Had to fly. Heh- yeah, that's rich. Like anyone had to twist my arm. Oh man, it was beautiful. A sparkling clear day. I mean, literally not a cloud in the sky. And the air was smooooooooth, not a lump or a bump anywhere. I climbed up to 2,000 feet and just sat back to enjoy the ride.
Well that's not quite true. Helicopters are what we call "dynamically unstable." This means that if the pilot were to remove his hands from the controls for any length of time, the helicopter would want to flip over and plummet to earth like a dead coconut. This is a little "quirk" of helicopters that most people aren't aware of, I'm sure. (Airplanes, on the other hand, must be stable by FAA regulation. They fly quite happily "hands off.") Since most helicopters do not have autopilots, they must be hand-flown 100% of the time. When the air is choppy or turbulent, flying a helicopter can be a lot of work. Today, the dang thing was just about flying itself.
I got to Gulfport and the boss says, "Hey, let's fly home along the beach." My day was getting better and better! So we take off and head eastbound for Pensacola, where we'll make a left turn north to Brewton, Alabama. We stayed low - 300 to 500 feet and enjoyed a beautiful flight on a glorious day. I thought to myself that, as a pilot, it doesn't get much better than this.
And so I was in a pretty good mood on the drive home after washing the ship and putting it to bed when we got back. It's not always great to have to work on the weekend, but this type of "work" is not too hard to take when you know about it in advance and especially when you're being well-compensated for what you do.
We've had a number of truly spectacular days since buying this helicopter. The Boss has been very, very lucky in that regard. He's skittish about weather, and he'll drive instead of fly if there's even the tiniest doubt about our ability to make the flight (this is a pilot's dream). Even so we've only had to cancel once or twice. But today he was in grand spirits. "Man, I wouldn't be able to charge anyone for making me fly on a day like today!" he said, smiling broadly. "You're not paying me to fly today," I shot back. "You're paying me for making me get up at five a.m. on a Sunday." A weak argument, I know. And so does he. "I thought you told me you were an early riser," he countered. Touché! Well played, sir!
So anyway, I'm driving home, in the aforementioned good mood, and I was listening to the radio (dead iPod battery, drat the luck). One of the local stations was doing "Psychedelic Sunday" or something like that, playing a bunch of songs from the 1960's. The announcer said that the artist up next would be Melanie, and I assumed they would play the awful and unlistenable "Brand New Key." But no! They played her other big hit, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," a paean to the crowd at Woodstock (the original).
Iconic Melanie. Melanie Safka, actually, although she never used her last name. She's been out of the limelight, but still performs now and then. Such a distinct voice. Such a great song. Backed by the wonderful Edwin Hawkins Singers. Hearing it again gave me chills. Of course, YouTube has a video, which I present below for your listening and viewing pleasure.
And what a treat it is to watch! Check out the audience - clearly not your typical rock concert crowd. I mean, it's no "Please Please Me" - although they do seem enthusiastic enough. (One wonders what other musical acts were appearing at that place that day?) And check out the hairstyles on the women! Oh. My. God. Maybe some day we'll all be bald, androgynous automatons, dressed alike in grey jumpsuits. As bad as that sounds, looking back at how we dressed in the '60s, I'd say the future can't come soon enough!
Melanie and the Edwin Hawkins Singers from 1969