Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Response to SMILE, A--HOLE!

Hi G--, Thanks for the e-mail. I like your reports about just being. A lot of us are having mood swings. It's a tough time. While we can muse and answer the ills of the world, even something small like the possible demise or even "reorganization" of our work organization freaks us out. One of my friends, a pilot collegue, is so freaked out that he's sounding just like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life;" he's actually contemplated jumping off a bridge. He thinks he'll be worth more to his family dead. That's serious. That's depression, isn't it? What a crock that the almighty buck can have such an effect on an otherwise sane and steady man. I told him to watch the movie. So people still show up at the Kraz. I'm surprised. Is it a good deal or just a traditional meeting spot that hasn't gone out of style? I remember that episode very well. We all contain heavens and hells. It's all in us. We can intend toward the light, but then sometimes run up against the "wiring" left us by our ancestors. You might know you're destined to win the Indy 500, but if you're driving a Pinto you might have quite a challenge; you might have to re-motor that little sucker. How many people never consider the limitations of the vehicle we're "driving." It's like I've said before, sometimes the impulses felt by more intelligent, sensitive or creative people are so powerful that it threatens to burn out the mind's circuits. Knowing this, being aware, goes a long way toward teaching us how to govern ourselves; how to "red-line" without "over-revving" into a possible destructive failure. Good for you! You recognize the value of certain traditions. I don't understand that pilots have some of the biggest egos on earth but voluntarily chuck seventy five years old traditions that set them apart. On the MCO tram the other day, I overheard a young teenager ask one of our flight attendants if "that is the pilot?" The kid was referring to me. I was wearing the hat. I've noticed that the pilots without hats are disappearing into the background (this goes hand-in-hand with the P/A's that say, "From the flight deck." Whose a flight deck? Whatever happened to "This is the captain speaking" or "This is Captain Jones" ... more personal, more dignified ... just more. "From the flight deck" is a nothing ... it's the disembodied voice of an automaton). Pilots are increasingly looking like everybody else; TSA, agents, f/a's ... and that's exactly what the corporate monster wants. "Look like everybody else, be 'ordinary' and we will pay you like everybody else." And that rate is $7.50 an hour. "Sinking tides lower all boats." ((Anwyay, thank the aviation gods for folks like the Captain...)) I agree. Thank God for the traditions which tell us from where we come. I hope your S.O. rolls his eyes when his ... and everybody else's ... paycheck is minimum wage (less insurance and hospitalization costs). I'm in a little of lull. There's no major drama, my boy has just started his college freshman year, my daughter's getting ready to graduate at the end of the next semester, I'm getting set to sell my townhouse and I'm just trying to find a little peace in the middle of the storm. I'm actually considering buying a boat with the funds from the townhouse and essentially moving aboard. I haven't quite figured where I'll sleep when I'm visiting my son here in Charlottesville, but I am getting ready to make an offer on a vessel I looked at under Katrina's clouds in Bradenton the other day. I'll be homeless but that'll promote some kind of movement. I can't put the numbers together that'll let me maintain my estranged wife "in the style to which she has become accustomed" and keep my townhouse, too, in the face of a "United type of contract." But do you know what? It'll work out! Nobody is going to starve or be in the cold. We have to keep the intention of creating our own reality. The more I learn about mysticism and physics, the more I believe that we do, at some level and with some unknown collaboration, create our own reality. Have you ever studied A Course in Miracles? I've got it but haven't given it more than a cursory look. I do know that some writers I respect think highly of it. Stay well, my friend. By the way, if the boat does show up, you are going to be one of her first crewmembers. Thanks for your unflagging devotion to staying in touch. It means a lot to me. Russ

Smile, You A--Hole!

Russ... Just did my third trip in a ten-day period. The first two, I was mired in despair, fearing for the future, wondering if I could weather change and all that drama. Then the mood just lifted. Now I'm in the whatever mode. Interesting little episode in AMS. It was too beautiful a day to hang around the hotel environs so I went for a walk, checking a record shop or two. I found myself at the Kraz for Happy Hour. I was the only one of my crew there. I was just sipping my wine, staring out of the window as the assorted crew groups and cliques started coming in. I didn't really know ANYONE well enough to just ingratiate myself into their group. So I just sat there, alone in a crowded room, lost in thought. Then I was coming in from a bathroom break, I heard Harry Mc----grumble. "Hey, SMILE, asshole..." Harry's the type of guy who's like your pain-in-the ass older brother. He rubs you the wrong way with his smartass quips but you like him anyway. I bought him a red wine, thanked him for the little wake-up call, and then left. Hey, at least I got AWAY from the hotel for a change. Remember that Classic Trek Episode where a transporter accident splits Kirk into Good Kirk and Bad Kirk(With the thick dollops of eye-mascara EEK.)? That's how I feel sometimes. The yin and the yang tumbling end over end, a tug of war of dark against light. If Dark G-- ever came out without moral constraint, it would be some truly scary shit. Seriously sociopathic. But Good G--- is there, thank God. The one who writes letters, tries to be loyal to his friends, the one who WANTS to believe that humanity is WORTH a damn...and hopes against hope that we're WORTH it... Heading into the customs hall today, our Second Officer was musing about our Captain wearing his hat and jacket... "It's a tradition," I told him. "He's upholding a proud tradition." The S.O. made a comedic show of rolling his eyes and sighing. Despite my disagreement with him, he seemed to have my sense of humor. Wish I would have visited the flight deck or shared a beer with him. Anwyay, thank the aviation gods for folks like the Captain... Hope all is well, Captain... Speak soon...so anyway, what's up with you? G-- <

