Archive for June 2015

Happy Birthday   2 comments

Today is my birthday, and since I don’t have facebook, and hundreds of “friends” aren’t automatically being alerted to this annual celebration via fb notification, I need to be old school and tell everyone myself.  Though most of my buddies have already reached out with birthday wishes, thanks you two!

A month or so ago, I arranged for my father to meet the head of the Catholic Church in New York….Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  I wrote His Excellence a letter a while back, explaining that my father was ill, and asking for His Excellence to pray for him.  Well, I also sort of said wouldn’t it be “cool” for you to visit my dad at his home in Larchmont…a little history here, my father was a young seminarian studying to become a priest way back when…I think before he discovered girls were “neat” and that my dad’s calling was not priesthood, but rather fatherhood.  So be it.  I wrote this letter to the Cardinal when my dad was particularly sick.  I laid it on pretty thick.  I think I added graphs and charts in my letter.  Who knows.  I got a call from the Cardinal’s Priest Secretary soon thereafter, and he said the Cardinal would in fact visit my sick father…who, lo and behold wasn’t as sick anymore.  Without adding too many details, the day came when the Cardinal came to my dad’s home, and spent a short afternoon with my dad, family and friends.  Cardinal Dolan filled the house with his personality, generosity, and warmth.  My dad was touched.  We all were just floored.  Pictures can never do justice to what this visit meant to my dad, and my family.

Suffice it to say…the first thing the Cardinal says to my dad is “Richard, you don’t look sick to me!”  Ha.  Many prayers answered.  Thank you Cardinal Dolan!

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Before the end of this post, if you did not know what VFR or IFR stand for, you will learn.

Friday, I got home after work, thinking the wife and I were getting our usual Friday night take-out sushi, and watch Gossip Girl, or whatever.  Maybe Hell’s Kitchen.   But instead, I came in the door, found my wife was already home from work (surprise), she told me she left an outfit for me on the bed, I had two minutes to change, and she would meet me in the car.  She actually made me put a blindfold on and earplugs after I changed and got in the car (obviosuly, she was driving).  Anyway, 10 minutes later, we arrive at the secret destination.

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We live 10 minutes from the local airport…she surprised me with our own plane to Block Island for the weekend!!  Wow.  What usually takes 2-4 hours in the car depending on traffic, would take 50 minutes in the air.  What a surprise.

The weather for the weekend couldn’t have been better, we had a great time.  Visited some good friends.

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This guy is great!

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And as a special treat, I got to go inside the “barn,” something I have never been allowed to do in the 25 years of going to this all inclusive “zoo,” the barn is employee only, and me now, I guess.  Here me and this gal below got along like gangbusters.  Though I was slightly concerned about getting double kicked in the face at any moment…

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The real guess is which, if any, of the critters I met would find there way onto the menu of the restaurant on the grounds of the zoo later that night…Pheasant, Kangaroo, Pâté?  Saw a bunch a ducks walking around…just kidding.  All the “friends” are life-ers at the zoo.  No animals were harmed in the production of my delicious dinner that evening…at least none from that farm.

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Here, the wife delicately places a piece of the “adult” Jenga on top, as we played with some human friends at the local watering hole after dinner.  Later, she toppled the whole thing…but it’s okay, it’s not about winning….just kidding!  Yes it is.

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So, the “plan” was to stay on BI until Monday morning, and take our special plane home to Westchester first thing, as the wife had to work.  We get a call Sunday morning, from the airline folks…more or less saying that we need to fly off island today, or never.  Something about horrendous lightning storm and hurricane force winds for Monday…I mean, nothing serious, so we were like, we want to stay, we tell YOU when we are ready to fly home, so see you tomorrow.  Not lying, we told them we were staying.  Interestingly, a long walk on the deserted beach really has a way of clearing one’s head.  Below, see a picture of two people who want to live.

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So it was, we called the airline back after our long walk on the beach, and some real soul searching.  We agreed that safety ruled the day, and we would leave that afternoon.  What’s that you say?  Too late?!?  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  And thence begins a whole ‘nother saga.  I guess the weather moved in faster than anticipated.  Hey all you, was it raining or windy Sunday afternoon in Freshchester?  Cuz I was getting a sunburn while this crazy lady was talking nonsense about us not being able to fly to White Plains that afternoon, I mean was she for real?  I looked at the sky, I looked at her, I looked at the sky once more…and I was like, look, I’ll fly the damn thing.  Where are the keys, lets go.  Can’t you see my wife has a J-O-B?  And we were not about to take a train, ferry, or other transport home.  Actually, there is no “other” when speaking of getting off an island, it’s pretty much ferry, or fly.  But this was my birthday for petes sake.  We fly.

Okay she says, fly.  But you are only flying the 15 miles off the island into Rhode Island, and no further will you fly.  From there, take your pic, train, drive, or otherwise, but no one is flying westward.  Okay we say.  We will take the last flight off the island.  Poor choice.

