Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Why don't you fly around my pretty little miss?" -Built to Spill

This post is going to be be something else. I haven't posted pictures on here before, or rather I haven't posted my own pictures on here. But today I will; strangely I am getting my stage fright symptoms.

Today I took a flying lesson. It was through an outfit called Horizon Aviation and it was totally amazing. There is almost no way I can put this into words. So of course I will try.

First I guess I should highlight the whole day, as some of you will know I am sans automobile which means that I take the bus; the bus went right to the hanger from which I flew (what an amazing sentence to type). There was a pretty funny cast of characters on the bus, which is, I think, pretty standard for buses that go into Cranston or Warwick. Anyway at the back of the bus was an Asian couple; I am going to guess that they were Korean because RISD seems to have a pretty large Korean population, but I don't know and it doesn't really matter. One of them was flying out of the main airport (as evidenced by the suitcase that was in tow). The guy in the couple was being pretty overt about feeling up his girlfriend and the girl was damn near shamed into looking out the window the whole time. Now I am not normally a sick-o pervert that stares at this--okay I am but in this case I would have had to move or crane my body uncomfortably to not watch; and I got on the bus first so fuck 'em, free show for me. I felt bad for the girl she was pretty uncomfortable about the whole thing and I tried to keep my eyes glued to the stupid bus ads for the domestic violence group here in town; however, it is hard and so I tried to watch traffic through the opposite window or play a game on my phone.

I got off the bus and walked over to the terminal. I have this thing about public transport, I call it the one-stop-rule. Basically it means that if somebody gets off the bus one stop before me I will get off with them and just walk the extra 500, or so, feet to where I would have gotten off. Warwick, near the airport, is weird. I don't know how to describe it but if I die and end up in hell it might look a lot like Warwick, with the worst parts near the airport.

When I got to the Horizon Office (45 minutes early, yes I am insane) I said hello and sat down and started talking to the folks there. Really great group of people, funny, well-mannered by my standards which doesn't say a hell of a lot), they were all Patriots fans, and they weren't afraid to tell a dirty joke or two: so naturally I fell in love with them all, and wanted to start working with them as soon as I could, because I knew I would be hooked.

This is, you see, not my first experience in small planes. I have been in crop dusters when I was growing up, at least twice that I can remember, I have also flown in a small plane called a scitaborea up in Nome, Alaska when I was visiting a family friend. We landed that in the middle of a snow field so that we could look at some caribou up close (and I mean really up close). Point being I knew what I was in for; but what really amazed them out of their knickers was that my grandfather was a Hump Pilot during WWII.

It was pretty amazing, growing up, to hear stories from my grandfather about his flying back and forth from Kunming or Chengdu. He was also part of the Berlin Airlift and has some really amazing stories about that as well.

Anyway, I am digressing here a little bit. The point was that the guys at Horizon were impressed and I like impressing people, so yea that.

I flew in a Cessna 172, tail number N470U (or 470 Uniform). Something interesting about me is that I know the phonetic alphabet used by the Civil Air Patrol.

This particular plane was not uncomfortable, thankfully. It was however mighty snug and I sat with my arms folded so that I wouldn't interfere with the piloting of the aircraft.

We took off from runway 23 on ramp Victor (hehehe) and headed south to the Newport practice field. Let me tell you, taking off on the same runway that a Boeing 737 has landed on just before is pretty damn exhilarating. One thing that surprised me is that the plane doesn't go as fast as I thought it might need to at take-off. There is also this feeling of weightlessness as the plane bumps through the air on the initial ascent. It was pretty great.

This is me flying a plane. I know it might seem frightening, me flying a plane when I don't even drive a car, and trust me flying and trying to look that damn good was really hard work.

I don't quite know how to describe this. So I will use my baser language skills. IT FUCKING ROCKS! Flying a plane might be the most fun I have had in my clothes. It feels like and act of open defiance, the weight of gravity when you turn to the right or the left, keeping the plane level on the horizon, keeping the nose up or down, it is really something else and I had no idea how much fun it could have been.

Here is some random stuff that came to me when I was flying and looking down at people's lives. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their backyard. From the air, there were despicable and incredible views. I saw a pool covered in a weird brownish green slime and a backyard that was littered with bikes and broken lawn furniture. I saw some that had vegetable gardens, flower gardens and manicured lawns. It was really interesting.

Little Compton from AboveWe also need to recognize that we build far too many roads. (i.e. We are destroying our surroundings.) The picture to the left is a picture of the town crossing of Little Compton, RI. What you can sort of make out is the natural landscape and how the town is plopped down and then the roads spider-web out, it was a sad realization when I was up there, because you miss the scope of it from the ground. Little Compton is a beautiful town from the road, readily thought to be one of the prettiest in Rhode Island.

Last thing I am going to show is the view of a former Rhode Island landmark; this is Rocky Point Park. I am not a Rhode Island native and I believe that this park has been closed since I have been coming here (late 90's). But I understand the stigma behind the idea of the small town amusement park. There were two near me growing up; as a kid there was a park in El Paso, TX called Western Playland. It is pretty standard fare for an amusement park, at least it was, back in the day. It had a roller coaster, a big midway section and some other rides: a whoa belly ride called Drop Zone, a couple of the whip around gravity rides. It was great. In Albuquerque there was a place called Cliff's. Same thing, nothing really special, just an amusement park, good for a lark during finals week or spring break.

The sad thing about Rocky Point is that they tore it down and I can't seem to figure out what happened. When you talk to Rhode Islanders they all have great stories about what Rocky Point meant to them but sure as shit the thing is gone. The picture is black and white so you don't get a real sense of how unfortunate the imagery is, but it is really stark. Some of the dark rings in the photo are just holes in the ground. The place is covered in graffiti that is visible from 1500 feet and it just sort of makes you sad inside to see something like that in that state of disrepair. I sort of wish, for all the Rhode Islanders, that someone would just level the property and get it ready for whatever is next.

I think that the down-fall of Rocky Point is a direct result of a bigger better amusement park in Massachusetts, called Six Flags over New England, being so darn close. You get so much more bang for the buck that it makes it hard for the mom and pop places to compete. Which I suppose is true for most businesses. I guess it hits me the same way as it hits me when I see a run down "Main Street" scenario. Like we are losing Americana for a strip mall vision of America, we shouldn't let that happen. We should support locally owned businesses. (And yes that even includes the Dunkin Donuts or McDonald's franchise, local people are taking a chance, reward them for it.)

The final descent back into TF Green was nice, for a controlled crash (something my grandfather used to call landings). We taxied back to the hanger via ramp Bravo and that was the end of the day.

Now the bad news: I am hooked on an activity that I can't possibly afford. Each lesson is somewhere between 250 and 400 dollars and so I doubt I will be able to afford it on a non-profit salary.

The good news is that it gives me something to strive for.


Blogger Nicky said...

"I know it might seem frightening, me flying a plane when I don't even drive a car, and trust me flying and trying to look that damn good was really hard work."

Yeah but you make it look easy.

1/16/2008 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Adam Shprintzen said...

Oh my gosh, that is so effin cool...and seems soooo up your alley.

I saw quite a few rockin' shows at Rocky Point, though shockingly never rode the rides...

1/16/2008 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger lauryn said...

Not to sound weird, since I am your sister and all, but you are a damn fine looking pilot.

1/19/2008 12:09:00 AM  

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