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Good Against Evil

Hi G--, I've been out of the loop with trips, computer hard drive crash and all. Sorry about the "radio silence." I didn't want to write a short note since I've got a lot I'd like to say. But a short note it will have to be right now. Of course you read super hero comics and watch things like Star Wars! It's the seeming invincible enemy against ordinary flesh and bones that is the THE BIG STORY ... always has been. Today we're living out our own real life epic that looks so very much like something from the pages of myth: THE CORPORATE SYSTEM ACCORDING TO CHENEY, the Corporate Monolith or The Empire, against Russ, G-- & Friends ... The Resistance. The stories we've read and watched through the years have been simulations (Ref: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card) for the real events. It may kill us (although in this case I think it won't ... this is a simple fight about money, which is, in fact, a metaphor for something a lot bigger) but we, the underdogs, will be vindicated in the end. That's the way myths play out. It is usually the ones who chicken out, surrender and quit that wind up either being automatons (1984 and Brave New World), lackeys or dead. The heroes always manage to get by if they stay brave. Remember when we had the discussion about possible global annihilation? This is kind of the same thing; so what if we loose our jobs and wind up living on rodents in the woods? It's part of the grand adventure! Luke didn't look like he really enjoyed riding that beast in the desert, but there he was. Right now it looks like DARTH DOUG AND CO. is winning. Some of our colleagues made some crummy choices in the fight. They let emotions get in the way of cunning. Our own labor leadership may screw up too. But that doesn't mean we have to let THE POWER defeat our personal spirit. Keep the faith, brother! Russ --------------------------- Hello, Russ... Thanks for the note. I recall replying to it last night while I was on my third glass of wine...or was that all just a hazy-booze-dream? Actually, Russ...I think the reason why there IS courage-fiction in the first place(heroes in the form of cops, super-heroes, cowboys, John McClanes, Marty McFlys, Sarah Connors,James Deans, or whatever form they take)is a simple one: In real life, the Bad Guys always win. Might always makes right, money and power are constantly fellated and flaunted and there are those out there who will stop at nothing to get it...A trait which seems to be admired and encouraged despite our lip-service to honor and morality. I'm getting to the point where I don't have the energy to stay brave. Morality is a minor glint of light off the steamroller that's going to run you down and pave you over for the new strip-mall. What's the fucking POINT? The power-mongers have all the cash, muscle, and manpower on their side. Being righteous is good if you're a preacher and you're getting paid to spread the myth of divine goodness to the blind sheep out there who WANT to believe that humanity is inherently good. But I think any intelligent person KNOWS better. Or SHOULD know better. "And if you think peace is a common goal, that just goes to show how little you know..." --The Smiths DEATH OF A DISCO DANCER I will always try to to do the so-called RIGHT thing. But I wonder ever-increasingly: "It JUST doesn't matter." An eternally classic line from Bull Murray in MEATBALLS. And a truer word was NEVER spoken... Still looking for something to believe in...G--

