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?

31 October 2010

Stuff That Happens

So...the boss wants me to get rid of my motorscooter in light of my recent accident. A reasonable request, I suppose, inasmuch as I am his one-and-only pilot, and this broken shoulder has put me out of commission for a month, and there is no one who can jump in and take my place (pesky insurance requirements). So I see his point.

I guess I shouldn't tell him about my mountain bike riding. If I have another accident, maybe I'll just say I fell off a ladder at the house.

Life is risky. Shit happens.

28 October 2010

Out Of The Fog

It’s been three weeks and a couple of days since my motorcycle accident. And honestly it’s been difficult. Not only has the pain from the break been fairly constant (although thankfully manageable), but the loss of use of the limb has been a huge inconvenience as I’ve previously whined. Jacob has been a tremendous help, as I’ve also mentioned, driving me around and doing things I could not do myself. But being incapacitated like this makes you frustrated and angry…well, makes me frustrated and angry, anyway. I want this to be over with.

Use of the arm has come back surprisingly quickly. Of course, I haven’t exactly followed doctor’s orders when it came to wearing that damned immobilizing sling. But hey, no pain – no gain, right? While I’m not exactly back up to 100%, I can at least tuck my own shirt in now. But I didn’t tell Jacob that, heh-heh.

This morning, as we both were getting ready for the day, I asked him if he’d tuck my shirt in for me on my left-hand side, the one I supposedly cannot reach. His hand was at my waistband, just an inch or so from “going in.” That’s when I casually mentioned, “Oh yeah, I’m going commando* today.” Man, he pulled his arm back like he’d touched a hot burner on the stove. The look on his face was priceless. “Uhhhh…” he said as he stumbled backward. I laughed, and then tucked my own shirt in.

You had to be there.

So Jacob took off today on his own (as yet uncrashed) motorcycle, riding up to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to see his girlfriend for the weekend. He was concerned about leaving, but I assured him I’d be okay.

After he left, I jumped in the car and headed up to our company headquarters in Brewton, Alabama, about an hour north of Pensacola. It’s the first time I’ve been in the car alone in over three weeks. On the way out of town I drove through a weak cold front. There was a little rain, then all of a sudden the rain stopped and it was nice out.

It was great driving by myself again. I cranked up the tunes (extra-loud), and sang along with my favorite Elvis Presley songs. You can’t really do that when you’re driving with someone else, even if they enjoy the exact same type of music as you, which nobody does, let’s be honest. Nobody wants to hear my bad sing-along version of “Burning Love.” (I really have a terrible singing voice, too – thanks, dad!)

Halfway up Highway 29, a strong feeling of exhilaration came over me. Not only had the weather cleared up, but it was like a thick emotional fog was lifting as well. I can steer and operate the turn signals with my left (bad) arm. I felt alive and in control, enabled and energized. Such a small thing, really – dressing and driving yourself to work. But it was, I have to admit, thrilling. I yelled, “I’M BACK, BABY!!” at the top of my lungs. In fact, I even texted that to my friend Matt. Well of course I’m not totally back, but the progress is undeniable. I have not enjoyed feeling like a cripple these past couple of weeks (no offense to any cripples out there).

I suppose it would have been easy to just lie around the house, taking it easy and taking the eight weeks the Emergency Room doctor predicted recovery might take. It would have been easy to let Jacob do all the work with the whiny excuse of, “My arm hurts.” But it wouldn’t have been fair. Not to him, and not to me.

Today, the weather cleared up in more ways than one. I’m feeling like a fully-functioning human again. And I am damn glad. Damn glad. The Brewton Little Theatre is going to have to get someone else to play the one-armed-man in their musical version of “The Fugitive.”

We tentatively have "some flying" to do this weekend, according to the boss. I'll use my usual safety pilot. But it won't be very long at all until I'm ready to take the controls by myself again. I'll tell ya, I'm looking forward to that!

(*Commando = sans undergarments)

23 October 2010


This morning, nineteen days after my motorcycle accident I passed a major milestone: I was able to button my own jeans. I know, it sounds silly. But for the last couple of weeks, my broken shoulder simply made it impossible for me to use my left arm for much of anything. Healing progress has been slow, perhaps because I’m not a teenager anymore. I still cannot raise the arm away from my side (much), nor can I swing it fore and aft. But this morning I was able to button my jeans. I’ll take that.

