Posts Tagged ‘Life’

September 11, 2001

Posted: September 11, 2019 in Aviation
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I’ve never really participated in the sharing of 9/11 stories. Partly because I don’t really have one that’s worth telling, but also I’ve always felt that it cheapens the day to shift focus from the loved and lost, just to talk about myself. Who am I? Just a dumbass who drives airplanes for a living.

Where was I 18 years ago this morning? It doesn’t really matter, but since we’re talking about it, I was in Fort Lauderdale waiting to start IOE for my first flying job. I was barely a pilot then. Hell, I was barely even an adult. My mom called early (for her), woke me up and told me to turn on the news. I watched the towers come down and then spent the next three days like so many other Americans, glued to the coverage trying to grasp what just happened. I didn’t know anything about the industry I was trying to break into, or how it was the day before, but I knew for sure it wasn’t ever going to be the same.

So here we are nearly two decades later. I won’t presume to speak for all of the men and women I work with, but for those who were working, or old enough to remember September 11, 2001, I think it’s safe to say that we carry this day with us every time we walk onto the airport property to start a trip. Every time we close the doors and secure the aircraft for departure. Every day. Not just the one day a year Facebook explodes with the “Never Forget” pictures. I’m not saying the emotions behind the pictures are disingenuous, I’m simply saying that for a lot of us, it doesn’t end on September 12th.

For the thousands of families who were directly affected through the loss of their loved ones, they don’t have the option to forget. They’re living with the blackness of this day on their soul for-ever. For the rest of us, we show respect to their immeasurable grief by keeping them in our thoughts, and when we put on a uniform, being proactive in our security practices. I consider my security brief to be the most important part of my introduction to my inflight team, and while they sometimes look at me sideways when I ask to see everyone of them, there’s a method, and a message too important to get handed down through the telephone game. When we walk on to the airplane, the bullshit meter is pegged, and there’s no room for shenanigans. We do these things so the country doesn’t have to suffer again. Admittedly, it’s a small contribution, and in this huge and complex world, we may just be one airplane of thousands. But inside that airplane, we’re 200 human beings with families who expect to pick them up at the airport (reasonably on time).

I feel fortunate that the people that I include in my extremely limited social media presence, and include me in theirs, are those in the industry that do understand these things, or those that serve or have served our country in one way or another. I have always said there’s a fine line between paranoia and preparedness and we must be cautious to be on the right side of it. For my part, I’ll continue to check my doors and corners, and maybe, just once, get off the gate on time.

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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

 

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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
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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.

  

21 Days Later

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Life, Moto
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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.

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I stumbled on this quote a couple years ago while reading a book about GySgt. Carlos Hathcock. The Gunnery Sergeant served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, and in the course of his multiple tours of duty, became one of the most lethal snipers in military history. If you’re into shooting, it’s a good read.

Anyway, the quote is actually by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbltes, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It’s obviously a pretty famous quote, and simple Google search will show that it’s pretty much all over the interwebs. I’ve been trying to work it into the blog for a while, and just now it occurred to me to let it stand on its own. Maybe, just one person reading this little blog of mine hasn’t seen it before and will find some value in it, as I did.

Enjoy.

I didn’t see it coming

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Life
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I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. Right? Not expecting it. At the least likely moment, it became suddenly clear… I was going to marry her.

It’s been nine years. Who would have thought that a blind date that started at a gas station in the most awkward fashion would turn into the love of my life. Not me. I thought after getting her lost looking for some restaurant and then showing up in my mothers late 90’s gold Camry would have done me in. I was on the phone with my buddy, trying desperately to find the restaurant, when I got out the car to introdude myself. She pulled up in a silver Volkswagen Jetta, blonde hair neatly parted, long black dress coat jeans and boots. This is my first memory of her.

It became apparent that, depspite my efforts, I was never going to find the restaurant I had in mind in any reasonable amount of time, so I called an audible. There was a place down the road who’s food wasn’t the best, but it was there, and open, and most importantly, I knew where it was.

So we had dinner. I couldn’t tell you what it was. Maybe chicken? Who knows. We talked for hours. I tried to be funny, she humored me, and so naturally we got on famously. There’s been a little of that in everyday since.

