"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!
Recently, I spent part of a weekend in the city. The frustrating thing was that, though I was buying the parking tickets from the machines and booths, I kept getting fined. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I checked the street signs. I checked the time restrictions. And then, just before I was to head in to an art show, I realized what I was doing wrong. Right there on the ticket, in red letters, it said:
"Place Face Up On Dash."
So I did. It was uncomfortable. I had to get up on my knees on the front seat to do it but I didn't get any more tickets. I did, however, miss the art show.
A year ago, I read a book called, "The Age of Persuasion," by Terry O'Reilly. In it, Terry covers advertising as it was born and has developed to the present day. It's a great book, but recently I was reminded by something he stressed, and that was how intrusive and lousy telephone soliciting is. Why? Well, basically because you, the one who answers the phone, get squat. Not only is your privacy invaded, but you don't get any visual offering as you would in print, no audio treat as you might from the radio, or the mixture of both as you would get from TV or the internet. No, when a company hires a telephone solicitor to call your home, you get that person, reading some script, and a huge dollop of guilt should you choose to decline to participate in such an event. Telephone soliciting sucks.
You'll notice, Dear Reader, that I didn't write; "telephone solicitors suck." Many of them don't. I have had some lovely conversations with some of them. And there is nothing that makes me happier than making a caller; prisoner of a headset and a script duller than toast, laugh so hard that they struggle to keep on track. I'm never rude. I realize that their job, making all of those calls with some Orwellian supervisor mouth-breathing over their shoulder, must be horrible. Nobody gets up in the morning and says, "I wanna call people in their own homes at an inconvenient time and ask them about their shopping habits. I am just sooooo curious about it!" It's a lousy job. So, while answering their questions, I begin to interject: "Where are you calling from?" "What's the weather like there?" "Does this phone make me sound fat?" We end up chatting as well as we can, since "the call may be monitored for quality assurance." The last one I talked with was sitting at a desk in Halifax and ended the call by saying that I had been "a blast." I love that. So we both had fun.
Today, shortly before the dinner hour, the phone rang. I picked it up, said "Hello," and was met with the computer dialing pause. I waited for the voice. This voice was automated.
AUTOMATED! I'M SORRY. BUT THE ONLY BLOODY AUTOMATED VOICE THAT I WILL EVEN CONSIDER LISTENING TO OVER THE PHONE IS STEPHEN HAWKING.
( I'm serious. He's just unbelievably cool. )
Any company, however, that uses an automated computer voice to interrupt my day can die in hell. To deny me the COURTESY of having a human being call me...as they invade my home and give me nothing; such an organization should have their stocks drop and all of their office chairs lose a wheel. It's head office should be the destination for the annual convention of all of the clusters of high school kids that stand outside and smoke. And their parking lots should have the lines done by Escher. Automated telephone soliciting. Is there anything more despicable? I don't think so.
Recently, March 19th, there was a full moon that, as far as full moon's go, really "hit it out of the park." It was resting at the shortest distance from the earth for all of 2011, at 356,575 kilometers. ( To put that in some kind of perspective, we have a 2000 V.W. Bug with 500,000 kilometers on it...but it's taken eleven years to put them there.) The people that run around and think of names for things refer to this as a "perigee" moon, meaning "closest." An "apogee" moon is "farthest away," and the rest of the time, the moon comes and goes while it looks for parking. It's busy. But the March 19th moon was beautiful. She hung there in the sky, shaming any other reflecting planet or celestial star, and daring any sentient human being that was out that night, to not feast on such a vision.
I like the night sky. It draws us together much more deeply than any TV show could do. I was having a chat with a good friend and we realized that we had both left different functions at around the same time and spent the drive home gazing at the moon. And that's cool. When you're looking at the moon, there are no sound bites or commercials. It's just the moon and a chance to think. And when you find out that you've shared it with a friend, it's the best. It's almost as if she was out there just for the two of you. Such a nice moon!
Do you ever sit and think and revel in the people that you have in your life? Sometimes I am amazed at how fortunate I am to know the people I do. I ran into a number of them recently and it struck me how important they are in making the fabric of my days so much richer. Yes, richer indeed.
