Friday, August 26, 2005

the belt game

-----Hambone and I play a game every morning. He looks forward to it. I look forward to it. I end up winning everytime we play, but that's sort of out of this totally selfish need I have to get out of the house eventually. The game is this:
-----In my ever vigilant attempts to avoid arrest for public indecency, I wear a belt. Pretty much every day. This belt goes on in the morning after I'm fully dressed. I know this. Hambone now knows this. Hambone watches me get dressed while I try to avoid being creeped out by Hambone watching me get dressed... and waits. He waits patiently for the belt to come down off of the back of the bedroom door coat rack and watches as it splays itself across the bed. I've always done this morning ritual, tossing a belt out on the bed to make sure I'm not putting it on backwards. I know, I know.. this is all very interesting, right? Yeah, well it is to Hambone.
-----Once the belt hits the bed, the game is on. Hambone's whole body tenses, as if he's just spotted a mouse sitting inches away. His head ducks slightly as he goes into stealth mode. Stealth, to hide, I guess... from the "belt creature of morning bed-ness". He inches slightly towards the belt and then with a brimming cup of potential energy finally spilling over, attacks. Attacks may be the wrong word actually. I dont often see 'attacks' wherein the attacker gnaws playfully on it's prey while furiously swiping all four limbs in uncoordinated ectasy, rolling back & forth on his back. It is so freakin' cute, I dont even know what to do sometimes.
As I slowly put the belt on, it draws its way up off the bed.. Hambone following it and attacking, the whole way up. Once it's fully on and buckled, he still swipes at the belt end before I tuck it into the last loop or two. The intensity of his focus is truly amazing and just as intense, every morning. Once the belt is on, he gives me a look that says "same time next morning, then?". Pssh. Yeah, as if I could deprive him of the pleasure.

The ridiculousness of it all makes me smile... Every. Single. Morning.

Monday, August 15, 2005

insert flying themed song lyric here

----Saturday was my day to live or die. More probably 'live'. Since most people do.
The day Matt and I had talked about for a month or two had finally arrived. Matt's dad was in town and Saturday would be our day. Our day for flying.
----Matt's dad has been a pilot since 1969, coincidentally, the year of my birth and as I clung to any number of superstitious signs from above, the '1969' coincidence seemed like either a really good omen for my safety, or the closing bookmark for my death.
----The plan was this: The three of us would take a bus from the Port Authority to New Jersey, get picked up by a small van from the small airport, Matt and his dad would fly around for an hour to burn off enough excess fuel to make it safe, weight-wise, for the three of us to fly and on their return, I'd then join them for another spin around the tri-state area. While Matt and his dad flew the first flight, I would check out the literature on flight schools since getting my pilot license has been a dream of mine since I was 11. That was the plan anyway.
----What happened was this: Matt and his dad took off. I went to the "pilot's lounge" - basically a large, darkened room with barco-lounger chairs and a tv, for traveling pilots to get some sleep on longer flights or layovers - and.... and I.. well, I slept. And by sleeping, entered the brotherhood of sleeping pilots, forever to mingle my tales of aeronautical acumen with the likes of Lindberg, Earhart and Snoopy. what am I talking about? I have no idea.
The next thing I knew, Matt had entered the pilot's lounge and before I could say "Hey, pilot's only!", I realized it was him and asked him how it went. He said he'd had a blast, but the turbulence and yawing had kind of gotten to him and he'd be staying on the ground while his dad & I went up for a while.
----Great. I'll die without my roommate then. Thanks Matt. Or not. In fact, probably not. In fact, almost surely not. I mean, who's the last person who died taking off from this airfield anyway? JFK Jr? really? ok.. that's creepy. And fine, people die. But mostly, they dont. They go up in airplanes, they fly around, they come back to earth at safe velocities. Safest form of transportation, right?? RIGHT??? And so it went... me, psyching myself up for my first flight in a small plane. Truth be told, it's also why I took a nap instead of keeping the brain active & running on thoughts of flying. I was either going to die or I wasn't & I probably wasn't so why not nap & then just walk out to that plane & do it? I'd be back in an hour or more, giddy & rambling on about how great it'd been. And so it went.
----The 'checklist' - If driving a car were like flying a plane, checklists would be relegated to history books and jokes amongst friends about the unimportance of safety. Do you remember how when you learned to drive you were told you had to check your tires for nearby sharp objects? Do you ever check your tires before driving? Thankfully, flight's addition of a 3rd dimension of travel requires a reassuring checklist of about 30-40 different switches & gauges to be checked & crosschecked. If I had thought about it more at the time, I suppose I could have viewed it as 30-40 more things that could have gone wrong - instead, I viewed them as support for flying being the safest form of travel. My job was to read off the items of the checklist as Bruce (Matt's dad) did the actual checking of switches & gauges. Done with that, I had only two other responsibilities: call out the CB frequencies of the ground control operator (directing taxiing planes on the ground) and that of the traffic control operator (directing planes in flight, near the airport) when asked for them and .. my other job... watch for other airplanes when we up.
----"Watch for airplanes" - three little words. so simple. almost fun, right? I was being asked to look for things. I assumed I'd be rather good at it since I look at things all the time. It's what I do. I can spot a thing from a long ways away or even a short distance. Easy? No. Not it Is Not. How... to describe... why... hmm.. - spot a fly crawling on someone's camoflage pants from 20 feet away. It's not the size or color of the thing to be spotted, it's the movement. Planes flying above the horizon can be spotted by how they stand out from the blue sky. Planes flying slightly below your altitude, despite often having white wing tops, blend into the roof's of houses, parking lots, malls, etc. It's the motion, and only the motion you have to train yourself to look for. Despite it being "my job" to spot other airplanes, Bruce pointed out the first 5. And out of 10 or more that we saw, I only first spotted 2 to his 8.
----The flying itself was truly great. There definitely was some yawing, some up & down turbulence, dipping of wings left to right.. pretty much any direction you can imagine a place bouncing - we did. The thing that most made it ok, aside from my continually reminding myself that people do this every day, was my having been up in helicopters twice before. The motion is remarkably similar - smooth flight with occasional bouncy-bouncies. (I believe that is the technical flight term for turbulence)
----We flew North East, over White Plains, NY & then out over the Hudson towards Stamford, CT. A light haze kept Manhattan slightly hidden, like looking through water-smudged glasses but ended up burning off almost completely after we'd banked around and started heading back. Sadly.. so sadly.. I had raced through the rest of the shots in my disposable camera and only got shots of the hazy Manhattan skyline as seen down the Hudson. With nothing left to take pictures of and no planes in sight, I studied surface details and as I try to do on any plane of any size I've ever flown in, I tried to spot people. At 2,500 feet, it can actually be done. Not just ant sized specs of dark on light concrete, but actual swinging arms & legs of people walking. Why do I do this? I'm not sure - perhaps it's the singular moment when the unreality of me somehow being thousands of feet in the air regains hold on the rest of the world.
----As we neared the airport, we switched over to traffic control and listened as the tower called out the whereabouts of the two planes in the sky with us. One, we'd had spotted, the other was well behind us but due to the tower's location fix on it, we could then spot it as well. We half-circled the airport, waited for the closer plane to land and then came in for our own landing. Landings are another unique moment I find intensely interesting. If anything is going to go wrong on a flight, it will almost surely be during the landing. And yet, I am -always- at my calmest for landings. Other people mention feeling the same way. I find that odd. As for myself, I often think to myself some variation of "well, I've come this far, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die and if I do... damn it, it's going to look pretty cool from where I'm sitting". So we swooped in over runway 4, Bruce slowed the engines to about 1/4th the rpm's they'd just been spinning at & we lined up perfectly with the centerline of the runway. A slight crosswind yawed us a little to the left but we kept the centerline dead ahead. 300 feet.. the relative silence is beautiful. 200 feet.. some slight corrections, a wing dips a touch and then rises. 100 feet.. despite what seems like a glide, our speed now becomes apparent. 50 feet.. the familiarity of runways is comforting. 15 feet, every pilot's dream... 5 and... touchdown.
----We coasted the length of the runway and powered up & around to our parking spot. We parked, ran through a short shutdown checklist and deplaned. Yes, I just wanted to say "deplaned". We headed back to the airport offices and sat outside for a while where the guy who had driven us to the aiport came out & started talking with us for a while. He chose then to tell us about the student pilot who "slammed his plane into the runway after a botched takeoff" - both wings sheared away, propellor ends bent to right angles, gas spilled everywhere but no fire, luckily. We went & looked at the plane, parked behind one of the hangars (smart - park it out of sight) and it looked -bad-. Quite bad. And yet, the body of the plane was intact, having the same sort of roll bar cages as dune buggies do, it's body kept it's shape and the pilot walked away with a scraped thumb. Granted, not everyone is so lucky, and still.. as far as numbers go it's the... yes.. sing it with me... "the safest form of travel".

