Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Travel Adventures...

Hi G--, It sounds like spring is affecting you with its positive vibes. I've gotten so old that winter lasts about a week and so doesn't do the damage it used to with its endless cold days. Global Warming has some effect, too, I'm sure ... it's not as cold as it used to be. Thanks for the picture of the ambassador. He looks exactly as I pictured; a real gentleman ... one who appreciates traditions. There's a comfort in maintaining the thread of all that came before while one is fighting for mega-changes. Did I tell you I sailed the ship in Master & Commander? She was HMS Rose before becoming a movie star with a Hollywood name. She's now called "Surprise" in keeping with the novels and the movie. Maybe Nicole Kidman should have changed her legal name to "Virginia Wolfe" after playing her in the movie "The Hours." Oh, well, "Surprise" will attract more visitors in her new home in San Diego's Maritime Museum. I'm in town here for just a couple of days before heading back for another bout with The Corporation. Talk about tearing down traditions! Everyone seems intent upon pulling us down to the level of Wal-Mart; managers and employees alike! Frankly, I find it depressing. Now the pilots are all excited about their leather jacket option. The subliminal message they're not getting from this Trojan Horse is: "Look like a bush pilot ... get paid like a bush pilot." Hey, we'll look just like a WWII fighter pilot when we climb to the upper deck of our 747-400! Pretty cool! Now, if I only had enough money to buy a meal on the lay-over... I don't get it; why do these guys want to "play-act" like they're P-51 Mustang pilots when they're actually FOR REAL AIRLINE PILOTS at the very top (for awhile, anyway) of the aviation food chain? If it keeps up like this upon retirement I'll turn my back upon the industry and never look back. I'll be the one out in the harbor, my boat surrounded by a cloud of smoke. Enough ranting from me. Things are going along pretty quiet. The book you're reading sounds good. My reading lately has been largely fruitless. Talk to you later, my friend! Russ ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Russ... I gave some thought to your pilot concerns. Is the bomber jacket cutting across all age lines? Because I have a hard time seeing the older venerable pilots donning that thing. It would look like a pathetic mid-life crisis...whereas the traditional uniform conveys, well, TRADITION. (And always make sure to wear the hat while on the concourse, dammit...)The bomber jacket looks like something a mid-life crisis forty-something baby-boomer would want. You know...the type of person who's seen TOP GUN forty times...Also, I think the younger pilots might dig it as well...Truth to tell, I LIKE the look...but you're right...It doesn't convey AIRLINE PILOT. It conveys rakish rogue bush pilot adventurer a la Tales of The Gold Monkey. (Played by the dude who got sucked up by V'GER at the conclusion of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE...see, there's ALWAYS a link to TREK...) You adventure on the ship was most enjoyable to read about. I can picture you on the bow(did I get that right?), chest puffed out, looking out beyond the sea, communing with the Captains of years past, that deep inscrutable reflection that only a fellow Captain and leader of men can understand. That whole Hollywood influence is not isolated to Master and Commander, I'm sure you realize. I remember visiting Stirling, Scotland WAAAAAAY before BRAVEHEART was filmed. Nice innocuous little town PAACKED with history. NOW you go there and there's this HONKING huge sign proclaiming that place to be the birthplace of William Wallace and don't you think the rendition looks suspiciously like a long-haired Mel Gibson. (Not quite the Road Warrior, but a warrior, nonetheless...) Same with LOCAL HERO, filmed on two coasts in Scotland. The Aberdeenshire town of PENNAN has the famous red-telephone booth and the village street where most of the scenes were shot. Naturally, the pub there sells various movie souvenirs. Movies and television can create a tourist market like no other. Look at the tours being conducted around the Louvre based around THE DA VINCI CODE. I would be SO embarrassed to see Americans asking questions as if the novel itself were secret scripture...If I were a snotty European, I'd be, "Oh look...Ze Americans haff learned to READ! How inspiring..." I should be returning from my second AMS in a row but at the eleventh hour, I was pulled off the trip by scheduling because a colleague on an outgoing domestic flight had pulled her back out during boarding. So instead of AMS, I went on a two day Tampa. And the AMS crew went out with SIX people on a full A330. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the ceiling over the schedulers' cubicles when they're scrambling to meet crew rosters? Must be a madhouse. With each flight, I'm working toward achieving that state of serene detachment where NOTHING will affect me. Snide comments, pokes to the back, stressful work conditions...I believe I'm getting there through sheer force of will but there's ALWAYS room for improvement. I'm not quite there yet...I still have my hot buttons. But I would like to get to the point where keeping my mouth shut and my pond-surface as smooth as glass(Not stagnant)is as effortless as breathing. It's almost a relief when another flight attendant gets threatened with a bad comment card. For ONCE, I'M not center of the conflict. Yesterday, that happened with a co-worker with this strung-out drama-queen passenger from Tampa. She was passive-aggressively trying to guilt ME because we did the service during her bathroom break and I was all cheerfully coy. "That's okay! That happens to a LOT of people! Live and learn!" But then she gave my collegue some grief and she stood up for herself. And for her dignity, the goon asks for a comment card. But I still want to be...calmer... Okay. It's too beautiful of a day to stay indoors. My windows are thrown open letting the fresh spring air in. Time to shower and get OUT there... Hope you are well my friend. A proud military salute your way, Captain...Talk soon...GaP