The time has passed slowly. While the pain in my upper arm has thankfully diminished, it hasn’t completely left. There’s a constant low-grade, dull pain that’s just bad enough to keep me from sleeping well. I get, maybe, three hours at a time. Up until very recently I haven’t even been able to sleep lying down. So I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping on the couch…sitting on the couch, actually. I guess I could take the oxycodone they prescribed, but I’d rather not take those. My little cocktail of Aleve and Tylenol works well enough.

With my arm in the sling and under my shirt, I joke that if the Brewton, Alabama Little Theatre ever puts on that musical version of "The Fugitive" I’ll be perfect for the role of the one-armed man (menacingly played by Bill Raisch in the original TV series). But seriously, the loss of use of a limb is a tremendous inconvenience. I cannot imagine what life must be like for an amputee. It’s got to be horrible. There are so many things you cannot do. Like tie your shoes. Or open a jar of pickles. Everything is more difficult.

Normal people have wives and/or kids and/or girlfriends to help them out in times like these, and there are compelling reasons for having any or all of those. Unfortunately, I don’t. Fortunately, I have great friends. One of them, my riding buddy Jacob is currently on-hold, waiting for his church to send him on a two-year mission. Thus, he was available to come and stay with me. And right after the accident he did just that. I am so thankful.

Aside from helping me around the house, helping me get dressed and driving me around, Jacob has been performing certain, um, other duties. Not to be indelicate, but in the shower I cannot reach certain areas of my body. Get your minds out of the gutter – I mean between my shoulder blades and under my arms. Jacob, bless his heart, has been helping me in that regard (no, he doesn’t get in the shower with me).

As luck would have it, the boss is out of town for a couple of weeks so I don’t have to fly. I can just sit around and get better, which is exactly what I’m doing. It’s easy with someone to wait on me hand and foot. Jacob has literally been a Godsend. If I were obscenely rich I’d have a manservant around to help me put my socks on every day!

22 October 2010

Seeing Us Naked For The Sake of "Security"

My views on the TSA and airline security screenings in general are well-known 'round these parts: They are useless. Not only are they unnecessary and a tremendous waste of government money, they are an instrusion of our privacy. We are all treated equally - scrutinized as potential criminals. Travelers must pass through metal detectors, we must remove our shoes, our carry-on bags are x-rayed for explosives or other contraband. And sometimes...randomly...we are pulled out of line for an "enhanced" search (the metal wand screening and maybe a pat-down). All in the name of "safety" of course. Right. I've been subjected to an "enhanced" search, and my response to this unmitigated bullshit is that I will NEVER fly on the airlines again.

Airline pilots must go through the same gauntlet of security devices as everyone else. Even they are eyed as potential terrorists. Can't be too careful, you know.

The latest and greatest security device that the usless TSA has implemented is a scanner that can see right through your clothes. You heard me - right through your clothes. They call it "Advanced Imaging Technology, or AIT. And yes, it can see your naked body. There are those of us who feel that this egregious invasion of privacy is unconstitutional.

One airline pilot apparently agrees: For instance a certain Michael Roberts, who flies for ExpressJet Airlines. On his way to work on October 15th, he arrived at the Memphis International Airport. He passed through the initial battery of metal detectors, but refused to submit to the AIT. The TSA monkeys offered him an alternative: a physical pat-down. Roberts, who obviously knows something about constitutional law, asked if he was suspected of a crime? The answer was obviously "no" but rulez iz rulez, according to the TSA monkeys.

Hilarity ensued. Roberts was in fact made to feel like a criminal, scolded like a misbehaving child and ultimately he was denied entrance to the airport...to work. Yes, a federal case is being made of this.

HERE is the story that aired on ABC News.

Roberts and his attorney are quite clear: These types of strip-searches are unconstitutional. Legally, the alternative "pat-down" search is only called for when a person is suspected of committing a crime. And so they are suing, as damn well they should.

When oh when are we Americans going to stand up and put an end to this bullshit destruction of our civil rights? Maybe Michael Roberts and his attorney can start a movement and we can get rid of the TSA once and for all.

HERE is the story from the pilot himself, in his own words, on Lew Rockwell's blog. As we edge deeper and deeper into a police state similar to Nazi Germany, it is worth the time you'll spend reading it so you'll see how far it's already gone.

America: Land of the free, home of the brave? Nah. Land of the sheep, home of the scared.

10 October 2010

At Risk

Up until her death the other day, a 36 year-old British woman named Linda Norgrove was working in Afghanistan for a civilian company called Development Alternatives Inc. (“DAI”), which is based in Washington D.C. DAI is described as a “global consulting company.” DAI had a contract funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help the people of Afghanistan grow something besides the poppies used for heroin production. Agriculture/horticulture was Ms. Norgrove’s field. Apparently, helping developing countries was her passion.