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Heroes Who Pass Out Snacks

Heroes who pass out snacks By Meghan Daum August 6, 2005 TO ANYONE WHO'S ever smirked, snapped, whined, yelled or (you know who you are) thrown things at a flight attendant, let's consider this: Last Tuesday, the cabin crew of Air France Flight 358 evacuated all 297 passengers after a crash landing in Toronto. They did this in less than two minutes. Moments later, the plane burst into flames. I know what you're thinking: "If they can get 300 people off in under two minutes, why does it take 45 minutes to board a plane?" As in all things air travel-related, the lame jokes abound. ("I tried to jump down the slide, but they stopped me because the seat-belt sign was on!") But maybe seeing 10 flight attendants save about 300 lives in less time than it took to watch the safety demonstration will put an end to the jokes. It's been a long time coming. Somehow, passengers have been lulled into thinking that flight attendants are there primarily to serve as waiters and arbiters of luggage space. But accidents have a way of reducing inconveniences like pillow shortages and paltry snacks to shamefully petty concerns. Several years ago, while researching a magazine article about the "secret world of flight attendants," I spent a week at the flight attendant training school of a major airline. Granted, this was three years before 9/11, back when the combination of dreary mundanity and diminishing leg room had left people with about as much respect for air travel as they had for pre-owned Yugos. "Air rage" was the coinage of the day, and incidents of violence against airline personnel had risen dramatically. I visited the school because I was a smug young journalist working for a smug glossy magazine and I was hoping for some salacious details about a profession that had fascinated the public since the early days of commercial flight. Since airline industry deregulation in 1978, the archetypal sex-kitten stewardess made famous by books such as the 1960s-era "Coffee, Tea or Me" had devolved into a haggard assortment of short-tempered corporate drones. The heyday of air travel, when flight attendants were required to be female, slim, unmarried and possessed of the uncanny ability to cook eggs to order during turbulence, was long gone. But my assignment was doomed. The courses I observed had less to do with applying makeup and charming businessmen than with something far less sensational: safety. The drills went on and on and on. We practiced verbal instructions until we could recite them like Beatles lyrics. We rehearsed procedures until every exit door and window, every inflatable slide and alarm bell felt as familiar as the dashboard controls on a car we'd owned for a decade. I can still remember the sensation of opening the hatch of the exit window in the cabin simulator. I can still hear the siren and the exact wording of the evacuation commands for the slides. "Keep your feet together, jump into the slide," the students yelled until they were hoarse. I watched as they learned how to inflate rafts. I ran around the simulator with them as they enacted crash after crash, knowing full well that no matter how intensive the training, nothing but focus and sheer guts would see them through the real thing. Among the other things I learned about flight attendants was that their starting salaries could be as low as $15,000 a year. They regularly have to work 14-hour days but are often paid for only eight hours. Most have to buy their own uniforms for hundreds of dollars. That means they often have only one, which they have to wash out in hotel sinks. Air France rightfully praised the crew of Flight 358 for its professionalism. But it's the flying public that needs to recognize such contributions. Airline deregulation, which slashed prices along with amenities, legroom and salaries, caused many of us to forget our manners. Then Sept. 11 introduced a narrative that suggested the fates of airliners lay in the hands of passengers, whether terrorists or heroes. But, as we learned on Tuesday, accidents still occur and we still rely on those who are trained to protect us from potentially tragic outcomes. On airplanes, it so happens that these are the same people who pass out the inedible food and tell us when our bags won't fit overhead. But we've seen they can do a lot more than that. Let's be polite. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MEGHAN DAUM is an essayist and novelist in Los Angeles.

Are The Bad Guys Winning?

Slept on my future and found it wanting...Looks like the Evil Corporation is winning. If we strike, they are gearing to replace us. That simple. No WONDER why I read super-hero comics. In THIS world, the Bad Guys always seem to win. Thanks for the catchy protest tunes, Mr. Seeger...but the Big Boys with big wallets can afford BIG sledgehammers to crush you into the dirt.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Le Peintre En Batiment

Hello, Cure P---... Dammit...I was in the middle of a lengthy e-mail to you and the computer decided to cut out. I think I've been hit with that nasty-ass virus... So I will type on with caution...My first adventure with painting had, pardon the pun, mixed results. Bill helped me to get the supplies and taught me the practice of "cutting in"(painting the outlines of the walls first and then filling it in) and the value of blue-tape. Under his tutelage, my confidence grew... And then I continued the project by myself. When I put up the BumbleBee Yellow and stepped back to see the contrast against the bright Maroon, the seeds of doubt sprouted a branch. I went downstairs and my roommate Ray spied the color on my hands and laughed. "That's a REAL Canuck-color, Gary..." And he was right. See, everyone from my dad to my annoying spinster downstairs neighbor in the old place...almost everyone I know who hailed from Quebec or had a deep French Candian background have tended to favor awkward gaudy colors. You know, as if they were semi-color-blind and had to choose an ass-backward aggressive hue to compensate. Like they were aiming for a certain combination of the color wheel and couldn't get it QUITE right. And it seems as if I've inherited that gene. But not enough to keep that sickly yello. So I slapped a cream-coffee over it. The result? Something BETTER...but not exactly the scholarly, denlike color-scheme that I was aiming for... Seems as if the bizarro Quebecois color-gene within me WILL have a voice... At least I didn't get paint on the books... A la prochaine my good friend...G--

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

And My Response To The Conservative Note...

Hello, Captain... Good to hear from you. As much as I dislike labels, I guess one could refer to me a liberal. However, I am NEVER averse to hearing viewpoints that differ from mine...provided that they are not lunatic rantings...And I've heard both from both sides of the political divide. Here's the thing about the political division in our country today: You talk to a liberal, and they will swear to you up and down that the conservatives are co-opting the airwaves in an effort to whitewash the facts to suit their agenda. FOX NEWS would be an obvious example offered up. They like to see themselves a virtuous keepers of the flame of freedom and knowledge, on the run from these Flat-Earthers. But guess what? I hear the same thing from the conservatives in my life...How the Liberal Elitist Media is taking over the media, distorting facts, eroding values... So which one is true? Is there such a on overwhelming deluge of media-spin that you can literally reach into the vortex and pick out literally ANYTHING, any viewpoint that support your socio/political/religious?philosophical worldview? I would have to say yes. What is truth? Depends on the invdividual, I suppose. We tend to believe what we WANT and to discard the rest. What would Orwell make of this situation?