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Three Days of Perfect Spring

I just had three days off at home. A lot of it was spent running around and doing errands but the weather was glorious. The time for deep, dark, brooding hibernation is over. I was able to help out my attorney friend by driving him around to meet a court date. Another sobering glimpse on how people botch up their lives. The district court room was PACKED with people and lawyers. Before his client parted ways with him, my friend gave hime a kindly, paternal get-your-life-together speech. "All part of being a lawyer," he explained. We stopped off to visit his mom out in the country where she stays in assisted housing for the elderly. This would be the last time he saw her before she moved to a nursing home out of state. I caught him sniffling a bit as we left and I pretended not to notice. A human moment in a larger-than-life gentleman. I left for AMS on the third of a perfect spring day. My mood was up and my patience with the traveling public was well-honed. (Did meditation help?) Anwyay, by refraining from the cheerful sarcasm, a number of people thanked for the wonderful flight when they were deplaning. Wow. Sometimes patience and civility in the face of ignorance, stupidity, or rudeness do NOT come easy to me. This was an easy passenger complement but there were moments I could have let out with a well-placed quip or two. But I pushed the urge away...and it payed off. It's great when an effort gets noticed or affirmed from time to time. Just to remind you that you're on the right track. A cold rainy day in Amsterdam. But I'm heading out to help celebrate a friend's colleague's birthday with a couple of martinis... Enjoy your spring

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Variations On A Theme...

This is a variation on the last entry's theme. I wrote this in a letter to somebody and I felt that it was articulated so well, I thought I'd include it here. Note to anyone reading...I'm NOT in this mood as of this posting. I just wanted to preserve this bit of mental meandering because it NAILED the malaise precisely-------- "I was paralyzed by boredom yesterday. I thought of reasons to go downtown. None surfaced. I went to the local supermarket to choose some booze. Found nothing. Too much effort to read, socialize, or even stay awake. Some people say that if you're BORED, then you're BORING. I believe there are days when all the connections and currents are just dormant. Everything you thought meant something just seems so tired and unappealing. I seem to be receiving increased signs that I should return to Bonnie Scotland. Then I think of the travel. The jet-lag. The bullshit. The uncertainty of finding the magic still BEING there for me. I ask myself if I'm becoming my father: More set in my ways, more insular...Is THIS what happens when you "grow up"? You discover that This Is All That There Is and you might as well just mark off time with pints and calendar pages? So WHAT IS "growing up"? Refusing so change your thought-process? Not WORRYING about this? Not CARING?"