[click on images to see larger versions if larger version of my sexyness are desired]

Thursday, August 04, 2005

revisiting past history, revisited

Some things just need repeating, like how:
- OverheardInNY is the best site e-v-e-r.
- Rudyard Kipling's "If" - is still one of the most powerful spoken word pieces ever.
- this is a perfect Monday song. or any day song.
- this is a good anytime song.
- if you're still eating fast food, you must still see Super Size Me.
- Belle and Sebastian - If She Wants Me is still better than your favorite song.

Did I mention?
- that I saw Conan O'Brien? his show, I mean. well I did. it was great. I was on tv. well my head was - all 4 pixels of it. So was Matt's head. his head got 5 pixels which is kinda suprising 'cause I've got a bigger head than he does.
- that girls have cooties? or maybe I do. I love dating and I'm sick of dating.
- that in my second softball game, I hit a triple, a single, another triple and then... and THEN.. a double to drive in two runs to win the game? Did I mention that? I didnt? Can I mention it again? no? ok. well, I did. I am a softball superstar. You know I am, dont deny it.
- my volleyball team is now 12-0. Last night we played our only real competition so far, a team that beat us 2 games to 1 last season, and we still kicked ass. In game 2 last night, we were losing 12-9 (we all took pause to realize it was the first time we'd been trailing in a game this season - that's how sad our league is this summer season) but came back to win 15-13 - much to our opponents seething and barely masked hatred. Remember how I said I hated the super tall guy on the team that beat us in the finals last season? Yeah. that's how our opponents last night were looking at us. Whatever - suck on second place, suckers!!!
- that I went to Tompkins Sq Park, sat down, opened my book, heard a familiar voice, looked up and saw David Cross sitting with friends, 10 feet away from me. My second favorite living comedian, eating cold cuts and hummus, just hangin' out with friends in the park, 10 feet away. Did I mention I can be a star-struck 14 year old girl at times?
- David Byrne rode by me on a bicycle. I still dont like him.
- Matthew Broderick walked by me on his way to Tasti-D-lite

25 years later, this line still cracks me up:
Steve McCroskey : And I can sum it all up in just one word: courage, dedication, daring, pride, pluck, spirit, grit, mettle, and G-U-T-S, *guts*. Why, Ted Striker's got more guts in his little finger than most of us have in our large intestine, including the colon!