A Conservative Note

A forward from one of my retired conservative buddies... Thur, 21 Jul 2005 09:28:34 -0500 Handing Over the Mic -- Troops talk from Iraq. By Michael Graham I just spent a week in Iraq and Kuwait cultivating a skill that I, as a talk-show host, have found nearly impossible to master: shutting up. Turns out, it was easier than I thought, at least in Iraq. When you're listening to a 20-year-old kid from Indiana tell how he earned his second Purple Heart, speechlessness is the natural reaction. I was there as part of the much-maligned "Truth Tour" organized by Move America Forward, a conservative group based in California. According to reports in the mainstream media, I was part of a "propaganda" junket paid for by the Pentagon to buy some desperately needed positive coverage of the unwinnable military quagmire. All I can say is: If this was a junket, it was the worst-run junket in the history of public relations. My radio station and I had to pay all my expenses, I slept on a bare cot in a tent in the desert, and at some locations the only available "food" (and I use that term under protest) were MREs ? which stands for "Meals Ready to Eat...assuming you've already eaten both shoes and most of your undergarments." This alleged "junket" failed in another way, too. The Pentagon didn't control what went out over the airwaves. Then again, neither did I. I left it all up to the soldiers. I traveled about Iraq from Camp Victory at the Baghdad International Airport to Camp Prosperity on the very edge of the Red Zone, then down the Baghdad Highway to Camp Falcon, and on to the Command Headquarters in the heart of the city and, eventually, to the deserts of Kuwait and Camp Arifjan. And everywhere I went, I flipped on my mic, sat back, and let the troops tell their story. These soldiers weren't stooges from Public Affairs or handpicked flag wavers foist on me by media handlers. I found some in the mess hall, others working security checkpoints; others sought me out because they have family living in the D.C. area where my radio show is broadcast. The least fortunate were the soldiers in Humvees stuck with "tourist duty," four friendly but serious young men who got stuck with a couple of bonehead radio hosts riding along on patrol. In all, I spoke to more than 100 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, with different ranks and different duties at their FOBs (forward operating base), and yet they overwhelmingly had the same things to say about the war in Iraq: "We believe in the mission." "We're making progress." "The Iraqis are making progress, too." And, perhaps most important of all: "We're going to win." I expected to hear this sort of positive assessment from General George Casey, commander of operations in Iraq, when I interviewed him at his headquarters deep inside the International Zone. When he pointed out that, one year ago, there was just one standing battalion in the Iraqi army, but there are 107 battalions today, he was doing his job of supporting the war. And I expected it from Lt. General Steve Whitcomb, commanding general of the 3rd Army, as he talked about successfully moving more than one million gallons of fuel across Iraq every day, despite the best efforts of the insurgents. Generals are supposed to be gung ho. It comes with the pay grade. But I heard the same, positive assessments from 23-year-old sergeants from New Iberia, La., and from PFCs from Wisconsin and Alabama. I heard it from Lieutenant Li, whose Humvee had been hit by IEDs so many times he'd lost count. I heard it from Airman Truong, who was born in Vietnam and had recently returned to his native country to marry. Two weeks after "I do," Airman Truong was headed back to Kuwait to do his duty for his adopted country. Again and again, from "white-collar" soldiers working in the relative safety of Camp Victory at the Baghdad airport to the "real" soldiers patrolling Route Irish (a.k.a the "Highway of Death"), I heard that America and their Iraqi-army allies are winning the war against the insurgents. I was told again and again by the soldiers themselves that their (our) cause is just, the strategy is working, and the enemy they fight represents evil itself. In other words, I heard things seldom heard on CBS or read in the pages of the New York Times. It was only a week, and I have my obvious Bush-supporting, troop-cheering biases, but how much closer can a reporter get to delivering unspun, bias-free objective reporting than live-mic broadcasting instantly back to the states? No edits or filters or editorial meetings. Just the young men in the hot desert telling what they've seen, what they've heard, and what they now believe based on those experiences. Isn't it at least significant that not one in 100 thought invading Iraq was a mistake? Was it mere coincidence that a random selection of 100 soldiers all believe their mission is worthwhile? Should we detect the hand of the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy in the fact that the vast majority of the troops find the media coverage of the war ignorant, harmful, or both? I'm proud to say that, for a week, the soldiers had their say. If I were the editor of a major daily newspaper or a national network, I would be concerned that what they said is so contrary to what I am printing or broadcasting. But the mainstream media don't need to hear from the soldiers. They already know that the war was a terrible mistake, that the world would be safer if we'd left Saddam in power, and that there is no chance for victory in Iraq. Me, I'm not so smart. I like to let the guys on the ground tell their story. I believe it is completely possible that they know something that I ? and the New York Times editorial page ? do not. ? Radio-talk host Michael Graham covers southern politics from his home in Virginia. He is an NRO contributor. -=-=---- Wake Up America web site: >http://usawakeup.org/America_Wake_Up.htm<