Friday, April 08, 2005

Chairman of The Bored

Have you ever just been bored...with everything? Here I am in Amsterdam, in EUROPE and I can't think of a single reason why I would want to step out of the hotel or go downtown. Granted, I HAVE been here a billion times. But I have no incentive to go check out record stores anymore, no purpose to propel me downtown...(no, I'm into the legalized prostitution or the shopping market of drugs that's available here) Hell, even a trip to the Albert Heijn supermarket across the street didn't even yield up any alcohol that I wanted to sample. Everything seems grey, listless, and pointless. Not in a black, depressed sense...more like sipping an old cup of coffee in an underground-concrete bunker under the soul-numbing glare of fluorescent lights...with one of them flickering, of course...No purpose, no function, no passion...Here's hoping for some color and vitality tomorrow...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Introducing Josiah!

(Below is an e-mail that I posted to a friend that features a wee little guy that has given me much light and hope for the past few years. In a very near-future entry, I'll give you the full rundown on this extraordinary(to me) little boy's background and what he means to me...(as well as his family) It'll most likely be a tale with many twists and turns...) Ellen... I'm juggling some wee errands before I head off to work today. I'm free Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday so let me know what's best for you... I visited J--, M--, and Josiah yesterday and the little guy doesn't seem to be having all that much fun there. He's reluctant about going for his potty whereas at hia mom's place, no problem. There are children to play with over there. There's an undercurrent of tension going at J--'s place that Josiah can easily pick up, he's sort of competing for attention as well... Poor little guy...He alway says to me: "You STAY." He wants me to move into his room for an eternal childhood of toys and hanging out. And it'll suck when he realizes that such is NOT how the world works. You'll like Georgetown. It's accessible to Foggy Bottom metro-stop. I would recommend seeing the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetary, and hell, even the million-step concrete stairway that Father Karras does a sled-ride down at the climax of THE EXORCIST. That's right in Georgetown right behind a gas-station. I walked up those steps a couple years back while art students were sitting on the steps sketching churches and whatnot. Lots of cool little pubs(however yuppie upscale) along the town as well... Give me a call and we'll set up a time/date. Brewski-Alert!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Tale of Two Patriarchs

JeffMan... Wow. Is this your first round of grandchildren? If the girl-baby items haven't been returned, just save them for the arriving granddaughter. You're not kidding, man. This extended family-stuff keeps you HOPPING...Good thing you like travel. I take it that you would NOT have approved of the induced labor, right? I imagine you would have had very STRONG opinions about that. I know I've said it before, but you share MANY traits with my expatriate Brit roommate. He has the no-bullshit, post-war Britian values which, unfortunately, have NOT served him in good stead with his OWN family...Only ONE of his children now talk to him...and recently, a loan he co-signed with his son has just come back to haunt him. Through that ONE daughther who's still in contact, cold, business-like e-mails have been going back and forth about how to FIX this problem. Ray Jr. addresses his dad by HIS FIRST NAME and Ray Senior is fighting every bulldog-urge he has not to go ballistic on him. I'd just come back from an AMS last night and as I'm there in my tousled uniform, he asked me a question that broke my heart. "What is it that I'm fighting FOR here, anyway? A family that wants no part of me?" I think he's coming to the sad realization that he has to let it GO and let the chips fall where they may...He's also coming to realize that he has friends that FUNCTIONS as his family. And hey, he considers me a son of sorts...which CAN cause conflicts, as you can imagine. Pre-and Post-Watergate viewpoints causing some sparks from time to time. Ray was once the head of a family. The Englishman king of his castle. He lived the life that's associated with family/domestic interactions: Ballgames, barbecues, beers with the next-door neighbor whose tools he just borrowed...parent-teacher meetings...The post-modern value-system has come along and BASHED him in the bollocks. He MISSES the familial bond. I never REALLY knew I can't REALLY appreciate his loss. But I can be a part of his own immediate "family" now as best as I can... Thanks for letting me blether, my friend. Despite the frenetic pace, I'm glad that you and the clan is doing well... Cheers, mate...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Men Of The Cloth

