Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drama at 30,000 feet! Also at 30 feet.

Thanks again to everyone for the kind words on my Dad's passing.  We were just coming home from the funeral yesterday when Frontier flight 663 from Denver to SFO EXPLODED WITH DRAMA which in turn cheered me up a lot.

We were in row 2 so a lot of this happened behind us.  We first became aware that there was a Situation when a middle-aged white lady and a tween Middle Eastern-appearing boy with a wispy mustache and socks with sandals approached the two flight attendants standing in the galley at the front and started talking excitedly.  Naturally I RIPPED my earbuds out and tried to hear what was going on but couldn't really make it out except for the FAs telling them they'd take care of it.  They left and went somewhere, back to their seats I guess.

Then he was up front.  The Troublemaker, who I'll call "Brad" because he looked like a Brad, was maybe late 30's, wearing flip flops and a bead bracelet and about three days of stubble.  He didn't look very good.  He stood motionless facing the galley until one of the FAs asked what he wanted and I guess he said the bathroom because she pointed out the door, DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HIS FACE.  He went in and didn't lock it, natch, so then the FA had to tell the HUGE guy who came up next not to go in.

OK.  HERE WE GO WITH THE EXCITING PART.  Brad comes out of the lavatory and starts talking to the FA.  He has sort of a vacant look and I know RIGHT AWAY he's asking for another drink.  I can't hear what FA is saying but I can tell she's saying no.  It goes back and forth for a while.  Then he starts talking about how he doesn't like people stealing from him!  I guess he thinks he already paid for drinks and didn't get them?  She tells him over and over to go back to his seat.  At this point I'm looking around to see who else is nearby in case there's a rumble.

OK.  Huge Dude comes out and is behind him.  Argument is escalating.  BOOM, now the guy in 1D is up.  He looks like a cross between Sam Elliott and Nick Cave and appears to be about 60 but has full sleeve tattoos that he either got in a biker gang or in prison.  I noticed him quietly radiating menace earlier.  I am pretty sure Brad is about to die.  But wait!  Sam Elliott has a solution.  His female companion has pulled $10 from her purse and Sam Elliott gives it to Brad.  "You want money?  Here's your money.  Now go back to your seat."  You have to imagine this in the Sam Elliott voice.

At this point, Brad is standing between a Human Retaining Wall and probably the former president of the Hells Angels.  He squeaks out some more protests but you can tell he knows he's beat.

"Go back.  To your seat," Sam Elliott says.  I'm scared of him and I'm in my seat and haven't done anything wrong.  Brad slowly walks away in that shitfaced look-at-me-balancing-aren't-I-doing-great way.

Everybody sits down.  Sam Elliott is talking to the guy in 1C, across the aisle.  "It's no big deal. He just drank too much," Sam Elliott says.

Not everyone agreed with Sam Elliott's take.  The FA told us all not to get up when we land.  For most airline passengers, this is akin to asking them not to breathe.  There is NOTHING airline passengers like more than LEAPING into the aisle the nanosecond the plane's discernible movement stops.  But they do it!  On come about 5 SFPD officers.  Brad leaves with them sans protest.  Wife and Beyonce and I all get off the plane.  Sam Elliott goes off to drink an entire bottle of tequila in one gulp and intimidate some rattlesnakes.  Human Retaining Wall eats a KFC franchise.  Brad spends the night in jail.  Life goes on.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

R.I.P. Dad

My father passed away yesterday in his own bed at home, the way he wanted to.  In the end, it was cancer that got him, but after 87 years, the cause of death doesn't mean much.  I like to think he lived a life that was so full it's hard to imagine fitting it all into 87 years.

He was born in 1926 in rural Virginia, a place and time so far removed from my life that it might as well be another planet.  I've looked at the Census Records and suddenly there on the 1930 Census there's a boy, Robert, age 3.  Hiding behind the cramped, crabby handwriting on that form is a little boy who grew up with cows and chickens and rode his family's mule.  They ate organic, free-range food way before those labels were even invented.  They just called it "dinner."

Dad was the youngest of his siblings and has told me that being the youngest probably motivated him to work harder and do more.  What he wanted to do was fly airplanes, so when he was 17 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, the precursor to today's Air Force.  Sure enough, they taught him how to fly.  Then they sent him to Japan to occupy the country.

He stayed in the Army even after the Air Force split off and they sent him all over the world.  Least Favorite Place: Greenland.  Most Favorite: Australia.  In fact, later in life, he badly wanted to return to Australia one day.  Never made it, though.  Along the way, he got married and had a couple of kids, my half-brother and half-sister.

After he got out of the Army, he flew for Continental Airlines, but instead of the Chicago-New York route, he went to Southeast Asia at the height of the Vietnam War and flew the Saigon-Bangkok route.  He was living in an apartment in Bangkok and riding a motorcycle to work at the airport.  I would have LOVED to have a drink with him at some bar in Saigon back then.  God knows, the man liked to take a drink.  It looked like it might be a problem until, as he told me, he got sick of waking up feeling like shit every day and suddenly stopped one day when I was a kid, no AA or anything.

He met my Mom in Bimini in the Bahamas and they got married and I was born and to say that things didn't work out between them would be putting it mildly.  After my sister was born, things deteriorated rapidly and they got divorced.  Things also didn't work out between Mom and me, and I moved in with Dad.  During that time, I think I started to figure out how to live and act and be in the world.  Dad's lessons were old-school and basic - take responsibility for your actions; everything you do has consequences; actions speak louder than words; give respect to get it - but those lessons are also sometimes the hardest to learn.  I learned them from Dad and although I'll never completely live up to them, he gave me something to shoot for.

Dad & Me: The Early Years

As you can imagine, Dad was a staunch conservative, but he never sweated me about any of the crazy shit I did like moving to San Francisco with no job and no contacts when I was 22 years old or majoring in English or whatever.  He always said he'd support me no matter what and he always did.

It's not like his death was some sudden, devastating surprise.  He's been sick for a while, and given his age, I've been thinking about the Post-Dad Era of my life since my 30's.  You know what?  It's not at all like I imagined.  I sort of pictured being consumed by grief, but instead I feel kind of calm and relieved that he isn't hurting any more.  Of course, as The Wife, who's lost both of her parents, one just a few months ago, told me, "Grief isn't linear."  I'm sure I'll grieve in a lot of little ways for years, like every Friday around 3 when we used to talk on the phone, instead of in one big grief tsunami.  Which is fine.

This is sort of long and rambling and not quite as artful as I wanted it to be.  But here's to you, Dad.  If there is an afterlife, I hope you're up there now, flying a Beechcraft Baron, with a bourbon in one hand and a Winston in the other.  Thanks for everything, Dad.  I never could have got here without you.  Love you.