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?

30 August 2010

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

I recently posted about a motorcycle trip my friend Jacob and I took to Key West. It generated a response from another blogger, a guy also named Bob who I admire greatly. He wrote: “Sometimes I think you have the life I would have if I didn't have this one . . .”

This is a very odd thing to say, considering that I am so unsatisfied with my own life. Notice that I said unsatisfied not dissatisfied. There's a difference.

I know it must seem fun: flying helicopters and riding motorcycles and living a pretty free and easy lifestyle. And it is. But I have to admit that it leaves something to be desired. I just don’t know what. There is an emptiness...something missing. Lately, it’s been bothering me. A lot.

Back when I worked for Petroleum Helicopters I worked a week-on/week-off schedule. I had a motorcycle then, too. Often, I'd get home from work, strap my bags onto the Sportster and take off for a couple of days, roaming around, just traveling and seeing if I could get into some trouble. (I couldn't. It seems I am the most boring motorcyclist to ever come down the 'pike.)

Arriving home after one such "adventure" (heh), my mom phoned. After hearing of my trip she said...and I shit you not, this is exactly what she said, "Bobby, when are you going to stop having all this fun, settle down and get married?"

I let the crickets chirp for a while before replying. I finally said, "That's about right, huh? STOP having fun and get married."

She quickly backpedaled. "Ooooh, that's not what I meant," she said, genuinely chagrined. "Your father and I had lots of fun after we got married...just in a different way than when we were single."

Perhaps. Didn't look like it from where I stood, but I wasn't about to argue with her.

That was almost twenty years ago, amazingly. And not much has changed with me. I’m about to turn 56 years old. And you know what? I haven't really done anything with my life. Yeah, I’ve had a fun career, but there is more to life than work, no? And anyway, it is not our work that defines us. So, what does?

I have no family – not married, probably never will be. Honestly, I'm not even in the market for a relationship. I like living alone - which even I realize is messed-up. No kids. Good God, no kids! Some of us are just not parent material, and I’m one of them.

One of the women at work just had a beautiful baby girl. She brought the child in recently. All the other women in the place were going ga-ga over it - holding it, kissing it, loving on it – doing all that motherly stuff. When Jenny finally offered the baby to me I was, like, “Uhhhhhh no thanks. I…really…don’t…you know… “ I had no desire to hold her baby but at the same time I did not want to offend her. So I said I had a bad cold and went off, fake-coughing down the hall in another direction.

So it’s not that I long for a wife and kids and all that crap. I know that ain't me.

So what do I want out of life? For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a pilot. And I have achieved my childhood dream. I should be happy, right? So how come I’m not? Why do I feel like there’s something…else…I should be doing? Maybe childhood dreams aren't all they're cracked up to be. Problem: It’s getting late. There isn’t much time left to figure it out.

Deeper thinkers than I have pondered the question of “What is life?” George Harrison for instance, he wrote a song about it. And I just wonder if this is just all there is? We live each day: We work, we play, we laugh, we love…we do all the mundane things that get us by. And eventually we die. I'm doing it; my dad did it - as did his father as well, probably (I never knew him). His father’s father too, I’d imagine. The cycle repeats.

I hope my friend Bob is not unsatisfied. From his blog, he seems to have a wonderful life, full of happiness and joy and fulfillment. His incredible posts are so much fun to read. They always bring a smile - and sometimes a tear. I won't go so far as to say I wish I had his life, but I will admit that is surely doesn't seem like a bad one. When it's over, he will have nothing to be ashamed of and indeed, quite a lot to be proud of! I, on the other hand, will have a hard time answering St. Peter when he asks, quizzically tapping his clipboard with his pen, "Sooooooo...ahhhhh, what DID you do for humanity while you were down there? We really...ahhhh...have no record of you here."

This is not one of those “I’m so depressed I want to kill myself” posts. I actually like my life and am having a pretty good time. It’s just that you get to a point where you go, “What was I supposed to do again?” Because more and more I get the feeling that what I am doing isn’t it. I think I missed the assignment.

