Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Saevire in Machina

Posted: November 23, 2019 in Aviation, Life
Tags: , , , ,

I haven’t posted anything in a while, and just recently I was reminded of some thoughts I shared regarding the photo above. So permit me a moment of your time to share a short story about love, loss, joy, pain and and sometimes having to wait around a while.

“Uh, it’s a bridge, Matt.”

That is true. My relationship with this bridge goes back nearly a decade and is full of the kind of complicated emotions that run deep. While it is a bridge, it’s not just any bridge. What you’re looking at is the infamous Chelsea Street Bridge. On one side of the bridge is Boston Logan Airport, and on the other is Massport Parking where working crews and airport employees must park before reporting for work. The side you’re on when this motherfucker goes up can very well determine the outcome of your day. Many a crew and airport employee have been stranded for up to an hour waiting on various types and tonnage of shipping traffic to pass underneath, making those poor souls late for their duty assignments. Due to its completely unpredictable nature, never has one piece of machinery so directly determined the fortunes of so many.

They say no one has ever beaten the Chelsea Street Bridge. And they’re right. On this day, completely by chance, I was on the airport side of the bridge when I happened upon it raised completely with slow moving traffic passing below. With traffic stacked up, no end in sight and a report time to make, I made a split second decision to divert to short term parking. I made it to work on time, but that son of a bitch bridge cost me $70.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the stranded, despondent, unfortunate souls on the other side, waiting not so patiently on this pain in the ass bridge to come down, so they can report for duty to faithfully serve the traveling public. Theirs is the untold story of despair so often overlooked. We should never forget their bravery, and determination… or mostly that they need their jobs badly enough to sit around and wait and not just go home because “f this bridge.” Sometimes you have to wait kind of a while.

Stay strong, weary employees. Stay strong.

4760d03c-d043-473c-9802-2adc43f5dda6

 

Id like to share a a few thoughts I had on the value of good men and masculinity in a societal culture that would have us all in man buns and rompers.

The headline reads, “Gun guy gets rid of his AR15 after Florida shooting.”

Not any of these “gun guys.” A term I despise, I would gladly stand on the line next to any one of them. Because in the current climate of an all-out culture war against masculinity, they are exactly the kind of men we need.

Does the gun make the man? No, of course not. It is the principles that brought them out on a cool rainy day to train hard that make them men. Good men. Husbands, fathers, brothers and sons from all walks of life, why do they do it? Why should they? Especially in the face of blistering criticism from those that oppose their very existence?

I suppose to them it’s simple. Confident in their convictions, they understand the importance of taking responsibility for themselves, their own safety and most importantly, the safety of their families.

Because we need more masculinity (“toxic” or otherwise). Not less.

Because we need more mental toughness. Not less.

Because we need more critical thinking. Not less.

I’m willing to bet that, to a man, any one of them would pick up a weapon and put themselves in harms way to protect the innocent and defenseless from the evil that will never respect the laws of men, or the sanctity of life.

The louder your media screams that they should be feminized, disarmed and disregarded as deplorables, extremists, or enemies of progressive culture, the more you should open your eyes to the fact that now, more than ever, we need these men.

@vikingtactics Carbine 1.5 July 2016

 

9EC6072F-109D-4684-91AA-6B39CEEC0D92

To say that I have a fairly storied, bordering on sordid history with this little airport would be something of an understatement. As a young man in my early 20’s, trying to learn how to fly, be an adult human and make my way in the world, I was bound to make a few mistakes. At the Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena Airport in the late 1990’s, most of them involved a few hilarious vehicle incidents (including a exploding lav cart), the secret service and at least one totaled patrol car. I am not at liberty to disclose any more than this. Suffice to say, much learning occurred inside the perimeter fence of this historic airfield, and almost always the hard way. Such was my way in those days. 

