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?

18 December 2006

Tis The Season!

Remember the song, “Both Sides Now?” It was a hugely popular hit back in the late 1960’s. Although Judy Collins’ version was the one played on the radio, the song was actually written by Joni Mitchell. It’s all about ambivalent perspective. She’s looked at life, and love, and even clouds from both the bad and the good.

So I had yet another medical flight down to the mainland over the weekend. Deckhand on a boat had a nasty fall and broke some ribs. The boat skipper called my cell phone Saturday night and briefed me. Since there was no doctor at all in Guanaja, and no x-ray machine anyway, the prudent decision was obviously going to be to get the guy to the hospital. Since there are no airline flights to or from Guanaja on Sunday, that’s where I came in, as I do. I told the skipper I’d be ready to go in the morning.

I was kind of looking forward to going to Ceiba. On her blog, La Gringa wrote of a new supermarket that has opened there called Paiz. This is exciting news for people who like to eat. Our grocery stores in Guanaja, shall we say, leave something to be desired. Like groceries.

By six a.m. I was up and out, coordinating activities on our end, getting the helicopter ready and fueled. No call. Six-thirty…seven…no call. Dang. I told our caretaker that I knew how to get them to call – I’d go make breakfast! I went inside and no sooner had picked up a frying pan for the eggs when my phone started ringing. I had to laugh; works every time. Question: Could we do a nine o’clock takeoff? Well why not?

Complicating matters were not one but TWO parties scheduled for the day. (Got to love the Christmas season.) First one began at noon, and when there are good friends and alcohol involved, I sure don’t want to be late.

I stayed low on the way down, hustling to get there as quickly as possible. The two passengers that were escorting the injured man were originally going to stay in Ceiba. At the last minute they decided to ride back to Guanaja with me.

In what is becoming an all-too familiar pose, here we are at La Ceiba, with my injured passenger being loaded into his "ambulance." Yes, he's got a couple of broken ribs. But don't worry! The roads in La Ceiba are as flat and smooth as billiard tables.

Going back at 3,500 feet put us at the top of a layer of puffy cumulus clouds. I decided to play a little. That Joni Mitchell tune began running through my head:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air,
And feathered canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

Joni got that part right! But there are also passageways, saddles, cloud-mountains to zoom over and then scoot down the puffy ski-slope on the other side, little alleyways, and wormholes to explore. It’s not too bright to be doing it where there might be other aircraft around, but out between La Ceiba and Guanaja I could be 99.99999% certain I wasn’t going to run into anyone else. Plus, it’s just an awesome blast like you wouldn’t believe. It's the best amusement park ride in the world.

Coming close to Guanaja, I could see that there was one humongous ice cream castle parked right over the island.

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I held my altitude as long as possible, then began zig-zagging my way down through the maze of feathered canyons. Coming around one corner, I aimed straight for one little cloud. Poof! We punched into it, and were enveloped in nothing but white. In two seconds we were through it and suddenly Guanaja appeared directly ahead of and below us as if by magic. I know I was impressed! (I get like a kid sometimes, I'm ashamed to say.)

But I wanted to maintain my cool, unflappable pilot image. So I very casually glanced over my should at the girl in the back seat. What’s she doing? Text-messaging on her cell phone, of course. I should have known.

We land at the airport and they get out. I’m expecting huge, ear-to-ear grins like the one I've got. Instead, I get the casual, nonchalant wave, like, “Nothing special about this flight. I’ve done this a zillion times before.”

I don’t often allow myself to “play” when I fly. When you get paid to do something, you have an obligation to do it with the seriousness the task deserves. If I were the type of writer who uses hackneyed clichés, I’d say that sometimes you have to take the time to smell the roses. But I’m not. So I’ll just say that sometimes...once in a while...you have to get out and look at the things from all different angles.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all


La Gringa said...

And you said you aren't a good writer. This article was great. First I laughed so hard at the picture caption that El Jefe came to see and then he laughed, too.

Then I felt like I was on an exciting helicopter ride right along with you.

Bob Barbanes said...

Flying in a helicopter *is* hugely exciting, and I am a very, very lucky man to be able to do what I do. Unfortunately for many of my passengers, they are usually not in a position to fully enjoy it.

Except this one pregnant girl. Strapped to the stretcher in the back and writhing in labor pains, she suddenly asked if she could sit up, which was okay by me. "A more comfortable position?" I wondered? No, we were just passing Cayos Cuchinos (Hog Cays) and she wanted a better view.

They are beautiful.

Mike and Sharon said...

Wow - flying through clouds of spun cotton candy, what a trip! The girl with the phone should be ashamed. People with cell phones should have to check them in for special occasions...like restaurants, parties and flying above the clouds. Enjoyed your rendition of your day and look forward to sailing through the clouds some day soon. Thanks for the report.