As usual.

28 August 2010

FLORIDA: End To End On Motorcycle

Jacob and I recently rode our motorcycles from Pensacola down to Key West. Jacob on his Honda Shadow; me on my Harley Sportster. One end of Florida to the other. Stayed off the Interstates as much as possible. It's a trip I had done before, back in the '90s, on a different Sportster, with my friend Jim on his bike (also a Honda very much like Jacob's).

During the trip down and back, we got rained on a lot. Mostly, we'd either run into isolated rain showers or we'd be just skirting the edge of them. We'd packed rainsuits, but it seemed silly to stop and put them on for the short a time that we'd actually be in the rain. So sometimes we'd stop and take a break before we got too close, and other times we just endured getting wet for a bit, only to dry off (more or less) when we came out the other side. At least getting rained on cooled us off. Good Lord, was it hot! And despite what you might believe, being on a motorcycle at 60 mph in 90 degree breeze is no picnic. You get dehydrated as hell.

Rain ahead. We saw a lot of this, going...

...And coming home.

To get to Key West, you go to Miami and then travel 127 miles down U.S. Route 1. It's basically the same route as the old
Overseas Highway, which itself was built in the late 1930s on the roadbed of the Overseas Railroad which was completed in 1912 and destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. Some of the original parts of the Overseas Highway remain to this day, used as fishing piers now. It is interesting to walk on these narrow two-lane bridges, thinking about how big cars were back in the 1940s and '50s. The head-on collisions at night must have been horrible. And this was long before we had airbags, telescoping steering columns and medevac helicopters.

Here's the old bridge as viewed from the new bridge.

Look how narrow the roadway is. In the old days, the bridge was maybe a foot wider on either side, since the concrete guardrail might not have been there (see pic above). Even so, the roadway was only 12 feet wide, and that's awfully narrow. The speed limit must have been very low - and you know people obeyed it. Suuuuuure, they did.

The old bridge looks plenty stout. Obviously, these structures have survived many hurricanes since the 1930s.

It is an interesting drive to Key West. The road is wider than in the old days, but not by much. You alternate between long bridges and short stretches across islands as you hopscotch your way down. There are often periods where there is water on both sides of you - even when you're on "land." Makes you realize how vulnerable this place would be in a hurricane.

We stayed at a hotel called the Banana Bay Resort. It was a nice place, right on the water (although had no beach), close enough to downtown but not on the strip of typical chain motels. Not too expensive. Plus, the pool/jacuzzi were supposedly "clothing-optional." But there were very few people in the place while Jacob and I were there. Hardly anybody besides us was ever at the pool, and everyone kept their swimsuits on. Oh well.

Here's the pool during the daytime.

And here it is at night. They had a cool light inside the pool that changed from blue...

...To green. Neat! (Well, I'm easily entertained - what can I tell you.)

Key West is Scootertown. The streets are narrow, parking is very limited, and getting around in a car is tough. There are tons of bicycles and little scooters for rent, and everyone seems to have them. Because of this, there's plenty of scooter parking. And since our motorcycles fell into that category we never had any trouble finding places to park.

I first started coming to Key West in the late 1980s. At the time, I was partners in an airplane with which we did sightseeing tours in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. I joke about the experience, saying that during the year we were there we lost our shirts but we got great tans - both of which were true. Retreating from the V.I. humbled and broke, we leased the plane to a guy in Key West who ran a little charter service (and suddenly the plane started generating income for us!). This worked out great for a couple of years until the guy crashed the plane, which put an end to that venture (and him, sadly).

Key West wasn't quite as much of a tourist trap back then. It was still pretty quaint and had some local charm and flavor. And it was a WHOLE LOT gayer. Now, it's just a bunch of foreign touristas clogging everything of even passing interest. Ever-entrepreneurial Americans have figured out various ways to gouge them. The gays seem to have found somewhere else to go.