It's not like we see each other all the time. We celebrate when we can, when someone has an art showing, a series on TV, or someone else is getting a tooth pulled, we try to get together. Some I rarely see, some now and then, and some regularly, but they have all helped to plug in the different pieces of who I am by offering opinions, contrast, and support when I need it. And I, in my role, hopefully do the same for them. It's a wonderful process. Each connection that I have, no matter how infrequent, helps to nourish a wonderful tone that is constant and dependable with this bunch. It is a "given" that we are there for each other. Some are, right now, going through a struggle. Some have struggled and are now learning to breath. And some, those lucky ones, are enjoying their garden. They've earned it.
So we go away and do what we do. We stretch and take risks and try to get ourselves into that place where we are emotionally full, and by that, I don't mean sad, but rather able to settle and relax and be receptive to the world around us without fear. We don't need to hurry. We are enjoying the effort. It feels good. It's a hand on the shoulder, a thoughtful gaze, and the look of joy on someone's face as you walk into a room. Nothing feels better than having at least one person who is glad to have you near, and I feel that with more people than I think I really deserve to lately. Something is afoot with the universe I think. Or it's just that each and every one of my friends is absolutely fantastic. Yeah, I think it's the latter. I am so lucky!
One of my favourite directors is Jacques Tati (1902-1982). He directed several films using broad, visual clues and brilliant physical humour. ( Just watch "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and you'll know where Mr. Bean got his ideas. ) Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned from Tati, came, not from his movies, but from an audio clip of an interview he gave in California shortly before he died. I can't remember the exact words, but the jist of his effort was that entertainment is found, not only in the theatre. The most wonderful stuff happens right out in public; next to you in a waiting room, shopping for grapes, or simply navigating humanity wherever.
Recently, I had settled myself into a window counter seat in a popular coffee joint in Toronto. I sat watching people and cars going by when I sensed someone scuttling into the seat next to me. Now, through the unspoken rules of human contact, there is a window of opportunity that you have to engage someone in conversation, or even just acknowledge their presence. I missed it and sat, like a moron looking straight ahead. I had to bite my lip as I tried to figure out what was going on by the sounds I was hearing. Bags were tipping over, chairs were being dragged; it was like she was coming in to sit down but she had to manage several dozen unruly grapefruits before she could rest. I gathered that she was short and wearing a big coat. There was a possibility that she worked at a circus, or she was related to a cabbage( who am I to judge?). She persisted and finally settled into her coffee and the view.
I sat for a minute and then became determined to chat. I didn't want to be one of those cold Torontonians so I feverishly searched for an ice-breaker. "Eyes at one o'clock; two police on horses. Green light on the icebreaker!" I leaned over, still looking at the horses; "Aren't they just beautiful?" And for the better part of an hour, I had the loveliest conversation with a gorgeous older woman, a grandmother from Montreal, here visiting her daughter. 'Turns out she was buying several bags of coffee beans, not the numerous grapefruits I had thought. And yes, she was short, but classy as the day is long. Not a circus character by any means. I hated to leave. So it was a wonderfully entertaining hour, imagined, in reality, and in the hilarity of the contrast between them. Thanks Jacques!
I was out running the dogs through some farm fields today (we have permission). The fields are still mostly frozen and firm, though the snow is gone, and I was reminded of the treasure within. I'm a rock freak, and it is during this time of year, before anything is growing, when Mother Nature pushes up a few of the jewels of her past for show. There is something about these rocks; sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic, that affects me. I pick one up and then think about what was going on with the earth when it was formed. How hot were things when the crystals were settling out? What kinds of things did this little fossil-creature see before he kipped off? Was this rock formed the same year that "Family Circus" was first published?
It's the contrast, I think. I can be fussing with taxes, or some man-made challenge, but holding a little piece of the past, I mean the distant past, in my hand settles me down. It reminds me of my place in the universe. Add a glimpse of a lingering daytime moon and I am absolutely fine. My perspective shifts back to my default setting and I realize how silly it is to worry. Today's walk was no different; head down and scanning for the good stuff, and came back with pockets full of lovely greens and blacks, and a wonderfully calm demeanor.
Now if Canada Revenue would just stop taxing my "place in the universe," I wouldn't need to keep taking these walks to settle down in the first place.