Greg... Thanks for the thoughts...Yeah, I kind of figured the same thing regarding the lingo...I'm just not going to let them get away with it. ("I'm sorry...what does that MEAN?") Your observations about the Pope leads me to make the assumption that you're a Christian. (These days, that subject is as loaded last November's election results...) I've had my own tug-of-war with this subject on and off for several years...But regardless of faith(or denominations thereof) I've come to the conclusion that we humans seemed to be wired for spiritual concepts, some intuitive knowledge of the workings of the universe that transcends the material. It is a strange dichotomy isn't it? On the one hand, our culture spews out the money/power/possessions message constantly...but how do you weigh that up against what the soul HUNGERS for? Where do the twain meet? What is THE ANSWER? Maybe there ISN'T one. Maybe it can be found in the piles of religious texts and oral stories purporting the story of creation and humanity. Maybe it's a deeply personal thing. Regardless, we all find out the answer when we breathe our last breath. I hope it's LESS like PEGGY LEE'S "IS THAT ALL THERE IS?"(A great song but magnificently depressing...) and more like a pub where all of your good friends are gathered and there IS no closing time... Who knows? And the Pope was a human representative of all that was good in humanity. I can buy that. But being a lapsed Catholic, I feel confident in saying that the Church he headed up was in need of a serious Posse-drag into the 20th Century, never MIND the 21st. I know some good, devout, men of the cloth, one right here in Manchester, the other down in India. Both are gentlemen in the literal sense of the word and they have taught me that practioners of faith are individuals also. (I have to smile when Father Fernandes sends me an Easter Card from Gujarat, India after a long postal silence flagellating himself for being so lax. "I have sinned against you, for that I'm deeply sorry, please Forgive me..." Guess the Catholic guilt is part of his charm. Such a kindly soul, the last person who should be berating himself so...Remind me to tell you HIS story one day...) Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble. Hope all is well with you...GaP

Friday, April 01, 2005

Talking To The Air Before Taking TO The Air

I just did a five-day trip this week. My first domestic trip in quite awhile. I traded with a colleague who wanted to hook up with a fellow flight-attendant who was based out of Minneapolis. She had NEEDS so we traded trips. She bought me three rounds of drinks on an earlier layover so I could hardly renege. ANYWAY...I had a good time with this five-day journey trip. I had good crewmmembers to work with, there was no drama from passengers nor, most importantly, from MYSELF. I just put myself into distant-but-pleasant-and-professional mode. Seems to work for me. The late nights of flying into places like Spokane, Boise, Tucson, and Dallas knocked the wind out of me, though. I guess it's just a matter of acclimation. Some sociological aspects of the American Business Traveler that I've noticed, however. First of all, everyone's plugged into some device or another. Laptop, Cellphones, and next-generation cells that clipped onto the ears so one looked even MORE like a well-dressed street-person talking to oneself. And of course, you had those dangling wire jobbies that ALSO allowed you to talk into the air... So you had THAT...And now, thanks largely to computer online culture, you have people using cute little abbreviations or truncating words to create a half-assed code of hipness. For example: My colleague asked this twenty-something what he wanted to drink. "I'll take a G and A." A WHAT? A Ginger-Ale. Oh. How silly of us not to have known that. Then came MY turn. "I'll have a CAB," this older businessman tells me. A cab? We're in a PLANE. Blank Stare. A Cabernet Sauvignon. Right. Got it. Eye-roll upon turning around. What the hell is happening here? Is our language devolving into a retarded version of George Orwell's 1984 newspeak? The burning urge to be jet-set slick coupled with a special kind of laziness? Who KNOWS? All I know is there are quite a number of people out there who sound fairly ignorant when they ARE using complete sentences...Now we want to sound even STUPIDER by hobbling the English(American)Language? It's a rich, beautiful language. USE it. Be ERUDITE. And if you can do it without being prententious, so much the better... Take care out there...