Key West is not really know for its great beaches, although you'd think it would be. Above is Smathers Beach.

And since Key West doesn't have much of a beach, there are really only two things you must do: Go to the southernmost point in the U.S. and have your picture taken, and hang out at Mallory Square at sunset.

Here's the Southernmost Point. That crowd of people - mostly foreign tourists - are lined up, patiently waiting to get their picture taken in front of the monument. This was unacceptable to us, so we had to devise a "workaround."

The workaround consisted of Jacob standing up on the curb wall. Only, the guy in the orange shirt in the background wouldn't move. I was, like, "Hey buddy, get the hell outta my shot willya! Dontcha unnerstand English?" It turned out that he did not.

It used to be just a local tradition in Key West - celebrating the end of the day, watching for the green flash as the sun dipped below the horizon. The locals would sit on the pier, watch the show, then applaud when it was over. Gradually, the word got out about this and the tourists came a-running. Now, Mallory Square at sunset has become a circus. There are all kinds of street vendors and performers of varying "talent"...all of whom "worked" for tips...all of whom had "tip jugs" of some sort. One guy actually had trained his dog to circulate and take dollar bills from people. At least, we hoped nobody thought to give the guy his tip in coin. He'd have to wait a while to get those, I suppose.

Above, the teeming masses gather to gaze at the phenomenon of...a sunset. Okay yeah, Key West does have some pretty cool sunsets, but so do plenty of other places in the world.

Above: Your humble reporter and his favorite riding buddy: Me and Jacob.

I like the shot above because the little island looks like an aircraft carrier with a thunderstorm overhead.

Jacob on the pier just after sunset. Check out the stenciled warning just to the left of him. "NO SWIMING." Not too bright, boys.

I mentioned that Mallory Square becomes a circus. The picture above is of just one of the street performers: a tightrope walker just beyond a local artist selling his photographs. Just as I took this (non-flash) shot, the tightrope walker was obviously distracted by someone's video camera. I heard him yell, "Get that goddam camera light out of my eyes!" Classy, these street performers, classy.

In addition to Mr. Foul-mouthed Tightrope Walker there was a sword-swallower, the requisite human statue, and of course musicians of all kinds. Musicians?

Here is a guy we referred to as "guitarman." He wasn't very good. And he was sitting very close to another street musician playing...I think it was the bagpipes. An odd cacaphony. Guitarman had the usual tip bucket. Attached to it was a dollar bill in bait. But notice that there is writing on the bucket. Let's take a closer look!

Tips expected?! Why I oughtta... At least he had the good sense to add, almost as an afterthought, "...and appreciated."

The other side of his tip bucket had a more subtle message that despite his single dollar bill tip bait, a $5 tip was "good karma." The three nights we were there, we did not see anyone investing that much in their karma. In fact, we didn't even see anyone invest in so much as a dollar's worth of karma. We sure didn't. We hoped he had a day job...one that he was better at than his night job.

Guitarman wasn't the only marginal musician on the block.

These guys were strange. One of them was playing a xylophone of some sort, while the other was playing some PVC pipes cut to different lengths to make different notes. They were pretty good, but they only played three songs, one of which was the theme from the old video game, Tetris. We sat and watched them for a while, desperately wishing they knew more than just three songs. They never had much of an audience.

And finally...finally!...there is one thing everyone must do when visiting Key West: Get their picture taken outside of Sloppy Joe's Bar, the purported hangout of one Ernest Hemingway. Jacob knew neither of the bar nor the man.

Anyway, that was our trip. We got rained on some more on the way home. We stopped off in Tampa and visited our friend Gene who was house-sitting for his sister. We spent a week on our motorcycles - I logged 1,923 miles on mine. Our asses were pretty sore.

To see all these photos and more, you can check out my Facebook page.

26 August 2010

David Thorne: Certified Lunatic

I have mentioned before how much I love David Thorne’s blog, 27b/6 . While reading his post, “1,000 Characters” the other night and I was laughing so hard I just about fell out of my chair. There’s a lot of random stuff in the post, but these two items really stood out. Why can't I have a sense of humor as good as this guy's?

