Who Am I?

My photo
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?

16 March 2011

The Most Interesting Man In The World - Part Dos (Equis)

His words carry weight that would break a less-interesting man's jaw...
He's won trophies for his game face alone...
He bowls overhand...
He is...
The most interesting man in the world.

They're silly, really, these commercials for Dos Equis beer. Maybe it's the absurdity of them that is so appealing. Sitting in a kayak and being pushed out of the back of an airplane at low level with a paddle but no parachute? Absurd! (I love how the ad agency felt the need to insert the "Do Not Attempt" caption on that particular scene. As if!)

He is the life of parties he's never attended.

Getting a puma to obey and get down off the kitchen counter? Absurd! (And why would you have a puma running loose in your house in the first place??)

If he were to punch you in the face,
You would have to fight off the strong desire to thank him.

Hoisted on a chair at a wedding and being carried around by the bride and groom? Absurd!

Bulls flat-out refuse to fight him.

I love how the actor who portrays TMIMITW (Jonathan Goldsmith) does so with such gusto. He really gets into the part. But I also love the fact that the commercial is mainly
not about the beer but rather leading an interesting life, with the beer only being mentioned at the end, almost as an afterthought.

His business card simply says
"I'll call you."

By comparison I am TLIMITW (The Least Interesting Man In The World), so I envy the life TMIMITW leads. Which is exactly what the ad agency responsible for the spots is going for. They describe the campaign this way:

"He is a man rich in stories and experiences, much the way the audience hopes to be in the future. Rather than an embodiment of the brand, The Most Interesting Man is a voluntary brand spokesperson: he and Dos Equis share a point of view on life that it should be lived interestingly."

Here's the new commercial (below). It's short, with quick-paced shots. But watch the very beginning. I love the way that even the dogs in the scene are sitting there, staring at TMIMITW with rapt attention as he serenades the beautiful women. I love the way the producers create those (fake) archival scenes of him as a younger man. Such creativity and effort put into a little 30-second commercial! Too funny.

Maybe I'll grow a beard...

13 March 2011

Back In The Saddle - Part Two

Frankly, I’ve been itching to get back on the motorcycle. After a long, cold winter, the weather here in Florida is finally becoming nice enough to ride. On Saturday morning I changed out the last few bits that got bent or damaged in the accident I had back in October. By noon, she was ready to run and ride. So that’s what Jacob and I did.

We rode up to the airport, of course. It’s my home-away-from-home. Plus, it’s an easy one-hour ride through some nice, back-country roads. Jacob has been riding his bike pretty much non-stop through the winter since it is his only form of transportation. Cosmetically, it was in dire need of attention. My garage is sufficient, but at the airport we have all kinds of neat stuff. Like a special motorcycle lift, which makes cleaning and servicing the drive chain soooooo much easier.

To be honest, before the ride I was a little…let’s not say “nervous,” let’s say anxious. Would I be hopelessly paranoid, to the point where the fun was taken out of riding? I hoped not. Then again, it has been five months. Right after the accident I was a really nervous car driver…always watching cars at intersections and wondering if they were going to pull out on me like that lady did…flinching at the slightest unanticipated move by another car. But as time has passed, most of my paranoia has diminished. …In my car. …In my car with seatbelts and airbags and structure around me. But what would riding be like?

I sat on the Harley, enjoying its familiar and peculiar lumpy, uneven idle. I strapped on my full-face helmet, zipped up my leather jacket, and then pulled on my gloves (full gloves too, not the fingerless kind I usually wear). And I wondered how it was going to be. I got the answer as soon as I let out the clutch and began working my way out of the subdivision: Not a problem. I needn’t have worried. See, I am a motorcyclist. I love to ride. That has not changed.

We got gas at the BP station, then turned north on Scenic Highway, accelerating up through the gears to stay ahead of traffic. It felt normal and natural to be back on the bike. It felt good being “in the wind” again. It had been too long.

It was a gorgeous day – a little cool – but I don’t mind that. It was “NACITS,” as I like to call it: Not A Cloud In The Sky. It’s not an official designation from the National Weather Service but it ought to be.

