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 May 2013

Splitting Hairs

Let’s face it, at my current age a haircut is not the traumatic event it used to be. For one thing, I’m not as vain as I used to be, so if the haircut isn’t “just right” it’s no big deal. Even the best haircut only looks good for about a week, and who wants to get their haircut every damn week?

And then there’s the fact that there’s not much I can do with what’s left of my hair. The bald-on-top-long-in-the-back deal looks horrible, as does the bald-on-top-with-ponytail. Good Lord. And no, I’m not completely bald on top, but close enough at this stage. So I just have the barber cut it really short – not a buzzcut but short enough that I don’t have to part it or mess with it when I get out of the shower; just towel-dry-and-go.

I had been using one of these styling shops like Fantastic Sam’s or Cuts By Us, but the results were not always satisfactory. The cutters they seem to attract either girls with little experience who only know *one* particular men’s haircut (the one they learned in school), or gay guys who are too chit-chatty and therefore take too long to do a relatively simple job. Just cut my damn hair the way I ask you to, alright? If I say, “Don’t touch my sideburns,” I mean DON’T TOUCH MY FUCKING SIDEBURNS! I don’t know why, but many/most barbers (male and female) like to trim your sideburns up to above the top of the ear. Just leave them be, okay? I like looking like Elvis!

Another thing, my hairline in the back is goofy. It’s actually in the shape of an “m.” But a lot of haircutters obsessively want to force a straight collar hairline on me, which means it often ends up halfway up the back of my head! “Just taper it to a point in the back,” I always instruct them. Most of them either never hear it or totally disregard me.

Anyway, there is this old-fashioned barbershop in town: Four chairs, bunch of old guys sitting around reading the newspaper and watching Fox News while waiting for their turn. First time I went in there a relatively young guy cut my hair. Did a pretty good job, too, even though he ignored my “Just put a #8 guard on your clipper and mow away!” request.

So I went back there yesterday for my “Summer In Washington” haircut which I’m hoping will last me until August when I come back to Pensacola. The owner, an old guy who I believe was cutting hair in Nazareth around the time of Jesus’ birth, beckoned me to his chair. He said nothing…nothing to me after my initial greeting when I walked in the door. Just wrapped me up and went to work, never asking me how I wanted it cut. I wondered: Could he read my mind?

As soon as I sat down, one of the old guy’s regular customers walked in. There were two other barbers that were open, but this old dude wanted my barber. I figured I was in for the bum’s rush.

As he began cutting my hair, I noticed that he had some sort of palsy, perhaps the onset of Parkinsons. I kept thinking about a horrible line I once read in CAR AND DRIVER magazine. They were describing how convertibles are hard to keep from flexing because they have no roof structure. The author of the story called the latest version of the Ford Thunderbird, “the Katherine Hepburn of convertibles.” He later apologized. But that’s what I was thinking yesterday, that mine was the Katherine Hepburn of barbers. I wondered how this was going to turn out? I was worried for my ears.

When he got to the back I warned him about my hairline: He complied. On the sides, I cautioned him about my sideburns: No problemo. And I’m thinking, “I wonder what he has in store for the top?” Well I needn’t have wondered. Without so much as touching the few strands on the top of my head, he whipped the sheet (or whatever they call that thing) off me and I was done. Out the door…next! Quickest. Haircut. Ever. He didn’t even spin me around so I could see the back.

“That’s it?” says I, a little surprised.
“That’s it,” says he, adding. “Ten bucks.”
I forked over the ten and for the first time in my life did not tip my barber.

Mind you, I’m not unhappy with the haircut. It’s just not as short as I’d prefer, especially on top. But maybe I got off lucky with Shaky McFlakey there.

I often ponder the question of when to quit flying. One day in the hopefully-distant future I’ll be too old to fly safely…or maybe too old to inspire the necessary confidence in my passengers that I can handle things safely. Legally I can continue as long as I can pass a flight physical and 24-month checkride. Practically is another matter. It’s like driving: When are you too old? When you find that no one wants to ride with you?

I think it was time for this barber to quit. Only, he owned the shop and I’d bet that none of his employees had the heart to tell him his hands weren’t in it anymore.

24 May 2013

Nearly Retired

I’ve actually been trying to quit flying since the late 1990’s. I’d been flying commercially since 1982...had been with Petroleum Helicopters Inc. since 1987 and was really “done” with the whole flying for a living thing. In 2001 at age 45 I finally did quit, with no real plan for what I was going to do with the rest of my life other than “not flying.”

That didn’t work out so well. You see, flying gets in your blood. It's hard to walk away. Sometimes you just have accept your fate...that you're destined to do something whether you want to or not. And with me, that "something" appears to be flying.

Shortly after leaving PHI, a guy called me up who just happened to be starting up the production line of the FH1100 helicopter, a model from the 1970’s that he felt was still viable if it were modernized it a little. And he happened to be doing this in a town right near Pensacola. Did I want to come to work for him? Did I! (You can go back to the very beginning of this blog for that story.)

Unfortunately, we just never could get someone to give us a “launch order” for ten...oh, maybe five helicopters. That’s all we needed to start the production line again. Five lousy orders for new ones. Five years later we were running out of steam.

Ironically we did get an order from one guy for two refurbished FH1100’s. One of the ships would stay here in Florida and the other was slated to go down to Honduras. At the very last minute, the pilot who was to fly the Honduras ship bailed, and I slid into that job. (Again, my exploits were chronicled in these pages.)

After the gig in Honduras ended, I came back to the states determined that I was done with helicopters. There had to be more to life, I thought.

I hadn’t been back for two weeks when my former Honduras boss called and said a friend of his here in the Pensacola area was looking to buy a helicopter – would I help him find one? I said I would, but my intention was to find him a pilot to fly it as well – someone other than me. However as fate would have it I not only found him a good ship but like a dummy I agreed to stick around and fly it. That was in 2007.

By late 2010 I’d had enough. I really, really, really didn’t want to be a full-time helicopter pilot anymore. I stuck it out for nearly four years. Finally, due to certain, um, circumstances (long story) I ended up leaving. The boss was incredulous; it was not a good time to be quitting any job. “You’re quitting?!” Yeahhhh, I just don’t want to fly for you anymore – sorry!

Once I was free of full-time employment my friends Scott and Mikey began urging me to come up to Washington to do some cherry-drying.  Read about that HERE.

And so indeed I did. I called up Golden Wings Aviation and…long story short…I’ll soon be going back up to Washington State for my third season of cherry-drying.

I’m not a full-time pilot anymore, so that’s good. Part-time is good. On certain helicopter internet discussion forums I call myself “nearly retired.” Perhaps one day I will be fully retired for sure.

But it’s not likely.