Dinner drew to a close and it was time to go. For the first date, this was the dreaded moment. How do you close out a nice date in the least awkward way possible. A kiss? Handshake? Lame.. As we strolled thru the parking lot I noticed there were people everywhere. Like the entire town came to hang out at this one mediocre establishment on this particular night in October. I started to panic…. Just a little. We reached her car, and it hits me… “Wanna hug it out?” “Sure,” is the response. A quick hug, eight grade dance style (No complaints. She did meet me at a gas station) ended the evening. And she was on her way.

No way she’s going out with me again. Creeper in a gold Camry at the Sunoco? Good luck with that.

But she did (Im still not sure why). And we spent the next three and a half years growing closer, moving in, and spending time together. I work away from home, but we always seemed to have time together. Never enough when I was busy, but it worked.

I had been thinking about proposing for a while, but you know, Im a guy and marriage scared the shit out of me. We talk about it a little, the possibility of getting married someday, that is. I knew she was it. I just hadn’t found the nerve to set things in motion. And then one day, it became clear to me.

I was in Newark. I know, right? Of all places. I was preflighting my airplane, looking up at the tail section and thinking about her… Something we had done the week before…. I can’t remember now…. And out of nowhere I said to myself, “I’m gonna marry her.”

I actually stopped in my tracks. What now? Yeah thats right. I, was going to marry, her. And just like that, the decision was made. That was the plan anyway.

So I went about searching for a ring, and thinking of the best way to pop the question… I hate that saying…. Anyway, I fnally ended up at a popular jewelry store and found the right stone and setting. While finishing the paperwork the salesman was going over some discounts I was going to get, when he told me I would be getting 20% off wedding bands.

Wedding bands? Like a DJ? No… Why would they be giving discounts out for……… Oh. Wedding bands.

The look on my face must have been telling. Yes, he said, wedding bands. Right. Because I’m getting married.

I’m getting married.

You DID realize that’s what this was about, right?

So I have the ring, now I need a plan. I’m not sure how I came to the decision, but having just been to Switzerland a few months before, I started looking into flights to Europe. Paris looked ok. Everyone likes Paris right? So there it is. I’m going to propose in Paris. I, have a plan.

Sounds good right? So at some point I had the brilliant idea that it would make the proposal all the more surprising if in some of our talks about getting married I would mention that I was too broke for a ring, and we’ll get around to it eventually etc. This was pretty effective in keeping her in the dark. A little too effective it seems.

Fortunately, she hadn’t run out on me by mid November and the trip to Paris was on. Three short days between my trips was all we had. She came down to Newark to meet me on a Sunday night and we got on the flight.

The first day was a blur. Between jet lag and continual panic about how and where to propose I don’t remember much. The important parts are impossible to forget. We spent the day walking through the city. Passed the Arc De Triumphe, down the Champs Elysées, and in the evening ended up on the Eiffel Tower. This was the spot. We go all the way to the top, but it’s cold and windy and she refused to go out on the balcony. Damnit. Ok let’s go down to the second level. We got off the elevator and made our way through the crowds to the edge of the balcony.

“Hey, head over there ok?” I said as I maneuvered her through the crowd. “I have something for you.” I vaguely remember jumping up and down for a sec… I’m a nerd.

I produced the ring, and her her say, “oh my god.” I didn’t get down on one knee… But I said the thing I had been wanting to say for some time. “Will you marry me?”

I joked later that she had to say yes because I was her ride home back to the states.

We spent the rest of that rainy night walking along the Seine River and talking about wedding plans. I had been waiting forever to talk about this stuff with her. I couldn’t have been happier.

That was six years ago. We went back to Paris in 2010 at what would turn out to be the end of my year of unemployment. We were fortunate to have more time to see more of Paris and the French countryside, and made sure to stop by the Eiffel Tower four years (and a day) after our engagement.

We’ve been married for four years now, and are waiting, maybe not so patiently, to start the next chapter in our life. With all we’ve been through, I know I could not have picked a better partner in crime, and potential fist fights…. (that’s a story for a different time). But truthfully, I am continually amazed that this incredible woman saw something in me that made her want to share the rest of her life with me.

Now if I could only get her to share the covers…..