The last landing I logged at KBUR was on April 30, 2001 in a 1951 Piper Apache. A decidedly less complicated airplane than the Airbus A320 I am fortunate to have under my command today. This landing was the return flight from Van Nuys following my Commercial/Multi-Engine checkride and my last in Southern California for quite some time. I’ve talked about that flight and the lasting impression made upon me by an impressive gentleman who had likely forgotten more about flying airplanes than I’ll ever know. In the two decades that followed, more hard lessons were to be learned about becoming a professional pilot and a decent human being at the same time. These two things are not always coincident. The road has been difficult and fraught with peril. 

This two day trip marked my first return to Burbank in almost a decade and more notably, the first time putting wheels on the deck as Pilot in Command in nearly twenty years. As Terrence Mann once said, ”The memories were so thick, you could swat them away like flies.” I marvel sometimes that we all got through those years relatively unscathed and out of jail. Fortune was riding shotgun, perhaps undeservedly so. But, prevailing wisdom suggests that fortune indeed favors the bold, or in my case the stupid, so here I am, in the left seat of a pretty impressive machine with none of the 87 ill advised tattoos I attempted to get after many nights out on the town. My list of people to thank for that alone is staggering.

My connection to Southern California runs deep and I look back upon those days as a closed chapter in the ever writing story that is life. Not good or bad, but a series of experiences that helped shape the man I am today. Whatever that means. I look forward to sharing with my son (when he is MUCH older) the lessons learned as a young man trying to figure it out in SoCal. 

Man or Animal?

Posted: February 9, 2016 in Life
Tags: , , ,

image

I think what this blog needs is a frank discussion on what is most important in life. I think you know what I’m talking about.

Coffee.

Nailed it, right? Popular scientific opinion will tell you that it’s opposable thumbs that separate us from the animals, but I respectfully disagree. I think it’s a good cup of coffee.

After fifteen years of moving airplanes at ungodly hours of the day and night, I was finally forced to acknowledge the fact that airport and local coffee vendors simply can not be relied upon for the most important component to safely transporting crew, customers and aircraft to the intended destination without incident. They’re never open when you need them, or worse they are and their excuse for coffee is at best criminal, and at worst utterly inhuman. The stakes are just far too high to take the chance. Now, if you’ve read any of this blog you would be correct in surmising that I am a systems guy. Every good idea needs a better system, right? So when it finally became apparent that it was time to solve the dilemma of how to have consistently good coffee while traveling, it turned out to be a task worthy of my OCD research and analysis.

Before we even talk about the tools, I’ll briefly touch on actual coffee. Choosing the right coffee bean is a lot like choosing a pair of running shoes. It’s incredibly personal, and what works for one person, may not work for someone else. Whole bean only, and the darker the better. If I can see daylight through my coffee, I’ve obviously made a horrible mistake. Trader Joes Italian, French or Sumatran are my usual go to beans, but some of the best coffee I’ve had comes from the smaller roasters that you can’t find on a shelf in a brick and mortar store. In either case, stay away from pre ground coffee at all costs. It’s important to note that you can have the best coffee on the planet and still kill it with a substandard brewing system.

Let’s start with the grinder. Go out and get yourself a burr grinder. Like, right now. I’ll wait… (Just kidding, maybe finish reading this first…) They can range from obscenely expensive to sort of reasonable, but I believe for the money you are buying a higher level of grind capability. The difference is noticeable in the quality of the final outcome. I use a Cuisinart, which allows you to adjust your grind from extremely fine to extra course. I’ve found an extra fine grind produces a stronger brew while a mid coarse grind turns out something a bit more balanced. Since the grinder is prohibitively large and heavy, traveling with it is not an option. My solution to that is to pre grind as much as I need for the length of trip I’m heading out on, and seal the grinds in small ziplock bags.