So, back to VFR and IFR.  These little planes, they are little.  Also, VFR is Visual Flight Rules, and IFR is Instrument Flight Rules.  Okay, got that?  The little Block Island planes fly VFR only, for the most part.  If they cannot see where they are flying with their own eyes, they don’t fly.  So fog is a big problem, and low clouds are a close second.  Guess what rolled in for the last flight off Block Island last night?  Wait for it.  Low clouds and fog, in spades.

So on this “last flight out,” it was sort of a private plane anyway.  It was the pilot, my wife and me, and one other passenger, a pilot himself, but on the plane as a passenger anyway.  We take off in sunshine.  Not 20 seconds after we leave mother earth do we lose sight of land.  Okay.  By the way, I hate to fly.  But I have taken this flight many times.  I am sort of comfortable these days on this particular plane/route.  It’s only 13 minutes from Block to the airport on the mainland in Westerly.  Or at least it’s usually 13 minutes.  Not so last night.  As I said, we lost sight of land as soon as we took off into the fog and low clouds.  After gaining a couple thousand feet of altitude, we were above the fog…so I could see…the fog below, and the clouds/storm ahead…where we were headed to land.  I also got to see the ocean below after we passed the fog.  The flight was fine, not bumpy, pilot appeared calm.  But clear as day, the storm was right in front of us, and we could not see the land where we were “supposed’ to land this lego plane.  I was starting to become concerned when two things happened.  The pilot started looking around the cockpit like she dropped her purse (was she looking for a life jacket? I think that ship had sailed as soon as we left the ground), and she altered course…to the WEST, into the weather.  At this point, I mean, I am about to pass out with fear.

She also starts fidgeting with the one piece of electronics on this pre-electronics era plane.  Adjusting dials, turning the knob…hey, you up front…FOCUS on the sky in front of you, would ya?  So, now I know we are altering course…as the flight path is normally straight off the island, North by Northwest.  But we were way off course at this point.  And heading into low clouds and a storm.  Then we get some more good news bad news…good news, we turn towards the airport…bad news, we are about to fly into clouds/fog/storm.  I have never been on one of these planes when we lose complete visibility for any length of time, let alone in a storm.  At this point, she is lowering our altitude, and its getting really bumpy.  I honestly am about to slip into unconsciousness.  I cannot believe she did not turn this puppy around and head back to Block, where it is warm and safe, and the people are friendly.  I start reminiscing about all the things I still haven’t done.  Though that list gets smaller every year :-).  I think to myself, I should have done the dishes more often.  And..I am hesitant to lean over to my beautiful bride, and whisper, I love you, for fear of jinxing this whole show and dropping out of the sky then and there.  Her eyes were closed and she was motionless, trance-like, as soon as we went into the clouds and apparently started to descend…into what, none of us knew.  Did the pilot?

I cannot express in words how I felt.  This blind flying went on for about 2 minutes, maybe 3.  The plane jostled, banked hard, dropped, for seemingly ever, in total blackout dark storm clouds.  I was honestly waiting for one of two noises, a splash into water, or a crash into land.  Seriously.  Okay, ready?  IFR.  We came out of the clouds above, with PLENTY of land below, and a beautiful gorgeous runway DEAD AHEAD.  I could see it.  The pilot could see it.  I almost cried.  We were far from out of the woods, but I was about to pop champagne and sparkling cider in the back :-).  The wind was kicking, and we jostled some more, up and down…but she kept it steady, nose up.  Landed beautifully.  Unbeknownst to me, or the wife…at the point when we lost visual of pretty much all of the Rhode Island coastline, the “tower” takes over for the pilot, and instructs them to switch to Instrument Flight rules, and the tower then tells the pilot where to fly, at what altitude, and pretty much guides us in through the clouds and fog.  Sure, the pilot needed to keep us steady and level, but the tower was telling her the course, and altitude, and (hopefully) saying the coast was clear, no other planes in the area, and you will clear the clouds well before having to land.

We landed safely, missed any chance of taking a train home because the only cab in this one horse town was an hour away, flagged down the pilot/passenger before he drove off out of the airport parking lot, asked if he could drop us at the Amtrak, and instead he offered to drive us all the way to Connecticut where he was headed, closer to home, where we then got into a cab from hell, almost as scary as the plane ride, in the pouring rain, where in his broken English going 80MPH says, and I quote “I drive better faster.”  I told him to slow down, as I was close to a nervous breakdown.

Get home.  Have pizza.  Happy Birthday.  It’s great to be alive!  Thank you to my beautiful bride for the BEST Birthday surprise ever!  Can’t wait to fly again in a few weeks.  The end.

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Posted June 1, 2015 by mayday76 in Uncategorized