My favourite word is, 'Graciousness.' I don't think there is another word that carries with it, the integrity and consideration that can carry a person through their life. If you had only one word that you could impart to your children as they stretch up to thought and out to experience, this one might be it. To be gracious is to be everything that society appreciates in a tone that nurtures the human soul as it gently seeks it's connection. To be gracious is to be respectful, to listen, to be considerate, to be tactful and to be sincere; all wrapped up in a kind of fond spirit. You put other people at ease.
Apparently, the first use of the word came about in the 14th century. I don't know about you but that period in history never struck me as a fun time. There is no point in trying to find the "14th Century Fun House" when you're at the fair. It ain't there. The "Great Famine" killed a bazillion people in Europe, followed closely by the "Black Death." So how would you be gracious in such a climate?
"I'm sorry, were you planning on collapsing right here in the street?"
"Well, I was, but I see you are already on your knees, bleeding from your ears. You go ahead."
"Oh, I simply couldn't. I insist. This gutter is all yours. I can die up here by the stairs."
"You are nothing if not gracious. I am indebted to you. You'll excuse me if I get to it?"
The 14th Century was also the backdrop to the Hundred Year's War.
"Shall we keep fighting? We've been at it forever."
"But you are doing SOOO well. Such talent I see...a waste to let it rot at home in front of a fire..."
And one discovery, in the 14th, that I just thought fit perfectly, was the invention of the first rope bridge in Peru...
"Why don't you go first."
"Oh no. I couldn't. I simply couldn't."
"But you. You are so talented and wonderful. The world on the other side deserves to have you, to see you, and to revel in you. It's all yours. Uhm, can I have, er, HOLD your horse?"
But seriously, it's a great word. If you can keep it in your head throughout the day, you will make a wonderful imprint on the humanity you meet.
I found three plastic bananas in a drawer in my kitchen. I was going to throw them out but I knew that if I did, I would need them seconds later. Don't kid yourself. Plastic bananas: When you need one they're nowhere in sight and you're outta' luck. Then you're kicking yourself for the rest of the day wondering why you were such a chump. So I thought for a minute. I could use one to rob a bank, using the banana instead of a gun in my pocket but I don't have the nerve. I could hang all three from my rearview mirror and turn the van into a taxi. Or, when I'm in a mood, I could fashion the trio into a Carribbean scene and wear it on my head; with the right shoes you can get away with anything. But then I began to consider these fakes before me. I mean, really consider them. I was actually quite impressed.
The plastic bananas, other than being only slightly shiner than the real thing, are an excellent copy. The size is perfect. The colour is great. And each banana even has a few tiny imperfections, just like the real thing. A lot of work went into these, along with all of the other plastic fruit out there because it's an industry. That's right. There are factories that employ artists that come up with the details, and molds, engineers and workers that handle the replication process, and then the whole marketing angle. These bananas are part of an economy. There are people who make a living an "faux fruits." It's nothing to sneeze at.
The whole concept actually started with the Pharaohs in Egypt. When a king died, he was buried with everything he might need in the afterlife; needle and thread, sunscreen, and of course, fake fruit. You couldn't take a real banana with you into the hold. There is nothing worse than arriving at the afterlife, opening your lunch bag and smelling the smell of a bruised, squishy banana. The only thing worse is milk in a thermos. This plastic fare, in a broader sense was also used in Japan after W.W. II. Foreigners, helping to rebuild the country, couldn't read Japanese, so the restaurants had their entrees represented by fakes to serve as a visual clue to whatever was in the pot. I'm guessing that the famous "rubber chicken" may have been born with this wave of pliable produce.
The only shame is that we will never get to meet the people that helped to craft the fakes. I'm sure, like any artists, some are better than others; "Oh, I see you have a 'so-and-so bunch-o'-grapes' on your counter. He's very good. I have taken all of my gold stock and invested it in him instead. I really think he's going somewhere!" So don't be so hasty to trash these gems. There's a lot more to this "bunch" than you might think. And somewhere, in the afterlife, some Pharaoh is trying to stifle his laughter as he waits for his friend to round the corner and step on a fake banana peel. Always with the jokes, those guys.
