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?

11 May 2014


As I’ve often reported in these pages, I am blessed with the best friends money can buy. No seriously, I have great friends…better friends than I deserve. I could list each of them, and the kind and generous things they’ve done for me over the years, but it would take a blogpost the size of a certain Tolstoy novel. So I’ll tell you about the most recent.

I’ve mentioned my friend Mike Nehring before. I met him in Pensacola nearly ten years ago when he was just starting out in this crazy field of helicopter flying. We hit it off right away and have been friends ever since. We’re a lot alike. We are both sons of pilots, and so we both have inherited some innate talent for this line of work. He is an extremely knowledgeable and gifted pilot whose skills are right up there with the best of us. It was Mike who turned me on to this cherry-drying stuff in Washington State, which was new to me even though I’ve been involved in aviation forever.

Mike has worked his way into a fine job with a company in Olympia, Washington which is just south of Seattle. He’s doing what we call “Utility” work: Hauling external-loads (stuff strung under the helicopter on a steel cable); fighting fires; and stringing powerlines. Yes, it’s riskier than most “normal” flying, and the pay is obviously better.

Instead of driving from Florida to Washington this year, I’d decided to fly up, leaving Pensacola on Thursday, May 8th, connecting through Dallas, TX and Seattle, WA and arriving into the town of Wenatchee, WA which is about an hour-and-a-half south of Brewster. One of my company guys would come and take me the rest of the way.

But without hesitation, Mikey said, “I’ll pick you up!” It was out of his way, but he was driving over to Spokane anyway where on Friday he’d be catching a flight back to Minnesota to visit family. If he picked me up on Thursday afternoon, he could overnight with me in Brewster and then head to Spokane the next morning. Perfect!

Then we saw that I’d have a four-hour layover in Seattle, close to where he lived. The logical thing was for him to pick me up there and for me to "miss" the little commuter flight to Wenatchee (hey, twist my arm!). At least, that was the plan. Then God got involved.

There were tornadic thunderstorms through the center of Texas all day long causing delayed flights and misconnections like you wouldn't believe. My inbound flight to DFW got diverted into Shreveport, LA for a while to wait it out and get fuel. Of course I missed my flight to SEA even though it left late. My new flight's departure time from DFW kept getting pushed back later and later. The bottom line was that I would not be arriving into Seattle until sometime around 9:30 pm. Which meant Mikey and I wouldn’t get into Brewster until around 2:00 am. I called and gave him the bad news. “You might as well take off and head for Spokane,” I said. “No need to wait around for me and ruin your trip.”

“I’ve already switched my flight to Saturday,”
Mike said.

I was flabbergasted...shocked...touched. Why would he do something so unselfish without letting me know first...you know, without giving me the opportunity to tell him no. But he's like that. He likes doing things for other people, and I'm fortunate to be one of those other people.

As it turned out, Mike did pick me up in Seattle, and between one thing and another we finally got to Brewster around 3:00 am. On the way over he talked; I slept most of the way.

I pity people who angrily claim to not need any friends. Because it’s not true. We all need friends, and of equal importance we all need to be friends to others. In my life I’ve known some terrific people whose friendships have been invaluable to me...people who’ve done things for me which I’ll never be able to repay, if you could even put a monetary value on their actions, which most often you can't.

I say that I have the best friends in the world. I should probably tell them that more often.

06 May 2014

Switching Hats Again

And just like that, the Great Cab-driving Adventure of 2014 is over. I turned in the cab today. On Thursday morning I leave for Washington State. Flying up this time, and yes I know I've previously promised that I will NEVER fly again on the airlines. But to be honest, I just wasn't keenly looking forward to another 3,000-mile drive. A younger me would not have hesitated; this me just wasn't feeling it.

This will be my fourth season as a cherry-drying pilot. I'm excited about returning to the Pacific Northwest...seeing all my friends again who are now becoming "old friends." Mikey, the son I never had, is already up there, living and working full-time for an operator in Olympia. He's already eagerly planning escapades and shenanigans, most of which are sure to involve alcohol abuse (hopefully mild). Weather forecasters are predicting a dryer-than-usual summer, so who knows how much flying we'll do.

Our company sort of committed to a local club of glider pilots that we'd use our plane to tow their planes aloft this summer, and I sort of got nominated to be the tow-pilot, although I'm not sure how or why I agreed to such a thing...perhaps it was in the heat of some of the aforementioned alcohol abuse. Glider-towing is hardly exciting work. But it is different from helicopter flying and I do like exploring other aviation avenues.

I know I promised you some cab-driving stories, which have been woefully lacking. I really do enjoy driving a taxi here in Pensacola, where the majority of my business comes from the military. It makes me so happy that I don't drive a cab in a city full of...well, ordinary civilians.

Nobody has gotten sick in the cab so far, although other drivers have not been so fortunate. I try to not stay out too late on weekends. Just after midnight, people are still happy-drunk but not yet plastered. However when it gets past two a.m. you see the real drunks come out...the ones who've been drinking since eight p.m. and are now hammered. I try to take my last trip around two and then head to the house.

The other night while cruising downtown I picked up a couple of foreign military helicopter pilots (Jordanian, I think) who were stationed at Ft. Rucker, Alabama undergoing some training. They'd come down to Pensacola for a fun weekend. I'd driven one of them before, and he recognized me. They were drunk and horny, two qualities of passengers that make me very uneasy. Again, like last time the one who'd ridden with me before asked that I take him and his buddy to a strip club. It was a little after two a.m. and it had been a relatively slow night. Over the radio I heard driver after driver going "10-7" (out of service). I was fixing to knock off as well.

The strip club I took them to was kind of remote - not walking distance from anywhere. They worried about getting a taxi back to their motel and wondered if I would be working for another couple of hours? "Fat chance," I thought to myself, but assured them...promised them that someone would be available to pick them up. But I wasn't sure of that at all. As I drove home, even more drivers called it quits, leaving only one or two still in service. I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, so I didn't hear whether they got picked up or not by our company. If they didn't...well, fortunately I'll be gone for the next few months and won't have to see them again if they come down for another fun weekend of scamming babes in Pensacola, Florida.

Mikey's going to pick me up on Thursday afternoon when my flight lands in Wenatchee, WA. He'll probably already have a bottle of rum, a bottle of Coke, a bag of ice and some red Solo cups. If not, the liquor store is right on the way out of town.

I have a feeling it's going to be another crazy summer. And I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it!