Religious Beer News

Monks run short of 'world's best' beer Reuters, via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, UK Aug. 12, 2005 www.abc.net.au • More news articles on Offbeat News -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ReligionNewsBlog.com • Item 11997 • Posted: 2005-08-15 19:08:25 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Monks at a Belgian abbey have run out of their famous beer after it was voted the best in the world. The abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in western Belgium is home to about 30 Cistercian and Trappist monks who lead a life of seclusion, prayer, manual labour and beer-brewing. A survey of thousands of beer enthusiasts from 65 countries on the RateBeer website in June rated the Westvleteren 12 beer as the world's best. But the abbey only has a limited brewing capacity and was not able to cope with the beer's sudden popularity. "Our shop is closed because all our beer has been sold out," said a message on the abbey's answering machine, which it calls the "beer phone". The abbey has no intention of boosting its capacity to satisfy market demand. "We are not brewers, we are monks," the father abbot said on the abbey's website. "We brew beer to be able to afford being monks." Monk Mark Bode told De Morgen newspaper: "Outsiders don't understand why we are not raising production but for us life in the abbey comes first, not the brewery."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Reply to---Longest. Vacation. Ever.

Hi G--, A quick note to say welcome back you "ace > traveler" . G-- this > is the time to be home anyway. Can't blame you a > bit for turning around in > AMS but it was a novel solution. > > This is the time to recenter, pray and start > looking. Though generally > optimistic, I think this time it is different. The > mechanics won't budge much if I > read am reading them correct. So many of our local > friends are mechanics and > they are all getting jobs, retraining selling homes > and generally seem > relieved that they have made those decisions. I > think the years of cumulative > stress brought on first by the Republic event then > the leveraged buyout by the > Beach Boys and their pillage has sent the message > that this time the outcome will > be different. It will take a little while (months) > for the full impact but it > will happen. > > With all airlines full I can't believe that the > fares and fuel surcharges > can't be added. My friend, this could be the > beginning of the end for the > airline as we know it. There is a new plan in place > that includes very few of us. > The plan will unfold over the next 2-3 years. It > will include a new financial > structure with the alliance partners in some form. > Take a guess: Holding > company, ala Air France/KLM, or perhaps foreign > ownership of up to 49% (Read > Open Skies Agreement) and a couple other choices as > well. Both the Donkeys and > the Elephants are supportive. Remember Clinton > forced AA back to work and Bush > has said he won't interfere with this issue. > > G-- I need to bid. Do pray about this issue > though. It is powerful and > after what I heard from a pilot who heard Steenlands > maniacal rant the other day > he needs the prayer and the door. I'm not easily > offended by anything and I > cant remember the last time, but his outburst was > the last straw. It was over > the top, classless and very, very crude. What a > leader. > > Got to go G--. Stay in touch and sorry I missed > you in AMS. Thanks for the > note. > Bon Nuit! Greg, Marilyn and kids > > P.S. Thirty year anniversary just happened. Wow, > did I ever marry up. See, > prayer does work and I would do a repeat. Marilyn > like your notes as well. > -------------------------------------------------- Hello, Greg... I heartily agree about this being the time to be home...I'm sitting here being all sedentary...my biggest project today was filing away a few piles of compact discs that had piled up over the past few weeks. (I have a friend who has iTunes so I just wheel over a pile of discs and he loads them into his program. Hey, it's free for him and it's a great way to share music in vast quantity. As for myself, I have more discs than I could ever listen to...so I consider it a library. That's the curse of liking a bit of everything... Your words of peril struck a chord in me. You ever see THE TWO TOWERS(The Second Installment of Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY)? Samwise does this huge stirring speech about how the dark times may come but they are only temporary and they serve to bind friends, trust, and virtue. I worry about this, but I don't panic. There is another exchange between Danny Aiello's character and Jacob in the metaphysical/psychological thriller JACOB'S LADDER. He says that if you're not ready for death(or, in this case, CHANGE) or want to fight it or NOT accept it,the forces aligned against you may appear to be demons. If you are prepared and are without fear, then they will appear to be angels. It's perception. Hell, I don't WANT things to change...but I will ADAPT if I have to. I have a HOME because I got pushed off the comfort-cliff. I was FORCED into a making into a decision...and some of our BEST decisions go unplanned. You get pushed off a plane, and you start frantically weaving a parachute...or you become paste. Just want you to know, Captain, that your faith does you credit and is your strength. My own beliefs are somewhat more nebulous but I DO believe that there IS a pattern...a PLAN. I imagine it takes a bit of...(dare I say it?)Faith. Thank you for the kind words, sir. And Happy Anniversary... Talk to you soon, my friend... All The Best to you and yours...GaP

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Shortest. Vacation. Ever.