Spring is in the air, and, for me, comes the urge to head out on an adventure. But I don't want to fly, or drive, or take a bus. When my mind wanders, I find myself on a horse, headed across the landscape
with no particular destination except ahead; just me and my horse. Unfortunately, riding across Canada
isn't as easy as it used to be, what with all the fences and roads and private property, but still:
There we are, the two of us, me and a glorious bay Quarter horse; easy of temper, sturdy, and a vision of silk and muscle moving through thickets, grasslands and over creeks as if they were nothing. We're a team. We think together, breath together and take our ease with an eye for the other's safety. We don't ride hard. There's no need. And thankfully, as this dream goes, there are soft beds and luxurious stalls for us that we stumble upon each and every night.
"Howdy Miss," says the ranch owner.
"Why, hello. I'm sorry I didn't see you settin' on that fence," I say.
"'Hope I didn't frighten you." He looks at my horse and continues. "That's a fine lookin' animal.
What's her name?"
"Why that's 'Pearl.'"
"Pearl." Then he looks at me. "A pearl on a Pearl"
I blush and adjust my hat and my calico skirt. He hops down off of the fence, where he was fashioning a new ax handle, and gives Pearl a pat on the neck.
"You're right on time for dinner Miss. What say we put Pearl in the paddock with some sweet feed. There's a fine room with a bath and a place at our table with your name on it Miss....er..."
"My name's Suza...er, Julia. Julia Morganston."
"Well Miss Julia, my name's Paul. Paul Abdomen. Glad to know ya."
So you get where this is going. It all turns out wonderfully. We save the calves, shoot the bad guys, and all before dinner. There's whiskey, coffee and a torrid meeting on the stairs with a fantastic musical score behind it, all dream-directed by John Ford. The whole trip is like that, day-in, day-out and it never gets boring. Never.
I think I was born in the wrong era. I could use an adventure like that where you just head out somewhere. A challenge of something big would be nice. Something tangible and of substance where what gets you through is good sense, a little creativity...and a fine horse or even an airplane. Maybe it's there, waiting and I just don't see it yet. I'll keep looking I guess. For now, I have work to do ...but there's this nagging feeling that I should go check those new horses that we saw out by "Old Gulch Dead Man's Danger Snakebite Ridge." I'll be right back.
I have decided to start a blog. Why? Well, why not? I have things to say. Yes, I know, sometimes I mumble or smirk. There is nothing like a good smirk, but you have to be careful because sometimes the wrong person will see your smirk and call you on it. "What was that look for?" they'll say. In an attempt to cover, you can say that you were experimenting with what it might be like to have a stroke. That'll shut them up. It's best to be subtle while smirking. Mumbling is more difficult and offers less of a payoff. I mumble when I start making an effort to communicate but then some part of me suggests that it really isn't worth it and I should save my energy. By then, I have started formulating words and sentences and they're on their way out. The only thing left is to fail to enunciate. Voila! Mumbling: "Pardon me? I didn't hear you." "Oh, I weash flingresh pantsington." If you say that with conviction and a look that suggests that they should understand, you can get them to nod as if they do. Point-Suzanne
Why the title, "Crave the Spin?" Back in the 90's, I almost got my pilot's license. I passed my written test and still have my radio license. I was soooo close to taking the flight test, but it was expensive and the kids needed food, or shelter, or something. I loved flying. I was good at it. I liked all the meteorology and the navigation, figuring fuel consumption and reading maps. I'll never forget the first time I soloed. The instructor, Kim, and I had done some touch-and-goes at the Lindsay Airport. Then, she got out and told me to go fly. It was so cool. There I was, flying on my own. All that sky was mine. The only thing better were the SPINS. Every pilot has to learn how to get the plane in and out of a spin. This is when the air stops flowing over the wings providing lift. "Lift" is handy when you're flying. Very handy indeed. Without lift, the nose drops. It drops straight down and you're looking at the ground coming at you in a hurry. But you go through the process of this, and that, and you slowly pull yourself out of it. It requires complete concentration and the ability to not freak out. It was the best. I felt like I could handle absolutely anything. I haven't experienced anything like that since. So, yes, I crave the spin...that part of life that gets your juices flowing, and that is what I will try to write about; thoughts of sanity, challenge, authenticity,passion, and tremendous effort. Yes, one day I will finish my pilot's license. I simply must. In the meantime, I will take you flying with me here. Belt yourselves in. It'll be a blast!