Girls That have said no Part 1

Around the time I was twelve, my sister had really hot friends staying over. I would dress in ninja gear and wriggle 'saving private ryan beach commando style' into her bedroom and listen to their conversations. Some were educational, most were inane. A few months ago, I was standing in a cd store and a girl came up to me and said "Are you David?" to which I replied "It depends" (and immediately regretted as I knew that if she asked me 'depends on what', I had nothing). The fear must have shown because she asked "Depends on what?" and I replied like a retard "On whether it is on or off the record, I have been misquoted by you people before." and she looked at me as if I was a retard before telling me that she had been a friend of my sisters and remembered me and then actually asked "Are you still annoying?" so I asked her if she still "squeezed her nipples while thinking about kissing Michael Wilson". After a pretty long pause I asked her out but she said no.

And from the same post…

Girls that said no, Part 3

While working at a horse riding camp several years ago, I spent a good twenty minutes explaining to a group, which consisted of twelve children and their young teacher, the importance of horse safety before walking behind a horse and being kicked in the head. I recall only walking in a zigag back to the house with the muffled sounds of children screaming in the background before collapsing and waking up in hospital. While I was there, with a fractured skull, the teacher bought me in a get well soon card signed by all the children so I asked her out but she said no.

David Thorne has a book out, naturally. It is called, “The Internet Is a Playground.” In the (obviously faked) interview below, David starts off by describing an episode he had with his friend "Lucius" - you'd have to read his blog to find out who (and what) Lucius is.

I would imagine that Oprah has got the lawsuit in the works as we speak.

23 August 2010

Airline Travel and Security - I'll Drive Instead

Acronyms For TSA:
  • Thousands Standing Around
  • Tray Stackers Association
  • Truly Stupid Assholes
  • Taking Scissors Away
Okay, that’s it, I will NEVER fly on the airlines again. Screw them. I’ve had it. This whole “TSA: Everyone’s A Terrorist” attitude has just turned me off completely. All the airlines can go bankrupt for all I care.

Last time I flew, I was departing Pensacola, Florida on a quiet Sunday morning. You know Pensacola, that hotbed of terrorist activity. Being a big Navy town, there were two young Navy guys in uniform ahead of me in the line as we wended our way through SECURITY. At the metal detector point in the gauntlet, the TSA nazi barked at the Navy guys for their ID’s. With uncalled-for nastiness, he pulled them aside, gave them the third-degree and thoroughly checked to make sure they were who they said they were. Me, he waved through without a second look.

As we were gathering our things from the conveyer and putting our shoes back on (how fucking silly is this your-shoes-could-be-bombs thing?) I commented to one of the Navy guys about how paranoid we’ve become as a nation and how little respect we have for the military. He just shrugged; it is what it is – he was apparently used to it. The thing is, he should have to be.

There is this guy named Joe Sharkey. He’s a freelance travel writer now; used to write for the NY Times. His big claim to fame is that in 2006 he was on an airplane that was involved in a midair collision. And he survived.

The plane he was on was a new business jet being ferried from its South American manufacturer to its new home with a charter operator in the U.S. Due to proven incompetence on the part of the American pilots (as well as a host of other ancillary causal factors), the wingtip of the business jet struck the wing of a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Airlines. As luck/fate/fortune would have it, the 737 was so badly damaged that it crashed, killing all 154 people onboard. Amazingly, the business jet suffered comparatively little damage and the pilots were able to make a safe emergency landing.

Sharkey is not a pilot, but he fancies himself as an expert in all things aviation. To this day, he stubbornly and vigorously defends “his” pilots, making the somewhat weak (if not untenable) claim that they did everything right and nothing wrong – even though the evidence is to the contrary. His loyalty is noble but misplaced. Those guys screwed up, pure and simple. Sharkey just can’t bring himself to admit it. Or won’t.