Okay... Let me tell you about my 24-hour vacation... I fine-tuned my packing for my long-awaited trip to Scotland. This was right on the heels of a three consecutive trips to and from AMS...Nine days of travel...So I decided to keep the momentum going and just head on on the next day...so far, so stupid... I got to Logan and other than a small brush with TSA(God, how I HATE them...)things went pretty well. (Rather than giving them excessive attitude, I give them absolute perfunctional attention...and when they start pulling their pathetic little power-trip on me...I just ignore them completely and go on my merry way. They are non-entities at that point...) So...I got the jumpseat for the flight to AMS. My co-workers were nice enough to give me a seat in executive class...One of them helped me to fine-tune my digital camera, they loaded me up with some booze so I could offer them as gifts to my friends in the Bonnie Land... So far, so good... Now, it's important to mention here that since I had ALL of my luggage with me, I didn't have to enter the country to reclaim it at the baggage carousel. So I'm in at Schiphol with HOURS to kill. So I pick my out a spot and get myself a nice, LONG nap on some lounge chairs... Eventually, the time comes for me to report to the departure gate for EasyJet Flight Whatever to Edinburgh. The security line gets bigger and I was patiently waiting to get the boarding-agent's attention. Now since you don't need a ticket on EasyJet...just knowledge of your record-locator number, I thought I was in the clear. I thought I just had to have a boarding ticket printed so I could get through their security screening...My tension-level was rising a bit as the boarding process accelerated. Okay. I got to ask finally. I was informed that EasyJet was not a transfer airline. I would have to go down to the check-in desk at ground-level to get the ticket. Too late to do THAT. So...I nodded and agreed. They'd been polite about it, after all... Then I turned right back around and headed to the gate where my employer airline was heading back to Boston. I wasn't exasperated. I was just tired of the travel-bullshit. The ticketing, the procedures, the red-tape. I was over it. I was going home. I didn't care about the non-refundable fare. I didn't care about trying to get on another flight. I was RELIEVED that I didn't have to go through the bullshit of getting a bus or train from Edinburgh Airport to Aberdeen. I was worried a bit about getting the jumpseat pass to get home. Christ knows which forms you need. It really depends WHERE you are, WHO you're dealing with, and how nice you are while doing it...I just got tired of the game. I was going home. I got on board, I sat in 18F until my colleagues paged me to move to the front...so I was given another Executive seat...which I was very grateful for. So I sat there, being morose for awhile...Emotionally numb, even. And then I started chatting with my co-workers, chatting with the talkative German gentleman who seemed to thrive on The Craich(The Celtic art of conversation) and my mood began to improve. Hell, I even helped my co-workers to clean up their galley a bit. In twenty-four hours, I had gone over and come back. A stupid way to spend the day but it could have been worse... I was glad to be home. My roommate was shocked to see me and he seemed astonished that I didn't push ahead to reach my destination. I told him...I just didn't CARE anymore. I just wanted to get HOME and away from the airline bullshit. Which just might happen PERMANENTLY if my union receives the vote to strike with the mechanics union on the 21st of August. So on this time off, I plan to paint some of the walls of my planned study, put away the laundry, visit the little guy Josiah, spend time with my significant other, and perhaps clock some time in with my ambassador friend...and to see if he has any colleauges that might pay for some quality grunt-clerical work... Some extended time off at home. An ideal vacation as far as I'M concerned... Safe travels... G.