On September 26th, Ms. Norgrove and three Afghan “colleagues” were kidnapped by the Taliban. The three Afghanis were soon released, but Ms. Norgrove was held, big surprise. Her location was known. This past Friday night, NATO forces decided to try to rescue her. It went badly. Reportedly, one of her captors detonated a bomb, and she died in the explosion. Very sad.

Why do I bring this up?

I have three equally-brilliant sisters. Seriously, the women got the brains in my family; they make my two brothers and me look like drooling, slack-jawed mental retards. My youngest sister, Eleanor, is an archeologist. She specializes in the history and archeology of the Middle East. Throughout her life, she and her husband have made numerous trips over to some extremely unstable areas. We always worry about them both. Being tall and veddy, veddy British, my sister’s husband Tony stands out like a sore thumb. And Eleanor herself, well, a young, pretty American woman always makes an easy and desirable target.

Eleanor has always downplayed the risks, claiming that she and Tony take extraordinary precautions, blah blah blah. That may be, but a fact she cannot change is that she is often an American woman in places where they don’t like women to begin with, never mind American women.

Eleanor has always gone to places like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Israel. (She often has to get a new passport so the visa stamps won’t betray her travel history.) In fact, in 2003 she was in Iraq and left only days before U.S. forces invaded to “liberate” Iraq from Saddam Hussein – oh, and to find those darned weapons of mass destruction.

My family has come to terms with the fact that Eleanor and Tony voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way. We understand the consequences that could arise from such actions. …Which is the delicate way of saying, “we know they could get killed doing what they do. And that is their choice.”

But I will never understand why people like Linda Norgrove and my sister Eleanor deliberately go into such risky places: countries that are either at war, or Muslim countries that don’t like Americans (or any white Christians for that matter). To do so seems reckless and dumb. We grieve for Ms. Norgrove’s family, but what can we tell them? She certainly knew there was a war going on…knew that she had no protection over there. Bottom line: She should not have been there.

I fly helicopters. I ride motorcycles. I do some risky stuff. But you won’t find my ass over in Afghanistan, trying to convince people to grow soybeans instead of poppies. That's just crazy.

07 October 2010


Whenever you go into a hospital they always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. In my case, my arm/shoulder was causing intense pain that did not subside even for a moment. It was accompanied by dry mouth, occasional light-headedness and nausea. Thus, I characterized the pain as a 10. Not that I’m a wimp, as I’ve said, but it was really, really bad.

But I tend to take things in a lighthearted way. I see no point in complaining or putting on a martyr act. I try to see the humor in events. And so I make with the jokes. It can backfire.

A long time ago, I fell out of a tree. (It’s a long story.) They thought I broke my back. On the way to the hospital, the woman EMT was asking me the usual, “how many fingers am I holding up?” questions. I was cracking wise. I may have asked her to open her blouse and let me see ‘em inasmuch as I might be dying and it would be a nice gesture. I heard my nephew riding in the “shotgun” seat of the ambulance go, “Uncle Bobbbbbbyyyyyyyy…” and I could tell he was rolling his eyes. The woman EMT snapped at me, rather sharply, “Sir, we are just trying to do our jobs here!” I replied,
“Missy, let’s not forget that I am the one in pain here.”

So in Sacred Heart Hospital this past Tuesday evening, they may not have taken me seriously when I said how badly I was in pain. My body was fighting hard- my BP and pulse were off the chart but that did not seem to impress them. Eventually, I did see a doctor who said they’d give me something…perhaps he mentioned Demerol…for the pain. Eventually a nurse did come in and give me a shot. She warned me that it might sting a little. I said, “Sweetie, you could stick that needle right in my scrotum and it wouldn’t hurt as bad as my left arm is hurting right now.” (I swear I said that, too. I have no filter when I’m in pain.) She looked a little shocked. I can’t say I felt the injection at all, even though she may have been digging around for bone. I am not popular in Emergency Rooms.

Twenty minutes later, the doctor stuck his head in the little room where I lay writhing in pain on the gurney. I mentioned to him that the shot did not seem to have
any effect at all. Casually, he said we’d just wait a little while longer and see about giving me another one. That “little while longer” turned out to be an additional 45 minutes, when they came to discharge me. (Sacred Heart Hospital is not exactly generous with the pain meds.)

