Sunday, January 17, 2010

cardboard, tape and great moments in aviation

Back when I was five or so I wanted an airplane. Not a toy *airplane*. One of those two-tone Cessna or Piper single props at the county airport would do just fine, like I'd see when Dad and I would sit in the parking lot and watch flight lessons. Whenever the inspiration would hit, there I was finding materials and bugging everyone to help me nail boards together or whatever. Why would we need a long cord to power an old washing machine motor? We can just put one of those outlet box thingys from the wall in there and...

Anyway, at some point we came across this short, thick cardboard tube from a roll of whatever, but to my mind's eye, the propeller shaft. Next thing I know I've got boxes in the front room taped together to form the, um, "fuselage," side flaps for wings, rear flap for a tail. I must have been persuasive because Mom used a *lot* of masking tape trying to flange it to the side of the box. A nearby Naugahyde hassock becomes landing gear
. As soon as it was all, um, "together" there was no stopping. I was gonna fly an AIRPLANE right there in the front room, dang it all.

So there she was. Up off the floor about to my waist, a staggering sixteen inches, and it would almost stand on its own when I let go. Mom's skepticism is but background noise as I climb in, just a tad shaky, one leg in, now the other...


About 23 years later, and interestingly, ten years *ago*...well, evidently some lessons bear repeating and on a grand scale. When you're little and messing around with household materials in the front room, the real danger is trivial even when your dreams collapse to the sound of ripping tape. Different story when you've barnstormed your way into the almighty American Dream only to find a grizzly nightmare. In it, you're hopes are empty, relationships trite, appetite is DOA, paranoia coats the tongue...but if you pay attention, you catch on to what's been available all along while you were chasing wind.

Some bumper sticker has it right. We plan, God laughs. But the joke is never on us unless we take ourselves too seriously.

Monday, January 11, 2010

halves and have nots

Another family arrives at the burger joint in a bullet-shaped sedan, then we all show up in the cab of a pickup, and our respective churches have different names on them. Ours is downtown although most of us live more comfortably than people in the surrounding homes. Earlier, on the way in, my dad makes fun of a long-haired man walking along the street.

Some of the kids at church are from the surrounding neighborhoods and they don't mind that they don't look like "us" or act like "us" most of the time. Usually these are the ones I'd rather be around, unless they're just plain annoying, but they aren't there as often as us "regulars."

Sometimes we have church at night. In the cold months the downtown streets are only to be seen in passing, the domain of the unknown and unsaved. People walking after dark around are up to no good and we lock our doors and look where we're going and everything will be fine once we're home watching TV.

Jobs are scarce. Some kids at school have parents laid off from factories. At the mall there are "minorities" standing around talking all weekend. Pastor asks people to "dig deep" before calling the ushers.

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the folks who come in for "help" are naturally self-confident or just used to asking. You only see them that one time.

Reagan is the only one who can "fix" all this. He usually wears a suit.

We have Sunday School parties, well attended by a lot of us "pre-teens." Not sure if it's the leadership, or the mix of kids, or both, but I find these things fun for once. One of the "neighborhood" dudes asks me about my old electric razor collection and he becomes cool, just never sticks around long enough.

At one point this loud mouth who lives "comfortably" starts in with racial slurs with one of the "neighborhood" girls and she doesn't stand for it. She and her friend, one of the few girls I thought was cute back then, didn't stick around long enough, and I am getting tired of typing that.

Some of "our" moms and dads split up before we finished high school. I never got to find that out about most of the "neighborhood" kids.