We merged onto Highway 90 east over to the town of Pace, across the swampy area where the Escambia River enters the bay, then turned north again on Woodbine Road. Soon we were on our own, out in farmland with the strong, gusty wind at our backs. There is no direct route from Pensacola to Brewton. You have to zigzag your way along various back roads. And here is where the Sportster really shines. At 60 to 65 mph, the bike is in its element. It just loves these gently curving two-lanes. It’s not a pseudo-racebike that lives to go around corners fast, and it’s not an Interstate-hauler like a big Electra Glide or Honda Gold Wing. For me it’s the perfect bike.

Up at the airport Freddy and Darlene McCall (the couple who runs the place) had their matching Harleys out. They’re both avid riders. She has a gorgeous black-and-chrome Sportster (newer than mine) and he has a beautiful black-and-chrome Super Glide. They’re both really nicely decked out and flawless. They make mine look like the beat-up road warrior it is. We set Jacob up, far enough away so as not to get any overspray from the hose on our bikes, and then while he worked, Freddy, Darlene and I commenced to do some serious airplane/motorcycle talking.

Finally it was getting late, so Jacob and I mounted up for home. The sky was still absolutely cloudless (all day long!). The air had grown chilly but not uncomfortably so. On our westerly zigs the setting sun was quite blinding.

The ol’ Sporty ran flawlessly, almost happily, as if it was telling me, “Yeah, I’m glad to be back out here running the roads, too.” There is something quite odd about the connection between man and machine that we motorcyclists experience. We know the bikes are inanimate objects, but still…many of us feel a fond “oneness” with the machine, very much like the oneness we pilots feel with our aircraft. I know, it’s silly.

We pulled into my driveway right about the time it became too dark to ride with our sunglasses. I was cold (my legs) and sore (my butt) and stiff (every joint in my body) when we got home. Getting old, I guess. I parked the bike in the garage, switched off the ignition and, as always, gave it one last look before going into the house. There are few things in life that I enjoy more than riding that damn Sportster. Despite the sore butt, it felt really good to get back in that saddle again.

There would be more pictures - and better pictures - but the stupid Nikon camera, that I bought on the strength of its brand name and those Ashton Kutcher commercials, died after only one year of service. So much for "quality" products...

08 March 2011

The Art of Quitting

It seems that I cannot even quit a job properly. You might find this odd, since as everyone knows (and Matt will gladly testify), I’m a pretty good quitter. In fact, I can be a hell of a quitter!

There comes a time when you get to the end of the road at every job. I’m there now. My original plan was to be done with this one at the end of January. But then…you know how plans can change: 1) My boss announced that he’d be gone pretty much all the month of February; 2) My mechanic announced that we had some major maintenance to do on the ship and asked for my help. So I agreed to stay until the end of February. That was the date I told the boss he could take me off the payroll. I did allow that I’d help find my replacement, as well as help with flights on a “contract” or daily basis until someone could be hired.

It’s funny, but sometimes life really doesn’t care what you want. Best line I've ever heard: You want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans.

Of course the work on the helicopter is taking longer than we expected. This means that I can’t fly with any of the prospective replacements. And I need to fly with them. For one thing, I want to make sure that whoever takes my place is a halfway decent pilot. Aside from that, when we do fly we go into some pretty…umm…strange places and there’s no guarantee that every helicopter pilot will think it’s cool.

So I was sitting in the boss’s office the other day, talking about the trip he just took in his new jet. (I should say here that the market for used business jets is horrible right now. Many are trading at 50% of what they were worth just two years ago. My boss got himself an awesome deal on one.) We were comfortable with each other - something that hasn't been true lately, especially in the days leading up to my "resignation." But it was like old times. Hey, I like the guy - I just don't want to work for him anymore.

However, in the course of our conversation, he asked if I’d stick around for a bit, since we have a couple of important flights in the helicopter planned in the next month or so, and he would prefer that I do the flying rather than some new guy who he hasn’t had a chance to get to know and trust. Like I dummy I said yes. And he asked if I would fly on the weekend of his wedding, which is in the middle of May. Again I said yes. Like a dummy. I’m trying to delicately extricate myself from this job, and it’s not working.

Typically it’s not like this. Typically, you put in your two-week notice and then - Thanks, it’s been great! - you leave. Or you go in, throw your ID card and keys down on the boss’s desk and say, “I quit!” and walk out. But that’s not how it’s working out for me. I’ve enjoyed this job, no doubt, but there are also very real reasons that I want to leave. But I cannot just say, “See ya!” and walk out. I’ve worked pretty closely with this guy for three and a half years. Nearly every time that helicopter has flown, he’s been in it, right there in the seat next to me. We may not be close friends (we are still boss and employee after all), but we’ve become close nonetheless. I feel a responsibility to leave him in good hands.