As they tried to strap me into an immobilizing sling, the same nurse gave me a shot of what she called the same stuff as before. All I know is, as she pulled the needle out I immediately felt extremely nauseous and woozy. I was gulping down water (“SIR, JUST SIP IT!”) fast. As I did, the pain melted away like an ice cube in a hot frying pan. I was, like, whoa! “You sure that’s the same stuff as before?” I asked. She answered in the affirmative. Hmm.

Next day, I was relating this little story to a pilot/attorney friend of mine. “They probably gave you a placebo the first time,” he offered. I was incredulous. Would they do that? He opined that they might. And it sounded logical.

I entered the hospital complaining of Richter Scale 10 pain. But I wasn’t acting like I was in pain. Suppose they only gave me sugar-water, or liquid baby aspirin to see how I’d react? If I reported drastically reduced pain levels, they’d know I was faking it. But I wasn’t, and they were forced to give me the real stuff on the second go-around. Bastards!

I have no proof, of course, and I might be all wrong. All I know is that the first injection they administered had ABSOLUTELY no effect. It did not diminish the pain, nor did it cause any nausea or what we in aviation call “secondary indications” - you know, like how you can just feel when a drug has entered your bloodstream? I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet they gave me a damn placebo.

06 October 2010

After The Fall

This was going to be a nice little story about washing a motorcycle on a gorgeous day and then taking it out on a 30-mile ride to “dry her off.” Didn’t work out that way.

Motorcycling involves risk; I know that. And I’ve always believed that every accident can be avoided with the proper level of defensive riding. ...Until that lady pulled out in front of me yesterday.

It started off innocently enough: Absolutely beautiful day for a ride, and me without a care in the world. Instead of going to the beach as per usual, I just took the “long way” tour around town. I was almost home – 4.3 miles according to Mapquest. I came upon a t-interesection where, just to my right a car had pulled up to the red light and stopped. The woman driving the car looked in my direction and then pulled out in front of me! Damn! I wasn’t going very fast. I grabbed the brakes and started to swerve to go in front of her. But suddenly I could feel the front tire sliding. The bike fell over and spit me off. Just like that, just that quick. What the...?

I felt myself hit the ground and start to roll. I was worried about the cars behind me running over my body. I thought I could feel my helmet hit the ground, and remember thinking I’m damn glad I wore it. However, later inspection inexplicably revealed not a scratch. Which explains why I did not lose consciousness.

I got to my feet. The bike was on its left side, dripping fuel. I didn’t even want to look at what damage might have been caused. About that time, my left arm was hurting, bad. I knew that feeling. A long time ago I fell while jogging and broke my clavicle. At first I thought I had done it again, but the pain was further out the shoulder this time, in my upper forearm. A woman immediately appeared and asked to examine me.

“What are you, a nurse?”
I asked, walking around in little circles to try and make the pain go away. I figured she wasn’t a doctor, because a doctor would not have stopped.
“As a matter of fact, yes I am a nurse,”
she replied, kind of curtly.
“Stroke of luck then!”
I said.

We peeled my dungaree jacket off and were happy (delighted?) to see no jagged bones sticking out anywhere. I couldn’t lift my left arm, and I knew that wasn’t a good sign.

We got the bike up on its stand and I could not believe my luck. When motorcycles fall over, the gas tank always gets dented. The handlebars usually bend and the switch gear or bar itself contacts the (expensive) tank. Not this time! The left bar was bent back a bit, but it had…somehow…not hit the tank. Aside from that there was very little other damage. The rear turn signal kept the back of the bike off the ground, and at the front, my highway peg – which is built waaaay more solidly and heavier than it needs to be (thanks, Harley!) kept the engine from harm. I was literally astounded. I must have really been going slow when the bike hit the ground. With the help of some Samaritans, we popped it into neutral and moved it out of traffic.

People want to immediately start explaining stuff. What happened? everyone asks. Even if I “know,” I do not say. Let’s let the dust settle, okay? The woman I almost hit was rattled. She seemed to think she’d done nothing wrong, but the man with her said to her, “Why’d you run that light and pull out in front of him?” Why indeed!

The nurse, finding nothing obviously wrong, gave me her number and said she knew a guy with a trailer who could get my bike home. She was, as was everyone else, strongly urging me to go to the hospital. I was having none of it. Leave the bike by the side of the road? No way! However, I knew I had to get home before the shock wore off.

With all information exchanged, I hit the starter button and the Sportster fired right up as I knew it would. My left arm was pretty useless. I won’t bore you with the details of how I clutched and shifted, but it wasn’t pretty. Or easy. There are eight traffic lights between me and the house: I hit every red, naturally, for that is my luck.

