Sunday, November 04, 2012

At Least He Bought Dinner

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I could give multiple excuses; (1) I’m polishing my novel and getting ready to send query letters to agents, (2) I have a kid who is nearly two years old, good grief, (3) I go to Europe more often than I go to the grocery store and it’s tiring. But alas, I know you have all been anxiously awaiting a blog post from me, so here it goes.

I don’t write very often about what I do on layovers. They’re usually awesome and I am always up for doing whatever touristy activity is associated with the city I’m in. My last layover was Edinburgh and it rocked my socks off. I go to Edinburgh a lot, so much in fact that at one point the barista at the Starbucks near the hotel said he sees me more often than he sees his own family who live an hour down the road. I’ve seen the castle, I’ve hiked Arthur’s Seat, I’ve gone to St. Andrews and hit golf balls, I’ve been on multiple ghost tours, I’ve gone to the Whiskey Experience, I’ve seen the Military Tattoo and the Fringe Festival, I’ve been on a literary pub tour and had a snack in the coffee shop where that lady wrote Harry Potter...or was it Lord of the Rings, I can never keep the two straight. To say the least, I’ve done the touristy stuff. So now, my typical Edinburgh layover consists of a workout, dinner, and live music at one of the many pubs (conveniently) located stumbling distance from our hotel.

This last layover wasn’t much different, although I skipped my workout, we started with a walk around town and eventually met up with the entire crew for dinner. One of the flight attendants on our crew has a boyfriend who lives over there. He came to dinner (wearing a kilt and everything). Before we had a chance to pay for our meals, he took care of the entire bill, which I estimate to be about £100 (or 150 USD). Very generous to say the least.

After dinner we went to a pub where I had the opportunity to learn more about this guy. While we were walking, I asked where he lives. He said it was near Aberdeen, Scotland and then casually mentioned that comedian Billy Connolly is his neighbor. Impressive, as I can’t imagine Billy lives in a shack. He also mentioned that he has jammed with Billy and actor/comedian/banjo player Steve Martin. Although I don’t get star struck over too many people, that’s kind of cool.

The girls were chatting at a table while he, the captain and myself were sipping scotch in a different part of the bar when he told us about a flying car that he built. He has nine prototypes at his house that are fully functional. It goes 0-100 mph in 4.0 seconds and is shaped like an egg. Apparently during dinner, he got a call telling him that it’s been sold to a company bigger than Airbus or Boeing so he wanted to celebrate which is why he bought us dinner. He said he got the idea from his days as a Formula 2 hovercraft champion. Very cool.

A few minutes later, we were chatting about adventures and I mentioned that I used to skydive. He said, “You should try doing a HALO jump.” HALO stands for high-altitude-low-opening and is generally only something military people (like Navy SEALs) do. I asked how he had the opportunity to do that, he said he used to be a super-soldier in the SAS (which is the British version of the Navy SEALs). When I asked if he’d read the book “No Easy Day” about the Osama Bin Laden raid, he said he had and that I should read a book called “Bravo Two Zero.” Apparently he was on the team that the book is about and that what’s not mentioned in the book is that he carried a guy 500 miles through the desert on his back with all their gear. He’s a hero.

As the conversation about adventures continued, he told us how he jumped a snowmobile off a 110 foot cliff a couple weeks ago. This, of course, just two weeks after he had a brain tumor removed. The fact that this guy is still alive is a miracle. As one of our flight attendants said, he’s Chuck Norris.

As I started to tell this story to a friend yesterday, I started laughing at how gullible I must be. Let’s start with the story about him in the SAS. How long would it take to walk 500 miles? Forty-five days if you’re in good shape? Now throw a guy (and his gear) on your back and how long is it going to take? Maybe twice as long? So, the SAS has two guys wandering through the desert for three months and they don’t come find them? Without even getting into the whole food and water questions, wouldn’t they run into a town or a road or at least a car they could take over?

The flying car is feasible, especially with his background as a Formula 2 hovercraft champion. But where does a guy who’s in the special forces have the resources or the time to design and build a flying car? And he just happened to sell it while we were at dinner with him? How convenient.