Never, and I mean never, use the coffee machine in your hotel room. I know it looks like it will make coffee, but I promise you no good can from from it. I’ve experimented with the French press for a while, which I’m sure we call all agree is a significant improvement over your standard drip machine. However, if my priority is making coffee on the road, I have to admit that it’s a little too bulky, not to mention fragile for a portable operation. I was at a drive in campsite with some friends a couple years ago when I was introduced to the Aeropress coffee press. To be honest, I’m not sure why the coffee that comes out of this odd looking little coffee press is so spectacular. I can only assume it uses what in aviation we refer to as PFM Technology. Either way, I could see the Aeropress would be a man-portable way of bringing good coffee to the most remote of locations, like this hotel room in upstate New York.

What about water? When I’m on the road, I use bottled water, which fortunately I have in abundant supply. Local water conditions may effect the taste of your coffee, so if you can, bottled is the way to go. As I’ve mentioned, your standard hotel room coffee machine, while being a coffee machine in name only, is an equally unreliable method of producing water at the right temperature for your perfect cup of coffee. I settled upon the Bodum 17 oz. travel kettle. Smaller than your average electric kettle the Bodum gives you the opportunity to get your water to exactly the right temperature. I shoot for about 175 degrees, and yes, I have a thermometer.

Most fanatics (read: addicts) will tell you that brewing the perfect cup of coffee is as much art as it is science. After some trial and error I identified a recipe that turns out a cup coffee so amazing you’d think it was brewed by unicorns:

– 2 generous Aeropress scoops of beans, mid coarse grind
– Water heated to 175 degrees – I push as much water as I can through the grinds without diluting it.
– Just a splash of half/half – This isn’t really necessary, as black coffee from the Aeropress is just as good.

I spend a fair amount of time in a confined space around expensive electronics that don’t react all that well to coffee spills, so in looking for a water tight container I discovered the Contigo insulated mug. It advertises keeping hot liquids hot for five hours, which I would say is a little optimistic, and has a lockable spout. This is especially important because when I inevitably knock my coffee over while performing those “preflight checks” you’ve heard so much about, I won’t cause significant delays and expensive maintenance procedures. You’re welcome, traveling public.

Forget for a moment the operational need, whether you travel for business or leisure, sometimes the impact of starting the day with a good cup coffee can make all the difference in the world. Being away from home is hard enough without having to suffer unnecessarily.

Please brew responsibly.

  

The Sky Is Crying

Posted: January 28, 2016 in Life
Tags: , , ,

 

image

What you’re looking at here is the liner from the very first blues album I ever owned. Released after his most untimely death, The Sky Is Crying is a collection of, at that time, Stevie Ray’s previously unreleased material. As my introduction to the blues, you could probably say it changed how I listened to music for the last twenty plus years.

It’s funny the events in life that you remember. Here was a seemingly inconsequential exchange one summer afternoon, but the effect it had on the course of my life is unmistakeable. I was working at a summer camp when I was 16 and was standing in line for lunch with my friend Mike. To this point in my life it would be a fair assessment to say I had dubious tastes in music. I had recently been on a prep school induced binge of hip hop (yeah I’m not sure I get it either) and it was this interaction that completely changed music for me.

So there were are standing in line, and Mike says to me, “Tavvy, dude, you’ve gotta listen to this cd. It’s gonna change your life.” He handed me his copy of The Sky Is Crying by Stevie Ray Vaughan, promptly reminding me that he was going to want it back. Not knowing what to expect, I put it in my CD player when I get home and was immediately hooked. I had never heard anything like it. It was this album full of soul, emotion, and blistering guitar solos that opened my eyes and ears, and had me listening to and thinking about music in a way I never had before. It was Stevie Ray that introduced me to the music of John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, and later Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, just to name a few.

Growing up in my house, music was pretty important. My mom had, and still has a pretty eclectic taste in music. She listened to anything from jazz to, for some inexplicable reason, Def Leppard, and my dad loved classical. I remember his seemingly endless stacks of CDs of varying symphonies and concertos, and mom’s jazz and rock albums (including Pyromania on vinyl. Vinyl! Way to represent.). I can only imagine their fear and frustration when, in the eighth grade, I brought home the liner notes from a Public Enemy CD to have them read before I could buy it. In my defense, it was a great album.