Flying The Friendly Skies

An e-mail that was forwarded to me...along with a bit of preface commentary... ____________________________________________________________________________ Afterwards....think of what people who do this job should be paid. And.....what should people who sit behind bullet-proof doors be paid. It's all a gender majority thing when it comes right down to it. Thought you guys would be interested in this email that was forwarded to me about the incident on LAX/LHR flight that was diverted to Boston to take off the 3 Pakistani passengers.. ______________________ July 29, 2005 LAX/LHR Flight 25 July, 2005 Hi all... Many of you may have seen CNN and other news reports or read in the papers about the LAX/LHR flight that diverted to Boston to remove three suspicious passengers. Well, guess who was lucky enough to be the Purser on the flight? Thanks to those of you who have called or written with their concern. I am fine and other than a million reports I have to write, all is well. The three Pakistani passengers, two in BC seats (8A and 14D) and one in economy, got our attention before takeoff with self upgrading, moving about the plane, changing seats several times and asking the crew about our layover, where we stayed, etc. We basically ignored them and wrote them off as bothersome. During the bar service, two of the guys kept drinking a lot, and asking for refills before we got two rows away. Now we wrote them off as obnoxious, as well as annoying. We cut down the drinks to the guy in BC who wanted more scotch and wine with dinner. After the meal service, the guy in 8A, who hadn't said a word, got up and went to 14D and spoke with him for 10 minutes. We didn't even know they knew each other as they had no prior contact. The F/As in economy were concerned over the behavior of the economy passenger and asked for a name check. The cockpit got back to us to let us know all had gone through secondary clearance in LAX and were all ticketed to Islamabad, Pakistan. All the guys kept going to the bathroom and now we were checking the loos every time they came out. After 8A spoke with 14D, he (14D) went to economy and went straight to the overhead in 32CDE, took out a briefcase and brought it back to his BC seat. 32E was where the economy passenger was originally seated, but he had moved to 31G on the aisle. All the F/As were keeping an eye on these three and every time we would casually look at them, they were staring at us, watching everything we were doing. The economy guy went to the back galley and kept the duty free sellers busy by asking to see everything and having them open several items to the point where one of them wrote on a piece of paper to another F/A, "He's distracting us, see what's happening in the cabin".... I was communicating all this information to the cockpit, as well as our concerns. I don't think they took it as seriously as we did. That was until the economy guy went to the F/As in the back and asked them if we had been up in the air for 3 1/2 hours yet. He kept asking when 3 1/2 hours would be. At the same time, the 14D guy went up to the BC F/As and asked if we'd been flying 3, 3 1/2 or 4 hours yet. Now most passengers ask how much longer we have to go and not if we've been flying a specific time, and we figured with all their drinking, they didn't want to know the time so they could face Mecca for their prayers. UAL and the pilots decided we needed to divert before we got over the Atlantic (we were about 3 1/2 hours out from LAX, over the Hudson Bay) so we did a slow turn and descent to Boston for 1:50 hours. We also pulled the circuit breaker on the airshow. About 5 minutes before landing, the Captain made announcement we had a navigational problem that needed to be looked at before we crossed the ocean. We were all watching the guys when they were told we were landing, and none reacted abnormally. We moved a very muscular passenger to seat 1E on the aisle and an SA to seat 1A and told them we had security issues and if anyone not in uniform came up the aisle towards the cockpit, they were to try and do anything to stop them. We also moved one of the F/As sitting up front (she is 5 foot and weighs about 100 pounds) to another jumpseat and moved another male F/A up front so there were three guys in the jumpseats by the cockpit. Having done that, we realized Karen, the F/A we moved, was so pissed off at these guys, she could have beat the shit out of all of them. The one nervous Nellie F/A who walked around with the ice mallet for the last two hours of the flight, we kept in the back where if anything did happen, he could scream and hit himself with the mallet. The Captain informed me just about everyone would meet the airplane. Knowing UAL, I was expecting a CSR Supervisor to come on and ask these passengers if they were terrorists and if not, would they like to join Mileage Plus.... The landing was normal, and very quiet on the plane since it was 0300 and most passengers were asleep when we woke them. We pulled to the gate, but the jetway didn't come toward us for two minutes. I looked out and saw about 30 swat team guys in flak jackets and machine guns. Well, I guess everyone figured out at this point it was not a navigational problem. As I went to door 2, the guy in 8A was staring out the window at our welcoming party. The guy in 14D was on his mobile phone and he was later observed hiding the phone in the pillow when the armed guys came on board. 20 swat team guys boarded the plane, ten down each aisle with guns ready. Most of the passengers were pretty freaked by this. The police took the three guys off. We had to help them find all their carry on. Most of the passengers were very helpful in trying to ID their hand carry on as we really had no idea of what was theirs. The FBI, TSA, Joint Terrorism Task Force Rep, Boston Police, Airport Police and Massachusetts State Troopers interviewed the Captain, the two F/As who had the most contact with them and me for two hours. The FBI also interviewed the passengers sitting around the guys. The FBI asked the Captain when he realized the severity of the situation, and he replied, "When he saw the fear in the eyes of his crew..."after the three of us (F/As) threw up, we told our story...what really happened! By the time we got back to the plane, UAL Ops had shown up and arranged for the passengers to go to hotels for an 1100 departure to continue to London with a new crew. Of course, we then had to wait for immigration to show up since all the non-US and greencard holders were now reentering the US and had to fill out I-94 forms as new visitors and be fingerprinted and photographed again. We finally got to the hotel around 0730 and I was on the phone for the next two hours talking to our office in London, to the AFA, and scheduling. Scheduling called Toby to let him know what was going on since I hadn't had a chance to call him yet. It was wonderful to talk to him and I felt safe for the first time in hours on hearing his voice. By the time we got to the hotel, we were already on the news, and several hours later, we heard the passengers were interviewed, cleared and released. The FBI told me they felt they were on a test run surveillance flight, observing and watching our routine and looking for weaknesses in our security. All the authorities reassured us we did the right thing and that was backed up by the passengers who thanked us and said that they were so glad we watching out for their well being. I think as F/As, we sense when something just isn't right, and this flight had too many small incidents that didn't add up, and thankfully, we acted on our feelings. We had a lovely lobster dinner (which I think UAL should have bought for us, but didn't), Boston EAP got hold of us to see if we needed anything, BOSSW checked up on us and a LHRSW Supervisor called. So, after a nice deadhead home the next day via IAD, [a small section omitted here, because of content that was personal to the writer of this e-mail.] You all fly safe and keep your eyes open because the bad guys really are out there and watching us! Take care... Jim

Friday, August 05, 2005

Random Thoughts From Communications...

