As a kid I loved fly, actually looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the airport and soaring high above the clouds in the friendly skies. That was back when airlines spent time wooing potential customers with acceptable food choices, free drinks, blankets and pillows, and even pleasant flight attendants walking through the aisles with offers of magazines or newspapers to pass the time. Anymore you’re lucky if you have enough room to squeeze into your seat if in coach, and will find not so much as a peanut tossed in your direction while in flight.
Aside from the amenities virtually disappearing of the map, it seems every time I turn on the news there’s another airline related disaster or near miss to report. This morning was really the kicker. A pilot en route to Las Vegas found himself locked out of the cockpit after taking a bathroom break. Really? I can’t think of anything that would get my sweat glands operational more quickly than finding the pilot seated next to me fastening his seat belt on a commercial flight. Las Vegas is often a rough place to land prone to desert crosswinds, but without the pilot at the controls, I believe I’d be looking around for a parachute and revisiting my connection with my maker.
Even prior to all the recent airline incidents I had become a white knuckle flyer as the years passed. As a twenty-something I applied, and was accepted for a position as a flight attendant. Unfortunately my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic as I about the prospect of me flying about without him so in the end I settled down and raised a family instead. Although not a fan of my aviation career, he eventually chose one of his own in a way. After joining a friend in his private plane on a trip from L.A. to San Diego he was severely bitten by the flying bug. Small planes are not my thing. Hanging precariously from a propeller high above the ground, placing my life in the hands of someone who may or may not know what they are doing does not bode well for my lunch passing pleasantly through my digestive system.
Before I knew it flying school brochures were turning up on the coffee table, discussions about saving for a plane were initiated, and after several months a deal was in place for flying lessons to obtain his private pilot’s license. Ach. Before the ink was dry I made it clear I did not share his enthusiasm about this venture. Not that I didn’t support his choice to learn to fly, I did. I did want it clear I did not have any intention of making such a lofty goal for myself, if you will. Love, I know means never having to say “I’m sorry”. However, in this case, “I’m sorry”.
Secretly I hoped this new found passion was but a passing fancy. Similar to his loss of luster for the Harley Davidson with the for sale sign in our garage, the flat-bottomed metal boat in our back yard yet to be repaired, and the in-line skates gathering dust in the back of the closet. He surprised me, however, persisting in his lessons. Each Saturday I dropped him off at the local airport and watched as he climbed into the cockpit of the small Cessna with dual steering used for lessons. When I picked him he would excitedly relate his lesson for the day and enthusiasm for the solo flight coming up once he’d completed his hours. I smiled, then I prayed. Then I prayed, and I smiled, wondering if it was against the law to duct tape your spouse to a dining room chair for his own protection.
As the day of the solo flight approached an idea took form in his boyish mind. What if I went with him? “Wouldn’t that somewhat diminish the solo portion of the program”, I would argue? As the idea grew and mushed around under his skull it gained momentum. Young people do ridiculously stupid things, and looking back we were no exception. Insisting we had toddlers who needed at least one parent he persisted. Let me preface this paragraph by saying my first husband was a very charming man. Irish by descent as well as temperament, he was blessed with dark curly hair, twinkly brown eyes, a well chiseled face, and truly the man could have sold a flat of blow driers in an Alopecia ward. Also, he convinced me he’d had a premonition if I didn’t accompany him on th<span e flight from the L.A. area to Santa Barbara things wouldn’t end well. As I said, I was young.
How could we do this, you ask? Dropping him off as usual at the appointed spot, I parked far down the runway and waited. I couldn’t help but wonder if his instructor wouldn’t notice him taxiing to another location before taking off but somehow he accomplished gathering me up and preparing for takeoff. To say I was questioning my decision as the runway sped by outside my window, would be a gross understatement.
In the air we hung on the whirring propeller and turned our nose north. I was hoping all my affairs were in order as we headed up the pass. Wind had picked up. The wings dipped from one side to the other in the currents. Jokingly he asked if I’d like him to show me how the plane reacted to a stall. Really? Why did I marry this man, my mind inquired? He was far less charming hundreds of feet above sea level. My fingers gripped tighter on the door handle and I reassured myself there were parachutes on board if the need arose.
Amazingly we made it along the pass and leaving the turbulence behind us headed in towards Santa Barbara. A bank of fog moved in making visibility difficult. My husband picked up the radio and carried on a dialog with the flight tower. According to the man in the control tower the airport was pretty well socked in so they were going to talk us in. “Mama”. Flying virtually blind, the voice on the radio issued instructions. Suddenly the voice became agitated telling us to abort the landing. We were coming in sideways it appeared. A suspicion I had already entertained as I was basically hanging from my seat belt.
My guardian angel must have been sitting on my shoulder that day as somehow that small plane’s wheels located the ground below and held the landing. Never was I so glad to step out onto the earth. Nursing a cup of coffee in the small cafe on the grounds I informed my pilot to be I would be taking the bus home. I suggested he do the same, but he insisted on going back and finishing his “solo” flight. As I said before, “I’m sorry”.
In the end he was a good pilot. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after his thirty-third birthday before ever buying his plane, but he enjoyed soaring up there in the clouds and I even joined him on occasion white knuckles in place.
Arroz (Mexican Rice)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 green onions, sliced
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (I use hot)
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
Heat oil over medium heat in deep skillet. Add rice. Stir and cook until rice turns golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 min.
Add broth, salsa, tomato sauce and all remaining ingredients to pan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 mins. covered until rice is tender. Allow to sit for 5 min. Fluff with fork.