At home, I took some Extra-Strength Excedrin. The shock began to wear off. The pain in the arm was…let’s say “intense” and it was causing me to be nauseous. I’d lost my cellphone and had no way of calling anyone locally to come help. So I…don’t laugh…got on Facebook and described the situation. Everyone’s response was the same: “GO TO THE HOSPITAL!” But I knew that. And I would. I just needed to get the bike into the garage, which I couldn’t do alone. However, none of my friends were available to come help me. Neighbors weren’t home from work yet.

Pain is a funny thing. Usually I can bear it pretty well. But this pain in the arm was so bad – a pain I’d never felt before. And believe me, I’ve felt some pain (sordid details to come). I don’t usually get nauseous and lightheaded, so I knew this was bad.

Eventually, I just got in the car and drove to the hospital around 6 pm. They asked, as they always do to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Honestly…and I’m no wimp now…it was a 10. Nausea, light-headedness, dry mouth, pulse 140…whew, man! I’ll cut to the chase: I broke my arm right where it comes out of the shoulder socket.

I didn’t want to tell them I’d been in a motorcycle accident, knowing the opinion most hospital workers have of motorcycles. But the story came out nonetheless. “How’d you get home?” they’d ask. And of course I got that disapproving look when I told them I rode. “And how’d you get here this evening?” they’d then ask. And I got the same disapproving look when I told them I drove. Hey look, you do what you gotta do, alright?

The doctor says I’ll be out of commission for eight weeks. (We’ll see about that.) About 10:30 last night he finally gave me a shot of some kick-ass drug that made the pain melt away. (But why did they have to wait so long to administer it? Jeepers!)

“You do have someone to drive you home, don’t you?”
they asked.
“Sure do!”
I lied.

And so here I sit, 14 hours after the fall. Not much sleep last night. I took my left arm out of the immobilizing sling and gingerly moved it to the keyboard of my laptop. At this point there is no way to position the arm that does not hurt, so what’s the difference if it’s over the keyboard? What else have I got to do? They gave me some prescriptions for drugs (Percoset, I think) but I’m not a big drug guy. Excedrin and Tylenol can handle just about anything. And what they can’t, Rum and Coke can.

Oh, there is one other thing to do: Call the boss? Yeah, that. He’s going to be really pleased (not) when he hears this bit of news. He’s never liked the fact that I ride motorcycles. And I know the three little words he’s going to say. You know them too.

Oh well. Shit happens. That’s just life. To truly appreciate pleasure, you have to experience pain. And it is pain that I will be experiencing for some (hopefully short) time in the future.

03 October 2010

Learning The Unteachable

I like riding motorcycles, always have, ever since I can remember. Why? Dunno. Maybe it’s that “one with the machine” thing. Driving a car can be fairly automatic, but riding a motorcycle is totally absorbing. All the extremities are occupied, some with more than one device. For instance, on the motorcycle your right hand not only controls the throttle, but also activates the front brake. You become part of the machine and the machine becomes part of you in a very real way.

When I was first learning how to fly, my instructors put it in much the same context. “Let the wings become extensions of your arms,” they’d say, which I thought was terribly silly. Or, “I don’t get in the aircraft, I put it on…I wear it.” To which I would roll my eyes and think, “Yeah, yeah, suuuuure you do.”

My own approach to flying was more mechanical and methodical and scientific. You do this with the controls and you’ll get the desired result. It works – works every time. I did not put the helicopter on like a pair of gloves or something. Poppycock! There is a certain amount of artistry to flying, no doubt. But I did not understand that the artistry is not in the connection between the painter's hand and his brush and the canvas, but rather the artist's brain and the final image.

Somewhere along the way, something changed. And I’m not sure when it did. But it’s the strangest thing. Now, I no longer find myself sitting in an aircraft. When I climb aboard and strap in, I literally feel myself becoming a part of that machine. I do what I used to make fun of. Now, I don’t think about pushing the little sticks around. It just sort of happens. It's taken years and years, but flying finally feels very natural to me. I’m very happy about this.

My dad was like that- a natural pilot. I only flew with him on a couple of occasions, but each time he exuded this…this…confidence. You simply knew he was in charge and in control.

I do not claim to be the World’s Greatest Pilot or World’s Best Motorcyclist. But I feel lucky to have at least reached a level of oneness with these crazy machines. It was something my mentors tried to teach me, but it is also something that cannot be taught.