As kids, they encouraged my sister and I to learn an instrument and after discovering Stevie Ray and the blues, I settled on Bass guitar. I can’t say I remember what drew me to it, but I remember very clearly standing in the Music Mall in Lowell, MA and my mom making it very clear that the bass wasn’t like lead guitar. That’s ok, I said, this is what I want to do. So she bought me my first four string bass, an Aria Pro II. I took lessons for a few years and then when life got busy I kept playing on my own. Mike, who himself was an exceptional guitar player, suggested we start playing together so with our friend Rich on the drums we started learning how to play Stevie Ray and other blues tunes. I don’t remember if that band had a name, but for a couple of kids from suburban Massachusetts, I’d say it sounded pretty alright.

Twenty-two years later, although I have long since lost the liner, I still have my copy of The Sky Is Crying, and my Aria Pro II. I count them among some of my most cherished possessions. Over the years I’ve played in a few bands and while I love all types of music, I consider blues to be my “home.” I stopped playing for a while and focused my efforts on learning to play jazz piano, but in recent months as I find myself navigating through another chapter in my life, I have been drawn back to my roots in rock and blues. Maybe because it’s comforting, or familiar, or maybe it’s just because sometimes life requires a loud, righteous rock and roll sound. For me that time is now.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that, while its taken thirty years, I’ve finally come to appreciate the musical stylings of Def Leppard. I mean, that drummer has one arm. ONE ARM! How can you not respect that?

21 Days Later

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Life, Moto
Tags: , ,


Note: on September 27, 2015 I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident with another vehicle that totaled my much loved Triumph Bonneville and nearly killed me. I have a post written that chronicles that event but I’m waiting to publish it due to pending legal action. I wrote this three weeks later:

Today I put on the boots of a guy that should be dead. That guy is me, and the boots are my Alpinestars Oscar Montys. 

Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute. I should be dead. It’s a funny thing when the thing you love nearly kills you. I’ve been mulling that over for the last few weeks. I’ve spent the time since my accident resting and healing and tying to come to terms with the fact that I had a one percent chance of surviving that scenario and somehow managed to make it out alive. Talk about beating to odds.

Anyway, I had been meaning to write some short reviews of the gear that saved my life, and today I finally got around to it. I took a few pictures and for the first time since before the crash I put my hands on those pieces. Everything is trashed except my boots. They’re scuffed up to be sure, but are otherwise in good shape. So, I decided to clean them up and put them back on. Why? 

Because fuck you cosmos, I’m still alive.

Ahem… Let’s move on.

Now that the shock has (mostly) worn off and the wounds are healing, I’m left with questions that have no obvious answers. The most asked question of me recently is, will I ride again? The more existential questions like, Why am I still alive? Should I be living my life differently now? Should I ride again? These questions are harder, and have no real answers.

Great post, Matt.

I know, right?

I’ll start with the question everyone seems to want an answer to: will I ride gain? I just don’t know. Most people I know assume that once you’ve been nearly killed doing something, you would never again want to take part in whatever it was that nearly killed you. It does sound logical, doesn’t it? Remove the threat from the equation and voila, one less way to die. I get it. Immediately after the accident I was sure I would never ride again. Twenty-one days later, that answer seems less certain. In finishing my article on the Mt. Washington adventure, I got to relive some of those moments, and was reminded of what motorcycling had become for me, and why it had become such an important part of my life. What started out as a passing interest developed into a passion and eventually a new way to have adventures, not just a different way to get to the store. When that was taken from me three weeks ago, the loss I felt…. feel… is palpable. Not just the loss of my Bonneville, but the loss of those future adventures. There were many things I had yet to do.