G-- >Got 3 pieces of mail from you today. One is the card > from AMS. Thanks for all 3. It's really nice to > get mail from you. You are going to have to send me > a card from Scotland. > > Your a sweet guy to say those nice things about me. > But really G--, there SHOULD be more sunshine > than shadows. Shadows are reserved for low points > which we all get now and then but geezzz G-- try > your best to fill your life with the high points. > Isn't it more fun to laugh than be sad? > > I really do enjoy hearing about your travel > experiences. Some are sooooo funny and some are > soooo ridicules. It's almost like a flying Fireye > at times. LOL ! > Bill > > ----------------------------------------------------- > Bill...THE POWER OF POSITIVE INTENTION And that's what I'm using every time I get onto that aircraft so I can have a better flight experience. Trying to find that line between dignified service and taking no bullshit. Not an easy line to walk at times... A friend just sent me an article regarding the training of OXB candidates to replace us in times of strike. Seems that conditions aren't so great at Building F in M---s. Stress-levels are high for the candidates and many of them are quitting. Fine by me. The weaker the legs for the company, the better... ...And as far as darkness in my life goes, there's been less of it of late and you have a lot to do with that...Yes, I agree there should be more sunshine in one's life but one doesn't always have that luxury when you have to deal with some faulty wiring upstairs. I know it's a tired explanation but I inherited the groovy manic-depressive tendencies from my mom's side of the family...But this stuff can and is being treated with medication as well as life-practice... Speaking of mom, I had a dream about her last night/this morning. I dreamt that I was hanging out with Liam and we were stopping at some convenience store for a drink or something. Suddenly, there was my mom in her blue winter coat, fretting about how I wasn't taking good care of myself and yadda, yadda, blah, blah...I clashed with her at first but then softened a bit. Then she went away. Liam bought his drink and then turned to me. "Who were you talking to?" "My mom," I replied. "She thinks she's still alive." Pretty cool, hey? G--

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Scotland Correspondence

Cher G, Bienvenue aux Etats Unis! Scotland...how exciting for you after two years. On Saturday evening I often catch "Monarch of the Glenn" on PBS. The Celtic lands look so charming and inviting. Before I leave the planet, I woud so love to visit Ireland at least once. However, bus tours and the like that they attract (similar to air passengers) deters me at the moment. Will be taking a day trip to Gloucester and Cape Anne this week. Wonderful sea-side lobster luncheon places with a bit of elegance - if you know where to look. Yes, the industry in the USA is in big trouble even before 9-11. Profits before empoyees and passengers contribute to the mess. I wish you luck and good fortune. However, having had the priviledge of meeting you, even in the face of forced change, you will do well. As they say in the secular world, you are a "maketable commodity"! A smile is sent your way. Charles ----------------------------------------- Hello, Charles... Futzing on the internet is a great to gradually wake up...along with hi-octane coffee... -------- used to do the Glasgow route out of Boston up until 1994 and I would STILL be working the flight if we had it...The Glesga folk were hard-drinking, hard-smoking...but man, were they FRIENDLY...not to mention the Scots from other areas of the country. That trip was like visiting family...The airport, the hotel, the whole country threw their arms open for us. The pullout was traumatic and seen as a kind of betrayal. As a matter of fact, Glasgow-Prestwick offered us five years landing rights GRATIS if we'd reconsider...Never discovered why we dropped that trip. Something to do with the impending LMN partnership, I imagine...(The official line was that we were losing money...although EVERY flight was packed...Sigh...) I did a one-week trip to Ireland YEARS ago. I enjoyed it. But I think it would have been more fun had I been drinking at the time or had someone to travel with. Or both. I felt like Kane from kung-fu...Wandering from town to town, having adventures... But I'll tell ya...Scotland speaks to me MORE... "Monarch of the Glen". A friend of mine loves that show...mostly because she's a hopeless Harlequin-Paperback romantic. You've heard of the British comedy series FRENCH AND SAUNDERS(Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders--the latter of ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS fame...) did a skewering parody of it. Come to think of it...they eviscerate EVERYTHING to be found on the airwaves...Good on them... Enjoy your trip, my friend...G--

Monday, August 01, 2005

The First of A Trilogy?

Hello, Charles... Just came back from what will be the first of three consecutive trips. I need the time off in the middle of the month to visit Scotland. My first time there for TWO years. Things have indeed changed. I wonder if it'll feel the same when I return. Today's flight was a WORKER. Rewarding, though. One passenger was deplaning and said to one of the pilots in attendance(regarding me): "This guy worked HARD today." Nice to know someone NOTICES the effort, you know? Meanwhile, one of my colleagues, William, completed his FIFTH one in a row and he'll be transferring to the home base as of next month. Mainstay Boston people are transferring out right and left for various reasons...Easier commutes from their hometowns, better trips...Change is in the air and I'm not sure that it's good. My fellow flight-attendants are SCARED. They're not sure if there'll be an airline to work at in a year's time...And the fun all begins with the mechanic's strike that's almost certain to start on the 20th. Time will tell... How are you doing, friend?