That being said, Sharkey does have a blog which focuses mostly on airline travel. It is called, naturally enough, Joe Sharkey At Large. He’s certainly not a fan of the TSA, and frequently writes about this fiasco of an organization. Some of the recent things the TSA has done are just unbelievable. No matter how old you are, they will make you shake your head and go, “WTF!” I mean, we REALLY need to dissolve the TSA.

I don’t think much of Joe Sharkey, but I urge you to read his blog. It’s an eye-opener. Perhaps, like me, it’ll make you never want to fly on the airlines ever again. Like I said, I’m done. I’ve had enough of this “security” bullshit. I'll just friggin' drive from now on.

POSTSCRIPT: Once I wrote disparagingly about another blogger, and he soon showed up here defending himself! It was a guy who wrote about media stuff, not aviation-related at all - I even forget his name. Anyway, it wasn't that any of his friends saw my post and informed the guy - no, he'd just googled his own name and found the link to my post. People with huge egos often google themselves just to see where they're being mentioned because they're typically obsessed with their own imagined fame. Thus, I have no doubt that Joe Sharkey will eventually show up here, telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about because I wasn't on the plane and that he was blah blah blah. Meh- whatever.

Legacy/Gol Mid Air Collision Wiki Article

Joe Sharkey's Blog

13 August 2010

A Simple Request?

...So, let me set it up. The premise is, over the weekend this woman named Shannon lost her cat. When she gets to work on Monday morning, she emails one of the guys upstairs in the Design Department (David) and asks him if he can make up a "lost cat" poster. She includes a picture of Missy. Simple request, right?

The posters aren't quite what Shannon is looking for. She offers suggestions - which aren't well-received at all. Regarding telling people how to do their jobs, David snippily reminds her, "I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out the window."

This "email exchange" appears on 27b/6 a blog by a very strange guy and brilliant writer named David Thorne. His other stories are funny as well, but this one is just friggin' too funny for words.

Read it here: MISSING MISSY

11 August 2010

How To Quit Your Job

Okay, I usually leave airline stuff to other bloggers, but this is just too funny for words.

You heard about the JetBlue flight attendant that went crazy, huh? Well, if not, here's the deal:

At 38 year-old flight attendant by the name of Steven Slater had a little...umm...event. Apparently the flight he was working on had just landed at JFK Airport and had not yet made it to the gate. One of the passengers must have gotten up to retrieve a bag out of the overhead. Mr. Slater addressed this passenger, and a confrontation ensued. Slater either hit hit head on the overhead baggage compartment door, or a bag fell on his head (it's not clear). Apparently, the confrontation turned ugly.

So Slater stormed to the back of the plane and grabbed the p.a. mic. He made a profanity-filled announcement which ended with, "So long, suckers!" or words to that effect. Scarfing up two beers from the galley, he opened a door, popped the emergency slide, tossed his carry-on bags down and then followed them to the tarmac. One would presume that if he hands weren't already full, he would have turned and given the airplane and those on it the finger.

What a way to quit a job, eh? Hey, we all have our breaking point.

JetBlue waited a bit before reporting the incident, generously giving Slater time to make his getaway. When the cops showed up at Slater's house, they found him in bed with his boyfriend (I know, what a shock!) whereupon he was arrested and charged with some minor crimes.

The incident is funny enough, I suppose: Gay flight attendant throws a hissy-fit at a recalcitrant passenger, yadda yadda yadda, arrested in bed with his boyfriend. Okay fine. Moving on...

But wait...enter the Chinese! This is the good part. In their reporting of this event, the Chinese news media had to embellish it a little for their viewers. They add some animation, sound effects and some extra details to...well..."flesh out" the story. You've GOT to see this. It's just too friggin' funny. (Check out :41 seconds)

Why can't Fox News give us that level of depth and detail in a story? WHY? WHY?

HERE is the story in the New York Daily News about the event, if you care, which I'm sure you don't.