So, why would I be willing to accept all that risk again? Because fuck you cosmos? No, we covered that with the boots. The reason to buy another motorcycle is personal, and I think only other people who have had similar experiences might understand. The adventure I found on two wheels in the last few years, has done a lot for my soul. Spending a day exploring roads on the map that “look like they might be fun” provided me an opportunity to put aside what ever troubles I might have had and be present in a different moment. Even if that moment was fleeting. Giving up motorcycling means giving up those moments.

The reasons for not riding should not be surprising: It’s dangerous, I almost died, the accident was hard on my family, I almost died, my local friends would not support me in buying another bike, and that means the risk of alienating them, and also, I almost died. Those things are all legitimate. I don’t really expect those friends to understand, and it definitely makes a decision to buy another bike seem selfish. I am fortunate, however, to have a supportive family. Not one of them, including my wife, has told me that I can’t ride motorcycles again. I mean, I know that I’m all growns up, but it was nice for me to hear them say that if I wanted to buy another bike in the spring, that would be ok. It’s a kindness I’m not sure I deserve.

Why am I still alive? Right now I’m going with the Seven P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I planned for the crash, ergo I survived the crash. It’s a very simple way of looking at things, but right now it’s the best I can do

Should I be living my life differently? This one is heavy. It sort of makes me thing about what I would want people to say about me if I hadn’t survived. He was kind to people? He loved his family? He loved his dog? He was a good friend? I would hope that I have lived a life worthy those compliments. I know that I’m not the easiest guy in the world to know sometimes, and I can be….. less than flexible about some things. So as I’m trying to find meaning in this survival story, perhaps I can use this opportunity to work on those flaws.

You can see, I have a lot to think about.

As I said, the answers aren’t obvious. So until I can figure them out, these boots are staying in the rotation as a reminder to be kind to people, love my family and my dog, and try harder to be a good friend. I guess that all any of us can do.

My Inner 12 Year Old…

Posted: October 19, 2015 in Life
Tags:

image

…is freaking the fuck out. Last night, the interwebs told me, and I assume everyone else, that there’s a new Star Wars trailer coming out tonight during Monday night football. It’s Monday night. I seriously can’t wait.

I’m 38. Yeah, that’s right.

Ever since the last trailer was released I have been giddy with excitement over the next installment in the saga I think we all assumed had been thoroughly homicided by George Lucas. That was several months ago. Just imagine what my wife has had to endure… Anyway, the basis for this over exuberant enthusiasm is that the fact that the director is JJ Abrams. I thought the work he did breathing new life in to the Star Trek franchise was nothing short of amazing. Yes, we all know Spock wasn’t supposed to be the one to scream “Kahn!!!!!” But he did, and he kinda killed it. Let’s move on. So now JJ (we’re on a first initials basis btw) is picking up the lifeless body of our beloved Star Wars, and I hope, going to produce something equally mind blowing.

So, you could say I’m excited. Unreasonably so. I have spent the last few months actively NOT buying every Star Wars related item that has come my way. I mean, do you know how many Stormtrooper and Darth Vader coffee cups I haven’t bought? I have to pay my mortgage, you know. The one exception is a pretty kick ass Stormtrooper bag tag for my flight bag… That I went to four stores to find.

I’m also the Captain. Yeah, that’s right. And actually it was six stores.

So there it is. I’ll likely wait until I can find the trailer online so I can watch it no less than seventy-two times to squeeze every out every possible detail. We are in for a long night, people.

By way of full disclosure, if it’s not obvious, I’m clearly not a film blogger and I don’t want to pretend to be as such. For solid reviews of television and movies please pay a visit to my friend Dave’s blog at: I Am DB. He does some great writing and I’m pretty sure he’s the guy that’s going to kill a review of this film. Me? I’m just a grown man who’s boundless enthusiasm and cockeyed optimism about a new Star Wars movie just wasted five minutes of your time.

And I’m not sorry.