My mistake was in telling the boss that I wasn’t going to another job – only that I just wanted to stop doing this one. He’s not making it easy. He’s been offering alternative arrangements, most of which involve me not flying the helicopter so much. I tell him they are “worth thinking about” but honestly I’m just being polite. The reality is that psychologically I’ve already moved on.

Hopefully we’ll get the helicopter up and running either by the end of this week or the beginning of next. I’ll fly with some of the guys who’ve sent their resumes, and the boss will select one of them. For a short time, the new guy will have the benefit(?) of flying with me and seeing the way I do things. Hey, we all fly a little differently. There are a million right ways to fly.

I'm a competent enough pilot, I'll admit that, but I’m not saying my way is perfect or even the only way. It’s just the way my boss is used to. I am his first helicopter pilot. And believe me, I've worked very hard to convince the boss (in my own subtle way) that I am the best helicopter pilot in the world - past, present or future. I feel sorry for the poor bastard that takes my place, having to sit there while the boss glowers at him from the “copilot” seat, saying, “That’s not how BOB does it! Why aren’t you doing it the way BOB does it?” I mean, can you imagine? I can. In fact, if I were that guy, I imagine that I'd get to the point where I'd turn to the boss and say, "F@#% Bob! He's not your pilot anymore!"

So there you have it, I’m kind of stuck. In a way, I wish I did have something definite to go to. It would make things a lot easier. Quitting is an art, and it turns out I'm not much of an artist.

01 March 2011

The TSA: Nazi America

The TSA ought to be dissolved, no doubt about it. They are not keeping us "safe" from "terrorists." They abuse their power, subject ordinary citizens to intrusive searches and, more importantly, generate a gnawing, uncomfortable feeling of paranoia among the people. We see "terrorists" hiding behind every lamp post.

One recent example of this idiocy happened just before Valentines Day. A group of people who had traveled to Savannah, Georgia BY TRAIN were corralled by the TSA and forced to undergo their famous "enhanced" screening. Women, children...everyone got the special pat-down. Oh yeah, this was AFTER THEY HAD GOTTEN OFF the train. That's right, not before boarding as you might expect. After the train had arrived at the destination. Passengers getting off the train would normally not even be required to enter the station building if they chose not to, but the TSA wasn't having that! Nope, everyone was forced to come inside for a search. Papers? Vear are your papers? Vee must zee your papers.

Free country? Not anymore.

Fortunately, in this day of digital recording and instant posting to Facebook and YouTube, the event was captured for posterity. Take a look...

And you can read the AOL NEWS story about this travesty HERE.

The TSA says it was a "VIPR" operation, whatever that is. Let's go to the TSA website!

Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) teams consist of a combination of STSIs, Federal Air Marshals, explosive-detection canine teams, Aviation Security Inspectors, and Transportation Security Officers. The teams provide a random, announced, high-visibility surge into a transit agency, in addition to enhancing agency resources during special events.

In other words, a show of force. Just letting the American public know that the TSA is on the job! You know, keeping us safe! from the bad guys.

The really disturbing thing about all this mess is how easily the American public acquiesce to being treated like criminals. Oh yes, all in the name of safety and security. We should keep in mind that the first word in TSA is "transportation." They've already taken control of air travel and trains; how long until the TSA expands its reach and starts limiting, monitoring or otherwise controlling automobile travel? How long until we have TSA checkpoints on Interstate highways at the state lines? The Interstates are part of a federally-funded transportation system, you know. Oh, you think it couldn't happen? Think again.

Look, we supposedly live in a free society. The government cannot hope to prevent all or even any "terrorist" attacks. Crazy people are going to do crazy things. And sometimes innocent citizens are going to get hurt or killed. That's just life. I don't walk around worried that some nut is going to suicide-bomb my ass into oblivion. It might happen, yes. That's the price we pay for that free society. And I don't want to live in a country where everyone is suspected of being a terrorist until proven otherwise. That's not the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers. That's the Germany of a certain guy named A. Hitler. You remember wacky, ol' Adolph, dontcha? No? Ask your parents or grandparents. I'll bet they do.

If we expect or task the government with protecting every citizen from every possible threat, then we might as well give up our rights and call this place Nazi America. It seems like we're awfully close to being there right now.