Finally, I’m no physics expert, but if you jump a snowmobile off a 110 foot cliff...don’t you die at the end? People have committed suicide off of lesser heights and wouldn’t the added weight increase the speed at which you hit the ground?

I think the flight attendant who said he was Chuck Norris was right, he’s a very good actor. As a matter of fact, I Googled his name when I got home. The only thing I could find was that he’s been an extra in some films.

At least he bought dinner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What If?

When I was in high school, just before prom season, I remember seeing a presentation where the entire class gathered outside to see a demonstration of what’s involved in a drunk driving accident. To set the scene: all the students sat on bleachers, two smashed up cars were on one of the school roads, a student actor laid in the grass with fake blood oozing from his forehead, another actor got out of a car and began screaming that her friend was dead. A few minutes later, police cars showed up, then an ambulance, then a fire truck, and the grand finale was an air ambulance helicopter landing and taking the most critically wounded to the nearest trauma center. It was quite a spectacular presentation. There’s no doubt that most of us went to our next class with an understanding that drinking alcohol and driving is a bad combination.

Up until recently, that presentation had been my only experience with drunk driving. Sure, I’ve known of a couple friends to be arrested for DWI, but even then, they never crashed a car or hurt anyone. Earlier this week, my wife and I were enjoying a warm day in the front yard. Our 17-month-old daughter was splashing in a blow up pool. Our neighbor and her kids had come over with their new puppy. You know, just a really nice afternoon. Then...crash.

It was clear there had been some sort of accident nearby. Shortly after the crash, I heard the sound of an engine revving. I left the scene of our nice afternoon, and walked down the block to see a small truck sitting atop an electrical box and an entire neighborhood’s mailbox laying in a nearby driveway. Being one of the first people there, I quickly assessed the situation. No one seemed to be hurt. The driver was still in the truck, clearly dazed and confused. There was a high school girl there who told him to shut the vehicle off. Thinking there was a slight risk of a fire, she and I helped get him out of the truck that was leaking some sort of fluid onto electrical lines.

I sat him down in the grass and eventually convinced him to move further away from the vehicle to a safer location. I told a neighbor to call the police, mostly because I didn’t know how much of a fire risk there was, and the whole situation was clearly above my pay grade. As I began to talk with him, it was evident that he had either been drinking or had a medical problem. In an effort to keep him on the scene while we waited for the police to show up, I asked him a few questions, “Is there anyone else in the car?” “No.” “Have you been drinking today?” “Yes.” “How much have you had to drink?” “A little,” followed by a little thinking, “Don’t call the cops. I’m on probation.” I asked, “What are you on probation for?” “DWI.”

About then, the police pulled up. I pointed out the driver and told them what he had told me, then began gawking like all the other neighbors, just in case they needed any information from me. Then my wife walked up with our daughter. It wasn’t until I saw my daughter that my heart rate began to rise and I found myself becoming angry about the whole situation.

This guy spent the whole afternoon drinking, then proceeded to drive through our neighborhood at five o’clock in the afternoon. Five o’clock. The time of day when people are coming home from work and checking their mail. Five o’clock. Just before dinnertime, when all the neighborhood kids are running from house to house. Five o’clock. The exact time my wife and I were playing with our daughter in the front yard, less than 200 yards away from where the accident occurred. I kept asking myself, What if he drove onto our lawn instead of the one he did? What if I didn’t see him coming and couldn’t move my family to safety in time? What if the car exploded while I was pulling him out and my daughter didn’t have a father anymore?

I’m happy none of the above happened. Nobody got hurt. The police arrested him. Our power (which went out because of the crash) was back on in less than two hours. Overall, things turned out fine. The reason I’m writing this is because, despite how tough it is sometimes, you can’t live your life asking, “what if?” Sometimes bad things happen, and more than likely, it is out of our control. What I’m really trying to say, is to enjoy those precious moments that life brings - like sitting outside and splashing in the water with your daughter.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On Walking

My daughter is fifteen-months-old today. She knows how to walk...but she doesn’t least not on her own. Instead, she hangs onto furniture, walls, our fingers, or her walker, which is designed to look like a toy, but really isn’t much different from the kind of walker she’ll use when she’s 90-years-old.

