every sandwich."  Find the beauty and joy in the simplest of things, for those are what life is all about.  Fortunately, I'm not dying like Zevon was when he said the line on the David Letterman Show.  At least, I don't think I'm dying. - at least not immediately. 

But we should be aware of these things - that nothing is forever, certainly not us.  Turning 62 has made me pause for a moment and look back - something I don't normally like to do.  If I have actually stopped flying for a living, then I have to come up with a plan for the rest of my life.   Or...I could just leave it up to "fate"...or put it in God's hands, which has been my 
modus operandi so far.

All this talk about sandwiches has made me hungry. 

29 October 2017

Settling Down

And so another cross-country road trip is done. I don't like to fly on the airlines so I drive up to Brewster, Washington every year. There is no direct, diagonal route from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Northwest; you “stair-step” your way up or down. It's always 3,000 miles.

This year, I left Brewster on Monday. Heading west, in the exact opposite intended direction, I went over to the coast, to Olympia, Washington to see my good friend Brandon who flies for a company there. (My friend Mikey also flies for the same outfit, but he was away on a job and so I didn't get to see him.) After hanging out and having a great time with Brandon (as always), I left Olympia on Tuesday morning and made it back to Florida on Friday night. Google Maps says it was 3,182 miles.

Brandon, who is from New Jersey and often works on the west coast likes to do these marathon cross-countries in which he doesn't stop. He goes like crazy. When he gets tired, he sleeps in his pickup truck in a rest area. I can't do that. I'm a wuss. I need a bed to sleep in for at least a couple of hours and the ability to take a shower. I hate being road-grungy. I can usually find a hotel near the Interstate for around $60.00 per night, which is reasonable, I think. I pick the cheap ones that offer free breakfast so I can grab something to eat before I head out.

Unlike some of my previous trips, this one was uneventful. The venerable 1998 Buick crew-car that I drive back and forth performed flawlessly for 210,000 miles. However, I don't think she's got another trip in her. The transmission was starting to act up – nothing serious, just the very occasional slipping when accellerating from a dead stop, and also some stuttering when downshifting on the highway. Signs of impending doom. To be honest, the car is not worth fixing. So I'll sell her and buy some other piece of crap with somebody else's unknown problems. That'll make me feel better on a 3,000 mile trip!

As fun as my “summer job” up in Washington is, it's always good to be home. And yeah, for better or for worse, Pensacola, Florida is my home. My boss would like me to move up to Washington permanently, but I don't think that's going to happen.

In fact, my days in Washington may be over. There are big changes happening at the company I work for, and if everything goes as planned they won't have a need for ol' Bob next summer. The boss promised me a position anyway. But seriously, why would you pay someone to do something when you can handle that task in-house? Especially as much as they pay me. It doesn't make sense.

If I'm being honest, I'm looking forward to having next summer off from flying. Yeah, I still have to work – it's not like I'll be on vacation. But for the time being at least, I'm going to settle down and stay in one place for a while.