Friday, April 18, 2014

A Hard Day's Work

This job of mine affords me some pretty amazing opportunities and brings some awesome people into my life. This last week, I coordinated a surf lesson in Costa da Caparica, Portugal with my friend Liliana who owns a cozy restaurant in Lisbon. After flying all night Liliana came to pick up me and two other members of the crew and we headed to the coast.

After meeting the guys from the surf shop and a light lunch outside we suited up. And by suited up, I mean squeezed 200 pounds of potatoes into a wetsuit that should only hold five pounds of...well, you get the idea. I don’t know how thick this wetsuit was, but I’m pretty sure there was a point where three people were helping me squeeze into it. I started to get lightheaded at one point, next thing I knew there was a plastic bag over my foot and my leg hairs were getting ripped out one by one.

I swear, by the time I got the wetsuit up to my waist I nearly collapsed from exhaustion. And all the compression. Oh God. A little extra winter weight trying to push itself upward was not the cool surfer dude look I was going for. I looked at Gabriele, the surf instructor who looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. He was still wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I turned around and about eight seconds later he’s slid effortlessly into his wetsuit like a doctor who’s about to check your prostate slides on his gloves unusually fast.

So, we grab our boards and head to the beach. A few minutes later we circle up and start what I think is going to be a pep-talk.

Gabriele says, “Okay, first we’re going to run up and down the beach to warm up, we’ll stretch, do some training with the boards on the beach, then go in the water.”

Run? No. I’m paying you. I get to pick what we do. 

But, before I could tell him that I wasn’t really a runner, off we went. At this point, my wetsuit was still around my waist because I didn’t want to overheat before we got in the water. And we’re running. Now, Portugal has some beautiful people and going for a run...on the a wetsuit that’s half-on...with a torso that’s snow white from months of hibernation...doesn’t exactly boost your confidence.

“Get wet,” Gabriele says.

“I think this is how hell week starts for the Navy SEALs,” I pant.

Gabriele laughed.

After we got back from our run we did some stretching, which was a great way to get the sweat into our eyes. We did some practice getting up on the board while we were still on solid ground then headed into the water.

I’ve surfed before but have never had an official lesson so I took in a lot of good information. One by one we tried to catch waves with help from the instructor. The flight attendant that came with popped up on her second try but when she fell the board hit her head and she was done surfing for the day. The other pilot and I made a lot of attempts and even got up a few times.

Knowing what I now know about surfing, I’m wondering why I paddled into the ten foot waves when I was surfing in Hawaii last September. Mother nature has a quick way of weeding out idiots and got me out of there, but not before she pushed me to the bottom of the ocean and bounced me off the coral a couple times.

Fortunately, the girl from Baywatch didn’t need to come rescue me yesterday. Although...well, never mind.

We rewarded all our "hard work" with a lovely dinner at Liliana's restaurant, A Baiuca. If you’re ever in Lisbon it's a great place for local flavor. It’s in the Bairro Alto and has become my go-to place for dinner. Everyone I bring to her restaurant raves about it. She buys mouthwatering fish every morning from local fisherman before they even get off the boat and seriously, if you want good sangria, hers is the best I’ve ever had. Perhaps the best part of her restaurant though, is the hospitality from her and her mother. They have hearts of gold and when her mom kisses your cheeks as you leave, you almost expect her to hand you a little baggie with snacks for the road, just like my grandma used to do.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reading, Writing . . . and Publishing?

A guy I know reads 100 books a year. He is the president of a huge company and flies almost more than I do. So, at the beginning of last year I made it a goal to read 100 books. I didn't think it'd be that hard. I work about four trips per month and each time I go to work it involves six hours of flying back and forth, not to mention the hours and hours I sit around waiting for my trip to start, or the long layovers where I'm laying by the ocean. So, 100 books should have been a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

How many books did I read in 2013? Drum roll please............seventeen. Eighteen if you count the one I started in late December and finished in early January. Seventeen freaking books. Not great, but more than a lot of people. Here's the comprehensive list and then I'll tell you which one I liked the most:

1. Kill Shot - Vince Flynn
2. Dear John - Nicholas Sparks
3. East of Denver - Gregory Hill
4. Protect & Defend - Vince Flynn
5. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
6. Out of Mormonism - Judy Robertson
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
8. Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
9. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. The Light Between Oceans - ML Stedman
11. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick
12. A Sport & A Pastime - James Salter
13. Wild - Cheryl Strayed
14. The Hunters - James Salter
15. The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
16. The Panther - Nelson Demille
17. The Longest Ride - Nicholas Sparks

You may be asking yourself, "Why are there so many 'guy books' and so many 'chick books'?" That's easy, I'm a lover . . . and a fighter. But which book was my favorite? Without a doubt, The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. This debut novel about a lighthouse keeper living on Janus Rock, an island west of Australia, after WWI is by far one of my favorite novels. The premise of the story is that while on a leave from the island, the lighthouse keeper falls in love with a woman. After unsuccessfully trying to have a baby, one day a rowboat washes up onshore. In it, is a dead man and a living three-month-old baby. While they should really report it, they ultimately decide to keep the infant for themselves, which of course is where the story begins.

My goal for 2014 is not necessarily to read 100 books, or even 50 books . . . but to increase the quality of books I read, especially in the non-fiction genre.

And maybe finally get my novel published. One can dream.