Occasionally, we’ll catch her standing on her own, especially when she drinks milk out of her sippy-cup. That is amazing to me, because to throw her entire head back, as if she were doing a shot of tequila, involves much more balance and coordination than just standing or walking. Whenever we find her standing by herself, it seems to surprise her just as much as it surprises us. If we push her to stand or walk on her own, however, she’ll instantly drop to her knees.

I’d imagine she lacks the self-confidence. We try hard to encourage her to walk, although I’m not really sure why. No one has ever told me, “Oh yeah, life is much easier when your kid can run around the house faster than you can keep up with them.” I suppose the reason we’re trying to get her to walk is that we want her to push herself to do something we know she already has the capability to do. There are going to be a lot of times in her life when she has the ability to do something, but lacks the self-confidence. Perhaps speaking in a school play, maybe hopping over logs on her bicycle or going off a ski-jump, even flying an airplane...or jumping out of an airplane.

 I want to push her to do things that are a little out of her comfort zone, because I think that’s what makes a good parent...and a confident child. I’m not saying that I know anything about being a good parent, because it’s all new to me. Someday, she’ll realize our ability to act like parents is about equal to her ability to act like a child. We’re all learning as we go. My main goal is to enjoy all the little moments that make me smile...and watch the joy in her face as she conquers whatever it is she’s trying to do on that particular day.

There are a lot of fifteen-month-olds who are walking and that’s great. But you know what, it won’t be long before she’ll be a 90-year-old woman using a plain grey walker in a nursing home. She’ll be walking soon enough, until then, I kind of like the way she grips my finger when we walk across the front lawn.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

I recently learned of a book called Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self. In the book, various celebrities write letters to the sixteen-year-old version of themselves, guiding them with a tender touch of advice from their current state in life. Although I haven’t read the book, it made me wonder what I would write to the sixteen-year-old version of Paul. This is what I came up with.

Dear Me:

They say if you find something you love to do and can do it for a living, you won’t work a day in your life. So, congratulations, you’ve already found something you love to do and coincidentally, will make a great career. Don’t give up. Some days will be tough. Paychecks will be slim for the foreseeable future. Trust me, eventually you’ll be flying big jets all over the world, and you’ll love it. So, try not to kill yourself in small airplanes between now and then.

I know you think playing drums is cool, but make time to learn piano or guitar. You’re a good drummer, but when you’re trying to impress a woman, she won’t want to listen to a fifteen minute drum solo. While you’re learning new things, learn how to cook something more than Hot Pockets. Hot Pockets are great when you’re sixteen, but no one eats Hot Pockets in the real world. Also, women dig guys who can cook.

Speaking of women, three things: (1) When a woman says “we need to talk,” buckle up. You’re in for a long night. (2) Say what you mean, and mean what you say. That’ll make life easier and less dramatic later. (3) Follow your heart. You’ll know when it’s right.

Learn how to budget your money. When you’re in college, suck it up, you’re a poor college kid. You don’t need new clothes every month, they’re going to be out of fashion by the time you pay for them anyway. Avoid putting money on your credit card. They become exponentially harder to pay off. Your first airline job isn’t going to afford you to pay down thousands in credit card debt and live on your own, which will mean moving in with mom and dad. Don’t get me wrong, mom and dad are great, after all, you wouldn’t be where you are without them, but as a 22-year-old airline pilot, you’ll want a little more freedom than living in your parents basement provides. Also, when you’re finally able to put some money away in savings, buy some stock in a company called Google. Trust me.

Finally, say yes more often. You’ve got some really cool friends who do a lot of cool things and they’ll invite you to participate. Do it. Don’t be afraid of adventure, embrace it. Ride motorcycles. Skydive. Bungee jump. Go on weekend trips. All that stuff. Have fun and enjoy those moments in life that take your breath away.

Don’t mess this up kid, it’s your life we’re talking about.

Future You